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Archive for December, 2009

Gas is vented from the al-Fakkah oil field near Amara, Iraq on Dec. 8. Iraq on Friday said that Iran had seized one oil well in the field.

 

Written By: FA ME / USA

 Iran is an Islamic country neighboring Iraq from the east, throughout the course of time there always had been a conflict between the national governments in Iraq and Iran; starting from the time of Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Ayssrians, and finally the Chaldeans. When all the governing regimes in Mesopotamia were overthrown, the conflict emerged to be between the (Greek and Romans) from one side and the Persian State on the other side. But the most powerful strikes Iran ever had was 1- from the legendary Greek leader Alexander of Macedonia (Alexander the Great). And 2- the Islamic campaigns by the Islamic leader Saad Ben Abi Waqas.  

 In the 17th century Nader Shah, a Persian leader attempted to conquer Mosul (Nineveh). But his attempt failed because of the great resistance that he faced from the people and because of the plague that spread in his army forces.

 The reader may pause for moment and think of what has Iran to do with attacking Iraqi Christians, or attacking the Churches in Mosul and Baghdad and Kirkuk?

 Iran acted, during the last 6 years, as a vicious enemy to Iraq and its people, even thought, it implicitly acted as a friend and tended to reconcile with Iraqi components persuading them to forget the past. But originally Iran is the one who doesn’t seem to be neither forgetting nor forgiving of things.

 In the past 3 weeks and while Iraq is approaching for the third time, in his newly lived democratic period and hardly through a narrow hole, to Elections and announcing the date of Elections March 6th 2010, some significant events took place including: (Bombings targeted government buildings that reaped the life of more than 170 people, and the Iranian Forces crossing the Iraqi borders and occupying “Fakah” oil field in southern part of Iraq. And the most recent events were bombings of Churches and killing Christian people in Mosul city.

 I could hardly find any statements of Iranian or Arab politicians to condemn these acts against Christians. The Iranian Parliament Speaker “Ali Larijani” condemns the bombings on governmental sites in Baghdad, but he never spoke of bombing the churches in Mosul, that are already still in Iraq. I don’t know if this is a political correctness or evasion of crime! 

 I then realized that these bombings were a message to Iraqi leaders, after assuming that Iran involved in them. The first car bombed in Baghdad early in December was targeting Iraqi ministry of Finance, led by Shiia Minister, “Baqir Jabir”, one of the great Iranian allies, who recently might have disagreed with many Iranian policies in Iraq, and or, he is by one way or another expressed his opinion to support the Reformists in Iran led by Mir-Hossein Musavi, who was the seventy ninth and last Prime Minister in Iran during the period of 1981-1989, and Iran was at war with Iraq during which a great support was given to the  opposition against the regime of Saddam Hussain. Baqir Jabir is one of them.

 The second major target was the ministry of Justice, led by Kurd Minister “Dara Nur Aldin”, who acted as minister in 2008. This was the second message to the Iraq government in response to the Kurdish role in northern Iraq to facilities the entry of “Pajak Party” members who have been fighting the Iranian Regime since 1980s, and still. They have had a significant role in 2009 Iranian election disturbance, and many members of this party were arrested by Iranian security forces, to become what is known to be the “Velvet Revolution”.

 In the middle of all this Iranian interference in Iraqi issues, this tries, with all possible effort to undermine the political process in Iraq. To implement this instability in Iraq, the terrorist activities has to be varied and multiply, among which the attacks on churches occurred in Mosul, another game to destabilize the situation, leading the vulnerable people to flee their country again, once it was relatively recovered.

 I wish the Iraqi honest politicians and those who have been in power not because of their power, but because people have elected them, to step aside from any sectarian alliance or alliance to foreign governments, because loyalty to Iraq and to Iraqi people is the biggest treasure for their future aspirations in finding better and more politically, economically, and securely stabilized country.

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Written By: FA ME / USA

Writing again to you my friends, not to tell you how Iraqis are celebrating Christmas, neither I’m in position to tell you how do we celebrates Christmas events starting from Christmas Eve until the day of the New Year. But regretfully, I’m writing this time and as usual to bring up some sad news of another church bombed in Mosul city. This old city that still suffers from the outsiders, who “with implicit help from the insiders” are crouching to every corner in this city to establish one or more forms of terror and destruction.

 St. Thomas Church of Orthodox is a very old Church. Famous of having the “Relics” of St. Thomas the Doubting, was called the doubting because he suspected the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and believed only when he saw the nail pounded though Jesus’ hands.

Two days ago and in the Christmas Eve, this church was a victim of another terrorist act that led to damage outside and inside the church.

This time the terrorists who had done this act didn’t realize by attacking this church they are attacking the long history, heritage, and culture of Iraqi Christians., who are proud to announce themselves as the first believers ever in their Christian Faith.

No more words to say how terrible these acts are, some pictures of the destroyed Church:

outside of the Church

outside of the Church

another picture of the outside Church in one of the walls

another picture of the outside Church in one of the walls

inside the Church

inside the Church

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Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas

For all those who have seen my blog, and for my Iraqi Christian people who are receiving Christmas in fear, horror, and inscurity. I pray that this year will be a year full of peace and security, hoping success for you in all fields of life.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

FA ME / USA

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Maj. Jeffrey Whorton, a Roman Catholic chaplain, celebrating Mass at St. Elijah’s Monastery near Mosul in northern Iraq

By: FA ME / Source: New York Times.

 

When the 101st Airborne Division captured this base back in 2003, an American tank blasted the turret off a T-72 tank, catapulting it into the side of St. Elijah’s Monastery.

 The force buckled a wall of mortar and stone that had stood for more than 1,000 years here in one of the earliest redoubts of Christianity. Such is the tragedy of war.

 The division then made the site a garrison and painted its emblem on the stucco above the low door to the monastery’s chapel. The insignia remained there until a chaplain contemplated the righteousness of having “Screaming Eagles” adorn a house of God.

 “That’s not right,” the chaplain said, as the story goes.

 Thus began the accidental American stewardship of St. Elijah’s, an ancient site of Christian worship and martyrdom now stuck in the middle of a sprawling military base just south of Mosul, in northern Iraq.

 Now, in one small act of preservation, and perhaps penance, the Americans hope to restore St. Elijah’s. Army engineers have drawn up plans to shore up the roof and walls of its main sanctuary — believed to have been built in the 11th century — before the last American troops leave the monastery to an uncertain fate.

 “We get so close sometimes, but we don’t finish,” Master Sgt. Howard C. Miller said, referring to the unfinished business that increasingly consumes the American military as a deadline for withdrawal nears. “I’d really like to see this through.”

 The sergeant is a nurse, the senior noncommissioned officer at the combat hospital here on Marez, but either by coincidence or higher purpose, he is also a master stone mason, experienced in historic preservation back home.

 In his offhours, he has gathered the broken chunks of mortar from St. Elijah’s. In a garden behind the hospital, he has refired the chunks on a grill and then pulverized them in an attempt to recreate the mortar used more or less the way it was 1,000 years ago to rebuild the parts of St. Elijah’s that remain standing. He calls it “the world’s oldest recycling program.”

 As historic sites in Iraq go, St. Elijah’s has little of the significance of the ruins of the great Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian civilizations, all endangered by decay and looting. The ruins of Nimrud, Hatra and Nineveh are only a few miles away. So is the tomb of the Old Testament prophet Jonah, and that of another, Nahum, whose short chapter in the Bible warns Nineveh of its destruction.

 “Nineveh is like a walk through the Bible,” said W. Patrick Murphy, the leader of the American provincial reconstruction team here, which is coordinating the restoration, referring to the modern name for the province that includes Mosul.

 In the years of American occupation, St. Elijah’s became a curiosity, a diversion for soldiers and contractors who might otherwise never leave the base and encounter Iraq’s deeply layered history. Amid the hardship of modern military operations, it once again became a place of prayer.

The site, in the center of an American base

“We stand in a long line of people who bequeathed the faith to us,” said Maj. Jeffrey Whorton, a Roman Catholic chaplain, presiding over Mass in the monastery the other day, attended by three camouflaged soldiers, their rifles leaning in a corner.

 Little definitive is known about the history of St. Elijah’s, or Dair Mar Elia. The site has never been studied or excavated, according to the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, which oversees all of Iraq’s historic sites. Before the war, Iraq’s Republican Guard occupied the base and, according to the Americans, used the cistern as a latrine.

 The board, which has previously been critical of American activities at ruins, including Babylon, is now reviewing the proposal to restore St. Elijah’s.

 The monastery is believed to date from the late 500s, when Elijah, an Assyrian monk, traveled from what is now Turkey. It later became part of the Chaldean Catholic Church. Terraced hillsides nearby are evidence of cultivation that sustained the monks who lived here. The valley where it stands would be lovely were it not for the ruined remains of Saddam Hussein’s Fifth Army Corps nearby and the ever smoldering pit where the Americans burn trash and sewage down the road.

American forces are responsible for some of the damage to St. Elijah’s, but they are now its accidental stewards and are drawing up plans to restore it

In 1743, a Persian king swept through the area and ordered the monks to convert to Islam. They chose instead to die. In a violent place where Christians are still targets, most recently in bombings this week that struck two churches in Mosul, St. Elijah’s history resonates.

 “May I be committed like those who lived here and perished instead of denouncing their faith,” Maj. Julian L. Padgett, a Baptist chaplain, prayed after leading soldiers and contractors on the weekly Friday tour of the monastery.

 The monastery itself has 26 rooms, built around a central courtyard, in various stages of decay. Graffiti in English and Arabic mar some walls. “Adiós Mozul,” someone named Raoul wrote with imperfect spelling.

 “When we left, we ended up leaving a mess, too,” Major Padgett told the tour, recounting the military’s initial mistreatment of the place and its efforts now to make amends.

 The church itself, with a baptistery, nave and altar, remains largely intact, but the interior wall has buckled badly. A shell-shaped niche remains undisturbed, inscribed with a prayer, but another appears to have been chiseled out, possibly by looters. The floor is covered in dirt. Part of a ceiling arch has collapsed. Cracks run along the corners and ceiling, letting in sunlight, but also rain, which will ultimately cause more damage.

 The goal, Sergeant Miller explained, is to give St. Elijah’s “another 100 years of life — in whosever regime it is then.”

 

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outside of the Church
outside of the Church

BY: FA ME / Pictures taken from Ankawa.com

 

SHOCK and fear have gripped the Church in Iraq after two explosions on the same day with the threat of more to come.

The Al Beshara (Annunciation) Syrian Catholic Church in Mosul was the first to be targeted at 10.30am on he 15th of December when a bomb was placed against an outside wall of the building.

A minor explosion took place with damage to the wall. Nobody was hurt. Youngsters at a nearby kindergarten had a lucky escape.

Within a few hours, a second, much bigger bomb had gone off at the Al Tahera (Our Lady of Purity) Syrian Orthodox Church, also in Mosul.

A number of people were injured in the explosion which caused major damage to the church in the crowded Al Shefaa district in the city centre.

Speaking from northern Iraq in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Fr Bashar Warda described the “fear and shock” of the people who looked forward to Christmas as a time to “lift our spirits”.

as for me, as FA ME, who is writing this, I have had special memories with this Church, it’s the Church next to my old primary school, we used to attend this church when we were kids. on Sundays we had the first and second class off, because we attended the Church. I can imagine how fearful it is for the little kids whom were around there once this explosion took place. I also can imagine them playing and having fun in the School yard or inside the classrooms being tought by their teachers. nevertheless, the terrorist won’t care of such details, the group that committed this crime would never think of it this way. all they cared about was to hinder the progress in Iraq, and bring fear to the Christian minority in Iraq. yet who cares! the government?! the American troops? the neighbouring muslim friends?! who cares! who would put an end to this! this will have no end unless Christian have some sort of power inside Iraq. and I’m asking the religious leaders in Iraq to step up and have a word regarding what is happening! stop being frightened of fanatic Muslims. they will attack you whether you are frightened or you are strong. but to die defending your freedom is better than dying and you have no word! and to my Christian people I say: let not this be of weakness in you. you shouldn’t carry a weapon because this is not our concept. you shouldn’t response to violence with violence, this is not our morals as well. but go out in streets, let your word be heard, let your voice be clear, nobody is helping you, call for your freedom, it’s your land, it’s the Christians’ land before anybody else. and blame your government for what is happening. blame the leaders who have done nothing that shows any respect to your belief and religion. in the past 3 years we never heard a Sunni Mosque being attacked, neither we heard of Shiite Mosque being exploded! so it’s not because of the deteriorated situation you are being attacked. but because you are christians.

may god be the protector of my people. you should remember the word of God in Exodus 14:14 (The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace).

inside the Church

inside the Church

another picture from inside the Church

another picture from inside the Church

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Baghdad's Bombing

Baghdad's Bombing

FA ME / USA

 Rome, Italy, Dec 10, 2009 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad revealed yesterday that the offices of the Chaldean Patriarchate in the Iraqi capital were damaged by the terrorist attacks on Tuesday that left 127 dead and 500 wounded.

 According to the SIR news agency, the bishop noted that “fortunately only the buildings were damaged. The sisters and the Patriarch were not present at the time of the explosion. They had left to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

 “Doors, windows, window panes were all blown out, and the walls were also damaged,” he added.

 Bishop Warduni said Baghdad residents are convinced that those behind the attacks are linked to political groups.  “What is left now is the great desperation, pain and suffering of death that haunts our people,” the prelate concluded

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Joey Coon, left, and his former translator, Bandar Hasan, stand beside the Tigris River in Iraq

FA ME/ SOURCE Associated Press

WASHINGTON — They became good buddies during the war, the young American soldier and his invaluable Iraqi translator, an easygoing guy who could spot dangers in the shadows and calm jittery nerves in the streets.

When it was time to go home, Joey Coon, then an Army National Guard sergeant, set up an e-mail account for his translator, Bandar Hasan. He gave his friend a quick lesson on how to use it so they could stay in touch.

Joey didn’t expect much. Bandar wasn’t familiar with computers. But he did call on occasion, and the two joked about him coming to America one day, an idea that seemed far-fetched.

That all changed one morning when Bandar called Joey, his voice tense, his message urgent. He was no longer a translator, he was on the run and in fear of his life.

“He was very scared and worried and thought he was in a lot of danger,” Joey says, recalling how this conversation differed from others. “It was less about two guys joking, ‘Hey buddy, won’t it be fun when you come to the U.S.,’ and more like ‘Joey I need to get the heck out of here!”‘

Joey knew Bandar had risked his life for him and other American soldiers.

Now he was determined to do all he could to save him.

__

Among the thousands of Iraqis who’ve worked with Americans during the war, probably no group has faced greater danger than translators. They’ve been denounced as spies, condemned as traitors. Some have been killed, others tortured or threatened.

Though a law passed in 2007 made it easier for translators to come to the United States, some Americans — many of them soldiers — have felt the need to do more. They’ve raised money, hired lawyers, even welcomed Iraqis as temporary housemates.

“Maybe it was survivor’s guilt,” says Jason Faler, an Oregon National Guard captain who started a foundation to aid Iraqi translators, after bringing three of his own to America. “I was worried that very dear friends of mine would not survive. They had sacrificed a great deal … and I wanted to give them some help.”

It was much the same story for Joey Coon, an unlikely candidate for the military. At age 18 he’d already flashed his libertarian streak, refusing to register with the Selective Service, writing the agency a letter detailing his distrust of government. If the cause was just, he declared, he’d be first in line.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, he found his cause. He joined the Oregon National Guard, expecting to be sent to Afghanistan.

Instead, he arrived in Iraq in January 2005 on the base in Balad, about 40 miles north of Baghdad. About halfway through his tour, he met Bandar Hasan.

Bandar had just finished high school, where he’d studied English. His widowed mother — his father died before Bandar was born — didn’t want him to be a translator. It was too dangerous.

“No, you’re my only child,” he says she told him. “I don’t want to lose you.”

Finally, she relented.

Like many other translators, Bandar concealed his identity: He wore sunglasses and a “gator neck,” a sweater-like mask that covered his face below his eyes. He chose a code name: Dash. He sometimes spoke with a Lebanese accent.

Bandar joined the Americans on patrols and raids, riding in their Humvees, eating meals with them. Slender with a trim mustache and ready smile, he liked to laugh, but knew when to be serious, too.

“He would lend a certain amount of calm to every situation to explain to us what’s going on and to keep the locals informed,” Joey recalls. “… He was someone that I trusted in a situation where you really need people you trust around you.”

But associating with Americans could be deadly — as they both knew.

In one horrible incident, a 15-year-old Iraqi boy whose farm was near the base befriended the soldiers. They occasionally gave his family food and he provided tidbits of information, such as what road to avoid.

That proved to be fatal. One day, Joey says, the bodies of the boy and his 10-year-old brother were dumped on the fence line of the base. Both had been beheaded.

Later on, when Bandar hooked up with the Guard, Joey discovered these two boys were relatives on his father’s side.

After Joey left, Bandar began working at the less dangerous base hospital. He apparently had a falling-out with another Iraqi — the details are not clear — and suddenly, he was without a job and without protection.

It was spring 2007 when he called Joey.

In turn, Joey contacted his father, Jim, a real estate agent in Bend, Oregon, who vividly remembers his son’s voice, thick with emotion, saying: “‘Dad, I’ve got to get him out of there.”‘

__

Jim Coon needed no convincing.

While his son was still in Iraq, the elder Coon organized a shoe drive with friends and family, collecting 2,000 pairs, along with clothes and toys. He shipped a giant package to Joey, who handed out the goods in Iraqi villages and schools.

But this was different — in many ways.

Unlike most other Iraqis who depend on resettlement agencies or relatives to make their way here, Bandar was counting on Joey and a special program that helps translators.

It wasn’t easy: Joey had to plow through documents, try to understand complicated immigration laws and acquire a general’s letter to snare a special immigrant visa for translators.

Bandar’s anxiety, meanwhile, was palpable in his e-mails.

“you are may only hope in may life pleas dont forget me …,” he wrote in July 2007.

“Don’t worry, I would never forget you,” Joey replied adding that he was talking with a friend about how to get him a visa. “Stay strong and be very safe.”

Joey sent Bandar some money so he could temporarily move to Kurdistan. But Bandar didn’t have a job there, so after a short time, he headed to Baghdad, where he hid out.

His frustration and isolation filled a February 2008 e-mail.

“Joey … i Dont have place in my country. and i cant continuous like this,” he wrote. “… i am with out freedom now i cannot move …. hope you can doing something … Dont forget me i am your brother.”

__

Rescuing Bandar became a team project.

Teresa Statler, a Portland immigration lawyer who already had helped two Iraqi translators come to America, set out to do the same for Bandar. But reaching him wasn’t always easy; he was reluctant to open American documents in the Internet cafe in Baghdad where he read his e-mail.

Jason Faler, the Oregon Guard captain who established The Checkpoint One Foundation to help Iraqi translators, contacted a general who’d served in Afghanistan to get a recommendation letter required for the visa.

In the spring of 2008, Faler, in Washington on business, met Joey, who had moved to the nation’s capital to become director of student programs at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

He offered Joey some parting advice.

“I said ‘Joey, the job does not end when your interpreter gets to the U.S.,”‘ Faler recalls. “In fact, it has only just begun.”

That summer, back in Bend, Joey and his family held a fundraiser barbecue, Joey introduced a video featuring Bandar working, smiling — and pleading for help.

When the video ended, Joey says, “there wasn’t a dry eye on the house — including mine.”

__

The word that Bandar had been issued a visa came in a March e-mail.

“‘Bandar, my brother!!!!” Joey wrote, announcing the news. “… I’m so happy for you.”

“I really Cry when I see the e.mail,” Bandar replied, thanking him and reminding him: “You Still my Big Brother.” Bandar is now 24, Joey 28.

A few days later, Bandar, and his mother shared a tearful goodbye. “This is my future, this is my life,” he says he told her. “I want to be safe.”

Taking his first ever plane ride, Bandar watched, without regret, as the Baghdad skyline disappeared beneath him. “It’s not very good memories I have of Iraq,” he says, “Always scared. Always bad situations.”

About a dozen of Joey’s friends, including his girlfriend, Brooke Oberwetter, greeted Bandar at the airport in Washington.

The next day, they played Frisbee on the Washington Mall and did some sightseeing as Bandar took photos.

“One day,” he says, “I’m going to show them to my children.”

__

As predicted, the hard part wasn’t over.

It took three months for Bandar to find work he now holds two part-time positions busing dishes, but worries about supporting himself.

“He’s a very proud guy,” Joey says. “He doesn’t want to feel like he’s a burden.”

Bandar also hasn’t escaped the horrors of war. Early on, he learned an Iraqi friend, a contractor he’d entrusted to watch over his mother had been killed. Then an Iraqi child who reminded Bandar of himself as a boy was killed, too.

There were days, Joey says, when he’d see Bandar staring off in space, tears streaming down his face.

But those moments have not dampened Bandar’s joy.

“I am the king of my life now,” he says. “I can walk anywhere. I can come back at 3:30 in the morning. I feel like I’m free. This is very important to me.”

Actually, Joey, says he has told Bandar that while Washington is safer than Iraq, he needs to be careful.

Bandar is quickly adapting. He has his own Facebook page and ATM card.

He shares a house with Joey, his girlfriend, Brooke and another roommate. Brooke says she had no reservations having Bandar join them when Joey moved in this spring.

“I love Joey very much,” she says. “I knew he wanted Bandar to be here. I knew he was part of the deal.”

Bandar plans to take English classes, would eventually like to go to college and maybe, one day, bring his mother here.

For now, he’s basking in his new ‘family’ that includes Jim Coon. The two talk and exchange text messages regularly. “He calls me dad, I call him my No. 2 son,” the elder Coon says.

Bandar is giddy just thinking about it.

“I’ve got a brother,” he declares. “I’ve got a family, people who take care of me. It’s amazing.”

He stops for a moment as if to absorb it all.

“Joey,” he confides, “he’s not doing a small thing for me. I will never forget this all my life.”

As for Joey, he’s thrilled, too.

“Whatever problems we might face, whether it’s money, jobs, whatever, we’ve sort of got the basic issues out of the way — life and death,” he says. “There have been difficult times but it’s always been worth it … We’re a team. We’re in this together.”

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