The Assyrian artist, author and activist Mr. Hanna (John) Hajjar paid recently a visit to Sweden from Los Angeles, where he has been living for the last 35 years. Assyria TV invited him to our studio and the interview addressed several topics, and projects created by Mr. Hajjar in the past years. The language is Arabic. So, here is a summery of the contents:
Sharrukin Novel: It is an action epic historical fiction, compressing 7000 years of Assyrian history in 300 pages, with the Appendix containing valuable historical information.
Beth-Nahreen B’Gawne: A children’s coloring book. Each page with a picture of something that starts with that letter, with its name written in Estrangelo, Eastern and western Syriac scripts. Example: Olaf = Ashur, Beth = Bobel, Gomal = Gilgamesh, etc. Kids would color each page and learn the letters of the alphabet, plus 22 words.
Calligraphy Paintings: For example; Ashur = Suryoyo, it shows how the name Ashur transformed to Asur, then to Suryoyo.
Assyrian Costume: The main reason why Assyrian costumes aren’t reproduced on a large scale is their tremendous cost due to embroidering, and the way around it is to cut the cost by utilizing visual effects with the use of stamping using t-shirt ink/paint.
Observation of Details in Art: Restoring some ancient Assyrian art, by completing the missing parts from other fragments. While researching the Children’s Video Tar’e wu Gawne, looking for color names, Syriac dictionaries define the word Sus-Gawno as Sky Blue, which literary translates to Horse Color, but there are no blue horses! However when going through the book titled Art of the Ancient Near East, by Pierre Amiet, it turned out that there were blue Assyrian horses depicted in the art of Tel Barsip. A picture of that is shown on the cover of Mr. Hajjar’s Sharrukin novel. By the way, in the US there is a horse known as a Roan Horse. Its color is grayish-blue, and that is the closest thing to a blue horse.
The Winged Disk of Ashur: In regards to the winged disk used on the Aramean fag, the bas-relief that shows that specific symbol was from Tel Halaf, and ancient Hittite settlement, noting that there was no Aramean presence before 1200 BC in Mesopotamia. The Aramean tribes moved in after the collapse of the Hittite Empire where it created a political vacuum and the Arameans filled that vacuum by settling in cities that were built by other people who lived there before them.
Since there were no inscriptions on that specific image, no one can claim that it was 100% Aramean or 100% Assyrian or 100% Hittite, but what we can be sure off is that its style is a mix between Hittite and Assyrian styles. Additionally the winged creatures found in Tel Halaf were stretched similar to winged creatures found in Hattusa the capital of the Hittite in central Anatolia. As to the theme it is typical Assyrian and depicts Gilgamesh and Ankidu (half human and half bull, with horns), with Gilgamesh carrying a small table by its legs, with the winged disk sitting on top of that table (where the rectangle with four flowers is the side view of the top of that table, now shown as stuck to the tail of the winged disk of the Aramean flag), This same symbolism has been displayed in many Assyrian artworks in Nineveh, with the same exact details, of Ankidu carrying the winged disk, with the 4-pointed Assyrian star, or Ashur, or simply a circle at its center, hence its theme is pointing towards Assyria, Mr. Hajjar says.
The Aramean Name: Our different name problem stems from different definitions. The fact that each group defines terms according to their ideology, is leading us into three different nations instead of one, noting that we are a minority, so further splitting that into three or four subdivisions turns us into a very tiny minority that no one would take into consideration, that is why it is important that we should unite under one name, Mr. Hajjar says, and states further;
“They claim to be Arameans, but they don’t realize that there are several origins of the term Aram. Therefore the Arameans need to tell us which Aram they are coming from, so that we know if we are related or not. The burden of proof is on them.
- Aram the son of Shem, the son of Noah, mentioned in the Bible, if that is the case, they need to prove their link to him, and not to his brother who is Ashur. The mere mention of Aram in the Bible is not a proof that a person is his descendant!
- No one is of a100% pure race, we are all mixed, but our community is made of a homogenous mix, and that is what unites us. No one is pure Assyrian, Aramean, Chaldean, but rather we are a mix of Assyrians, Arameans and Chaldeans, and the mix depends on the geographical location. Example if someone is from the Levant, then he is expected to have a higher percentage of Aramean genes in him, and a small Assyrian percentage, on the other hand if he is from upper Mesopotamia which is the land of Ashur then he is expected to have a higher percentage of Assyrian genes in him, and all of us are from upper Mesopotamia.
- There is Aram Kenuel related to Lot, who is from the branch of Arphaxad who was the brother of Aram the son of Shem. Now we have two Arams, which one are they from?
- Then we have Aram an ancient Armenian King. Are they related to him? By the way Aram is a very popular Armenian name, yet none of our people named their sons Aram before 1975 when the Aramean movement officially started. Before 1975 we would hear that someone spoke Aramaic, and speaking Aramaic is not a proof that he is Aramean. This interview is made in Arabic, but we are not Arabs. They claim is that because there was a person called Wafa the Aramean in Urfa/Edessa, they conclude that everyone in Urfa is Aramean, but the opposite is true, because a community nicknames the stranger by where he came from. Example: Assuming you are from Beirut and you moved to Sweden, the Swedes would call you Shamoun the Beiruti, this doesn’t mean that all Swedes are Beirutis, but rather that only you are a Beiruti. And in the case of Wafa, it means that he was the only Aramean in Ufra.
- Aram also means Bedouin or nomad. Example: The Bible tells us that Abraham was a lost Aramean, this doesn’t mean that he was an Aramean and a descendant fro Aram, because Abraham was a descendant from Arphaxad the brother of Aram. Hence we can conclude that the term Aramean means a Bedouin because he was constantly traveling from Ur, to Harran, to Canaan, to Egypt and then back to Canaan. So he was constantly on the road like a Bedouin, and that is why he was nicknamed as Aramean. No disrespect to Bedouin or nomads, all nations started as nomads in their earliest stages, for example the first ten Assyrian kings were nicknamed as the kings who lived in tents. However the difference between Assyrians and Arameans was that Agriculture was discovered in north Mesopotamia, and Assyrians settled in one place, while Arameans who were from the Syrian Desert (south of the Levant) were constantly moving from one location to another depending on the availability of water.
- In Syriac dictionaries the definition of Aramean is Pagan. If those people are calling themselves Arameans because they are pagans then that contradicts with them being Christians. Are they calling themselves Armeans because they are Bedouins? Are they descendants from Aram king of Armenia? Aram Kimuel? Or Aram son of Shem? They need to tell us which one! Some claim that they are Aramean because they speak Aramaic, well we don’t speak Aramaic, we speak Syriac, and Syriac is a mix between Aramaic and Akkadian. Additionally the Syriac language spread to India and Mongolia, are the Indians who speak it Arameans too? We are speaking Arabic, this doesn’t mean that we are Arabs, and later when I speak English this doesn’t mean that I became and Anglo-Saxon, and those Suryoye in Sweden who are speaking Swedish today doesn’t mean that they are Vikings. Dr. Sebastian Brock speaks Syriac better than me and you, it doesn’t mean that he is Aramean.
- Then we have the definition that Aram that means high or highland, It is an adjective given to people who live in the highlands, Example: The Scottish people live in highlands, so they are called the highlanders in English, similarly in our language we have Oromoye, and Ormoye, they are written the same but the difference between them is the zaw’e (diacritical signs), one is a noun and the other is an adjective, so when the heartland of Assyria is called Bet Ormoye, it means the highlands and not the land of Arameans, because the heartland of Assyria is made of highlands.
All this boils down to definition! We need the other side to define what do they mean by Aram, so that we can understand what we are discussing or arguing about!”, Mr. Hajjar concludes.
Internet Archive to MARA: This archive is a hard copies collected from the discussion on the forum of BethSuryoyo.com. When the hosting of BethSuryoyo.com was changed the digital files were lost, and now this hard copies are the only thing left. Plus there are many other documents to our history collected from the Internet through a period of about 20 years. They will be donated to Modern Assyrian Research Archive (MARA). In order to cover the shipping costs, Mr. Hajjar donated some calligraphy paintings to be sold in auktion by MARA.