The Encounter With Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D

A few years ago, (in the Summer of 2000), it was brought to my attention that the following quasi-academic paper was not only on the internet, but being taught to Assyrian students at a Community College in California. After an exchange of telephone calls and e-mails, and a brief "e-campaign", it was decided that the best way to fairly solve this problem would be a debate. The web site in question was written by a Dr. Kelley L. Ross.

Click HERE to view the debate in RealVideo format. (Note: The "Forum", called "Two Views on the Ancient Assyrians" took place on September 24, 2001 in Monarch Hall in the Campus Center at Los Angeles Valley College.
Click HERE to view the debate in Quicktime format. (We will be adding the video files soon)

This original web site, in its entirety, can be found here.

This web site was first brought to the attention of the community by the good folks at, who frequented the forum there.

Several letters were written to Dr. Ross, but he steadfastly refused to retract the more ridiculous statements of his site. Here are some of the letters:
· Letter from Dr. Simo Parpola, Assyriologist, to Dr. Kelley Ross
· Letter from Zack Cherry, Assyriologist, to Dr. Kelley Ross
· E-mail exchange excerpts between Jeffrey Atto and Dr. Kelley Ross
· E-mail exchange excerpts between Ghassan Hanna and Dr. Kelley Ross

An incomplete transcription of the debate between Dr. Ross and Farid Parhad can be found here.

Several posts on the subject can be found in the forum archives on the main home page.

Professor Ross's Comments (taken from his web page on 6/4/05):

The Forum about this came off as planned, called "Two Views on the Ancient Assyrians." While Mr. Parhad had promised us that the whole local Assyrian community would turn out for the event, no more than half a dozen people seemed to do so. I hope this is because they became aware of Mr. Parhad's own agenda and did not want to be associated with it. From statements made to us at Valley College, and from the evidence of his own website, Mr. Parhad seems to have mixed in pro-Iraqi and anti-American ideology with his Assyrian nationalism. He has even referred to Saddam Hussein as an "Assyrian" and said that the United States has killed more Assyrians by its bombing than Saddam Hussein has. There would have to be an awful lot of Assyrians manning Iraqi air defense sites for that to be true. At the time of his original appearance at Valley College in May and demands for the debate, he talked as though the United States has been bombing Assyrian villages in Iraq. What looks more like it is that Iraq, which officially regards the Assyrians as Christian Arabs, has been the one destroying Assyrian villages.

Curiously, in the debate Mr. Parhad admitted that people might not have liked ancient Assyria because it was an Empire -- like the "Empire" that the United States now has. This is a little odd, since Mr. Parhad does not seem to like the United States and appears to hope that its power will founder in military action against Iraq, while protesting that someone like me should talk about how contemporaries didn't like ancient Assyria. One would think that if ancient Assyria was enlightened, likeable, and popular, then now the United States, if it qualifies as an "Empire" by his definition, would be enlightened, likeable, and popular also. But this does not seem to be the case, and at least Mr. Parhad, disliking the United States so much, has acted on this by moving to Mexico.

Another curious feature of this debate was something that to me was rather surprising, and which I could not take into account in my original treatment of the issue, and that is the rejection of some Assyrian nationalists, like Mr. Parhad himself, of Christianity. I was aware of attempts to denigrate the Old Testament and to virtually de-Judaize an Assyrian nationalist Christianity, but it can go far beyond this, with an abandonment of Christianity altogether and a desire to revive the ancient worship of the Assyrian national god, Ashur. Unfortunately, if this is supposed to it fit in with a modern Iraqi nationalism (e.g. an Assyrian Iraqi rather than an Arab Iraqi identity), there is the difficulty that such neo-pagan worship is not something that Islām is under any obligation, by its own laws, to tolerate. If Mr. parhad, a sculptor, provided a statue of Ashur to Iraq, good Moslems would be duty bound to destroy it. Saddam Hussein may be a completely cynical Moslem, but he is presently trying to take advantage of radical Islām. The worship of Ashur is not going to fit in with that. Mr. Parhad might want to confer with Saddam before getting too carried away. I suspect the truth is that Mr. Parhad's views, however conformable in their anti-Americanism to Saddam Hussein's, are otherwise idiosyncratic and have little to do with Hussein's actual beliefs or purposes.

Since September 11, 2001, of course, a pro-Iraqi anti-Americanism, whether Assyrian or Arab, Ashur-worshipping or Islamic in origin, is not going to sound good to most Americans or, I hope, most Assyrians. If the Assyrian community stayed away from the Valley College forum for fear of attacting hostile attention from Americans, this was a wise response indeed, when the presumably pro-Assyrian speaker was identifying himself with the enemies of America and could barely conceal his own anti-American animus. Since many Americans may be unaware that there even are Christian communities in the Middle East (an Egyptian Christian, a Copt, perhaps mistaken as a Moslem, was murdered in San Gabriel soon after September 11), and Arab Christians are at pains to dissociate themselves from Islam (as many Moslems are at pains to dissociate themselves from radical "Islamist" ideology), the last thing the Assyrians need is an ideology to dissociate them from Christianity and associate them with, of all people, Saddam Hussein.

Farid Parhad's Response: