Open Letter To Maysoon Tawfiq, Secretary AANF

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Posted by parhad ( on October 02, 2001 at 09:31:02:

Dear Ms Tawfiq;

I write to you in your capacity as Secretary for the Assyrian American National Federation to inform you of how deeply hurt and angered I was at the manner in which I was treated by the Federation at the recent convention in San Jose, California. I've been showing sculpture and raising funds for Assyrian public monuments since before you took over as Secretary, a position you bring credit to.

In 1986 under the leadership of John Yohannan the Federation gave $10,000.00 towards the Ashurbanipal Monument, which was installed in 1988 in San Francisco. In 1995 under the leadership of Yatroum Zia the Federation gave another $10,000.00 to the Shumirum Monument, and though it has been ready to install in Chicago for several years, has yet to find a home because of the "usual".

Two years ago the Federation, under Sargon Lewie, agreed to act as fiscal sponsor for the Hammurabi Monument, and though under its present leadership the Federation has given no funds, still, their willingness to sponsor the project made me hopeful that we would have your cooperation in completing our third public monument.

It is for this reason that I write to you in shock and disbelief today, at the manner in which I and my work and the Hammurabi Monument specifically were treated by the Federation and its San Jose affiliate under Jackie Bejan.

Two weeks before the convention was to open Jackie Bejan informed me I could not come, even though we had been working together for four months on just what I was to show at the convention. Because of a dispute between us on an entirely separate matter, Ms Bejan pulled the rug out from under me, and really all of those at the convention who look forward to seeing my work.

I felt certain that the Federation would not support her in this obviously personal vendetta, for there was no other plausible reason to deny me access while welcoming my peers. A letter from my lawyer outlining potential violations and my unwillingness to sue, if only I be allowed to display as I had been promised I should be able to, as other artists were allowed to...went unheeded in the end.

I was allowed to set up the sculptures and display them till Sunday afternoon, when I unveiled them for the first time. Within minutes I had sold my first piece and awaited visits by others who'd told me they'd come that day to see and quite possibly buy. I remind you that all money raised at the conventions has gone towards supporting work on the monuments. It was then that I was approached by Alphonse Odishoo and Alladin Khamis, who is vice-president of the Federation, and handed a contract dated nine days earlier, in which I was told not to speak about the Shumirum Monument, or mention the Federation...and I must agree not to sell my work.

I demanded to see your president, Atour Golani, and asked among other things why the other artists all had price tags on their pieces if they had signed the same contract, and why was only I being asked to muzzle myself, waive my First Amendment right to Free Speech. I was told that the other artists had agreed to "kick-back" a percentage to the Federation. I ask you now if that is true. For when I asked three of them they said they had never heard of such a thing, and if it had been mentioned to them, they would not have come. Nevertheless, I asked your president why I had not been given that option, why only I was being told not to sell, with no arrangement of kick-backs offered me, while it was clear the contract was not being enforced against the others. In other words, why was I being singled out for discriminatory treatment, what had I really done to merit this sort of thing? Surely it is not the Federation's policy to punish those who are found to be displeasing to Ms Jackie Bejan? I was told to either sign or get out. I could not sign such a fraudulent document and left, only to have my sculptures thrown against a wall (three of them were damaged as the Hotel has the report) and covered from view so that no one at the convention might see these "dreadful" pieces.

As you know I am instigating legal action for I believe I was terribly harmed by these actions in my ability to support my family... and the Hammurabi Monument, which I remind you your Federation has sponsored and whose bank account we use, was irretrievably damaged .

What I write to ask you for is some clarification as to why the Federation decided to mete out this unprecedented treatment to anyone, let alone the one sculptor we have who has worked as long as I have to bring some honor and distinction to this Heritage through the very kinds of efforts your Federation has supported in the past, but so effectively blocked this year. Why? What changed? What really, in terms an ordinary person might make sense of, had I done to merit this sort of treatment by the Federation?

I can assure you I, or my representative, will ask these questions of you all in a court of Law someday soon.

I am as sorry as I can be that events turned out this way. The Federation itself has placed an almost fatal barrier before the Hammurabi Monument for I doubt if I will be invited, and I know I will not attend again, any future conventions. From where, and how am I to get donors for the Hammurabi Monument now? I've sold $90,000.00 of my own sculpture and used the "profits" to support the monument of Hammurabi. That work was all for nothing, why?

I would suggest that you all stop discussing these things among yourselves, determining on the basis of what you hear or think you know, and get real and sound legal advice instead. You are giving yourselves and each other emotional reasons you feel justify the playing out of the petty jealousies and frustrations of some among you who think they will "teach lessons" in this manner, and can do what they feel like in "their" organizations and clubs. Those clubs and organizations must still work within the framework of the Law of the Land. I assure you that the courts and Laws in this country respect the Artist and his particular rights in ways totally foreign to our people.


Fred parhad

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