Assrins In A Garden

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Posted by pancho from ? ( on Friday, March 01, 2002 at 4:57AM :

My mother tells me that we were the second Assyrians to live in Kuwait. In 1948 an Assyrian was working at the American Hospital there as an orderly or something. Both Iran and Iraq considered Kuwait to be theirs and had no embassies, so people of either nationality couldn't get any legal travel papers to enter Kuwait. My father was hired by the Kuwait Government while he was trying to get Court Martialed from the Iraqi Army where he was a much decorated Major and had served twice the required time, or eight years.

They refused to let him go, even though he'd punched a superior officer, Muslim no less...and was set to just go AWOL with his family, when he was hired to be groomed by the Kuwaitis to replace the British who were doing what they always did best. The government finally gave him his discharge and we moved to Kuwait in 1951. It hadn't changed all that much by then, still a desert fortress where slavery existed up to 1957.

He eventually became head of the Health Department and almost immediately became the personal physician of Sheikh Sabah, who later became Emir of Kuwait, the year my father died there. It was Sheikha Bedriyeh, Sabah's mother who really took a shine to my father for his sense of humor. She had a ferrocious sweet tooth and would be unable to sleep on account of her late night snacks. A limo with a couple of jeeps and armed guards would call for my father at all hours and off he'd go to sit with the woman and her hand maidens in the women's quater and gossip and laugh the night away. He told her all she had was gas, but for a while at least he'd go entertain her through the night.

After us other Assyrians came to Kuwait and all entered illegally. They would invariably make their way to my father to ask if he could use his influence to get thm legal jobs so they could stay. he helped several of them but never allowed one of them into our house.

They would be made to stand in the garden and state their business. My mother would of course be scandalized and insist they be asked inside. He wouldn't hear of it, said if you wanted to live a safe life, never allow an Assyrian into your home or confidence because they are traitors to the core. I think he meant envious as hell to the core.

He felt that way about them because it had been Assyrians who had told some officials in the Health Department back in Iraq that his father Hakim Baba, did not have a degree and had never graduated from any Medical School. My grandfather had escaped from Urmie during that time and was the only doctor our people had. That meant a lot to our women especially who did not relish having a Muslim doctor look up their innards.

In time he had moved his family to Mosul and became popular with the Muslims because he was a damn fine doctor. You can guess what happened next. Soon some official who resented this Christian Dog for taking his business away, got a call in the night from a relative of Gassman or Jackie and my grandfather was called in to produce his diploma. All of his papers had been lost in their escape and he had nothing with him. Letters to the school in Scotland produced nothing, not fast enough anyway, and he was told he could no longer practice medicine...and a lot of Assyrian Christian women got a Muslim finger in the eye and elsewhere thanks to Assyrians, who else.

My grandfather turned four of his five sons into doctors and his dream was to build a hospital for get rich naturally. It was only because of his connections that his sons were allowed to go into Medical School at all. Anyway, he had to leave his children, as well, and return to Edinborough to re-take his medical exam and courses. It took him two years during which time my father became the sole support of the family.

My grandfather survived his second medical degree by two years, dying of a broken heart at 51 in a train on his way to Mosul. None of my family would have anything to do with Assyrians after that. A bit of an overreaction I'd say, but understandable too. That's the way we're put together.

I would never make the same mistake.

-- pancho
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