Piro: Assyrians need louder voice in Iraq

Turlock Journal, CA
March 25 2004

Piro: Assyrians need louder voice in Iraq

By Kimberly Horg – Turlock Journal

Lazar Piro, president of the Assyrian National Council, has a
different perspective on the situation in Iraq than what is shown on
television news each night.

Piro, who frequently travels to the Middle East for business and
personal purposes, told a group of Turlock Rotarians Tuesday that
Arab people are upset with Americans because of the government’s
support of Israel, but people in Iraq are pleased with the U.S.
presence. Even so, Iraqis are concerned about getting their country
back in order, he said.

`Most people in the United States don’t exactly understand what is
going on over there so it is good to have someone visit the Rotary
Club who does,’ said Sharon Silva, CEO of the Turlock Chamber of

Piro was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1942 and came to the United
States in 1979 with his wife, Francia. He studied business
administration and began his career marketing and selling health
products. He speaks English, French, Arabic, and Assyrian. He started
Piro Trading International in Turlock during 1984 which specializes
in dental and health care (which he exports internationally). Piro is
the owner of the local franchise for Strings Italian Cafe and has
been a resident of Turlock for 25 years.

He told Rotary members how he thought the U.S. should begin a
democratic Iraq and gave an overview on the Middle East.

`Most of the people in Iraq agree that the people of Iraq must
establish their own government and control,’ Piro said.

`The region is divided into three different areas. The arbitrary
boundary lines have been drawn over many years and battles have
caused grief, anger and political problems,’ Piro said.

As president of the Assyrian National Council, a coalition of 21
religious, social and civic organizations in Stanislaus County, Piro
said he wants to promote the social, cultural and spiritual welfare
of the Assyrian people in Stanislaus County. Stanislaus is home to
over 20,000 Assyrians people who are direct descendants of the
indigenous people of Iraq so many of the city’s residents have
relatives in Iraq, particularly in Northern Iraq and Baghdad.

He recently wrote a letter to President George W. Bush about the law
of administration for Iraq regarding the Assyrian people to be
reconsidered as a nation – not a community – in Iraq. A major concern
of the council is that the law gives the regional government the
territory which includes the northern part of Iraq. This includes
Neneves which used to be the capitol of the Assyrian empire but this
land was given to the Kurds instead.

`We were the indigenous people of Iraq so we would like to get a
voice,’ he said.

The Assyrian and Armenian genocide that took place more a hundred
years ago, in which many people were murdered because of their
beliefs. The Assyrians and Armenians were among the first Christian
peoples. In present times they have the right to practice their
religion, but this was not always a freedom that they could enjoy.
Even though a great number of people were killed, it is not widely
known or spoken about.

In the Bible, Mesopotamia was where present-day Iraq is located ,so
religion has always been a big part of the culture. The Middle East
is the birth place for three major religions: Christianity, Islam and
Judaism. Religion is a strong part of the culture in Iraq, so people
have a clash of different values and different points of view, he

Because there is a mix of religions in the area, democracy in Iraq
will take years.

`It is very difficult to put a democratic government in Iraq,’ Piro