The Brooklyn Museum

Date: September 18, 2023

The Brooklyn Museum 

Brooklyn, New York. United States 



The next museum we are going to cover is one of the more recent acquisitions of Assyrian art to a museum collection. The Brooklyn Museum in Brooklyn, New York, was founded in 1898 as an offshoot of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. The goal of the institution is to be “a powerful place of personal transformation and social change”.  

The Brooklyn Museum is in possession of a series of twelve reliefs from Ashur-nasir-pal II’s palace at Kalhu from 879 BCE. Upon completion of the palace, the King hosted a gala during which citizens were able to walk through the palace to admire its beauty. It is believed there were nearly 70,000 guests in attendance at this celebration. These reliefs were unearthed during the 1840’s excavations of British archeologist Austen Henry Layard, which we discussed in earlier articles. As you may recall, the British and French excavation teams developed a rivalry over the course of their discoveries. The escalating competitive attitudes are part of what motivated the teams to rapidly gather and ship as many artifacts as they could back to their respective institutions. While we know that the majority of these artifacts still reside in the museums they were initially sent to, the fervor of the excavation teams resulted in the museums acquiring far more items than they had the space to store them. Left with few other choices, the museums put some of the artifacts up for sale on the private market.  

It was in 1855 when Henry Stevens, an American, purchased the reliefs in London. His initial intention was to send the reliefs to Boston where they would become property of the city. However, Boston municipal authorities were not able to raise the necessary funds to purchase the works from Stevens. As a result, Stevens began seeking buyers in New York City. James Lenox, of the New York Historical Society in Manhattan ended up purchasing the works. The reliefs were held by the New York Historical Society in Manhattan until 1937, when they lent the works to the Brooklyn Museum due to constraints in resources and storage space. Though the museum now held and displayed the works, they did not have the funds to purchase them outright. That was until 1955.  

Hagop Kevorkian was a collector and dealer of ancient near eastern art in New York. Kevorkian was from the city of Kayseri in Turkey, and graduated from the American Robert College in Istanbul. He came to New York as a young man in the 19th century. He made a name for himself through his contributions of antiquities for a number of noteworthy institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Louvre, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The University of Pennsylvania Museum, and The Brooklyn Museum. Hagop Kevorkian provided the funds to the Brooklyn Museum to purchase the twelve Ashur-nasir-pal II reliefs and install them in the space, which was aptly named the Hagop Kevorkian Gallery of Ancient Middle Eastern Art. 

This set of reliefs features depictions of Ashur-nasir-pal II communicating and consorting with divine entities. In addition to serving as a political leader, the Kings of ancient Assyria served as religious leaders as well. They were expected to demonstrate both an understanding and commitment to the Gods and Goddesses of the ancient Assyrian pantheon. Most of the reliefs feature apkallū -figures, also known as Genies. Genies are a divine winged being that served as the Kings protectors and consorts. Apkallū were seen as exceptionally intelligent, and were imagined to have assisted in the construction and protection of cities and their inhabitants. The relief show the King and genies celebrating religious rituals, such as tending to the sacred tree of life. The tree of life symbolism in particular was a motif used in Assyrian art to represent the divine power of the King to bestow life. The tree of life symbolism is so quincuncial to Assyrian art, that it is also used as the inspiration and subject of the logo for The Assyrian Cultural Foundation.  

Though many institutions have a larger variety of works from Assyrian, the Brooklyn Museum succeeds in providing guests an in depth look at the royal life of on Assyrian King and thus allows for a more personal and insular contemplation of the art at hand. By having the reliefs isolated from the wide variety of art that appears throughout the timeline of the empire, it allows for the details and nuances them to become more noticeable. Just as guests walked through the palace walls in 879 BCE, now visitors to the Brooklyn Museum can walk alongside these reliefs can contemplate the remarkable accomplishments of this ancient empire.  


Written by: Melanie Perkins

Published by: Brian Banyamin



“Brooklyn Museum: About the Museum.”, . 

“Brooklyn Museum.”, . 

“Hagop Kevorkian.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Oct. 2022, 

“Selected Works of Ancient near Eastern Art, Including Assyrian Reliefs.” Brooklyn Museum, 


Remembering Obelit Yadgar

Date: September 8, 2023

The Assyrian Cultural Foundation deeply mourns the passing of Obielit Yadgar, a cherished voice in the Assyrian community and an honorary guest at our recent Assyrian Renaissance Concert. His dedication to the arts and his unparalleled passion for storytelling have left an indelible mark. As we reflect on his invaluable contributions, let his legacy inspire and guide future generations.


Obielit (Obie) Yadgar’s journey began in Baghdad, Iraq, where he was born. A year later, his family moved to Tehran, Iran, where he spent the majority of his younger years. Later on, Yadgar and his brother immigrated to the United States. Though he initially settled in New York, it was in Chicago where he completed his high school education and made the decision to become a writer, inspired by his great-uncle’s legacy.


The young Obie Yadgar often observed his great-uncle, renowned Assyrian writer and historian Rabi Benyamin Arsanis, hunched over his desk writing. That same passion drove Yadgar to pursue his own writing career, in which he published two novels and a book of humor: Will’s Music, Whistling to Cairo, and Obie’s Opus, all available on Amazon. In addition, he made significant contributions to the Zinda magazine in the form of essays and short stories. In Yadgar’s own words, “These essays and short stories are slice-of-life pieces on the Assyrian world.”


Following a tour of duty as a U.S. Army combat correspondent in Vietnam, Yadgar began a distinguished career as a classical music broadcaster. He worked for many years in Chicago, though it is Milwaukee where he established his home and a name for himself. His program “Obie’s Opus” played on Sundays from 8 to 9 A.M. on WMSE Milwaukee, 91.7 FM.


He also hosted Musing with My Samovar, presented by the Assyrian Podcast.


Though he is no longer with us, both broadcasts can be streamed via one’s smart device.


Written by: Sarah Gawo & Cassandra Ledger

Published by: Brian Banyamin 

Assyrian Instrument: Lyers of Ur

Date: August 29, 2023

Paintings, ornate vases, reliefs, and other pieces of ancient fine art depict musicians playing a myriad of instruments. However, it’s rare the instruments they are modeled after survive to this day— and stringed instruments, in particular, are quite fragile. This made the excavation of the Lyres of Ur in 1922 a magnificent feat.
Three lyres and one harp were discovered at the Royal Cemetery at Ur, dating back to the Early Dynastic III Period of Mesopotamia (between 2550-2450 BC). Due to how the lyres were discovered, it is believed that the instruments were used during burial ceremonies. Though the wood was decayed, the instruments are covered in nonperishable materials such as gold and silver. As a result, archaeologists were able to cast them in a liquid plaster and recover them. Now, the Lyres of Ur are recognized as the world’s oldest surviving string instruments.
The lyres were distributed among those involved in the expedition and the country from which they were found. The Golden Lyre of Ur, or the Bull’s Lyre, which was the finest, was given to the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. The Queen’s Lyre and Silver Lyre are both at the British Museum. The last instrument, the Bull Headed Lyre, is held at the Penn Museum.
To better understand how this instrument may have worked, the Oriental Institute in Chicago set out to create a replica of the Golden Lyre. After years of meticulous work from musicians and artists alike, museum guests can bask in what the instrument would have looked like in its prime— and they can even hear it too.
The Lyre Ensemble podcast, an endeavor created by the Oriental Institute, chronicles the recreation of this ancient instrument and how it may sound in traditional Mesopotamian music. Though the exact sound can never be recreated without the exact same materials used thousands of years ago, an approximation can be achieved, allowing us an exciting view of the past we otherwise wouldn’t have.

Image Credits: © The Trustees of the British Museum Released under: “CC BY-NC-SA 4.0” license.

Kilmer, Anne Draffkorn. “The Musical Instruments from Ur and Ancient Mesopotamian Music.” Expedition Magazine 40, no. 2 (July, 1998): -. Accessed August 24, 2023.

Written by: Cassandra Ledger

Published by: Brian Banyamin

The Iraq Museum

Date: August 22, 2023

The Iraq Museum 

Baghdad, Iraq  



As we discussed in our previous museum blogs, after the 19th century exhibitions of Assyrian sites, most of the works were shipped to out of Iraq to museums around the world. However, not all of the discovered Assyrian treasures left their country of origin, as with the collection at The Museum of Iraq in Baghdad.  

Compared to the other museums we have discussed so far; The Iraq Museum was established more recently. The Baghdad Archaeological Museum was established in 1926 with the help of British author Gertrude Bell. She sought to prevent archaeologist Leonard Woolley from sending all of his discoveries from the ancient Sumerian city of Ur to Great Britain. She believed that the people of Iraq were owed access to their own history. In 1922, she began storing objects in a government building in Baghdad. The objects were then moved to another building, and the museum was established by the government. In the 1920’s it was under the Ministry of Public Works and was transferred to the Ministry of Education in the 1930s. The buildings of the museum were also constructed utilizing resources from foreign governments. The Old Museum building, Administration Building, Library, and Old Storage Building were built by the German government between 1964 and 1966, and the New Museum Building was built by the Italian government in 1983.  

The museum has artifacts from ancient Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian civilizations. One of the most noteworthy collections is the Nimrud gold. This is a set of gold jewelry that was discovered in the royal tombs at Nimrud. The pieces provide insight into the inner workings of Assyrian royal life and funerary practices. The museum also owned a stone statue of Neo-Assyrian King Shalmaneser, son of Ashurbanipal II, from the eighth century BCE. These objects were discovered during a series of excavations at Kalhu (Nimrud) in the 1950’s. The end of WWI and the subsequent fall of the Ottoman Empire made for dramatic political changes in the area which afforded the British new opportunities to conduct excavations again, similar to those conducted in the 19th century by Henry Layard and Hormuzed Rassam. This 20th century excavation was to be led by Max Mallowan, husband of famed mystery author Agatha Christie. Mallowan was aware of the impact of Christie’s celebrity on the reception of the excavation. He even arranged “tea with Agatha” meet and greets with financial supporters of the excavation, such as the Iraq Petroleum Company. This excavation differed from those prior in a number of impactful ways.  

For the first time in the history of excavations at Assyrian sites, Iraqi authorities and professional archeologists were on site at the dig. Their presence served to ensure that the most significant discoveries stayed within the country at the Iraq Museum. Iraqi conservators also started the process of restoring and preserving the site of Nimrud, with the intention of preparing it for future visits from tourists.  

The conservators’ aspirations for the future of these archeological sites unfortunately never came to fruition. The Iraq Museum continued to operate and expand the collection of ancient Mesopotamian objects, until 1991. The Gulf War marked a time period of extreme political unrest in Iraq, and The Iraq Museum was forced to close as a result. The museum was reopened in 2000, during the reign of former president Sudam Hussain. Unfortunately, the reopening of the museum was done as an act of political propaganda, intended to present the appearance of stability and unity within the country. The safety of the museum staff and its contents was not assured by the reopening. During the Iraq War in 2003, museum staff was asked to exit the museum for their safety, as its location had put it in cross fire between American and Iraqi forces. This opened the museum up to looters. The worst of the looting took place between April 7-12th at which point museum staff returned to the institution. The staff fended off further looting attempts on their own until American forces arrived on April 16th to secure the building. Despite the efforts of the staff, the museum faced significant losses, many of which have never been recovered. The Iraq Museum was not the only historical site that suffered at the hands of looting. The result of this is that the current staff at the museum are regularly tasked with the challenge sorting through countless looted objects as they are seized at border crossings. Another challenge face by The Museum of Iraq is the preservation of historical objects, both in the museum and at the sites of their discovery. Historical sites such as Nineveh have been used as dumping grounds for garbage. Videos of terrorists’ groups destroying Assyrian monuments have been filmed and posted as recently as 2015. The destruction of a nation’s history in this manner is a war crime, and to this day the perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice.  

The Iraq Museum has faced significant challenges in obtaining, securing, and sharing its collection of ancient Mesopotamian art. However, despite the obstacles, the staff remains committed to protecting and continuing to learn from the diverse history of all of the peoples and civilizations within the region. Due to the persecution they faced in the region, many Iraqi Assyrians are not able to return to their home country. The presence of the Iraq Museum and its collection of Assyrian objects shows just how important and significant Assyrian history is to the region, and demonstrates the necessity in creating a space for all of the citizens of Iraq to engage with, learn from, and share their history with pride.  


Written by: Melanie Perkins 

Published by: Brian Banyamin 



Fantastic Jewlery from Nimrud – Accessed 16 Feb. 2023.  

“Iraq Museum.” Wikipedia, 5 Feb. 2023, Accessed 16 Feb. 2023. 

“Learning from the Iraq Museum.” American Journal of Archaeology, 1 Oct. 2010, 

“Remnants of Empire: Views of Kalhu in 1950.”, Accessed 16 Feb. 2023. 

‌ “The Iraq Museum | the Iraq Museum.”, 

Assyrian Martyrs Day: The British Betrayal of the Assyrians by Yusuf Malek

Date: August 9, 2023


For this Assyrian Martyrs’ Day, we encourage you to explore and study an intriguing book from the Ashurbanipal Library, housed at the Assyrian Cultural Foundation.

Originally published in 1935, Yusuf Malek’s The British Betrayal of the Assyrians is a detailed narrative that delves into the events leading up to the Simele Massacre in Iraq in August 1933. Throughout the book, you will find several duplicated letters from government officials alongside the author’s firsthand experiences.

Yusuf Malek, an Assyrian politician, author, and interpreter for the British army during the first World War, embarked on a journey in a newly independent Iraq, where he dedicated his focus to advocating for the Assyrian cause.

Before creating his book, Malek requested the British government to respond to the Simele Massacre, which was committed by the Iraqi government forces. The British, however, had their own interests, and those interests were with the Iraqi government, since Britain had an agreement protecting its dominion over Iraq’s petroleum. The Assyrians and their wellbeing mattered little.

The British Betrayal of the Assyrians puts forth the argument that the British government is responsible for supporting Iraqi ruler Faisal even as the Iraqi government infringed on Assyrian national rights and persecuted them. Additionally, the book criticizes the British government’s deceptive reaction to the Simele Massacre and its abandonment of its Assyrian allies, leaving the Assyrians at the mercy of Iraqi government officials. This led to Arab, Kurdish, and even Yezidi tribesmen to kill Assyrians indiscriminately and destroy and loot their villages.

The book contains an assortment of letters that vividly depict the atrocities of the Simele Massacre. One of these letters, written by Reverend R.C. Cumberland, an American missionary, observes that the “Simel[e] massacres and similar events have gone far to destroy the confidence of the Assyrians… in the good-faith of the Government. There seems not to be the personal integrity in the government services to form a stable administration.”

Indeed, the Iraqi government’s perpetration of the Simele massacre and the persecutions that followed silenced the Assyrian movement in Iraq and divided the Assyrian leadership for decades to come. However, it also fomented a renewed nationalist spirit among Assyrians in the diaspora.

Today, the Assyrian Cultural Foundation honors the Assyrian martyrs of the Simele Massacre, the Assyrian Genocide during World War I, and other catastrophic events throughout Assyrian history. Let us commemorate the sacrifices of our martyrs throughout the long history of the Assyrian nation that have been the foundation of our existence as a people today.

To learn more about this book and explore its contents, please contact our librarian, Sarah, at, to schedule a visit to the Ashurbanipal Library.

You can read a digital copy of the book here:

If you want your own physical copy, the book can be purchased here:


Written by: Sarah Gawo

Published by: Brian Banyamin 



“The British Betrayal of the Assyrians.” Lulu, Accessed 1 Aug. 2023.

Lang, Esther. “Assyrian Martyr’s Day.” Assyrian Cultural Foundation Assyrian Martyrs Day Comments, Accessed 1 Aug. 2023.

“Yusuf Malek.” Wikipedia, 16 June 2023,

Yusuf, Malik. The British Betrayal of the Assyrians. Lulu Press, 2005.


The Vorderasiatisches Museum

Date: July 18, 2023

The next museum collection we will be discussing is the Vorderasiatisches Museum in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany. The collection of ancient near eastern objects began with the discovery of what is likely the most well-known piece in the collection, The Ishtar Gate of Babylon.   


The Ishtar Gate was built in 575 BCE by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II. The gate is constructed out of brick that is coated in a rich blue glaze, intended to mimic the appearance of the precious stone lapis lazuli. It features bas-relief sculptures of lions, which are representative of the Goddess Ishtar, aurochs (a type of extinct bull) which are representative of the storm God Adas, and depictions of the mythical creatures such as mushussu red dragons, which are representative of the God Marduk. The gate was used during Kha b-Nisan each year as the processional way through which the new year’s celebration passed into the city during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II.    


The Ishtar Gate was unearthed by German archeologist Robert Koldewey in a series of excavations that took place from 1899 to 1914. Based on research conducted by British historian Claudius Rich, Koldewey managed to find two royal palaces belonging to King Nebuchadnezzar as well as the Ishtar Gate. The excavation was funded by the German Oriental Society, which was founded in 1898. The presence of this funding pressured archeologists to take actions to recoup the cost of the excavation. This was primarily done through the smuggling of artifacts back to Berlin. They were originally a part of the collection at the Kaiser Friedrich-Museum, now the Bode-Museum. The Ishtar Gate was completely deconstructed, with each individual piece cataloged using a numbering system intended to help the team to reassemble the gate on site at the museum. The individual pieces were hidden in barrels of straw, shipped down the Euphrates River, and eventually made their way to Berlin. The process of reconstructing the gate onsite at the museum was a meticulous undertaking. The museum staff was tasked with sorting through hundreds of barrels containing contents of the Ishtar Gate, which had to be desalinated and reconstructed using a combination of contemporary bricks fired to resemble the blue glaze of the gate. The original gate was constructed in two parts comprised of a larger back section, and a small frontal section. The museum did not have the space to constructed the larger back section of the gate on site, and so those pieces of the Ishtar Gate remain in storage. The reconstruction of the frontal section of the gate, however, remains on display to this day.  


In 1903, there was another significant development in the growth of the collection. Robert Koldewey’s assistant, Walter Andrae, began excavating the Assyrian city of Assur. Assur was the first capital of Assyria, its religious center, and is believed to have been first settled around 2500 BCE. Though later Assyrian kings would declare capitals at Nimrud, Khorsabad, and Nineveh, Assur always remained the religious capital of the empire. It was the location of the Temple of Assur, also referred to as the Old Palace, where some Assyrian kings were returned and buried upon their death. Walter Andrae’s team uncovered various city structures and buildings, including multiple religious temples to various Assyrian Gods and Goddesses such as Sin, Ishtar, Shamash, Anu, Adad, and Nabu.   


When the excavation ended in 1914, the finds were divided between the Germany and the Ottoman Empire. In the time that the German archeologists were bringing the artifacts back to Berlin, World War I began. The team temporarily stationed in neutral Lisbon Portugal. However, when Portugal declared war against Germany in 1916, the artifacts from Assur were seized and put on display in the Museum of Porto. The objects were returned to Germany in 1926 where, along with other near eastern objects at the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, the collection was moved to the Pergamon Museum. In 1945, during World War II, the Soviet Union stole the Assur works from the museum. They were held in the Soviet Union until 1958 when they were returned to East Germany. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 allowed for another step forward for the community of German archeologists, as now they were able to collaborate with each other across East and West Germany. In 1997, Johannes Renger led The Assur Project. The Assur Project was an academic undertaking aimed at creating a database of the finds at Assur and organizing them into publications.   


Today The Vorderasiatische Museum in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin Germany is made up of fourteen rooms which feature objects from ancient Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian society. Their reconstructions of ancient monuments in particular afford visitors the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the ancient peoples who once built and experienced these objects themselves. By prioritizing shared knowledge and collaboration with other archeologists, the team at the Pergamon Museum has been able to uncover truths about, and piece together our understanding of life in ancient Assyria.   

Written by: Melanie Perkins 



Berlin, Staatliche Museen. “About the Collection – Vorderasiatisches Museum.” Staatliche Museen Zu Berlin, museum/collection-research/about-the-collection/. Accessed 9 Feb. 2023.  

“Ancient Near Eastern Cultures.” Staatliche Museen Zu Berlin, institutions/vorderasiatisches-museum/exhibitions/detail/ancient-near-eastern-cultures/. Accessed 9 Feb. 2023.  

Pedde, Friedhelm. “ANE TODAY – 201501 – Recovering Assur From the German Excavations of 1903-1914 to Today’s Assur Project in Berlin – American Society of Overseas Research (ASOR).” American Society of Overseas Research (ASOR), assur/. Accessed 9 Feb. 2023.  

The British Museum: London, England

Date: June 11, 2023


In our blog on The Metropolitan Museum of Art, we discussed the excavations conducted by Assyrian British diplomat Austin Henry Layard, and Hormuzd Rassam between the years of 1845 and 1851. While a number of their finds did end up in other collections, the majority were sent over to The British Museum. Upon the initial successes of the excavation, The British Museum elected to sponsor Layard and his team. This was done with the expectation that the excavation would serve as a way for the museum to garner new and valuable acquisitions for their collection.  

In addition to his discovery of the 9th century BCE Northwest Temple of Ashurbanipal II at Nimrud, Layard also made a number of discoveries at Nineveh. The Assyrian King Sennacherib was known for his building projects. Upon the death of his father Sargon II, Sennacherib left the city of Dur-Sharrukin, and in 701 BCE he established the Assyrian capital at Nineveh where he constructed The Southwest Palace. The palace held over two miles of bas relief sculpture panels. The sculptures recount Sennacherib’s construction endeavors, and provide valuable insight into ancient methods in quarrying and the transportation of such building materials. There are also depictions of the King’s various military campaigns.  

In 1851, Layard left for London to pursue a political career. Hormuzd Rassam continued the excavations at Nineveh. During this time, Rassam developed a rivalry with French archaeologist Victor Price. Rassam disregarded established agreements on where the British were allowed to excavate, and snuck onto the French portion of the excavation site in the middle of the night, where he and his team uncovered the North Palace of Ashurbanipal in December of 1853.  

King Ashurbanipal’s reign lasted from 669 to 627 BCE, and he is one of the most noteworthy Kings from Assyrian history. Ashurbanipal’s reign was characterized by both conflict and expansion. Upon the death of his father Esarhaddon, Ashurbanipal was appointed the King of Assyria, while his older brother Shamash-shum-ukin was appointed King of Babylonia. Though Esarhaddon intended to designate the Kings as “equal brothers”, this appointment began to sow seeds of animosity between them, which eventually led to a civil war which lasted from 652 to 648 BCE. Ashurbanipal was exceptionally adept in his militaristic knowledge and prowess, and the war ended with the seizure and eventual fall of Babylon. At the end of the conflict, the city of Babylon was set ablaze, and according to folklore, Shamash-shum-ukin met his end by means of walking into the flames of his failed empire. The reality of Shamash-shum-ukin’s death remains unknown, as texts only specify that the gods had “consigned him to a fire and destroyed his life.”  

It was after the end of the civil war that Ashurbanipal was able to turn his focus to cultural pursuits. He began construction of the North Palace at Nineveh in 646 BCE. Like other Assyrian palaces, the walls were lined with stone bas relief sculptures which feature depictions of the king conducting military campaigns and hunting lions. However, the reliefs at the North Palace also deviate from established traditions. There is a greater variety in the depictions of subjects. Ashurbanipal is shown adorned in various outfits depending on the occasion, and depictions of Non-Assyrian subjects, such as Elamites, Urartian’s, Egyptians, and Arabs, are not only differentiated by means of clothing and equipment, but also by means of different physical features. 

In addition to the reliefs, the North Palace also held the Library of Ashurbanipal. Ashurbanipal prided himself on his extensive scholarly knowledge, and regarded the acquisition of literature as a divine obligation. It was the most extensive library in the ancient world, and contained many of the world’s oldest stories such as The Epic of Gilgamesh and Emuna Elish. Ashurbanipal is presumed to have died in 631 BCE. Just two decades after his death the Assyrian empire collapsed, and the Library of Ashurbanipal was set ablaze during a Babylonian seizure of the city, just as Babylon had burned years prior. While the fire destroyed much of the library’s contents, one exception was the clay cuneiform tablets and cylinder seals. The high temperatures cured the clay, and helped the objects to remain preserved up until their modern discovery.  

The Department of Western Asiatic Antiquities was started in 1825 with donations from Claudius James Rich’s collection of Mesopotamian objects. However, the vast majority of the collections most valuable items were obtained during the excavations of Austin Henry Layard, and Hormuzd Rassam. The relief panels, as well as the contents of the Library of Ashurbanipal were sent to the British Musuem via raft down the Tigris River, and have remained there ever since. The department was renamed twice, first to the Department of Ancient Near East, and then to The Department of the Middle East, which it is known as today. The department houses nearly 330,000 works, making it the largest collection Mesopotamian antiquities outside of Iraq. The art discovered at Nimrud and Nineveh illuminated our understanding of just how advanced and powerful the Assyrian empire was, and The British Musuem is incredibly lucky to be in possession of such valued treasures from the Assyrian community’s history. 



Amin, Osama S. M. “Wall Reliefs: Ashurnasirpal II at the North-West Palace – World History et Cetera.”,     

“Assyrian Sculpture and Balawat Gates.” The British Museum, 

“Assyria: Nineveh.” The British Museum, 

“Assyria: Nimrud.” The British Museum  

Brereton, Gareth. “Introducing the Assyrians.” The British Museum, 19 June 2018, w 

“British Museum Department of the Middle East.” Wikipedia, 10 Apr. 2022, Accessed 9 Feb. 2023. 

The Department of Near Eastern Studies. “Early Excavations in Assyria.”, Oct. 2020, 

Richard David Barnett, and British Museum. Sculptures from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh (668-627 B.C.). London, British Museum Publications For The Trustees Of The British Museum, 1976. 

Zaia, S 2019, ‘ My Brother’s Keeper: Assurbanipal versus Samas-suma-ukin ‘, Journal of ancient Near Eastern History, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 19-52. 

Naum Faiq

Date: May 27, 2023

In February of 1868, Naum “Faiq” Palakh was born in Diyarbakir, located in the Assyrian region of the Ottoman Empire. While pursuing an education, Faiq gained popularity after being selected by the Brotherhood of Ancient Syrians. Following the completion of his studies, he began teaching.

When violence against the Assyrians and other Christians in the Ottoman Empire began, Faiq fled to the United States in 1912. In the US he continued writing and embarked on new endeavors, assuming the role of chief editor for “Hujada,” a magazine that later published under the auspices of the Assyrian Federation in Sweden.

He devoted his life to writing extensively about the Assyrian language and people, with his views reflected in his books, poems, and songs. He established a multilingual newspaper named “Stars of the East,” which was published in Turkey and was printed in various languages such as classical Assyrian, Ottoman-Turkish, and Arabic. Additionally, he published “Bet Nahrain” and “The Unity” in America and authored more than 25 books on diverse topics and subjects.

He succumbed to lung disease in 1930, but his contributions continue to endure. Each year on February 5th, numerous people gather to celebrate Faiq’s impact on the Assyrian nation and his prolific literary abilities in the service of his nation.


Written by: Sarah Gawo



“Naum Faiq.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Feb. 2023,

“Syriac Poems.” Assyrians [Syriacs],

SyriacPress. “Patriot Naum Faiq Palakh.” SyriacPress, 5 Feb. 2022,

English translation of poem:


Awake, son of Assyria awake,

Awake and see the world how enlightened.

The chance is fleeing from us

And time is running out

Awake, son of Assyria, Awake!

In vengeance you will take refuge.


Dr. Freidoon Azizi, MD, FACOG, FACS

Date: May 21, 2023

To Dr. Freidoon Azizi, the health and wellness of others has always been a passion. Though he practiced medicine in Illinois for over 40 years, his journey began in his home country of Iran in the 1960s. He received his Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) from the University of Tabriz. He then moved to the United States to perform his residency at Mount Sinai Hospital and his fellowship at the esteemed Pritzker School of Medicine, at the University of Chicago.

With his formidable education, Dr. Azizi was finally able to move on to what he does best: helping others. Certified in obstetrics and gynecology, Dr. Azizi has supported thousands of women through a difficult time in their lives, allowing them to come out on the other side healthier than ever. Patients rave about his brilliant work and bedside behavior.

But Dr. Freidoon Azizi’s impact on the world of medicine doesn’t end there. From 1982 to 2010, Dr. Azizi served as an associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at the prestigious Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. There, he helped shaped the minds of students into prospective medical professionals who help promote the reproductive health of women across the country.

After decades of helping others live the healthiest lives possible, Dr. Freidoon Azizi has retired. The Assyrian Cultural Foundation congratulates Dr. Azizi for his prolific career. His dedication to his work helped thousands of women live healthier, happier lives, and we couldn’t be more thankful for his impact not only on the Assyrian community, but the greater Chicago area. We were honored to be visited by this respected doctor, and we hope retirement shows him a life of relaxation and happiness.

The Assyrian Cultural Foundation Presents: The Assyrian Renaissance

Date: May 17, 2023

The Assyrian Cultural Foundation Presents: The Assyrian Renaissance


Please join us for…
The Assyrian Renaissance
July 2nd 2023
Art Gallery opens at 4:00 pm, Concert at 6:00 pm
North Shore Center for the Performing Arts
Featuring exclusive works by Rasson Bet Yonan performed by the Northbrook Symphony and the Andrew Major Chorus


Tickets go on sale June 1
Starting at $25, up to $100 based on seat location
Students in our music, art, and tutoring programs are entitled to free tickets (limited availability)
Email for more information, or to request a purchase
Tickets can be purchased at the door on July 2


Music and art have always been foundational to the Assyrian Cultural Foundation. Through our diverse programs, it is our mission to uplift Assyrian artists of all ages and shed light on their incredible achievements. The Assyrian people have long since been creating impressive pieces of art to be admired, but to many people, the Assyrian people fell into obscurity with Mesopotamia.


That is far from the truth—and this is from where the Assyrian Renaissance rises. In Latin, the word “Renaissance” translates to “rebirth.” On July 2, we illustrate that this group of people has always been with us, and always will be, in the Assyrian Renaissance produced by President and Music Director, Tiglat Issabey, and Assistant Music Director, Barbara Bright-Read. Through the gorgeous work of talented musicians and artists, the achievements of these perseverant people in art and culture are reborn to the eyes and ears of a new generation.


The Assyrian Renaissance takes place on July 2, 6:00pm, at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. There, attendees can explore a world of Assyrian culture, beginning with a gallery entirely comprised of work by Reni Stephan. Then, guests will enter the concert hall to explore Assyrian folk songs and stories through a series of etudes, an Assyrian Rhapsody, and a symphony titled Khwara Khwara, Khawara Kooma.


Learn more about the brilliant musicians bringing the Assyrian Renaissance to life.
Rasson Bet-Yonan (composer)— Rasson Bet-Yonan helps keep the Assyrian culture alive in his music—from composing full-scale orchestral works that highlight Assyrian folk melodies to providing Assyrian students high-caliber music education. Through his teachings, he hopes to cultivate the next generation of bright, well-rounded Assyrian students.


Hannibal Alkhas (lyrics)— Hannibal Alkhas was an Assyrian sculptor, painter, and author, born in 1930 in Iran. He pursued his passions all his life, from moving to Chicago to study at both Loyola University and the Art Institute of Chicago, to teaching in both the States and Iran. Though his poetry and artwork gained him much acclaim, it is his children’s story, Khwara Khwara, Khawara Kooma, that he is potentially best known for. The final performance of the night uses the text of Khwara Khwara to tell the beautiful story of finding friends in the most unlikely of places.


Mina Zikri (conductor)—Mina Zikri is a professional violinist and conductor who has led renowned ensembles such as the Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago and the National Symphony in Egypt. He currently serves as a faculty member of DePaul University Community Music Division, the resident conductor of the Lira ensemble, and the Music Director of the Northbrook Symphony Orchestra.


Andrew Major (conductor)—Andrew Major is a versatile conductor, singer, and pianist interested in exploring historic and contemporary choral music to ask questions about the world in which we live. Andrew has a proven track record of culturally-relevant programming, dynamic collaborations, and community building as the artistic director and conductor of Roots in the Sky, a chamber choir that he founded as an undergraduate at Montana State University. Andrew holds graduate degrees in choral conducting from the Bienen School of Music (DMA and MM).


Benjamin Taylor Watkins (pianist)— Benjamin Taylor Watkins is a versatile musician who believes in the power of artistic collaboration to transform lives and communities. He was educated at Northwestern University (B.M. in piano, cum laude) and Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music (M.M. and D.M. in piano). In praise of his performance of Joseph Schwanter’s In Evening’s Stillness, the Herald Times proclaimed “Watkins Conquered the Steinway.”


Sargon Sargis (tenor)—A powerful tenor, Sargon Sargis was born in Chicago, Il to Assyrian parents. Since early childhood, he had dreams of becoming a singer. He first developed a love for Italian songs through classic American cinema, then for Assyrian singing through the influence of his father. Striving for excellence and continuous learning, he began studying with Rasson Bet Yonan in 2012. The two formed a strong bond as student and teacher, inspiring one another. The two are working on an album to be released sometime this year.


Leah Rose Fisher (soprano)—Assyrian-American, Leah Rose Fisher, is a New York City-based singer, voice teacher, and performing artist. She holds a Master’s Degree in Music from New York University with an advanced certificate in Vocal Pedagogy. Leah is active in film and television, in the recording studio for both albums and voiceover work, and on stage in concerts, theater, musical theater, and opera. Over the years, Leah has been able to sing for audiences large and small both nationally as well as across the globe.


Reni Stephan (multi-medium artist)— The Assyrian Renaissance art gallery is entirely comprised of work by multi-medium artist, Reni Stephan. From a young age, Stephan’s artistic prowess was easily recognizable. In his work, he combines his passion for the Assyrian culture with his love of art. His art can be found in prominent places of worship, community organizations, and commercial establishments across the United States.


Tickets go on sale on June 1 through the Assyrian Cultural Foundation. Email to request a purchase, or purchase them at the door on July 2. We look forward to sharing with you a beautiful world of music and art unlike any other.