On March 8th, 2017, a young woman named Reine Hanna, took it upon herself to recognize and represent 12 amazing Assyrian women in honour of International Women's Day. These 12 women and their accomplishments are excellent examples of how successful women are and specifically women who immigrate to new countries.
Sadly, Reine was asked to remove her initial post as a few individuals felt that by only highlighting 12 women, you are neglecting the wonderful accomplishments of others.
After repeatedly reading over the article and even speaking to Reine, I can confidently say that this article did not diminish nor did it negate the thousands of other immensely successful Assyrian women in their own professions. This was simply a hard working young woman, who chose 12 out of thousands of other women, to symbolize the contributions our amazing women have made to this world.
With her permission, we have decided to post this article on our website as a sign of respect for all of our amazing women across the world.
Thank you Reine for taking the initiative and paving a path for other brave young women to follow. You too are a perfect example of how our young women are reshaping the future of Assyrians and of the world.
March 8, 2017 marks International Women’s Day. Here are 12 of many Assyrian women inspiring positive change across the globe. (This list is not in any order)
Attiya Gamri (Haarlem, Netherlands)
Born in Tur Abdin, Turkey, Attiya Gamri is an Assyrian member of parliament in the Netherlands. Attiya is also the President of the newly established Assyrian Confederation of Europe, and as such is the leading voice for more than 500,000 Assyrians across Europe. In this new role, Attiya advocates forcefully for the rights of Assyrians in the homeland, and looks to build stronger diaspora communities in European countries.
Rosie Malek-Yonan (California)
Rosie Malek-Yonan is a woman who wears many hats. She has gained international recognition as an actress, author, and activist—among many other things. Born in Tehran, Iran, she is a descendant of one of the oldest and most prominent Assyrian families. Rosie has dedicated much of her career to advocating for the rights of Assyrians, using her platform to bring attention to the Assyrian Genocide of 1914-1918. She has starred in major Hollywood films. As a human rights activist, Rosie has challenged world leaders for their failure to protect Assyrian communities in the Middle East.
Jonta, “Yimma d’Nahla” (Nahla, Iraq)
Photos of Jonta bravely standing up to Kurdish police were all over Facebook and Twitter when Kurdish police attempted to block a protest organized by Assyrians. The protest was with regard to ongoing theft of Assyrian land in northern Iraq in response to attempted encroachment in her beloved hometown Nahla. Known affectionately as “Yimma d’Nahla” meaning the mother of Nahla, she risked her life by demanding that Assyrians from Nahla be allowed to pass in order to reach Erbil and join the protest, proving no one is tougher than an Assyrian woman.
Dr. Helen Malko (New York City, New York)
Dr. Helen Malko is a Research Associate at the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. Born in Iraq, she received a PhD in archaeology and anthropology from Stony Brook University, and a Master’s degree in archaeology of the Ancient Near East from Baghdad University. She also holds a diploma in Historic Preservation from Rutgers University. Her current research is focused on the ongoing deliberate destruction of monuments and historical landscapes in Iraq and Syria, and she was recently in Iraq doing fieldwork. She has also testified in U.S. Senate Hearings to address the cultural heritage crisis in Iraq and Syria.
Nineveh Dinha (Salt Lake City, Utah)
wedish-born Assyrian Nineveh Dinha is the founder of HER Magazine. She spent a decade working as a journalist for local television stations in Arizona (KYMA, NBC) and Utah (KSTU, FOX) and made appearances on Fox News, before pursuing her dream of launching her own digital publication. Through HER Magazine, Nineveh seeks to recognize the pioneering achievements of today’s women – who are forging the path for others to make their mark.
Muna Yaku (Erbil, Iraq)
Dr. Muna Yaku is a Professor of Law at Salhaddin University in Erbil. She is a widely respected advocate for Assyrian rights in Iraq. She was elected to serve as the only representative of Assyrians on a committee formed when the Kurdistan Regional Government began drafting a new constitution in 2015. Members of the KRG Constitutional Committee sought to reduce the rights of minorities during the process. Despite the pressure, she fought forcefully for the rights of Assyrians. When it became clear that her demands would not be met, she bravely walked o the committee in protest, saying “These are my principles, and I will never betray my people. I will not take part in the exploitation of my people.”
Sumer Homeh (Nairobi, Kenya)
Sumer Homeh is the founder and CEO of LocalAid, an organization that strives to empower vulnerable children and marginalized communities in Kenya. Under Sumer’s leadership, LocalAid has established a number of sustainable development projects which are aimed at ending poverty, such as the LocalAid Community Health Clinic, providing free services for people living with HIV/AIDS, and the New Horizon Family, a home for former street children, providing all of their basic needs and practical education in sustainable agricultural skills. An Assyrian native to Australia, she is a long way from home.
Savina Dawood (Ankawa, Iraq)
Co-founding Etuti Institute is just the latest item to be added to Savina Dawood’s resume. A beloved Assyrian activist, Savina has made a name for herself by voicing human rights violations against Assyrians in Iraq and Syria. She has dedicated her life to humanitarian work, entering conflict zones and providing food, shelter, water, and medicine to internally displaced people. Through Etuti, Savina works to empower Assyrian children and young adults in Iraq and Syria—in the hopes of creating a new generation of leaders in the Assyrian homeland.
Atorina Zomaya (Chicago, Illinois)
Atorina Zomaya is the founder of Assyrian Kitchen—an interactive cooking show based out of her hometown Chicago. Assyrian Kitchen explores traditions and ingredients that make up the Assyrian cuisine. Known for her contagious smile and entrepreneurial spirit, Atorina has recently partnered with the Oriental Institute to host Assyrian cooking classes. She was also recently featured on Windy City Live for her newest product, Buried Cheese. Outside of the Kitchen, she has been involved in a number of cultural and humanitarian projects related to Assyrians.
Maryam Shamalta (San Jose, California)
Maryam Shamalta has quickly become a household name in the Assyrian community worldwide. The host of “Khayla d’Attayouta” or The Assyrian Feminine Power on Assyrian National Broadcast, Maryam uses her weekly television program as a platform to empower Assyrian women. Each week, she invites inspiring Assyrian women onto her show to talk about their achievements in their various fields. In a community that has traditionally has been dominated by male personalities, Maryam has changed the game.
Kara Hermez (Stockholm, Sweden)
Kara Hermez is an Assyrian activist based in Sweden known for her courage. She is an international advocate for Assyrian rights in Iraq and Syria, representing Swedish Assyrians in the Assyrian Confederation of Europe. She has been featured in a number of television programs and various publications regarding her work as an Assyrian. Just last month, she returned home to northern Iraq with two Swedish journalists highlighting injustices faced by Assyrians in the region.
Samar George (Khabour, Syria)
Samar George is barely recognizable now as a soldier in the Assyrian Khabour Guards. In 2016, photos of Samar kneeling over her husband’s casket went viral after he was killed in action just months after they’d married. Not long afterwards, photos surfaced of Samar in uniform, training with the Khabour Guards. She decided to honor her husband’s sacrifice and carry on his mission by taking his place on the battlefield, defending Assyrian lands against terrorism and other threats. The Assyrian region of Khabour in northeastern Syria saw its darkest period when ISIS invaded its villages in February of 2015. It is said that Samar now carries her late husband’s gun.
This was a brilliant list of 12 amazing Assyrian women who represent everything about the Assyrian womans character, morals, and ideals. What is remarkable is that this list was compiled by another worthy individual of being on a list recognizing the talents of Assyrian women throughout the world. So this last person on our list is our way of saying "Thanks" to an wonderful young woman who has dedicated and volunteered countless hours to the Assyrian cause!
Reine Hanna (Chicago, USA)
Reine was born in the United States to an Assyrian family from Syria. She is an example of a young woman who was born American yet still preserved and cherished her Assyrian identity and heritage. She has worked on a countless number of projects in the Chicago area and is currently involved with the Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation as their Director of Community Relations. She has served in this role admirably and has been an integral part of the growth and success of the Assyrian community in the Chicago area.
On behalf of the Board of Directors and our membership, I want to say thank you Reine for your tireless work for the community. We all work for the common goal of bettering the Assyrian peoples. We want to be able to give everyone the opportunity to thrive and be successful in any endeavour they might seek. We spend hours away from family, away from friends, buried in books and articles all in the pursuit of bettering the plight of Assyrians everywhere. We know what it is like to do a thankless job and this is one of them. I think it is safe to say that like us here at CCAR, you too do not do what you do for praise or for profit (Lord knows there are thousands of other ways to get both).
We do this because we truly, from the bottom of our hearts, want to see our community rise up from the ashes and prosper once again as a great and successful nation. Continue your hard work Reine Hanna. We love you and we hope other young women look up to you and follow your example.
Aneki Nissan, President
Centre for Canadian-Assyrian Relations