Review by Dr. Mary C. Sengstock, Ph.D.
As his subtitle indicates, Amer Hanna-Fatuhi has undertaken an enormous challenge: to chronicle the history of the original inhabitants of Iraq over an extensive expanse of nearly 7000 years.
Most Americans first met the geographic area now known as Iraq in fourth or fifth grade, when they learned that the human race probably originated in the “Fertile Crescent,” formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. But for all practical purposes, that was where our knowledge ended. Any other information about Middle Eastern geography and the people who lived there largely disappeared – save for those who might have attended religious training classes, where they learned about the history and religious traditions of the ancient Hebrews. In this training, other references were occasionally made to Middle Eastern peoples who may have crossed paths with the Hebrews at one point or another.
However, an issue which has remained a mystery for the better part of nearly 7000 years is the general background and culture of these “other” residents of the area. Who were they? What were they like? What did they believe? What languages did they speak? Were they similar enough to communicate with each other? We learned from the Bible that they believed in numerous gods. But what else is there to know about them? Were their religious beliefs similar in any way to those of the Hebrews? Most of us never gave these issues a second thought.
At the end of the 20th century, we learned more about Iraq and the Middle East, but largely in the context of the modern world, and of issues related to Western society. We know that Iraq has been the target of two wars involving the U.S. But the people who live there, and their connections to those who lived there in the intervening 7000 years, remains a mystery to most Americans.
In this book, Hanna-Fatuhi attempts to provide a remedy to this information gap by discussing some aspects of the culture of the people who exercise a claim to being the modern day descendants of the people who inhabited Iraq over the many centuries when it was generally known as “Mesopotamia.” In the introductory chapters of the book, Hanna-Fatuhi sets the stage for the presentation of the Chaldean, Aramaic-speaking peoples of Northern Iraq (the area often known as Kurdistan) as the true indigenous people of Iraq (p. 47).
The author traces their history, beginning with the very earliest times, where he attempts to unravel the identities of the several people who are alleged to have been residents of Mesopotamia, and to understand what their relations to each other might have been. Many of these names (Sumer, Akkad, Babylon, Assur), he claims, referred to specific regions or locations. However, according to Hanna-Fatuhi, the entire, broader group of people was known as Chaldeans or Chaldees (also known as Kaldi or Kaldu, or in Hebrew as Kushdim or Kashdim, a name derived from their leader, Kush, father of the Biblical Nimrod. The author proceeds throughout the remainder of the book to provide a summary of the historical and cultural highlights of the Chaldean people.
He begins with the conquests of Sargon the Great, who inspired the Chaldeans of Akkad and Sumer to express their patriotism through military exploits in 2234- 2279 BC. His exploits were amazing, given the “humble means accessible at the time” (p. 49). Moving to even greater Mesopotamian leaders, he cites the great rule giver, Hammurabi, ruling from 1792-1750 BC. Needless to say, all subsequent cultures have gained much from his insightful Code. Jumping another 1000 years, he traces the recognized leaders of Babylon, with its famous Tower, its Hanging Gardens, and its connections to the Jewish people, some of whom remained in Mesopotamia/Iraq until the mid-20th century, when most left after the establishment of the Nation of Israel.
Much of this, of course, is already known. However, the modern reader is likely to be more interested in later sections of the book, which are devoted to the more recent history of the people of Iraq. The author devotes a considerable amount of attention to analyzing the various religious and linguistic divisions among the peoples of Iraq, He does indicate that the people of Mesopotamia shared several languages over time, but the fact that this was the case did not automatically mean they were part of the same genealogical or cultural group. Hence a key issue becomes the question of what constitutes a specific, identifiable ethnic people. A great deal of the book is devoted to this issue.
A key issue of the more recent time period focuses on the religious issues of Iraq and the surrounding area. Since Iraq was at the crossroads of the great religious changes which occurred as the Christian Era developed, the author devotes considerable attention to this issue. The author documents the version of some of the earliest Christian missionaries, and the ways in which the peoples of what was then Mesopotamia reacted to the new Christian religion. Most were introduced to the gospel of Jesus Christ by his Apostle Thomas, aided by his own disciple, St. Addai. In the earliest days, Christianity was largely a loosely united group of Jesus’ followers, all of whom claimed to teach the message of Jesus. As time progressed, however, leaders arose among the various groups, each of which held different views, largely based on their unique philosophical perspectives.
These, in turn, lead to doctrinal disagreements between the groups. Then follows a description of the various disputes within early Christianity, leading to numerous claims of heretical teachings among the numerous Christians sects. At that time, these divisions seemed more likely to occur between the churches of the East and the West. That these represented the major divisions is not surprising, in view of the fact that the basic philosophical perspectives of East and West were so different. The Christians of Mesopotamia were followers of Nestorius, whose teachings were declared heretical by the Western Church at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. Some communities of Christians in Mesopotamia later reunited with the Roman Catholic Church in 1553, forming what is now known as the Chaldean Rite of the Catholic Church. Different communities of Iraqi Christians seemed to associate with either the Western or the Eastern group over the centuries which followed, even into eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The growth of the Western-oriented Christians was encouraged by visits from Capuchin and Dominican missionaries in the 18th century (pp. 124-125). In the nineteenth century, an entirely new religious perspective came about, as representatives of various Protestant denominations, particularly the English, began to proselytize in Iraq, which by then was a British Protectorate. Other sections of the book are devoted to an analysis of various historical, archeological, and linguistic evidence for the background of the Chaldean people, as well as documentation of their accomplishments over the centuries.
Historians from a variety of perspectives undoubtedly will differ over many of the author’s claims, due to the difficulty of documenting, with certainty, historical evidence over so many thousands of years. However, all cultural groups, including the Chaldeans, have been subjected to such critiques of their claims to their historical connections. All groups are entitled to make the case for their own history. Amer Hanna-Fatuhi has provided a creditable statement of the claims of the Chaldean Mesopotamians to their place in history. His work provides a valuable resource to all people of today, whatever their ethnic background, who are curious to understand the historical connections of the modern nation of Iraq and its people, to its ancient historical connections to the Mesopotamia we were introduced to so many years ago in grade school.
Dr. Mary C. Sengstock, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology
Wayne State University
Detroit, Mi 48202
Review by the Chaldean Detroit Times
The website: www.NativeIraqis-Story.com stated that this book is “A groundbreaking work that examines the true identity of the indigenous people of Iraq”. Hence, I deemed it appropriate that including three quotes from highly respected Iraqi scholars, who specialize in an array of disciplines, would shed more light on this academic study:
Dr. Abdulhadi al-Khalile Ph.D., Iraqi Cultural Attaché in Washington DC. stated in his letter of recognition:” I have found this study, deep, rich, and unique. I sincerely recommend the book to readers interested in Iraqi history and people”.
S. Mattar, scholar and author of many intriguing books on Iraq and the editor in chief of the academic journal (MESOPOTAMIA, Switzerland) stated: “The author tried hard, throughout his study, not to follow the traditional patterns of examining Iraq’s history, but to reach new frontiers by exploring and examining that ancient history through a panoramic view. Another well-known Iraqi historian, Dr. G. Mardu, Ph.D., stated that:” This telling and encyclopedic study covers the history of native Iraqis using very convincing historical, archeological and Biblical evidence.
Author, Hanna-Fatuhi, has published many history books, three of them published in Arabic between 1988 and 2001. They research the same subject of the current book. He is a notable scholar in Mesopotamian History and Middle Eastern indigenous peoples.
This book pinpoints the antiquity of Mesopotamia and its indigenous peoples, Chaldeans and Iraqi Jews. It surpasses the conventional perspective in tackling the chronological history of the die-hard Chaldean nation. It leads the reader into an unknown territory that no scholar has ventured to write about due to the vocal objections echoed by traditional scholars.
The fundamental argument of this book is linking the proto-kaldi, indigenous people of Iraq, with the modern day Chaldeans, while highlighting their outstanding achievements in every walk of life.
Although, I was not that impressed with the section that over extended covering Iraqi Christians’ persecution throughout history, even though Chaldeans are Christians. However, I strongly believe that this book has adequately achieved its goal, especially with its exquisite maps, illustrations, historical documents. Its finely woven elements render it as a compelling documentary of Iraq’s long history. It vividly captures the struggles of the Chaldeans alongside the Iraqi Jews, Syriacs, and other Iraqi peoples as they move through time.
More significantly, The Untold Story of Native Iraqis will make it feasible for the reader to review a civilization dating back to 100,000 year, a task no scholar has yet achieved. A knowledge that will ultimately bring forth a more profound awareness of today’s Iraq with all its social and political dynamics, not to mention the cultural atmosphere of the Middle East that was and still is influenced by the achievements of the cradle of civilization.
The Untold Story of Native Iraqis is one highly recommended read!
Review by Amy Daniel
About the author:
Hanna- Fatuhi is a scholar in Mesopotamian History and Iraqi - Middle Eastern Ethno-religious groups. He is also a professional writer and visual artist. He has previously published fifteen books; seven of them were about history of Mesopotamia and Iraqi Arts: Past & Present.
General overview of the book:
In his book, Hanna-Fatuhi brought out two decades of work on indigenous Iraqis (Chaldeans). He explores their ethnic identity and contributions to humankind. His approach to the subject is based on both analytical and chronological modes. Much of this book is intended to establish the premise that the name Chaldeans encompasses ancient Iraqi names like Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Amorites and Arameans, as well as the post-Christianity name Syriacs.
Organization of the book:
The book is divided into four parts. The author devotes part One to proto-Kaldi who are the ancient indigenous people of Iraq; Babylon and its cultural legacy is explored; a number of the most prominent Chaldean kings are featured. He also provides a chronology of Chaldeans.
In part Two, the author discusses the difference between Subartu (proto-Assyrians) and Assyrian-Amorites. Similarly, he sets the record right regarding a number of misconceptions that are spread by modern Assyrian political parties.
Part Three is titled “Connecting the dots”, it is divided into three sections. In Section One, the author examines a set of disputable topics such as: legitimacy of kingship in ancient Iraq between Babel and Assur; Is Syriac Writing System Aramaic or Chaldean Innovation?; Lamassu Statues, Winged Guardian Creatures, Etc…
In section Two, he discusses the cultural scene in ancient Iraq like architecture, fashion, music and literary works, medicine and health care, and the Babylonian roots of modern science. In section Three, he provides a complementary view of Mesopotamian cultural traditions and marvelous achievements.
Finally, Part Four (Appendixes) is divided into two sections: in Section One, the author outlines chronology of Mesopotamia (100,000 BC - 2011 AD) as well as a timeline of Mesopotamian dynasties since the proto-Diluvian period.
In Section Two, the author uses unique illustrations and maps that were researched and specially sketched as a further source for exploring history. A set of illustrations depict the Schematic Map of Ancient Babylon, Tower of Babylon, and cosmological idea of ancient Iraq, besides, a set of maps featuring Mesopotamian sites and Chaldean empires.
The premises outlined in this book might provide inspiration for new interpretations by historians, archaeologists, linguists, sociologists and scholars of comparative science and religion, as well as those engaged in the study of social sciences, philosophy and biblical studies. Thus, this book can provide fertile ground for considerable research.
This book raises many issues for discussion, in particular the pressing need to seriously look into the inhumane treatment and ethnic cleansing executed against indigenous peoples in the Middle East nowadays.
On one hand, there are some instances of redundant references throughout this book that ought to be avoided in reasoned arguments, especially when tackling the subjects of Assur, Subartu god, the Amorites and king Shamshi Adad I.
On the other hand, the organization of the subsidiary ideas, such as Relishing the Illusion and Connecting the Dots relate adequately to the author’s point of view and advances his argument.
Book review specialist
THE UNTOLD STORY OF NATIVE IRAQIS … From My Perspective
A Selected Message from the UTSNI Facebook page
I have few things to say.
I can proudly call myself a "Native Iraqi" now thanks to you and your articles. I came to Canada at 10 years old, and I pretty much grew up here. Every time someone asked me about my "background”, I would always say "Chaldean" because that is what I was taught growing up in an Arabic country (Iraq / Jordan). Coming to a western world is a complete change; everyone is shallow, materialistic and worst of all ignorant. I have been told countless times that I am truly "Assyrian" and there is no such thing as "Chaldean", at a young age I refused to accept that because it did not make sense logically in my 14 year old brain, this is what I thought about
1. Our languages are similar, yet completely different, how can the "same people" not be able to understand each other.
2. Our traditions are different; we have different celebrations on different days
3. Even Wikipedia, the least reliable information source acknowledges that we are our own people, yet our people don't
Then I started seeing the separation between the two cultures, how much each one disrespects and hates the other, it made me very upset to know how low we have been brought down.
I know I am still young but I am constantly researching and learning more about everything especially my home, not necessarily Iraq or Babylonia but my people.
I also do research on god, the bible, all religions, and all cultures, because there is a hidden truth in everything, and as humans we have been told countless lies about the true history of humanity.
Coming across this page has made me the happiest, because for the first time in my young life, I finally have found people who refuse to take information that we all are told to believe and actually bring out the truth.
I am so tired of everyone blindly believing lies, we Babylonians are among the smartest nations to have ever existed, yet entering a western world it seems that everyone has just been tragically dumped down and we no longer see or believe it. Yes, I used that term sadly because that is the only word that can perfectly describe what is happening to us.
I know that we are naturally good at everything, I am a living proof of that, everything I do I catch on pretty quickly and I know it is because of our pure blood and strong genes, yet it seems like everyone gave up on life here. We are no longer excited to learn, discover, teach, and live how we did a long time ago, now we are following each other into a path of self-destruction.
I hope everyone really just stops for one second, and starts thinking instead of letting others do the thinking for them. I congratulate and thank you for everything you have done and are doing. People like you make people like me feel like there is hope in this world, that there is a truth out there waiting to be discovered.
Thank you so much,
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The Untold Story of the Native Iraqis is now in Grenada!
LAWRENCE GORIEL …
Aug 14, 2015 – Today, a very important encyclopedic book titled, “The Untold Story of the Native Iraqis” by Amer Hanna-Fatuhi completed its arduous journey to the Founder’s Library in St. George’s parish in Grenada. The book was donated by prominent Michigan injury attorney and human rights activist, Nazek A. Gappy. Along with its carrier, Lawrence Goriel (pictured right), the book traveled 2,500 miles from Michigan to the Founder’s Library in Grenada. The library is located on the campus of St. George’s University, which is home to one of the largest and most nationally diverse Medical Schools in the world. Currently, approximately 12,000 MDs from all over the world attribute their degrees in their profession to this wonderful school in paradise. One of the Library’s directors, John McGuirk (pictured left), very graciously and enthusiastically accepted the donation on behalf of the University. The Untold Story covers many millennia of human history in “the land between two rivers.” The valuable information which has been compiled in this book is a very important asset in human history and education. In one of the most nationally and culturally diverse schools in the world, the greatest work about Chaldean history has, today, found its rightful place among others.
The Untold Story of the Native Iraqis | Great reference book
By Lawrence Goriel on July 14, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is the product of an in-depth research of the ancient people of Mesopotamia, namely the Chaldeans. The book has a great list of references by some of the most highly regarded scholars on the subject. The book even has an entire section about the Assyrian Nationalist talking points and shows (very accurately) their flaws. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Chaldean history or Mesopotamian history in general.