North Iraq (AINA) -- Attiya Gamri Beth Arsan was born in Tur Abdin, Turkey. Like most Assyrians of that region, she and her family emigrated to Europe in the 70s and 80s, settling in the Netherlands. There she went on to become a successful politician, and was elected to the Dutch Provincial Parliament.
Attiya has worked tirelessly to represent her constituents. She has also worked tirelessly for Assyrians in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey. She has visited North Iraq on several occasions, officially as a member of the Dutch Provincial government and as an individual.
Her last visit to Iraq on October 24 was special and very personal: she got married in Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria. The marriage service was held at St. Matay (Matthew) Monastery, a Syriac Orthodox monastery, one of the oldest in the world, founded in 400 A.D. by the Assyrian king Sennacherib II, successor of the legendary emperor Sennacherib of Assyria in 800 B.C.
Attiya and her fiancé, Andreas van Diepen, received permission to get married in Nineveh from Bishop Polycarpus of the Netherlands. Andre is an engineer; he studied in The Netherlands and Argentina.
The service was conducted by Bishop Musa from Nineveh, who was very happy to marry the Dutch couple. Four priests, two bishops and many other leaders of the Syriac Orthodox church from the Assyrian villages the Nineveh Plain attended the ceremony.
According to Attiya and Andre, "it was for us an honor to marry in one of the oldest monasteries. We would like for all couples to feel what we have felt in St. Matay. We also wanted to support the Assyrians and encourage them to stay in the Nineveh Plain. Iraq without Assyrians can never be the same -- we hope to make that clear to the groups who want the Assyrians to leave from their homeland."
The wedding reception was attended by guests from the Assyrian community in Nineveh Plains. The manager of the Assyrian Aid Society, Mr. Napoleon, said "I hope many other couples will come and marry in this old and mysterious land, and especially in the Monastery of St. Matay." The Assyrian Aid Society has worked with various Dutch NGO's for the past 15 years.
The St. Matay monastery has received many threats in the past five years. Many Assyrians have left the Nineveh Plains, fleeing to Jordan and Syria, because of a campaign of persecution directed against them. Since 2004, 59 churches have been bombed in Iraq and hundreds of Assyrians have been killed (report).