An Assyrian Activist’s Life:
April 24, 1945:
Ninos Aho is born to Georges Aho and Sayd Chamoun in the village of Girkeh-Shamo, Syria. The strategic place of his birth, located in the contemporary Arab world due to the division of Mesopotamia during the Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916, set the foundation for Ninos future involvement in the Assyrian cause.
Ninos moves from Girkeh-Shamo to the city of Kamishly, Syria to continue his studies.
At the age of seventeen, Ninos joins the Assyrian Democratic Organization (Mtakasto Othurayto Demoqrotayto/ADO), an underground assembly that aims to promote the Assyrian cause. The ADO, the first organization of its kind, is forced to work underground due to the existing political atmosphere in the Middle East and the push for Assyrians to assimilate and call themselves Arabs.
Ninos completes his Baccalaureate and receives a scholarship from the Syrian government affording him the luxury of attending Damascus University, majoring in Math, Physics and Chemistry. However, because his ongoing role in Assyrian activism is directly affected by the politics in the region, he is unable to complete his degree.
Ninos returns to Kamishly to teach math & science courses at the local high school. Malfono means teacher in Western Assyrian. Subsequently, in his career, Ninos continues to be called Malfono as a sign of respect for his nationalistic work. The term Malfono is used interchangeably with Rabi, which means teacher in the Eastern Assyrian dialect.
Malfono Ninos believes with true conviction that Assyrianism is a way of life that should encompass an Assyrians complete existence. In order to awaken and unite the people of a displaced nation, a protagonist to whom Assyrianism is a way of life must be created. Prompted by the state of the Assyrian nation in diaspora, Malfono Ninos feels there is a need for a “New Assyrian”. This generates the conception of “Atouraya Khata”.
Furthermore, in order to secure our rights in Occupied Assyria (regions of modern-day Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran), Malfono believes there is a dire need for Assyrians to have a strong political movement comprised of various political parties, organizations and foundations to promote the Assyrian cause.
Politics & Activism
Malfono Ninos political activism has taken him around the world. The following are examples of a select number of instances:
- In 1970, along with fellow Assyrian revolutionaries Malfono Jean Kardously, George Bet-Shlimon and the late Gowriy Alyo, Malfono Ninos is chosen to represent the ADO at the Assyrian Universal Alliance’s Third World Congress in Cologne, Germany.
- Malfono Ninos has the honor of working with the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) in 1974, and contributing to the creation of bylaws meant to be utilized by Assyrians worldwide.
- Malfono Ninos and the late Nadan Younadam travel to Russia in 1986 to retrieve Freydon Atorayas manifesto titled, Urmia Manifesto of the United Free Assyria. With the help of Dr. Elia Vartanov, they are able to recover and translate the manifesto.
- In 2003, Rabi Yosip Bet Yosip and Malfono Ninos represent Occupied Assyria at the World Congress of Poets (a UNESCO affiliation) in Taipei, Taiwan. Several years later they return to the Congress, this time held in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where they raise our flag in the name of Occupied Assyria alongside the flags of 22 other nations, a very proud moment for all Assyrians.
- In Australia in 2003, Malfono and Rabi Yosip Bet Yosip continue to edify people on the origins, history and future of the Assyrians.
- In 2005, Malfono Ninos meets Malfono Sabri Atman, the founder and director of Seyfo Center – Assyrian Genocide Research Center. Malfono Ninos becomes heavily involved in the organization’s work, as his belief is that the tragic genocides inflicted upon our people can be our unifying factor. In 2008, he is named Seyfo Center’s Honorary Global Ambassador.
- Malfono Ninos participates in the European Union symposium on Assyrian Rights and the Democratization of Turkey in Brussels, Belgium in 2010.
- On August 7, 2010, Malfono is guest of honor at the official unveiling of the Seyfo Assyrian Genocide monument in Sydney, Australia. His stirring recitation there of Atouraya Khata (The New Assyrian), rocks the Assyrian nation with its passion and strength. The video can be found here.
- Malfono fervently supports Assyrian lobbyists who have petitioned Washington against the political marginalization of the Assyrian people and is an integral player in the struggle for the Assyrians to regain ownership of the Nineveh Plains.
In pursuit of his Assyrian vision, Malfono has been exposed numerous times to the prevailing political turmoil of the the Middle East, being both kidnapped and hijacked on different occasions.
Utilizing his innate talent, Malfono Ninos uses poetry as an outlet to deliver his nationalistic passion and ideology. He inspires fellow Assyrians through his declarations of belief. Due to the moving messages contained in his poetry, many of Malfono Ninos works have been set to music, both traditional folkloric melodies and original compositions.
Prior to 1968, singing in the Suryoyo dialect was forbidden in the Western Assyrian community; it was considered a sacred language to be used only in church liturgy (in contrast to the Eastern Assyrians, who already had traditional song). At the time, Western Assyrians sang in Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish at gatherings and celebrations. The ADO believed that our nation would not be able to sustain itself without folkloric traditions. Consequently, they set out to renew the Assyrian song in the Western culture of the nation.
As a result of the ADO functioning as an underground nationalistic movement, they had to utilize the church choir to bring these songs to the community. Overcoming initial skepticism regarding this idea, Malfono Ninos was at the forefront of organizing the church choir and teaching them these songs, which they began to perform at various parties and functions. This innovative idea was well received; in later years, when these choir members immigrated to other countries, they organized new choral groups, perpetuating the idea of the Assyrian song. Consequently, the current industry of Assyrian music today is a direct result of the young nationalistic revolution headed by the ADO in the 1960’s.
Malfono Ninos immigrates to the United States and assimilates into the large Assyrian community in Chicago, IL and the American way of life.
Malfono Ninos marries Ogareet Bakkal (daughter of AbdulNoor Bakkal and Widad Atmaja) in Kamishly, Syria. They soon settle into life in Chicago and begin to build their family.
The Aho family relocates to Sturbridge, MA.
Malfono Ninos and Ogareet’s family continues to grow with the birth of their fourth child. Malfono and Ogareet bestow unique Assyrian names upon their children; Romrama (higher than the highest), Zalgai (rays of the sun), Delmon (paradise) and Enleil (a chief Assyrian deity).
Believing that Assyrian heritage, traditions and civilization are all based in Assyria (regions of modern-day Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran), Malfono Ninos and Ogareet move their family to Aleppo, Syria in order for Malfono to authentically promote his belief in the Assyrian cause. Even though the family’s return to the homeland is a sacrifice for them on many levels, their love for their nation outweighs their struggles.
Malfono Ninos, Ogareet and their children return to the United States when Malfono is diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and settle in Los Angeles, CA. Malfono bravely battles his illness with positive resolve, encouraged by his loved ones including eldest daughter Romrama’s family; her husband Aphram Khalbourji and their sons Albert Romiel and Marc Antony Robby.
Tragedy strikes the Aho Family. Malfono Ninos and Ogareet’s eldest son Delmon unexpectedly passes away due to a heart attack.
After steadfastly confronting his illness for more than twelve years, Malfono Ninos Aho’s life comes full circle on July 15th, 2013; he passed away peacefully at home surrounded by family and friends on the anniversary of the founding of the Mtakasto Othurayto Demoqrotayto (Assyrian Democratic Organization), of which he was a founding member. July 15th also marks the holiday of Mor Kiryakos of Girkeh-Shamo, the village where Malfono was born. Malfono Ninos Aho’s ideology will endure forever and his mission will persevere, carried on by his children and by those he inspired to work passionately for the Assyrian Cause.