I remember sitting in the hotel room our first night in Dohuk. Being born and raised in America I had only ever heard stories of our homeland so I was nervous and excited about the journey back home. We sat having a discussion with a few of the Dohuk branch members of Khoyada d’Yalopeh getting to know each other, I was telling one of the guys how excited and happy I was to be there, and I’ll never forget his response, his answer back to me was that he was even happier then we were. He told me how glad he was to see youth born in Diaspora still caring about our people and our homeland.
There are not enough words to describe the feeling I got to experience on my trip to Athra for Akitu 6762; being there for the first time alongside of my people for Akitu was an indescribable feeling, I felt like I was home.
Going up to the mountains of Khinnis in North Iraq and seeing our ancestors carvings and writings on the wall, going to the schools, set up and funded by Assyrian Democratic Movement and Assyrian Aid Society, where children and young adults were being educated in our language, and making lifelong connections with the youth from our homeland gave me the greatest gift I could have ever asked for, a sense of peace and a sense of being home.
As we were crying and saying our goodbyes, we asked our friends from Khoyada what they would like for us to send them, they told us the only thing they wanted from us was to spread the message, to send more people and to make the youth aware that they do have a birthright to come back to their land. We may not have a country by name yet, but what I realized on this trip was that as long as we keep our language and culture alive through the youth that are growing up there, that is our land.
Akitu in Athra is something every Assyrian should experience in their lifetime, it is our birthright to go and open our eyes to what is really going on in our homeland.
Atorena Sheno, 2012