Abdulmesih Barabraham is intent on countering the Assyrian Confederation of Europe from behind the curtain.
(This is an edited summary in English of several articles in Swedish published by Hujådå on this subject.)
Abdulmesih Barabraham may be well known to the tight knit Assyrian community in Germany but he remains a shadowy figure to most Assyrians despite the fact that he has been involved in the Assyrian diaspora for decades. Originally from the town of Midyat in Turkish Assyria he has spent most of his life in the picturesque town of Augsburg in southern Germany. His career in an international company and good command of English has earned him respect in a community where many from his generation have limited language proficiency and lack a higher education. Fully aware of his privileges Abood, as his friends call him, has made sure to take full advantage of the community’s appreciation of him as an “intellectual” to exert soft power and use his influence for what some say are destructive and narcissist ambitions.
His name has surfaced several times in recent years in discussions about a conflict around the Assyrian Confederation of Europe (ACE). Lately, several prominent Assyrians have pointed their fingers at Abdulmesih, identifying him as the person commanding an ongoing crusade against the Confederation, a crusade which threatens to create a permanent split in the Assyrian European diaspora.
Fighting for influence
The creation of the Assyrian Confederation of Europe in 2016 marked a major development in the Assyrian European arena. It drew the attention of Abdulmesih early on as the evidence reveal he tried to influence the constitution and organizational structure of the new body. His correspondence at the time with elected officials at the helm of the process to establish the Confederation shows his intention of securing a formal role in the emerging body for organisations he perceives as being under his influence, mainly the Assyrian Youth federation of Germany and the Yoken Bar Yoken foundation where he serves as the permanent secretary.
His email exchanges, as shown in the above image, make it clear Abdulmesih was against the fact that membership in the Assyrian Confederation of Europe would be limited to the Assyrian national federations and that other organisations wishing to be part of the confederation could only do so indirectly by maintaining membership in the national federations. As the word ‘confederation’ implies ACE is a union of federations. It is an intentional model which seeks to create coherence and structure in a disorganized community by making the national federations the de facto representatives of each community. Abdulmesih would however not contend with the logical reasoning behind this organizational structure which is the prevalent model for other interest groups in Europe. Instead he seems to have perceived this structure as a threat to his influence and that of his group of likeminded people from his generation organized around the Assyrian Democratic Organisation, more known as “Mtakasto” in Assyrian.
Abdulmesih soon showed signs he was determined to fight what he perceived as an emerging threat, as his consecutive actions show. In 2017, the year after the official establishment of ACE, he set about to try to impose his will through opposing the Confederation from within. The constitution of ACE stipulates that each member federation has two seats in the board. Abdulmesih saw this as an opportunity to install two of his aides in the heart of the confederation. For this end he organized a campaign to instate his own daughter Mariam, a young graduate with no previous experience or engagement in the community, and his long term friend and ally Aziz Said into the board of the Assyrian federation of Germany, with the long term aim of having them later chosen as the representatives of the German federation in the board of ACE. His extensive network among the Assyrian community in Germany and his membership in the Assyrian Democratic Organisation made it all but certain he would succeed, which he also did.
Upon his election as president of the Assyrian federation of Germany Aziz Said immediately set about to voice criticism of the Confederation during his very first board meeting. He soon sent a letter to ACE without the knowledge of the majority of his own board. For everyone involved, it was obvious that the actions of Aziz Said were directed by Abdulmesih. Aziz Said had till then not shown any interest in either the Assyrian federation of Germany or ACE and his command of English is very limited. The only person in Germany who had shown an interest in and was critical of ACE, and who has an impeccable English was Abdulmesih. Even more revealing was the fact that the points raised in the letter sent by Aziz Said to ACE carried the same formulations and objections which Abdulmesih had raised a year before in emails with representatives of the yet to be inaugurated Confederation.
Abdulmesih would however not contend with merely sending letters through his friend Aziz. He was intent on imposing his will in any way possible, to the extent of pushing his young daughter Mariam to almost force her presence at a board meeting of ACE. The strange ordeal took place during an ACE board meeting at the premises of the Assyrian federation of Germany in the town of Gutersloh. As the board members of the Confederation were to begin their meeting they noticed the young woman had remained in the room instead of leaving with others who had welcomed the representatives of ACE. A bizarre exchange of words ensued between the then head of the Confederation and the young and somewhat insecure woman who insisted on attending a board meeting of an organisation without any invitation or reason, clearly following the instructions of her demanding father. She was kindly but firmly ordered out of the room and left visibly humiliated and seemingly nervous, as she had failed to fulfill the will of Abdulmesih who clearly did not hesitate in putting his daughter in such an awkward situation.
One of the main objectives of the Assyrian Confederation of Europe, as stipulated in its constitution, is to help more Assyrian communities get better organized. This was the reason why in January 2018 news broke of the creation of a national Assyrian federation in France by the active support of ACE. For most Assyrians this was welcome news but for the already exasperated Abdulmesih it was too much to tolerate. No longer able or willing to contain himself he stepped up his careful campaign against the Confederation into a full blown war. The day after the news of the establishment of the Assyrian federation of France Abdulmesih sent a long email to a group of well known Assyrians residing in Europe and the U.S. His email was full of accusations against the Confederation and its foremost representatives. This marked the first time he revealed his contempt of ACE to people outside his close circle. His attempt to defame and turn other Assyrians against the Confederation was met with suspicion and it quickly backfired as the individuals questioned his motives. However, the email revealed his intentions to a wider circle and established beyond any doubt that he was on a crusade against ACE. One member of the Assyrian community in Germany, Samuel Alexander identified Abdulmesih as a driving force behind the attack against ACE in an interview with Assyria TV in 2018. He served as member of the board of the Assyrian federation of Germany with Aziz Said as the head.
Attacking from a new angle
His ally Aziz Said carried on with the mission to fight the ACE from within to the point where the former board of ACE finally took the decision in 2019 to suspend the Assyrian federation of Germany indefinitely. This put a stop for the attempts to destroy ACE from the inside and prompted Abdulmesih to find new ways to wage his war. In the summer of 2019 he was the main architect behind the Assyrian forum conference in Padderborn, gathering individuals and groups to form an opposition to ACE. According to several individuals who attended the gathering most of it evolved around expressing rejection for ACE and other organisations disliked by the majority of the attendees, most of them being members or supporters of the Assyrian Democratic Organisation known as ADO or Mtakasto.
Highjacking the parliament group
In recent years a group of Assyrians have been working to establish an Assyrian parliament in exile in the hope that it will propel the Assyrian issue on the international agenda. At some point in time Abdulmesih seems to have realized this group could be useful in his crusade against ACE. He slowly worked his way into the group through his ally Aziz Said using the Assyrian Federation of Germany as a bait. Once inside the group he set about to radically change the course and purpose of the structure. He launched his attack at the groups recent conference in the town of Wiesbaden in Germany where he inserted his network at the helm of the group and officially changing the agenda from an Assyrian parliament in exile to the Assyrian World Congress for the creation of the Assyrian World Confederation. In a video Abdulmesih can be seen giving a long official speech of the Assyrian Federation of Germany at the conference, presenting himself as the official “advisor” to the chairman Aziz Said.
The benevolent intellectual
Abdulmesih has embarked on a twofold strategy in order to sustain his crusade against ACE and at the same time maintain his image as the benevolent intellectual. He has done this by consistently declining to comment reports of his actions. Yet, at each instance of reporting he has contacted individuals to try to put pressure on the Assyrian federation of Sweden and Assyria TV to cease the reporting. Often times he has tried to use family relations as a means of pressure, urging relatives of journalists to contact them and ask them to stop “the attack”.
He has also stepped up his contributions to AINA, writing on sacred topics related to the Assyrian genocide and other issues as a way to raise his profile and credentials each time his actions has been questioned by Assyria TV, Hujådå or other outlets. In this, he is effectively using the Assyrian genocide as a shield to hide behind instead of stepping forward and explaining his actions.
He has also resorted to asking his friends to post positive judgments of him. In one instance he even wrote the judgement himself and asked his long term friend Professor Michael Abdallah to post it on his facebook timeline. The text reveals a narcissistic man full of self admiration, boasting unashamedly about himself that: “One has to mention as well that while he (Abdulmesih, editors note) would make a good leader not just of a club, but even of the Federation, he prefers to remain in the background. Knowing that his creative devotion and diligence were met with due appreciation by the management of the German company he worked for and during his contracts in the US (which he never boasts about),…”
A rival confederation
The actions of Abdulmesih Barabraham testify to a man with extreme endurance. His campaign to either control or destroy the Assyrian Confederation of Europe has been ongoing for almost half a decade. There are no signs he intends to stop, instead he seems more determined than ever. He is now working to establish a new Assyrian body that will rival ACE. According to preliminary reports, the new organisation is to be announced at a conference in Brussels in the autumn of 2021. It is a sad but unavoidable development. Abdulmesih could not take control of ACE from within, neither was he successful in destroying it from the outside and his only remaining option is therefore to rival it with a new organisation.
Power or ideology?
The intense campaign against ACE leads to the question of why a man like Abdulmesih is so intent on countering it? What is it exactly ACE has been doing? Since its start in 2016 it has organized three conventions open to every Assyrian. It has issued three human rights reports and a dozen of political statements highlighting atrocities affecting Assyrians. It has also organized a youth academy for 20 young Assyrians. It is difficult to understand why any Assyrian would be against such an organisation from an ideological or pure political view. It’s difficult to understand what is going on as anything other than a struggle for power, control and influence.
In the end, Abdulmesih has been able to sustain his negative campaign simply because individuals like him have found ways to use the kindness and naivety of a community somewhat desperate for “intellectuals”. His crusade has found likeminded supporters among the Assyrian Democratic Organisation, other vested interests and elders afraid of losing power to a new generation.