December 2019 | By Stephney Bazi | Photos contributed
LONDON — This summer marked the first time Shamiran Khoshaba stepped foot in Iraq since leaving the country in 1991 at eight years old. Like many Assyrians, Khoshaba thought she would never get the chance to return.
For years, Khoshaba lived in London and connected with Assyrians by attending conventions and using social media. She eventually joined a GISHRU Facebook group. GISHRU is a non-profit organization that conducts humanitarian and educational trips for Assyrians to parts of their homeland in Turkey and Iraq.
Early last year, Khoshaba was surprised to see a woman from London on the trip. The trip was only for U.S. based Assyrians, she thought, but later found out that Assyrians from all over the world participate, including Europe and Australia. She immediately applied to the program and was selected for the Spring 2019 trip.
Before the trip, Khoshaba was nervous about what to expect after being gone for so long. Once she landed, however, her nerves disappeared and she said she was “met by the most amazing people” and that every town and village felt like her hometown.
“I can’t stress enough the kind hospitality of our people there,” Khoshaba said.
One of the highlights from her trip was going to the Assyrian schools that are supported by the Assyrian Aid Society.
“It just blew my mind that these young kids are not only learning our beloved language in school (1 of 4 languages they learn), but also they are learning Maths, Science, etc in Assyrian too.”
When she returned home, she admitted the trip made her “more vocal with non-Assyrians about my homeland and by sharing and raising awareness of things that happen in Atra”.
GISHRU means “bridge” in Assyrian. The organization’s mission is to preserve the Assyiran history and culture by building bridges between Assyrians born in the diaspora and the homeland.
GISHRU continues to fulfill this mission by leading annual educational trips in the Spring to the homeland. Khoshaba is one of many participants that further fulfill this mission by advocating and sharing her experience back home.