Via Basel: Patriarch


Current events bring to the forefront certain ideas or subjects that have been dormant for a while. As I was entertaining different themes for this Father’s Day post, the conflict in Iraq with the central government forces attempting to take back Falluja from ISIS (or DAESH in Arabic) was in the news. Next in line to liberate from this brutal terrorist group is Mosul in the north, my ancestral city. Last year it fell to the fanatic organization and the subsequent atrocities included mass killings, rapes, and slavery inflicted on any religious community other than theirs. Christians who had been there for centuries, including my extended family, were hastily forced to leave their city, their homes, and all belongings, becoming refugees in their own country. Which brings me to the main subject matter.

While I was born in Baghdad, both my parents were born and raised in Mosul. My paternal grandfather (and EIL founder Chris Al-Aswad’s great grandfather) Naom Hanna Al-Aswad lived his entire 90 years in that ancient city. He was a larger-than-life figure who could be rightly called the Patriarch of our clan. Born in the 1860s from a long muslawi lineage, he was an overachiever who prospered to become a well known builder and contractor even though he was not literate. Among his prize achievements was planning and designing the Syriac Orthodox church in Mosul at that time called Mar Toma. He was a pillar of the Christian Community and widely respected by all others, including the city civic leadership. His activity extended to other areas. He married three times, outliving the first two wives and bringing forth nine offspring, the only surviving one, Bassima, the youngest, now living in Toronto, Canada. He passed away in 1956 leaving numerous descendants now scattered all over Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand with only a few left in Iraq and the Middle East. The last time I tried counting them I gave up at around 120.

I only have a vague recollection of him, when as a four year old, I accompanied my dad on a visit to Mosul in the summer of 1950. The above picture is the only one I have,  most likely circa 1930s. Even though the fine monuments he conceived and built may have fallen apart or been destroyed, his legacy continues through descendants, tough, talented and creative….Just like Chris Al-Aswad.

Dear Grandfather Naom, this Father’s Day is dedicated to you.


Basel for EILBasel Al-Aswad, father of EIL founder Chris Al-Aswad, is a yogi trapped in an Orthopedic Surgeon’s body. His loves in life include reading, hiking, enjoying nature, meditation, and spending time with his large Iraqi family.

Father’s Day 2014

Father’s Day 2013

Father’s Day Special



One response to “Via Basel: Patriarch”

  1. Basel Al-Aswad says:

    Received several comments on Facebook and personal e-mail. All appreciated and welcomed. My cousin Salem even corrected me. The church mentioned in the post above was Kala’a (fort in arabic) , not Mar Toma. Thanks to all readers.

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