The versatile Ms. Rosie Malek-Yonan is an Assyrian-American Christian and a natural-born artist who has amassed an extraordinary list of accomplishments. She is an actor, award winning writer, playwright, director, producer, pianist, composer, documentary filmmaker, and an advocate for Assyrian causes.
She knows the unhurried craft all too well. At the age of four she began studying piano with Tania Achot-Haroutounian who was the 1960 Third Prize Winner in the Sixth International Frédéric Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. In her teens, Ms. Malek-Yonan began composing classical music and competed in and won many national piano competitions while continued her musical studies at the Tehran Conservatory of Music. In 1972 after winning a national piano competition in Iran, she was invited by Queen Farah Pahlavi to play at a Command Performance. As an Assyrian and Christian, she never considered Iran as her home and left the country with a one-way ticket as a young girl in pursuit of freedom from oppression, education, and fulfilling her dreams.
Upon receiving her degree in English from University of Cambridge, she attended The San Francisco Conservatory of Music to study piano with Saul Joseph. She received her BA and BM in music from San Francisco State University (SFSU). Concurrently, she studied acting with Ray Reinhardt at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and at SFSU.
To music and acting she also added another challenging dimension: the sport of figure skating. Her sister, Monica Malek-Yonan, soon followed suit and the two trained in America for several years. When Queen Farah Pahlavi took notice of their passion and commitment to the sport, she invited the sisters to represent Iran as the first female athletes in the sport of figure skating. Their dedication, talent, and hard work earned them both spots on the 1980 Olympic Team representing Iran, the first ever in the history of that country and of the Assyrian history.
However, by 1979 the political climate in Iran drastically shifted and the Royal Family left the country. With their departure, the aspirations and dreams of ever skating in the Olympics at once became illusive for the Malek-Yonan sisters unless they were to comply with the restrictions that the new government was demanding to impose upon them. In order to continue to represent Iran, the Malek-Yonan sisters had to abide by the newly mandated dress code of skating in long gowns (the country's uniform for women), wear headscarves, become Moslem, and refrain from using music at the competition. Having composed the orchestral score for her short program for the Olympics, Ms. Malek-Yonan was devastated at a decision that seemed inevitable. Faced with a government's attempt to implement a series of ridiculous demands, the sisters walked away from the games prior to the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Ms. Malek-Yonan went on to compose many classical orchestral pieces including The Assyrian Requiem and continued to study acting. In the early 1980's, she won an invitation to study Drama at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) and later at the historic Pasadena Playhouse where she appeared on the main stage in William Saroyan's A Time Of Your Life, Tennessee William's Summer and Smoke, and Sidney Kingsley's Detective Story.
She made her television debut in 1983 on Aaron Spelling's series, Dynasty while still a student at AADA, followed by a national commercial for AT&T where she spoke in Assyrian.
After leaving AADA, her acting career began to blossom. As an Assyrian, Ms. Malek-Yonan is a pioneer in the filed of acting having over the course of a 40-year career, compiled an impressive list of credits, which include performances on the stage and roles in notable television shows and films opposite Hollywood's Oscar, Emmy, and Tony winning actors and directors. She has had recurring roles on numerous shows including Days of Our Lives, Chicago Hope, Beverly Hills, 90210, The Young and the Restless and in 2008 she returned to daytime drama for several episodes joining the cast of ABC's longest-running series, General Hospital as Farah Mir. She played Tekoa on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and has guest starred on such shows as Generations, Seinfeld, JAG, and Life. She has starred in numerous feature films including New Line Cinema's Rendition, helmed by Oscar winning director, Gavin Hood. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Amongst the numerous plays she has written that have been produced and performed on stage, she is most proud of her one-woman play, An Assyrian Exodus that premiered in Hartford, Connecticut. The work is based on true Malek-Yonan family diaries written during the 1918 Great Exodus from Urmi, Iran. About the production, Janey Golani, of The Assyrian Star writes, "...presentations included those of Ms. Rosie Malek-Yonan which was filled with many emotional attendees who were struck by her performance of An Assyrian Exodus a dramatic staged reading based on Rosie's Family Diaries."
Reviewing Ms. Malek-Yonan's work as an actor and director, Martin Hernandez of LA Weekly writes,"Superbly acted and directed...Director Rosie Malek-Yonan honed the works to perfection, even down to the fitting choice of songs for transitions and intermission." About her stage directing, Bruce Feld writes, "Rosie Malek-Yonan has done an excellent job directing...top-of-the-line and what might have become a sketch in other hands becomes a poignant episode of universal import...exceptional direction.". In another review, Feld writes, "Very well directed by Rosie Malek-Yonan...The material is very tricky, but Malek-Yonan handles it with requisite sensitivity, without in any way watering down the heavy conflict...Sparks ignite..."
In 2015 Ms. Malek-Yonan was invited to serve on the Executive Board of The Beverly Hills Film Festival as a Consultant on screenplays, film selections, and other aspects of the festival. She has also served as a jury member at other film festivals.
Ms. Malek-Yonan is the author of The Crimson Field (ISBN 0-9771873-4-9 Pearlida Publishing, USA), a non-fictional historical and literary work, set in the Assyrian inhabited region or Urmi in northwestern Iran, Russia, and San Francisco. It is based on real events and true family chronicles set to the backdrop of the Assyrian Genocide of 1914-1918 in the shadows of World War I where two-thirds of the nation totaling 750,000 Assyrians were massacred by the Ottoman Turks, Kurds, and Persians.
The book is one of the most popular pieces of prose among modern Assyrians. It has been quoted and featured in various other books and articles. The book was selected as The Assyrian Event of the Year 2005 by Zinda Magazine, Washington D.C. (22 April 2006). It was featured in the Winter 2007's fourth issue of MAKE, a Chicago Literary Magazine and chosen as required reading by Professor Ellene Phufas for her World Literature class for the SUNY system (State University of New York) to represent a work about the Christian Genocides in Asia Minor. This achievement is being hailed as a milestone in the study and recognition of the Assyrian Genocide at an institution of higher learning. Up until now, the study of the Assyrian Genocide was globally absent from the curriculum of educational institutions.
In 2014 Ms. Malek-Yonan and her sister, Monica Malek-Yonan, co-wrote the screenplay adaptation of The Crimson Field. The script won The Golden Palm Award for Best Screen Play at the Beverly Hills Film Festival.
Seyfo: Genocide, Denial and the Right of Recognition (ISBN 91-972351-2-1 Seyfo Center, Netherlands Publisher) is a compilation of articles and speeches presented at conferences held in the European Parliament. Contributors include Rosie Malek-Yonan (author of The Crimson Field), MP Stephen Pound (House of Commons of the United Kingdom), Prof. Ove Bring (Swedish Parliament), Sabri Atman, Mechtild Rothe (Vice President of the European Parliament), Prof. David Guant (Södertöms University College, Sweden), Markus Ferber (EVP-ED, Member of the European Parliament), and Willy Foeutre (Human Rights Without Frontiers).
The Assyrian native remains unaffected by her Hollywood success as she continues to speak on issues regarding her nation's struggle. When Ms. Malek-Yonan's The Crimson Field was brought to the attention of the Unites States Congress, on 30 June 2006, she was invited to testify on Capitol Hill before a Congressional Committee of the 109th Congress on religious freedom regarding the genocide, massacres, and persecution of Assyrians in Iraq from 2003. Reading a passage from The Crimson Field, she compared the Assyrian Genocide of 1914-1918, as depicted in her book, to the current plight of the indigenous Assyrian Christians in Iraq. Her passionate Congressional Testimony and plea to the United States Government, ultimately prompted Congressman Christopher Smith to travel to war-torn Iraq to witness matters for himself. While in Iraq, after meeting with local Assyrians, he turned in Ms. Malek-Yonan's report to United States Officials in Iraq. One year later, a Congressional appropriations subcommittee unanimously voted to send ten million dollars to aid the Assyrian Christians in Iraq. The complete archived transcript and webcast of the actual Congressional Testimony is now part of the official Congressional records and is available at the website of the United States House of Representatives. The transcript is also available here.
Monica Malek-Yonan's documentary film, My Assyrian Nation on the Edge, is based on this Congressional Testimony. It was released in September 2006. On 7 August 2008, the documentary film was screened at the Australian Parliament of New South Wales in Sydney. Among the attendees were Rev. Hon. Fred Nile MLC, Hon. David Clarke MLC, Senator Helen Coonan, and Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. The documentary has been screen in numerous venues and universities throughout the world. Segments of the Malek-Yonan documentary and Congressional Testimony were featured in the 2010 documentary film, Defying Deletion: The Fight Over Iraq's Nineveh Plains and she also appeared as herself for this documentary that won the 2011 Detroit Film Festival and the 2011 Uptown Film Festival.
Ms. Malek-Yonan embodies the fighting spirit of her ancient Assyrian ancestors. She is an outspoken human rights activist and advocate of issues concerning her nation, in particular bringing attention to the Assyrian Genocide as well as the plight of today's Assyrians in the Middle-East since the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States and its Coalition Forces, and the war in Syria. She has candidly criticized the United States for failure to protect the Assyrians and other Christians in Iraq since the beginning of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.
She is frequently interviewed on television, radio programs, including Australia's ABC National Radio (pdf Download) and publications worldwide, giving her assessment of the current situation of the Assyrians in the Middle-East as well as discussing the topic of the Assyrian Genocide. Her articles are published globally and translated into many languages. After the 2005 release of her book, she began lecturing at university and civic organization and is often invited to address the topic of the Assyrian Genocide. On 24 February 2007, Ms. Malek-Yonan was a keynote speaker at an open forum in Anaheim, California, discussing the persecution of the Copts and the plight of Christians in the Middle East. She has lectured at University of Berkeley, University of California at Merced, and Woodbury University.
In an interview with Andrew Kramer for The New York Times, (pdf Download) Ms. Malek-Yonan said, "Anytime the Western countries go to war in the Middle East, it becomes a religious war..." In the interview she also held Kurdish commanders in Iraq responsible for "depriving the Christians of security in an effort to tilt the demographics in favor of Kurds. The expected result, she said, was an exodus of hundreds of thousands of Christians from Iraq. At least hundreds have been killed, One priest was quartered and beheaded."
Various media sources including The Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, and the U.K. Iraqi Study have quoted and used Ms. Malek-Yonan's Congressional Testimony and her various published articles, speeches, and interviews regarding the current state of affairs in Iraq concerning its Assyrian Christian indigenous people.
In 2008 she was invited to address the topics of genocide, world peace, and in particular the Assyrian Genocide in statements presented at the British House of Lords on 12 March and on 24 April at the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.
On October 5, 2008, Ms. Malek-Yonan spoke on behalf of the Assyrian nation in Iraq at a Los Angeles rally held in front of the Federal Building to oppose the Iraq Election Law. She addressed the crowd of demonstrators and the media voicing her opposition at the removal of article 50 and its consequences for the minorities in Iraq in particular the Assyrians. "Democracy in Iraq will fail if it does not treat all members of its society equally under the law." She went on to say, "Assyrians have already paid a heavy price since the beginning of the Iraq War. The liberation of Iraqis must encompass all its citizens, including the Assyrians, and not just the Sunni, the Shi'ites, and the Kurds.
On 20 December 2010, Ms. Malek-Yonan, was invited by the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance to speak at a press conference to address the escalating crisis and the deadly attacks on the Assyrians in Iraq. Later in an interview with Fox News, she described how going to church is a game of Russian Roulette for the Assyrian Christians in Iraq. "They never know when they go to church, if that's going to be the last mass, the last moment of their lives." The press conference was prompted by the 31 October 2010 massacre at The Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad.
Robert Kennedy Center Human Rights - Women's History Month Spotlight: Kerry Kennedy pointed out the following: "Rosie Malek-Yonan fearlessly shines light on the challenges of Assyrians in Iraq. When asked what word she would use to describe Assyrians, she responded, "We remain tolerant. Perhaps one day our oppressors will learn to be tolerant as well. They will have to in order to become a democratic society." Rosie strives for peaceful conflict resolution in the face of violence. "Assyria will never be abandoned because I am not alone in the peaceful battle for her." (2017)
The Beverly Hills Film Festival's Golden Palm Award for Best Screenplay awarded to the screenplay adaptation of The Crimson Field by Rosie Malek-Yonan and Monica Malek-Yonan. (2014)
Assyrian Power-Woman, International Women's Day: Rosie Malek-Yonan, Assyrië Magazine, Netherlands. (2012)
Assyrian Woman of the Year Award: The Assyrian Universal Alliance 26th World Conference, Australia, in recognition of Rosie Malek-Yon an's substantial contribution to advance the Assyrian national cause by promoting international recognition of the Assyrian Genocide, her extensive efforts in conveying the needs of the Assyrians to the United States Government, and achievements in providing individual service to the Assyrian community worldwide. (2009)
Rosie Malek-Yonan's The Crimson Field featured in MAKE, a Chicago Literary Magazine. (2007)
Assyrian Woman of the Year Award: By the Board of Advisors of the Assyrian American National Federation, Inc. at the 73rd Annual Assyrian Convention in Chicago, Illinois. (2006)
The Assyrian Event of the Year: Rosie Malek-Yonan's The Crimson Field, Zinda Magazine, Washington D.C. (2005)
"I am an Assyrian. That is not negotiable." (The Crimson Field)
"I may not have a country with boundaries, but my country is in me. My country is in my soul and in my heart. I am ASSYRIA." (The Crimson Field)
"Iraq's liberation has become the oppression of Assyrians." (United States Congress)
"Anytime the Western countries go to war in the Middle East, it becomes a religious war." (The New York Times)
"The recognition and acceptance of a genocide, and mass murder of nations is not to merely point a finger at a tyrant guilty of those crimes. It is acceptance of facts and truths with the ultimate goal to mend bridges between the races. It is not to merely condemn but to create the first step towards world peace." (House of Lords, London)
"When we perpetually allow the practice of genocide and holocaust, and consent to the denial of such actions to linger for decades as in the case of the Assyrian, Armenian, and Pontic Greek Genocides, we are in essence consenting to denial as a compromise. Denial is not compromise." (House of Commons, London)
Ms. Malek-Yonan has been involved in numerous charity events and programs and has endorsed various organizations throughout her illustrious career, including the Special Olympics and Neurofibromatosis. In 2009 she became an ambassador for the Swedish-based, Assyrians Without Borders.
She is a founding member of The Assyrian Cultural and Arts Society that provides scholarships to students who focus on an Assyrian element within their studies at an accredited school or university. For several years, the scholarship was offered at Woodbury University's Design School through an annual Assyrian Design Competition. The event introduced the university students, faculty, and invited guests to Assyrian history, culture, textiles, art, music, and food. All scholarship candidates are sought out through the society’s own process. Under no circumstances will personal queries and/or requests be accepted.
Ms. Rosie Malek-Yonan is a descendant of one of the oldest and most prominent Assyrian Christian families, tracing her Assyrian roots back to more than eleven centuries as evidenced by the Malek Family Tree. Throughout the centuries, the title of Malek was bestowed upon a select number of Assyrians by the Assyrian Patriarchs and the title was carried through out generations. The title carried a great deal of responsibility and the Maleks acted in the capacity of arbiters of conflict. Regardless of their country of birth, the Malek-Yonan family considered themself first and foremost to be Assyrian and Christian.
In the 16th century, the Malek-Yonan Tribe fled the Assyrian region of Jilu after it was devastated by the Black Turkomen. They settled in neighboring Urmi, Iran, where the Assyrian village of Geogtapah was founded by Rev. Malek-Yonan, the Jilu or Malek of the Tribe. There he built the church of Mar (Saint) Zaya set with stones brought from the original Mar Zaya Church in Jilu.
The Assyrian Genocide of 1914-1918 that wiped out two-thirds of the Assyrian Christians of Ottoman Turkey and Urmi, Iran, totaling 750,000 souls, marked the beginning of the dispersion of the once closely knit Malek-Yonan Tribe as they were once again forced to flee to far corners of the globe from Europe to America.
Ms. Malek-Yonan’s grandparents fled to Mesopotamia, where her father, George, was born, while hr maternal grandmother fled to Russia where her mother, Lida was born. Years later, both families returned to Tehran where her parents met and were married. Her parents were both American citizens. Ms. Malek-Yonan works very closely with sister, Monica, on most of her artistic projects.
Living as a minority Assyrian Christian in Iran, the Malek-Yonan Family always used its influence, position, and the Malek title to further the interests and welfare of its Assyrian Christian nation. The family has produced many great sons and daughters.
Her father, George Malek-Yonan was a leading Assyrian international attorney educated in Tehran and the United States. Through a comprehensive plan negotiated with the Shah of Iran, he was personally responsible for procuring a seat for the Assyrian nation as a recognized minority in the Iranian Parliament. This outcome gave the Assyrians of Iran a strong political voice equal to other's who with representation in the parliament. This was a remarkable achievement, to say the least, considering that Assyrians have been a people without a formal country since the fall of the Assyrian Empire.
Her mother, Lida Malek-Yonan, was equally influential in demanding recognition for Assyrian women in Iran by launching and presiding over the Assyrian Women's Organization, which was the only officially recognized charter member of the Iranian Women's Organization up until the end of the Pahlavi Dynasty.
Just few other family notables include Rosie's great-grandfather, Rev. Mirza David Malek-Yonan who was the Governor of Geogtapah in Urmia, Iran for 40 years until his death.
Dr. Jesse Malek-Yonan, Mirza David's brother, left Urmi for America to study medicine. Upon earning his medical degree, he returned to his Malek-Yonan Tribe where his services were most needed among his Assyrian nation. After the Assyrian Genocide of 1914-1918, he represented the Assyrians of Iran at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference.
Rev. Isaac Malek-Yonan, who was also Mirza David's brother, was the author of several books and essays including The Beloved Physician of Teheran (1933) and Persian Women (1898). His wartime diaries and journals are considered an indispensable source of information, giving an insight to the daily struggles of the Assyrian refugees during the Assyrian Genocide of 1914-1918 and in particular the Great Exodus from Urmi.
David Aghabeg Malek-Yonan, Mirza David's youngest son, was a graduate of the Class of 1900 at Davidson College in South Carolina. On July 12, 1900, he attended a Presbyterian Church picnic before returning to his native Urmi. While swimming in the Catawba River near Davidson, he and a friend who were both medical student graduates died heroically trying to rescue a drowning student. A five-foot high white marble obelisk marks the site where Aghabeg David Malek-Yonan is buried at Davidson. A scholarship was created for members of the Malek-Yonan family to attend Davidson in honor of Aghabeg David Malek-Yonan. His tragic death was written about in a book entitled Campus Heroes.
A Renaissance man, entrepreneur, art collector, and inventor, Milton Malek-Yonan, received his doctorate in divinity in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Urmi-born, grew up in America but never abandoned his Assyrian roots. Instead, he actively sought out non-Assyrians to educate and enlighten them about his Assyrian heritage, culture, and history. While serving in the U.S. Military, he invented the widely used process called rice conversion or Malekized Rice. It was a revolution in the treatment of rice. During the war, General Douglas MacArthur ordered that all the rice shipped to the Pacific should be Malekized. When the patent ran out, the invention became known as popular products such as Uncle Ben's Rice, though in countries such as Brazil and India the name Malekized Rice lives on.
Shushan Malek-Yonan, Mirza David's daughter was the author of a children's book published (1927) in Tabriz, Iran; Norman Malek-Yonan author of The Christmas Story (1958); and celebrated director and writer, Terrence Malick.
It is worth mentioning that the majority of the family spells the name as M-A-L-E-K in English and European speaking countries. But one small branch of the family, who migrated to the west in the 19th century, spelled it phonetically as M-A-L-I-C-K. However, in the Assyrian language as well as Farsi, Arabic, and many others, there is only one common way to spell the name.
In the 17th century, Geogtapah became the setting for the famous tragic love story of Aslee from the House of Malek and Karam, a commoner. The tale has been recounted in numerous Assyrian and Russian books. This tragic tale compares to that of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. A stone well was erected in the Geogtapah in Aslee's memory after her heartrending and untimely death. Without ever mentioning the Assyrian Christian origins of Aslee, throughout the decades, Azerbaijani and Turkish writers, filmmakers, and composers have plagiarized the story of Aslee and Karam including the Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov who composed the Aslee and Karam Opera in 1912.
I am an Assyrian and an American citizen. To label me anything but Assyrian-American is unacceptable and an insult. My birthplace does not define my nationality.
Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that Everyone has the right to a nationality, and No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
Follow me on Twitter, Facebook Fan Page, and my Blog to see more on this topic as I continue to post about the anti-Assyrian and bullying of so-called Wikipedia editors, admins, and contributors who vehemently oppose my nationality in Wikipedia's article about me with limited understanding of who Assyrians are.
I am an Assyrian. That is not negotiable.