Ms. Rosie Malek-Yonan is a descendant of one of the oldest and most prominent Assyrian Christian families, tracing her Assyrian roots back nearly eleven centuries as evidenced by the Malek Family Tree. The Malek Family or Tribe came from the Assyrian village of Geogtapah, Urmi, a region in northwestern, Iran.
During the Assyrian Genocide of 1914-1918, Ms. Malek-Yonan's grandparents left their ancestral homeland during the Great Exodus from Urmi. The Malek-Yonan family fled to Mesopotamia where her father, George, was born, while her materna l grandmother fled to Russia where her mother, Lida, was born. Years later, both families returned to Tehran where her parents met and were married. Ms. Malek-Yonan has a younger sister, Monica who works very closely with her on most of her projects.
Living as a minority Assyrian Christian in Iran, the Malek-Yonan Family always used its influence and the Malek title to further the interests and welfare of its Assyrian nation. The family has produced many great sons and daughters.
George Malek-Yonan, a leading Assyrian international attorney, was personally responsible for procuring a seat for the Assyrian nation as a recognized minority in the Iranian Parliament, thus giving them a political voice. This was a remarkable achievement, to say the least, considering that Assyrians have been a people without a formal country to their name since the fall of the Assyrian Empire.
Lida Malek-Yonan was equally influential in demanding recognition for Assyrian women in Iran by launching and presiding over the Assyrian Women Organization, which was the only officially recognized charter member of the Iranian Women Association up until the end of the Pahlavi Dynasty.
Other family notables include Dr. Jesse Malek-Yonan, who left Urmi for America to study medicine. After earning his medical degree, he returned to his homeland where he knew he was needed most among his Assyrian nation. After the Assyrian Genocide of 1914-1918, he represented the Assyrians of Iran at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.
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. 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 products like "Uncle Ben's Rice", though in countries such as Brazil and India the name Malekized Rice lives on.
Rev. Isaac Malek-Yonan was the author of several books and essays including The Beloved Physician of Teheran (1933) and Persian Women (1898). Rev. Isaac's 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 final exodus from Urmi.
David Aghabeg Malek-Yonan 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.
Shushan Malek-Yonan author of a children's book published (1927) in Tabriz, Iran; Norman Malek-Yonan author of The Christmas Story (1958) and Terrence Malick, Oscar winning writer, director and producer of such films as Badlands, Days of Heaven, Red Thin Line, The New World and The Tree of Life.
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. The Aslee and Karam Opera was composed in 1912 by the Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov. This tragic love story has been compared to that of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. A beautiful stone well was erected in the village of Geogtapah in Aslee's memory after her heartrending and untimely death.