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Genocide of the Assyrians and Armenians by the Ottoman Turkey
Because of its territorial losses in the Balkans due to the Russian intervention and the rise of the Armenian nationalism Turkey began a policy of systematic extermination of its Christian citizens between 1894-1896. By some estimates about 300,000 thousands Christians were killed at that time. Although these wholesale killings are known as the 'Armenian Genocide' in reality a great percentage of Assyrians belonging to the Chaldean Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church equally suffered at the same time. Dispatches and reports by Gustave Meyrier the Vice-consul of France in Diarbekir attest to this fact. His Report #2, February 9, 1895, p. 50, "Situation of the Christians in the Vilayet", reads as follows:
"The state of affairs affects all Christians regardless of race, be they Armenian, Chaldean, Syrian [orthodox] or Greek. It is the result of religious hatred ...."
In a letter from Paul Cambon to his mother on November 4, 1895: "At Diarbekir they have been killling and looting since Friday. Our consul is locked in his house with 500 refugee and from his window, he watches policemen take up arms with groups of savage Kurds from outside the city and Muslims from within. They are massacring all christians without distinction. " Sebastien de courtois, translated by Vincent Aurora, "The forgotten Genocide" Gorgias Press p.106.
In a later report on December18, 1895 Gustave Meyrier wrote: "That day at sunrise the carnage started and lasted until Sunday night." Armed Turks were divided into groups going systematically from one house to another making sure not to disturb the Muslems. "They kicked the doors, looted evrything, and if the people were home, they slit their throats. They killed everyone they could find, men, women, and children, the girls were kidnappped." Sebastien de courtois, translated by Vincent Aurora, "The forgotten Genocide" Gorgias Press p.105. The massacres continued way into 1896.
The decline of the Ottoman empire resulted in the coming to power of the Young Turks who saw the World War One as another opportunity to rid Turkey off its Christian population, the indigenous people of the country. The massacres spilt over into the mountains north of Mosul and the Urmia's province in northwest Iran. About 750,000 Assyrians in the three regions lost their life along with more than a million Armenians and unspecified number of Greeks.
During World War One various methods were used by the Turks to kill the Christians. The most common was the deportation of the Christian subjects from their homes into the desert. The men were killed along the way and women were subjected to all forms of dishonor, physical and psychological torture, hunger and thirst until they were murdered or died from exhaustion. The real story of one Chaldean Assyrian woman who survived the grueling punishment of one such ordeals was documented by Joseph Naayem in his book, "Shall This Nation die?" published in 1920 where he describes the wholesale massacre of Assyrians, members of the Chaldean and the Syrian Orthodox Churches in Turkey, Chrch of the East in the mountains of Kurdistan and the villages in northwest Iran as told by the eyewitness survivors.
The British archieves includes the testemony of one Turkish officer: 'Lieutenant Sayied Ahmed Moukhtar Baas' who describes what happened to one convoy which he was in charge of.
"In July 1915 I was ordered to accompany a convoy of deported Armenians. It was the last batch from Trebizond. There were in the convoy 120 men, 700 children and about 400 women. From Trebizond I took them to Gumish-Khana. Here the 120 men were taken away, and, as I was informed later, they were all killed. At Gumish-Khana I was ordered to take the women and children to Erzinjian. On the way I saw thousands of bodies of Armenians unburied. Several bands of "Shotas" met us on the way and wanted me to hand over to them women and children. But I persistently refused. I did leave on the way about 300 children with Moslem families who were willing to take care of them and educate them. The "Mutessarrif" of Erzinjian ordered me to proceed with the convoy to Kamack. At the latter place the authorities refused to take charge of the women and children. I fell ill and wanted to go back, but I was told that as long as the Armenians in my charge were alive I would be sent from one place to the other. However I managed to include my batch with the deported Armenians that had come from Erzeroum. In charge of the latter was a colleague of mine Mohamed Effendi from the Gendarmerie. He told me afterwards that after leaving Kamach they came to a valley where the Euphrates ran. A band of Shotas sprang out and stopped the convoy. They ordered the escort to keep away and then shot every one of the Armenians and threw them in the river."
Armenians are often mentioned as the only people who were persecuted during world war one in Turkey's official documents, and by the western press because they had a larger population and were better known because of their trade contacts with the west and their troubles with the central government. Western travelers often stayed away from the rural regions such as the Tur al-Abedeen, in Southeast Turkey, the mountain regions between Persia and Turkey, or the province of Urmia in Northwest Iran (Persia), where mostly Assyrians lived. During the massacres Turks and Kurds had no intention of making a distinction between the Armenians and the Assyrians who were considered the enemy of the state because of their Christianity. If Genocide means the systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group the Assyrian were subjected to such treatment during what is known as "The Armenian Genocide", but their plight was mostly ignored in the West even when their massacres were described in the Blue Book published in 1916 by the British Government titled "The Treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire."
The American Ambassador Henry I Morgenthau at Constantinople from 1913 to 1916 who brought to the attention of the world the plight of the Armenians wrote "The story which I have told about the Armenians I could also tell with certain modifications about the Greeks and the Syrians [Assyrians of the Syrian Orthodox Church].....Turks afterward decided to apply the same methods on a larger scale not only to the Greeks but to the Armenians, Syrians, Nestorians, and others of its subject peoples." (HENRY I MORGENTHAU, "AMBASSADOR MORGENTHAU'S STORY", GARDEN CITY NEW YORK DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY 1918 CHAPTER XXIV, THE MURDER OF A NATION,)
The Assyrian authors also described what happened to their people in books such as: "Death of A Nation" by Abraham Yohannan 1916- -"The Rage of Islam: an Account of the Massacre of Christians by the Turks in Persia" by Yonan H. Shabaz 1918- -"Shall this Nation Die?" by Joseph Naayem, 1920 - -"The Flickering Light of Asia", by Joel Warda, 1924. In the Syriac language, "Assyrians During the Two World Wars" by Yagob Malik Esmaeil, 1964, and others.
Jean Naayem in his "Les Assyro-Chaldeans et les Armeniens Massacres Par les Turcs", Paris, 1920 writes: "[I will] relate the details of the tragic martyrdom of the Assyro-Chaldeans from the Jezireh district on the Tigris [not far] from Midyat, where more than fifty villages, whose names I know, villages for the most part fertile and flourishing ...were completely sacked and ruined while the entire population was put to the sword." Sebastien de Courtois, p.162. This was only the tip of the iceberg, volumes can be wrtten abou the subject.
William Warda, January 11, 06
See also articles on this site at : Treatment of Christianity in the Middle East
Hundreds of Thousands Died Along the Way!
From Shall This nation Die?
By Joseph Naayem
In a preface to this book Viscount Bryce who was instrumental in publishing "The Treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire" wrote: it was the suffering of the Armenians that chiefly drew the attention of Britain and America because of their greater population but communities such as "Nestorian and Assyro-Chaldean" were equally subjected to extermination even though Turkey has never alleged that they constituted any danger to that country."
The Deposition of Madame Habiba Ttirkoghlou, a Chaldean [Assyrian] Lady
It was during the afternoon of Saturday, July the l2th, :1915, that we were informed all Christians were to be deported from Trebizond. We were at Totz at the time, a village three hours' journey from Trebizond, which my family had fled to during the bombardment of the town by the Russians. Very much upset by the command, we returned to Trebizond the next day, and were granted four days in which to make our preparations for deportation.
The whole town was terror-stricken. The Christians were in tears, and their cries resounded everywhere. Trebizond was a city of mourning. A crowd of breathless women was running about the streets, pursued by soldiers deaf to their prayers. The men had been torn from their homes and taken to a monastery called Astvazatzin. On the 13th of July, five days before the order for the deportation, all men who were Russian subjects and all the members of the Tashnaktzagan Committee were collected and placed on board a motor-boat, treated with great harshness, and told that they were to be taken to Sinope or Constantinople to be tried by courtmartial. All were men of position. Once well out to sea, they were thrown overboard and drowned. We learnt of their sad end when some days later we found about four hundred of their bodies on the seashore.'
This awful tragedy threw the inhabitants into a condition of indescribable terror. In their desperation some burnt their houses; others threw themselves into wells, and many committed suicide by jumping from roofs and windows. Not a few, some women among them, lost their reason. They knew, poor wretches, that their turn would come inevitably, and that they would be put to death without pity.
We were advised by Madame Hekimian, whose husband was an army doctor, to leave our child with the American mission. She promised to look after it well, since, being the wife of a soldier, she had the right to remain. We followed her advice, and left my little Dico, then a baby of fifteen months, at the mission with a sum of money to defray the expense of his keep.
On the night of this fatal day some Turkish merchants came to our house and had an important secret interview with my husband. The mysterious conference lasted half an hour, after which my husband came to me and said: " We have found a means of saving ourselves; by embracing Islam."
His words made me speechless with anger. "Never shall I become Mussulman! "I cried. "You are free to deny your faith if you will." All my family tried to persuade me. My husband, quite broken down, asked me tearfully: "Do you want to be the cause of our losing all?
I went to see the Turkish merchants in the adjoining room. They in their turn tried to convince me.
"Come to your senses and save your family," they urged. I told them my final answer was that I would rather die than deny my faith. "I leave my husband free to adopt your religion," I added, "but, for my own part, I refuse to become a Mohammedan." These men are now in Constantinople. Their names are Osman Loutfi and Osman Effendi Keurzade. Reminding us of what the Turks had had to suffer at the hands of the Christians, according to their story, the men departed after warning us that the former would certainly and cruelly revenge themselves upon the latter.
On Thursday, 21st June,' early in the morning, we learned that the houses of the Christians had been surrounded by the soldiers with fixed bayonetsin order to prevent all intercommunication between them. From this we realized that the hour of our sad fate had struck. Foreseeing that we should be deported, we made our preparations accordingly. Meanwhile the order came for us to quit our homes. We left the house, and my husband, having a presentiment of what was to befall us, cried like a child. Friends of the Committee of Utrion and Progress consoled us, saying that we would return soon.
A large convoy was formed- and we started. Some of the poor victims carried blankets on their shoulders, others mattresses, in fact all kinds of household goods and utensils. Our first stop was at D6guirmendir6, half an hour outside the town, where we caught up with thousands of men and women who had, preceded us. The soldiers obliged us to march on foot, preventing us from making use of carriages or other means of transit. Two officers were in charge of the convoy, Captain Bechiktachli Aguah Bey, a man of thirty or thirty-three years of age, and the Lieutenant, Trabzounii Hadji-Kiialil Zade Faik Bey, about twenty-five.'
"Treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire," by Lord Bryce-Blue Book, page 299. Extract from an interview with Comm. G. Gorrini, late Italian Consul-General at Trebi,zond, who left Trebizond on July the 23rd, 1915, in the interval between the Italian declarations of war against Austria-Hungary and against Turkey.
"It was a real extermination and slaughter of the innocents, an unheard-of thing a black page stained with flagrant viota,tions of the most sacred rights of humanity, of Christianity, of nationality. There were about fourteen thousand Armenians at Trebizond-Gregorians, Catholics and Protestants. They had never created disorders, nor given the police any occasion for anxiety".
Those who composed the convoy were searched before it set out. Even small penknives were taken from us on the ground that they were weapons. The ruffians told us that these offences to our modesty were nothing compared to what the Bulgarians had done to their women. Orders were brought to the effect that the officers in charge were to get us to Djezir6 in the Province of Diarbekir, and to do it within twelve hours. This meant that we were to be killed on the way, since it was manifestly impossible that the journey could be accomplished in that time, Djezir6 being more than a month's march on foot.
We left D6guirmend6r6 at four o'clock in the evening, in a torrent of rain. Our convoy numbered over 5,000. We were escorted by soldiers, who herded us like a flock of sheep. In the lead was Captain Aguah Bey, while, Faik Bey brought up the rear of the sad procession of terror and death.
Four hours' walking brought us to Hadji-Mehmed. It was still raining when we halted at a small caf6 at the path which leads from Trebizond to Erzerum. There we were separated from the men and gathered together in groups, I entered the caf6 with Madame Mari Arabian, a woman who had also left her child at the American Mission, and there we passed the night. She was in a condition Of complete nervous collapse. During the night I saw her raise herself with a start, and, unbuttoning her dress in a mechanical way, present her breast to the baby she thought she had at her side. Almost delirious, she then sighed and fell asleep, making a movement as if she were kissing her child. This touching scene of motherly tenderness upset me so much that, thinking of my own baby, likewise confided to the care of the mission, I could not refrain from weeping.
The men who had been seized at Trebizond and shut up in the monastery at Astvazatzin, on May 1st, rejoined us at this point and were added to our convoy. At eight in the morning we started off again and gained a road between two streams, some hours from Hadji Mehmed. Some of the younger prisoners in despair threw themselves into the water and were drowned. Midday saw us at Yessir Oghlou. There were a few carriages there, and by means of bribery the few children with us were put into them to be sent back and placed in charge of the American Mission.
At four o'clock we left Yessir-Oghlou, numbering then about six thousand men and women, and reached Boklou-Khan on foot. At this place three or four women lost their reason owing to the description the soldiers, with exquisite cruelty, gave of the sufferings in store for us.
Hateful as these butchers were to us, we were obliged to care for the comfort of the two officers in charge, offering them every kind of food and drink which we possessed.
Leaving at eight o'clock next morning, we continued our journey all day on foot, rain falling for an hour and a half. At three in the afternoon we arrived at Zeghan6, a telephone station at the foot of a snowcapped mountain of the same name. Our guards wished to compel us to pass the night there, but the officers of whom we took so much care listened to our incessant petitions and allowed us to pass the night in the shelter of a village an hour ahead. Here the whole convoy proceeded. For L. 77 we obtained refuge in houses, and the bakery was opened so that we might buy bread,. Our family and nine others were permitted to stay in a so-called hotel, an old tumble-down house.
That evening at nine o'clock the lieutenant sent for my husband and asked him to act as an intermediary in a rather delicate matter. He had fallen madly in love with Keghanoushe Arabian, and wished my husband to intercede with her relatives on his behalf. This request was a hidden command, and had to be obeyed. Finally, as a way out of the difficulty, my husband replied that the matter did not depend on him, and that the officer himself could address the parents of the girl next day. We were puzzled how to act in the matter, and could not sleep all night, for if the matter fell through we were lost. Next day we held a family council and agreed to give up the girl, thinking that this might help the rest.
We passed a night at Keuprui-Bachi, and, in the morning, started for Daldaban. Keghanoushe was handed over to the officer, who returned with her to Trebizond, accompanied by Madame Gaizak Arabian and Madame Kelerian, who had each given L. T. 500 to accompany her.
We noticed that our two officers had disappeared. The soldiers turned back and ordered the drivers of the vehicles to stop. Fearing some danger, I got out and advised my husband to do likewise, but he refused. Twenty soldiers surrounded me and ordered me to get in again. They pushed me, dragged me by the arms and even threatened me with their bayonets. My terror got the better of me, and I became violently ill. Seeing me in this state, one of the soldiers, by way of 'Helping me, made me rejoin the convoy. I had to walk, and became separated from the carriages, the occupants of which were robbed of their money by the soldiers.
On our arrival at Daldaban, after a march of three hours, we were as-sailed by urchins, who, seated on garderi walls, threw stones, dung and every kind of filth at us. Women stoned us, screaming in their hatred:
"Get along, you Christian pigs! You are being properly treated now!"
As we came to the foot of the mountain we noticed that it was occupied by the Tchettas, brigands, who intended to take our lives. With them was the Mutessarif 9 of Gumush-Hawe, a place half an hour's journey distant, with his staff. The Tchettas, aided by soldiers, closed in upon us, and the commanding officer ordered the men to be separated from the women. The officers, who had disappeared at the time the occupants of the carriages now reappeared to plunder, and, failing upon us like hyenas, separated us from the men with the utmost violence, even using the butts of their rifles.
Our sufferings and misery were at their height. After all the perversions we had undergone; the beastial sights at which we had been present; the violations, murders and massacres we had witnessed, we were physical wrecks, and our whole nervous systems broke down. The separation of the men from the women was the last straw. We plodded along like cattle, brainless, stoically waiting to be finished, or begging God to end our sad existence by death.