Assyrian genocide

systematic killing of Assyrians residing in the Ottoman Empire

The Assyrian genocide (also known as Sayfo or Seyfo) refers to the mass slaughter of the Assyrian population of the Ottoman Empire during the 1890s and the First World War, in conjunction with the Armenian and Greek genocides.

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  • The ethnic and religious balance that could have contributed to the well being of all the inhabitants of northern Mesopotamia was terminated because their Islamic neighbours lost the will to co-exist with the Christian Assyrians. This development claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people and ultimately contributed to driving the remaining Assyrians from the land of their ancestors.
    • Hirmis Aboona, Assyrians, Kurds, and Ottomans: intercommunal relations on the periphery of the Ottoman Empire (2008), p. 285.
  • While the death toll in the trenches of Western Europe were close to 2 million by the summer of 1915, the extermination of innocent civilians in Turkey (the Armenians, but also Syrian and Assyrian Christians and large portions of the Greek population, especially the Greeks of Pontos, or Black Sea region) was reaching 1 million.
  • [T]he East Syrians [Assyrians] were twice the victims of a general genocide - first in the late fourteenth century by Tamerlane, and then in 1915/1918 by the Turks and Kurds.
    • Christoph Baumer, The Church of the East: An Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity 246 (London: I.B. Tauris, 2006).
  • A very rough estimate of the total of Ottoman Assyrian dead as a result of massacre before and after April–May 1915, and of wartime starvation and the conditions of flight, might be in the region of 20,000–30,000, to which should be added perhaps 7,000 Persian Assyrians.
    • Donald Bloxham, The Great Game of Genocide: Imperialism, Nationalism, and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians (2006), p. 98.
  • The full-scale Ottoman invasion of Persian Azerbeijan at the beginning of 1915 was accompanied by killings of both Armenians and Assyrians....
    • Donald Bloxham, Genocide, the World Wars and the Unweaving of Europe (2008), p. 50.
  • Continuing working on a book on Danish-Armenian relations of course during the Armenian Genocide, but also before and after that spanning from 1900 to 1940, and as I work in genocide I’m thinking of writing about other aspects of Young Turk policies like the destruction of the Ottoman Greeks and the Assyrians.
  • The bloodstained annals of the East contain no record of massacres more unprovoked, more widespread or more terrible than those perpetrated by the Turkish Government upon the Christians of Anatolia and Armenia in 1915. It was the sufferings of the Armenians that chiefly drew the attention of Britain and America because they were the most numerous among the ecclesiastical bodies, and the slaughter was, therefore, on a larger scale. But the minor communities, such as the Nestorian and Assyro-Chaldean churches, were equally the victims of the plan for exterminating Christianity, root and branch,. although the Turks had never ventured to allege that these communities had given any ground of offense.
  • It is believed that in Turkey between 1913 and 1922, under the successive regimes of the Young Turks and of Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), more than 3.5 million Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Christians were massacred in a state-organized and state-sponsored campaign of destruction and genocide, aiming at wiping out from the emerging Turkish Republic its native Christian populations. This Christian Holocaust is viewed as the precursor to the Jewish Holocaust in WWII. To this day, the Turkish government ostensibly denies having committed this genocide.
  • Turkish denialism of the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians is official, driven, constant, rampant and increasing each year since the events of 1915 to 1922. It is state-funded, with special departments and units in overseas missions whose sole

purpose is to dilute, counter, minimise, trivialise and relativise every reference to the events which encompassed a genocide of Armenians, Pontian Greeks and Assyrian Christians in Asia Minor.

    • Elizabeth Burns Coleman, Kevin White, Negotiating the Sacred: Blasphemy and Sacrilege in a Multicultural Society, p. 82.
  • … Haydar Bey, the Governor of Mosul, came with Turkish units and cannons.... The Turks occupied our villages and burned them down. Now Assyrians live on the mountain peaks.... They are dying from hunger, because they have no food. We have no bullets, we are surrounded by the Turks, and we have no solution.
    • Mar Shimun XXI Benjamin, Patriarch of Babylon and All the East, Letter to the Russians (July 1915), quoted in David Gaunt, Massacres, Resistance, Protectors: Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia During World War I, at 121 (Piscataway, New

Jersey: Gorgias Press, 2006).

  • The ghastly slope was crowned by thousands of half-nude and still bleeding corpses, lying in heaps, or interlaced in death’s final embrace. … Overcome by the hideous spectacle, and jumping our horses over the mountains of cadavers, which obstructed our passage, I entered Siirt with my men. There we found the police and the populace engaged in sacking the homes of the Christians. … I met various sub-Governors of the province … who had directed the massacre in person. From their talk I realized at once that the thing had been arranged the day before … Meanwhile I had taken up my lodging in a handsome house belonging to Nestorians, which had been sacked like all the rest. There was nothing left in the way of furniture except a few broken chairs. Walls and floors were stained with blood.
    • Rafael de Nogales, Four Years Beneath the Crescent (New York: Charles Scribner's sons, 1926), p. 125, quoted in Hannibal Travis, Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq, and Sudan (2010), p. 248.
  • WHEREAS the denial of genocide is widely recognized as the final stage of genocide, enshrining impunity for the perpetrators of genocide, and demonstrably paving the way for future genocides;
    WHEREAS the Ottoman genocide against minority populations during and following the First World War is usually depicted as a genocide against Armenians alone, with little recognition of the qualitatively similar genocides against other Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire;
    BE IT RESOLVED that it is the conviction of the International Association of Genocide Scholars that the Ottoman campaign against Christian minorities of the Empire between 1914 and 1923 constituted a genocide against Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontian and Anatolian Greeks.
    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Association calls upon the government of Turkey to acknowledge the genocides against these populations, to issue a formal apology, and to take prompt and meaningful steps toward restitution.

resolution] on 16 December 2007, formally recognizing the campaign of the Ottoman Empire and the Young Turks against the Greeks and Assyrians as genocide.

  • The Assyrian population throughout the empire was subjected to massacre, deportation, dismemberment, torture, and other atrocities. Whole cities were depopulated, and, when not killed outright, the inhabitants were send on the aforementioned death marches.
  • Historians, perhaps concerned not to magnify these events by comparison with those of 1915-16, tend to avoid the term genocide to describe them. In my formulation, however, these events would

constitute partial genocide.... In the last hundred years, four Eastern Anatolian groups—Armenians, Kurds, Assyrians, and Greeks—have fallen victim to state-sponsored attempts by the Ottoman authorities or their Turkish or Iraqi successors to eradicate them....

  • Unlike the Armenian case, in each of these other instances the scope, scale and intensity of the killings was limited, though this does not rule out comparison...The persistence of genocide or near-genocidal incidents from the 1890s through the 1990s, committed by Ottoman and successor Turkish and Iraqi states against Armenian, Kurdish, Assyrian, and Pontic Greek communities in Eastern Anatolia, is striking....
  • Many of our young men [in Seert] tried to escape the massacre by hiding themselves or disguising themselves as women. However, they were usually discovered. They were then dragged through the streets until they died, bound hand and foot, heads towards the ground. The women sought protection under the roof of houses and formed groups of 30 to 40 in order to be able to better protect themselves against trespasses. One day the Muslims began to gather all children between the ages of 6 and 15 and led them to the police commissioner’s office. From there these poor little children were brought to a mountainous area called Ras el-Hadjar and killed; their corpses were thrown into a mountain gorge.
  • I myself stayed for six months in Seert serving the governor, whose predecessor had ordered the massacre. The Turks of the town attested to their joy that all the Christians in Seert had been annihilated and expelled.
    • Jean Naayem, Interview with Halata Hanna, in Les Assyro-Chaldéens et les Arméeniens massacrés par les Turcs.Documents inédits recueillis par un témoin oculaire [The Assyro-Chaldeans and the Armenians, massacred by the Turks. Unpublished documents collected by an eyewitness] (1920), trans. by Gabriele Yonan, Gabriele Yonan, Lest We Perish, A Forgotten Holocaust: The Extermination of the Christian Assyrians in Turkey and Persia (1996), p. 258,
  • A large part of the deportees were killed in the villages, which were Shukri’s property, and the rest near the town bridge. The murderers took the victims’ belongings. Suchproceedings occurred several times, together with deportation marches from Diyarbakir.Many Chaldeans from our parish were among the victims. Meanwhile, the central government in Constantinople issued an amnesty for the Syrians and the Chaldeans. Only a small portion of them were still alive to benefit from it.
  • The massacre of all the Diyarbakir Christians lasted four months.
    • Jean Naayem, Interview with Hanna Shimun, in Les Assyro-Chaldéens et les Arméeniens massacrés par les Turcs. Documents inédits recueillis par un témoin oculaire [The Assyro-Chaldeans and theArmenians, massacred by the Turks. Unpublished documents collected by an eyewitness] (1920), Eng. trans. by Gabriele Yonan, Gabriele Yonan, Lest We Perish, A Forgotten Holocaust: The Extermination of the Christian Assyrians in Turkey and Persia (1996), p. 263,
  • Finally, I should briefly mention the Young Turk slaughter of Armenians, Nestorians, and other Christians during their futile invasion of Caucasia and Northern Persia.... [T]hroughout the [Urmia] region they also exterminated most of the Nestorians, perhaps 47,000 of them.
  • To this day, Turkey rejects the charge of intentional destruction of the Armenians, a stubborn refusal to acknowledge a historical truth that may ultimately cost it membership in the European UnionFN11.
    • FN11 The 1915 mass killings also targeted Syriac Christians [Assyrians].
    • William Schabas, Preventing genocide and mass killing: the challenge for the United Nations, in War Crimes and Human Rights: Essays on the Death penalty, Justice and Accountability (2008), p. 764.
  • The genocidal quality of the murderous campaigns against Greeks and Assyrians is obvious. Historians who realize that the

Young Turks’ population and extermination policies have to be analysed together and understood as an entity are therefore often tempted to speak of a “Christian genocide.”

  • The Young Turks’ overall aim was a demographic reorganization of the Ottoman Empire. All deportations were planned and supervised by the “Directorate for the Settlement of Tribes and Immigrants” that belonged to the Ottoman Ministry of the Interior. A relatively small number of government administrators were thus chiefly involved in the coordination of the murder and expulsion of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians and other minority groups.29
    • Dominik J. Schaller and Jürgen Zimmerer, Late Ottoman genocides: The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and Young Turkish population and extermination policies - introduction, Journal of Genocide Research (2008), 10:1, pp. 7 - 14.
  • The Chaldean diocese of Jazire, including its archbishops, priests and residents, has been completely exterminated. Only two priests, one from Peshkhabur [Fayshkhabour] and one from Guerke, managed to escape with 400 or 500 people and were the last to arrive in Mosul. His Holiness, the patriarch, has taken them under patriarchal protection.
    • Abbé Joseph Tfinkdji, Report to the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, St. Pichon, Jan. 16, 1918, quoted in Arthur Beylerian (Ed.), Les Grands Puissances L’Empire Ottoman et les Arméniens dans les Archives Françaises (1914-1918), pp. 475-479, Eng. trans. by Gabriele Yonan, Lest We Perish, A Forgotten Holocaust: The Extermination of the Christian Assyrians in Turkey and Persia (1996), p. 319, [1].
  • 2. At about the same time, the Nestorians in eastern Kurdistan were expelled from their homes by Turkish troops from Mosul after offering brave resistance, and they were partially destroyed. Their fields and homes were laid to waste. The survivors fled to the Russians and are now fighting in their ranks against Turkey. 3. Khalil Bey’s campaign to north Persia resulted in the massacre of his Armenian and Syrian (Assyrian) battalions and the expulsion of the Armenian, Syrian (Assyrian) and Persian populations from north Persia. They leave behind a great bitterness towards Turkey.
    • Max von Scheubner-Richter, Vice regent at the German Consul in Erzerum, Dec. 4, 1916, Report to the German Imperial Chancellor von Bethmann Hollweg, in Deutschland und Armenian (J. Lepsius ed., Potsdam 1919), pp. 305-9, translated by Gabriele Yonan p. 240.
  • Including refugees from Turkey and the Armenians, there were in Urmia, at the beginning of 1915, not far from 85,000 Christians. The Syrians or Nestorians include not only members of the old Nestorian Church but also Protestant members of the Russian Orthodox Church, and Roman Catholics or Chaldeans, as the last are generally called.... The Salamas Christians (except about 800), most of the Christians of Tabriz, and eight or ten thousand from Urmia fled with the retreating Russians. They left on the shortest notice, without preparation and in the heart of winter. Many perished by the way, mothers dying in childbirth, old men and women and little children falling by the wayside from exhaustion. This fleeing army ofrefugees, increased in numbers by several thousand from the regions in Turkey between Khoi and Van, passed over the Russian border and scattered in the villages and towns of Trans-Caucasia. Many of them died of disease due to the privations and exposures of flight and life as refugees
    • Rev. William A. Shedd, D.D., of the American (Presbyterian) Mission Station at Urmia, Report to the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Gabriele Yonan, Lest We Perish, A Forgotten Holocaust: The Extermination of the Christian Assyrians in Turkey and Persia (1996), p. 114, [2].
  • Do not worry over my death--it is God's will--I am going to protect the rights of the Assyrians at the hands of the biggest and greatest Judge. The books and the work I had started about our nation's education remain unfinished. I am afraid they will be destroyed in the very short time....
    • Ashur K. Yousef, quoted in Sargon Donabed, Remnants of Heroes, The Assyrian Experience (Chicago, IL: The Assyrian Academic Soc. Press, 2000), pp. 113-14.
  • The Genocide Convention of 1948 and other United Nations Conventions strengthen the claims of genocide victims, including the Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians of Asia Minor.
    • Alfred de Zayas, JD, PhD, Human Rights - International Law - and the Armenian Genocide, 2005.

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