102 Years After The Massacre Of Our Ancestors I Found My Second Cousin

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Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire (the Armenian, Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac and Greek genocide), The Promise follows a love triangle between Michael, a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and sophisticated Ana, and Chris – a renowned American journalist based in Paris.
This February, while preparing the Swedish premiere of The Promise, Jakob, a German philanthropist and entrepreneur looked me up. A month or so went by and I forgot to get back to him. He looked for me on social media, sent me messages, and tried to call me. He

claimed he wanted to help refugees in Syria and wondered if I could help him organize it. I reluctantly returned his call. I was already drowning in work and did not have the time to take on more.

An hour or so into the call he asked me where I lived.

“In Södertälje, Sweden? I have relatives there, my grandmother’s sister’s children,” he said. I asked for their names. He had no idea, but knew that his grandmother’s sister was called Meyyo. I thought he was kidding at first. It is not exactly a usual nickname, short for Meryem. I asked if maybe his grandmother was named Kitso, which was my grandmother’s sister’s name. He dropped his phone. He could barely breathe. A hundred years after the genocide, “Seyfo,” of which three sisters survived the slaughter of their family, two of their grandchildren got in contact with each other for the very first time.

Meyyo was thrown into the family well with the other family members who had been slaughtered. Kitso and the third sister, Warde, managed to flee to the nearest village, but then lost contact with each other after traveling with Assyrian/Syriac/Chaldean families to what became Syria after the fall of the Ottoman empire.

A muslim man who passed the well heard a child’s voice and decided to open the lid. He found Meyyo who had survived and took her with him. When she had turned 14 a neighbor saw her outside the house where the man lived. The family neighbor took her back to the few remaining relatives. She then married Faulus, a relative. They became my grandparents. Meyyo passed away the year I was born, Faulus passed away in Södertälje.

102 years ago today, the decision to exterminate all Christians in the Ottoman empire was made. All Armenians, Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs and Greeks were to be killed. Their churches, schools, libraries, and houses were to be destroyed and their land stolen.

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“Not a stone over a stone shall remain and heads will be severed from the bodies,” was the motto.

One of my first jobs as a journalist was the movie “The Cry Unheard” about Seyfo.

That was also the first time I experienced stomach issues. That the evidence was easy to find, that several embassies had documented the massacres and reported home about them, that there were thousands of eyewitnesses just waiting for someone to interview them, all these horrible stories resulted in an ulcer for me. The fact that I acted as a devil’s advocate for each of the stories that my colleagues and I heard, demanding that we had to find evidence for each did not make it easier.

Back then, I never thought that Seyfo would repeat itself a hundred years after the first one and that I would be working on a new journalistic assignment covering the ongoing genocide. Maybe in a hundred years, other cousins and second cousins will find each other in countries far away from the ones they were born in.

*Babilona Khosravi from Sweden and Tabeetha Adde from USA also contributed to this report