Demanding the Turks and the Kurds to apologize to the Assyrians for the genocides of (1831-1937)!

Fixing the errors of the past sets the foundation for securing the future.
Chamaoun Danho
 Following the Ottoman State resolution to remove the Armenians from their historical homeland in April 24, 1914, the Assyrians (Church Of The East, Syrians and Chaldeans) were victims of racial genocides as well as brutal and horrible carnages led by the Ottomans and many of the Kurdish tribes. It is true that these genocides that reached their peak in the summer of 1915, mainly targeted the Armenians, but that was not the whole truth of it. In fact, the Turkish resolved to eradicate all Christian existence without any distinction between an Assyrian, a Greek or an Armenian. Prior to these atrocious bloodbaths, the ottomans overlooked the racial cleansing committed by the famous Kurdish leaders Mohammed Al Rawanduzi prince of Suran (1831-1836) and Baderkhan Beik prince of Butan (1843-1846), against the Assyrians in Hakkari, Turabdin, Zakho, Nouhdra (today’s Dohuk), Nineveh plain and Arbil. The racial cleansing campaigns committed by the Ottomans and the Kurds throughout a whole century, resulted most importantly in altering the ethnic, linguistic and religious map of all the peoples inhabiting the upper lands of the Tigris and Euphrates (northern Iraq and south east Turkey) in a manner that served the Kurds best. The irony in this matter resides in the fact that most of the Armenian and Assyrian historical homelands were occupied by Kurds and not by a Turkish or Arab majority…!? When one million Armenians and a half million Assyrian martyrs were victims of genocides conducted under the title of “Al Jihad” as well as national and religious fanaticism, the number of the Kurds at that particular period did not exceed 2.5 million according to most historians and orientalists, in all Persia and the Ottoman and Russian territories!? Thus, Kurds were the sole beneficiaries from these acts of displacing Assyrians and Armenians from their historical homelands. This truth, supported by the current geographical and demographic facts of the northern Mesopotamia, was absent or ignored by the decision makers in the Sublime Porte earlier and in Baghdad and Damascus later!

Turkish or Kurdish responsibility ??
Racial genocides, which were committed against the Assyrians in the early 20th century, raised great controversy between the Assyrians themselves and between the Kurds and the Turks as to whom will be held accountable for these bloody campaigns. Both parties (the Turkish and the Kurdish) are blaming each other for these atrocities. At this point, two issues must be cleared out in this sensitive affair, knowing that the legal responsibility should be borne solely by the ottoman state, for it was bound and responsible to protect its citizens from the Kurdish attacks rather than feeding the hatred and escalating the already electrified tension.

First: the Turkish role
By putting the ruthless Hamidite troops, created by the Sultan Abdul Hamid (1842-1918) into action, the Turks wished to eradicate the non-Turks, namely the Christians (the native inhabitants), in order to carry out the ottoman sultans’ dream of establishing Great Turkey and creating the state of New Turkey, empty of all “strange” peoples. Yet, the most important of all in these acts, was to ensure constant dominion over the sources of the two great rivers; Tigris and Euphrates. This fact enabled the Turks after many centuries, to use the winning card of controlling the element of water against Syria and Iraq whenever they deem it necessary.

Meanwhile and upon the breakout of the First World War in 1914, the Assyrians joined forces with the Allies against the Ottomans, hoping to liberate the Assyrian territory from the Ottoman tyranny. The Turks responded to the Assyrian demands of liberation by forcing them out of their historical homelands. They actually achieved that by utilizing the Sublime Porte most lethal tool; the Kurds, whose contribution in the genocides against the Assyrians helped the Ottomans to the highest degree to eradicate the Assyrians completely. Once the Ottomans had won their wars against the local and powerless Christians, all the regions and towns that housed the Kurds after the genocides, became a major subject of a still existing conflict between the Turks, victorious over the Assyrians and the Armenians and the Kurds, eager to take these regions from the Ottomans and annex them to their dream of Great Kurdistan.

Second: the Kurdish role
When we tackle the topic of the massacres conducted by the Kurds against the Assyrians in northern Mesopotamia, we should actually go back to the racial cleansing led by Mohammed Al Rawanduzi prince of Suran in 1831 and the massacre of Amuda in Syria in 1937. Throughout more than a hundred years, carnages and cleansing campaigns, committed by the Kurds against the Christian Assyrians were incessant. Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that when Mohammed Al Rawanduzi and Baderkhan Beik ousted thousands of Assyrians, they were not under the Turks rule because they had already declared their independence. This implies that they enjoyed free decision, thus they should be held responsible for slaughtering thousands of Assyrians and inhabiting the Iraqi and Syrian villages with a Kurdish majority.

The Kurdish participation in the genocides of (1914-1918), carried out by the ottomans against the Assyrians, had the ultimate purpose of eliminating the Assyrians and forcing them out of Hakari, Tur-Abdin, Al Amadieh, the suburbs of Arbil and the Assyrian villages in Syria because these territories stood as obstacle in the face of joining the Kurdish lands altogether. For example, the Assyrians in the Hakari Mountains were impeding the geographic and demographic connection between the Kurds of Azerbaijan (regions of Urmia, Salames and Oramer) and the lands that became Kurdish in southeast Turkey. Moreover, Tur-Abdin mountains, which housed prior to the racial cleansing campaigns more than 250 thousand Assyrians stood as a firm land that prevented the Kurdish expansion in the western direction towards the Euphrates. The Kurds helped the Turks massively to force the Assyrians from these mountains, which housed a Kurdish majority after the genocides of 1914-1919. The same goes for the Assyrians who inhabited Nineveh plain, the suburbs of Arbil and the villages stretching from Nouhadra (Dohuk) in the far north west of Iraq down to the vicinity of Mosul.
Amidst the turmoil that spread after the First World War, Turkey took advantage of the Kurdish religious sentiments and instigated them to launch the holy war against the “Disbelievers” (the Assyrians and the Armenians). Voluntarily and very carefully, many Kurdish tribes executed the Ottoman plan, which involved the complete elimination of the Assyrians in Syria. Turkey’s Kurds were not the only ones to respond to the Sublime Porte call but Iran’s and Iraq’s Kurds as well. This call consisted of eliminating not only the Christians in Turkey but also the Assyrians in northern Iraq and Persia. Hence, many Kurdish tribes rushed to force the Assyrians out of the Iraqi towns of Barwar, Zakho and Al Amadieh. For instance, Father Joseph Neaimeh, who witnessed the aftermath of these genocides and documented many of the victims’ testimonies, mentions in his book “Shall this nation die ?” – published in 1920- that Iraq’s Kurds took part in the racial cleansing campaigns against Iraq’s Assyrian Christians of the Chaldean church, He wrote: “during the Allies’ occupation in June and July of the year 1919, two Chaldean towns near Mosul; Al Amadieh and Zakho, which were safe due to the tiresome efforts made by Babylon patriarch, were brutally attacked by the Kurdish who killed the men, looted the properties, wreaked havoc in everywhere and kidnapped the women…”

The participation of Iran’s Kurds in these genocides were reported by the Russian researcher Vassili Nikitin in his book; “The Kurds” (Arabic edition, P: 340-341). He wrote: “during the First World War, the Sheikhs encouraged all the Kurdish tribes living to the south of Urmia Lake, sometimes contrary to the tribes’ leaders’ will, to hoist the banner of the Jihad despite the Iranian Parliament resolution to maintain neutrality and not to interfere in the favor of any party. The Kurds, who are not fanatic Muslims, responded to the call of the Jihad as enthusiastically as the Turks themselves. Even in Iran, the Kurds adopted the Turkish cause and were the first volunteers to fight in this Holy War for they saw in it a shining opportunity to reveal their appetite for war, at the expense of the Christians. Our task here is not to criticize the Holy Jihad, which we had the painful opportunity of witnessing it in action from our position in the Russian Consulate in Urmia”. The researcher wrote in another chapter (P: 129) “ The Kurdish nomads thirst for blood exceeds the thirst of others and the recurring slaughters against the Christians stand as irrefutable evidence to these acts”.

Honorable Kurdish positions
To cut the road on some over-reacting Kurds who seem ready to attack anyone criticizing them, we say that when we tackle the topic of racial cleansing campaigns, led by the Turks against the Assyrians and the Kurdish role in these atrocities, we are not accusing all the Kurds and the Turks. In fact, we do believe that there is some evidence proving that many Kurds and Turks did not take part in these bloodbaths. Nikitin, for example, mentions in his book (The Kurds) a Kurdish socialite (Mulla Saiid) who stood against the Holy War. But, unfortunately these kindhearted voices did not have the power to halt the slaughters or to limit the Kurdish expansions. Nikitin speaks of Mulla Saiid (P: 344-345) as the following: “Mulla Said was one of many educated Kurds who stood without fear against the call to Jihad. Because of his positions, he was apprehended by the Turkish government and put to trial for delivering an advisory opinion that it was illegal to call that war with the name of Holy Jihad. Within his defense during the trial, he said:” I am not responsible before the Shariia(Mulim Laws) and the positive laws for I have not found anything in our Shariia that orders to kill innocent and harmless people… I believe that the piety and knowledge of the Muslim Sheikh as well as the justice and never-ending mercy of the Caliph can not permit the issuance of a “Fatwa” ordering to kill and loot the properties of the poor Nestorian citizens, who since the beginning of Islam, never raised arms in the face of Muslims or declared war against them”.

The Assyrian torments after the establishment of the Turkish republic and the birth of the “Kurdish Labors Party – PKK”
The Assyrian torments in southeast Turkey (mountains of Hakkari, Turabdin Nsibin, Omid, Mardin “Merde” and Urhoy “Edessa”) did not end once the racial cleansing campaigns against them during the years 1914-1918 had stopped. The Assyrians did not know peace and tranquility even when Turkey became a secular state in 1924 under Kamal Ataturk and modern Kurdish parties replacing the Kurdish “Aghas” and feudalists began to spring out.
Turkey did not acknowledge the racial cleansing campaigns, which forced thousands of Assyrians out of their historical homelands and did not admit in its constitution their historical presence in northern Mesopotamia. Yet instead, Turkey went on giving Turkish names to most of the Assyrian villages in south east Turkey in an attempt to wipe out all remaining aspects of the Assyrian culture. Turkey prohibited as well teaching or speaking the ancient Syriac (the Assyrians’ language) and formed, just like the Hamidite troops which were created by the Sultan Abdul Hamid in 1890, Kurdish militias named as “Guards of the villages” to strike the Assyrians and the Armenians. By creating these militias, Turkey’s objective was obvious and twofold; to sow dissension among the Kurds themselves and to expel the remaining Assyrians population out of south east Turkey.

When the Kurdish Labors Party (PKK) started to gain grounds after declaring armed conflict against the Turkish government in 1984, this liberal party put tremendous pressure on the Assyrians and Kurdish villages so they would provide money, refuge, food and clothing for its members. When the Assyrians responded to these demands in fear of vengeance and slaughters, Turkish tanks and military troopers would come to destroy these villages and burn their lands and crops as a punishment for supporting the Kurdish rebels, for example the incidents that took place during the 1990s in the villages of Hassana, Midon, Dayro du Slibo, Deiro d Qoubo and others. The same happened the other way around, for example the incident that took place in the Assyrian village of Bnaybeel when the PKK assassinated in 1990 four of the village’s socialites after accusing them of helping the Turkish government whereas the truth reveals that these four men stood firmly against the destructive departure of the Assyrians from Tur-Abdin. Thus, the real purpose for killing those men was to terrorize the villagers and force them to opt for departure as a solution for safety. What is more irritating is that the “Kurdish Hezbollah” has also taken his share of horrific assassinations that targeted the Assyrians educated elite along with innocent people and children, presenting unconvincing religious reasons, which has nothing to do with Islam. All these harassments and assaults led to the expelling of more than 150 thousand Assyrians from Tur-Abdin Mountains since the breakout of the Kurdish Labor Party revolution against the Turkish government not to mention the 1924 mass departure of the Assyrians from the city of “Urhoy” (Edessa) to escape the Kurdish and Turkish tyranny. The departed Assyrians built in Aleppo next to their fellow citizens the Christian Assyrians and the Muslims their own neighborhood, which was named after them and still exist till today “Hay Al-Surian” (The Assyrian Neighborhood).

Along with pain, bitterness and tormenting memories of their homeland, the Assyrians who were expelled out of Turkey carried the racial cleansing files to European parliaments of Sweden, Germany and Netherlands. Recently, the Swiss parliament voted over a proposition to acknowledge the racial cleansing committed by the Turks in collaboration with the Kurdish tribes but it failed to pass by only two votes. Today, Assyrian parties and organizations in Europe are sparing no efforts to prevent Turkey’s adherence to the European Union until it acknowledges the horrible racial cleansing campaigns committed against the Assyrians while stressing on the necessity that Turkey should respect human rights and tangibly acknowledge the national and religious diversity of the Turkish society.

Apologizing to the Assyrians
After narrating all these tragedies, the Assyrian people is demanding today the Turks and the Kurds to present their official apology and compensate them for all the losses they incurred. When we mention the Kurds with the Turks, we are referring and condemning the Kurdish malefactors who assisted the Turks to force the Assyrians out of their historical homelands on which the Kurds and not the Turks or the Arabs seized control. Most important of all is that all the Assyrians hope that both parts, the Turkish and the Kurdish would cease distorting and forging history in order to legalize their seizure of the upper lands of Tigris and Euphrates. The two parts are also responsible to educate the ordinary Turkish and Kurdish citizens so they would renounce violence, killing and injustice against the Christians of the region. That would be realized via television and radio programs teaching to reject all aspects of violence whether it was against the self or against the different other. These procedures and initiatives are extremely urgent to ensure that the perturbing accidents of the past would not be reiterated and to reassure the Christians in the region and thus stop their constant immigration, not to enjoy the pleasures offered by life bit to flee massacres and injustice.

It is worth mentioning that apology is a civilized and unshameful phenomenon. Americans, for instance, apologized to the Red Indians; original inhabitants of the continent and Hollywood produced hundreds of movies reporting in details the racial cleansing campaigns conducted by the new American settlers against the Red Indians. On May of each year and to commemorate the killing of thousands of the aboriginals’ children, women and men by new arriving settlers from Europe, the Australians march in massive manifestations during which they weep to express their remorse for the massacres their ancestors conducted against the aboriginals.

Today, the Australian soil houses both peoples, therefore reconciliation and coexistence became inevitable elements in the Australians’ life in order to build the road to the future away from exaggeration, fanaticism and horrible racism. In this regard, should the Turks and the Kurds present their apologies like the Americans and the Australians did, all these painful genocides that harmed the Turks and Kurds reputation, would be forgotten and a new page of brotherly relations between all compatriots would be opened. The future challenges and difficulties that lie ahead of these peoples require joint efforts to deal with the problems of unemployment, environment, fanaticism, terrorism, scarcity of water and other crucial issues threatening mankind everywhere. They should focus as well on man’s indispensable needs that enable him to live freely and with dignity. The sole purpose of bringing back these appalling memories is to benefit from the lessons of the past since recording historical facts without honesty in narration is a major crime against humanity and its history which belongs to us all.

Chamaoun Danho
A Writer from Mesopotamia