Serie no: 0710SYFO

Date: 2007-10.16

 Ladies and gentlemen,

 The Syriac Universal Alliance (SUA) welcomes you all to this seminar about the Syriac Aramean genocide during the First World War. Please let us first have a silent moment for the memory of the victims of this genocide.

 We are gathered hear today to inform you about a 92 years old genocide of one of the origin peoples in Middle East in general and Southeast Turkey particular, namely the genocide of the Syriac-Aramean people in Turkey during 1915-1918. My name is Gabriel Marawgeh, president of the Syriac Universal Alliance (SUA).

 It´s well known that the Syriac-Aramean people have been living in Turkey for thousands of years and that they are the original inhabitants of south east Turkey. Still it is a regrettable fact that precisely in the core territories, there has been a tremendous loss of Syriac-Aramean inhabitants. Many conscious measures from the governing bodies, together with the spite of different ethnic inhabitants, have led to the heavy reduction of the Syriac-Aramean people throughout Turkey. One of the contributing factors of this reduction has been the lack of national ethnical rights. Without the minority rights there has not been any protection for the Syriac-Aramean people, which during the latter part of the 20th century has led to a mass emigration from south east Turkey.

 92 years ago a horrible act started by the last pieces of the Ottoman Empire. The leaders of young Turkish government decided to extinguish the Christians in the country. The killing of Christians had already started earlier, actually it started to happened since1886. The systematic killing started in the spring 1915 in west and middle of the country and reached south east, Tur Abdin, in the beginning of the summer same year.

 Turkish and Kurdish soldiers started the killing in every city, every village and every street, where ever the Christians lived. They murded and massacred children, women and men. Their evilness and methods did not know any limits. Allow me to provide you with a key example by quoting a western diplomat.

He said:

“The men were in a large scale murded. The younger women was transported to the Turkish harems. The children were left to on starvation, while hundreds of them were bond into little tree boats and drown by force in the river Euphrate. The destiny of some other children was to get their hands cut and left to die in the desert. The worse tortyr accured and the police chief of Istanbul did admit once that the Turks had studied the methods of the Spanish inkvisation and used their methods as role models”

So, those, who the Turks and Kurds did not killed, they forced them to convert to Islam, especially younger men (boys) and women (girls). It was every Moslems duty to do so. Because the 14th November 1914 the highest Islamic leader in Turkey, Mustafa haji Efendi, or his official name Sheikh ul-Islam, declared by a Fatwa the holy war against all Christians. He said and I am quoting: “It is every Moslems duty to kill all Christians if they do not convert to Islam”

Of course, this was not the first time that acts of Genocide had taken place. The Syriac-Aramean people have often become a subject for extermination.

For example:

- In the year 1286 Djingis Khan, the leader of the Mongolians, when he entered Middle East; he tried to exterminate the Christian population there. 

- Timur Lenk destroyed many churches in 1394 and many Christians were forced to convert to Islam.

- The  Kurdish people did not spare any Christians during the years 1843, 1846 and 1860

But the details of the 1915 Genocide are horrific and much more bigger. After the Ottomans were notified about the withdrawal of the Russian forces in Persia in late 1914, the ethnic cleansing became even more brutal. The rape, kidnapping of children and women, destruction of villages and killings of men were committed by the Young Turks (the government leaders during the time) and their Turkish and Kurdish people.

For example:

- In April 1915, Ottoman Troops easily invaded Gawar, a region of Hakkari, and massacred the entire population.

- In late 1915, Djevdet Bey, Military Governor of Van Province, with 8,000 soldiers whom he himself called the "The Butchers' Battalion" (Kasap Taburu), gave orders for the massacre of almost 20,000 Syriac-Aramean civilians in at least 30 villages.

These are just few of the known documented killings of the Syriac-Aramean people.

Why those massacres and killings against this people? The Turks and Kurds killed the Syriac-Arameans because of their ethnicity and heritage, they killed the Syriac-Arameans because of their Christian religion, they killed Syriac-Arameans so they could take over their native home Country.

We do have enough evidence that proves that the massacre of Christians was by its very definition a Genocide. The total number of dead people is unknown, but as stated earlier, it is estimated that approximately 500,000 Syriac-Arameans were killed between 1914-1918.

Many Syriac-Arameans also escaped to Russia, Iraq, Syria and to Lebanon. After some time, the plight of the Christian population was noticed in Lebanon by the UN and the Churches World Councils. In 1966 an urgent request from the UN was sent to all countries to help the Syriac refugees in Lebanon with relocation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I´m saying it again.

The Turks and Kurds killed us because of our Syriac-Aramean ethnicity and heritage, likewise the Armenians, they killed us because of our Christian religion, they killed us so they could take over our native home Country and turn it to theirs.  

Therefore we shall not and will not ever forget or compromise on this fact. It´s our duty to our children to let them know what it did happened and why their forefathers get killed and flew from their home Country. It´s our duty to make it sure that this Genocide will be mentioned in the history books.

The Syriac-Aramean people have survived massacres, Genocide, deportation, persecution and destruction of our churches. We lost our houses, fields, animals; our land, our ancestors, our freedom, but we´ll never loose our identity or our history. Despite these terrible circumstances, we have managed to keep our traditions, our heritage and our beloved Aramaic language that Jesus Christ spoke.

Like a necklace of pearls that shatters into pieces and are scattered, so are the Syriac-Aramean people today also scattered all over the world in the Diaspora.

Yet, we survive and we prosper together in our communities and with our families. We pray for all our ancestors who died by the sword of the Turks and the Kurds and we ask the world community not to forget them. We ask that Turkey recognize its shocking crime against humanity and takes actions to protect its Christian citizens now and forever. We will continue fighting for this cause and we ask that all of you do the same.

Therefore it is now time for Turkey to act fairly by recognizing the Genocide and by acknowledging the Syriac-Aramean people in the Country as an ethnic group and thereby afford them valid minority rights. (We are aware that with such minority rights comes obligations for both sides. The SUA is willing to handle the challenges the minority rights would imply in a responsible way, and we also believe that the Syriac Church will do the same). We want to work for human rights with respect to all ethnic groups, taking into consideration the sovereignty of Turkey as a state.

The Syriac-Aramean people, by it´s organizations, the Syriac Universal Alliance, require that the Turkish government will came to the negotiation table on following issues:

a.     Recognition of the Genocide,

b.     Acknowledgement of minority rights for the Syriac-Aramean people,

c.      Protection for the cultural heritage of the Syriac-Aramean people,

d.     Protection for the properties of the Syriac-Aramean people,

e.      The exclusive right for the Syriac-Aramean people to return and keep specific villages in south east Turkey, the region of Tur-Abdin,

f.       Equal representation on the media, for example, adequate TV time by Turkish satellite.

It is also time for Europe and the European Union (EU) to be aware of the Syriac-Aramean people in general and in Europe in particular. We urge to the EU to take in serious consideration the issue of the Genocide against Syriac-Aramean on the negotiations with Turkey. And the EU must raise this significant point. Turkey must recognize the Genocide prior to being permitted to enter the EU as a member.

Before ending I would like to forward some thanks to those who helped us to arrange this seminar. Special thanks to Markus Ferber, who made this event possible, dr Tessa Hoffman for here dedication for this issue,  Amil Görgis for his will to bring this issue in light or the world and last our Federations, The Syraic-Aramean Federation in Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden and the Syriac-Aramean Youth Federation in Sweden and the Syriac Church youth Federation in Sweden

Gabriel Marawgeh

President SUA