Posted: Monday, May 19, 2014 at 09:48 PM UT
The Great War began with two shots: one aimed at the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Hapsburg throne, and the other aimed at his wife, Sophie. What many thought would be just another Balkan squabble quickly escalated into a major war felt around the world.
As Europe burst into flames and millions of soldiers began battling the forces of nationalism, the Ottoman Turks joined arms with the Germans and extended the conflict to their longtime enemies, the Russians and the Christians. Incited by secular leaders in Constantinople, northwestern Persia became a warzone in which radical religious tribes invaded Christian villages and systematically martyred hundreds of thousands of ‘infidels” who dared to resist conversion.
On a small slice of ancient, isolated land owned by a wealthy Assyrian family, a young Christian girl awakens to the brutal massacre of her race in a war that she is too young to understand. Stripped of her privileged and comfortable existence, pursued by a Muslim governor – a symbol of the rising new world order – and surrounded by hostility and greed, deep-sated hatred and unspeakable horrors, she must somehow come to terms with the nightmare that her life has become.
Visit the past to grasp the present – and the terror facing us in the future.
WARRENTON (VA) – Author Joe David recently taped a cable TV interview with Connie Martinson, which will be aired nationally in September on the Connie Martinson Talks Books Show. It is currently available for viewing on YouTube.
His latest book, The Infidels, is a moving story about a rarely discussed massacre in which hundreds of thousands of Assyrians were martyred, because of their Christian faith during one of the most hushed up genocides of the twentieth century. Set in Persia during World War I, the book tells a moving story of one young girl’s struggle to survive the Great War.
“It is a fictionalization of my mother’s story,” David told Connie. “Although her experiences are different from the story character’s experiences, it is nonetheless an honest recreation of what occurred in Persia and what my mother recorded for me during the period the Ottoman Turks went on a killing spree in 1915.”
This isn’t a just a story about the past, David is quick to underscore. This is story about the present, and what awaits us in the future, if care isn’t taken to end the slaughtering of Christians today in the Middle East.
Is the world ignoring the lessons from history and spinning out of control?
WASHINGTON, DC – In response to this question, Joe David, author of The Infidels, asks another question: Are the international crises, instigated by savage groups like ISIS, the result of conflicting religious views, as many are led to believe, or are they the result of something even more urgent?
“In order to provide cause-and-effect answers to important world events like this, historians must ask many similar questions,” the controversial author of The Infidels said. “What their conclusions will be after examining today’s headline stories, specifically the brutal slaughtering of ‘infidels’ and the mass movement of refugees out of the Middle East into Europe, can only be conjecture at this point.
“During World War I, the Middle East was also a setting for a major war, one which radical Muslims used to cleanse the area of Christians. Like today, this resulted in countless Christians being brutally slaughtered, and countless more being forced to immigrate to other countries. This massacre and mass exodus of Christians, initiated then by Turkish leaders, was done to advance their imperialistic dream of rebuilding a crumbling Ottoman Empire.”
In the Infidels, the author personalizes this historical moment by telling a moving story about his Assyrian mother who was deeply affected by this World War I genocide. Like so many Christian refugees today, she too had to abandon her privileged and comfortable life in order to escape the unspeakable horrors of war.
Despite the differences in spin, the author wonders if the reason for the savage slaughtering of Christians that occurred then has any similarity to what is occurring now. “When closely examined by historians, will my mother’s story parallel the present?” David asks. “Is this ISIS led crisis, which is spreading rapidly to Europe, a deliberate distraction to conceal a major and more evil plot, or is it the story?”
In the well-researched historical novel, The Infidels, the author plants the needed background for a reader to draw his own conclusion. A new edition of The Infidels is available world-wide (ISBN: 978-0-939360-08-6) through Books for All Times. An eBook version will be available soon (ISBN: ISBN 978-0-939360-09-3).
For more information, visit www.bfat.com; for the author’s youtube interview, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqhsEJecdD0; and for a two-part article on background history, “Silencing the Past,” visit: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/17457#.V08P05v2bVI.
by Joe David, August 07, 2015.
The massacre of the Assyrians by ISIS has awakened horrifying echoes of their massacre by the Ottoman Turks in WWI. The author's mother lived to tell the tale.
No one knows how many Christians were totally martyred during World War I – and no one probably ever will. Many of the official documents have been sealed or destroyed by the Turkish government in order to silence the past. Yet despite their efforts, the memory of those brutal murders still lives on. They are kept alive today for future generations by the children and the children’s children of the survivors.
My mother was one of the survivors of the massacre. Although she rarely discussed it, she never forgot it. It always echoed in her silence.
Like my father, she was Assyrian. She was born in Persia on the edge of the Fertile Crescent in an area often identified as the Cradle of Civilization. When she left the Middle East after World War I, first for France and later for America, she left behind buried in the ruins of ancient civilization many family members. For her, looking back was not easy. To avoid it, she silenced the past with iron determination.
Two Balkan wars with Turkey followed, one in 1912, the other in 1913. These two uprising, along with a war with Italy over Libya, left the Ottoman Empire seriously exhausted and by 1914 bankrupt.
In Constantinople, the Young Turks who were in power saw the war in Europe as an opportunity to save their crumbling empire. They believed if they joined forces with the Central Powers (Germany and the Austria-Hungary) against the Allies (England, France and Russia), they could gain from the alliance the support needed to rebuild their empire and defeat their long-time enemies, the Russians and the non-Muslims.4
Their plan for defeating the enemy was simple. They would unite the Muslims world-wide by declaring a jihad. Both the Turks and their cohorts, the Germans, believed a Holy War could be an effective way to turn the Muslims living in European colonies around the world against the Allies. If successful, the uprisings would seriously weaken the Allies by forcing them to fight a war on several fronts (in their colonies and in Europe), and by so doing, make them easier to conquer.5
Fortunately, the plot didn’t play out as the Central Powers had hoped; many Muslims in the colonies joined the war, but not on the side of the Ottoman Turks. The failure of the Turks to gain world support of Muslims didn’t discourage them. In an attempt to strengthen their empire and to eliminate religious diversity in Turkey, they systematically and savagely began to kill the Christians. They justified their madness by blaming them for the disintegration of their empire.6
Separated from the Ottoman Empire by the Zagros Mountains in the West and protected from foreign invaders by the Russians in the North, the Muslim and the Christian in The Plain lived together comfortably in harmony.
Three rivers irrigated the land and provided the land with the needed water to raise crops. As a result, the area prospered and became known to travelers as the “Paradise of Persia.”9
A large mix of missionary groups from Russia, Europe and America ran schools and missions in the area, and exposed the residents to other cultures. Unlike the Sultan of Turkey, the Shah of Persia and his government tolerated this as long as the Christians never attempted to move to other areas of the country to convert the Muslims (or, as they were often called in Persia, the Mohammedans) to Christianity.10
As a result, the Assyrians enjoyed a lifestyle that was envied by their less fortunate neighbors – the Kurds (who lived in the Zagros Mountains) and the Turks (who lived in the Ottoman Empire). This envy – mixed with a commitment to radical Islamic ideas – released itself during World War I with horrible acts of atrocity.
The war against the Christians, which began in Turkey in 1914, expanded into Persia in 1915. This occurred suddenly when the Russian troops for strategic reasons had to relocate temporarily further north, leaving The Plain unprotected for five months (from January to May 1915). Almost overnight the area swelled with enemy forces, specifically the Turks, Kurds and other predatory Muslims, driven by an obsession to slaughter the Christians and to strip them of their wealth. Thousands of Assyrians sought shelter at the American Mission in Urmia. To protect many of them, the mission had to exceed its capacity. This led to the spread of filth, disease, and, because of the shortage of food, even famine.11
Much of what we know about the “race murders” (which genocide was called then) comes to us from random documents and reports and from the writings of missionaries and other reliable survivors who were eyewitness to these crimes.
One of my relatives, Rev Jacob David (whom I always called Kasha Yacob) taught at the Marafat School (1904-1920) where during the war he protected and fed distressed Christians. In a published article, he wrote the following about his experiences:
On May 15, 1915, the Turks withdrew and the Russians took their place. The surviving Christians left the mission grounds and went to their home towns. Our school work, which had been suspended, started again in the fall 1915. Now we all thought that our troubles were over. All of us began cultivating our farms and vineyards, rebuilding our ruined homes. Sadly enough, we were mistaken – our future became worse than our past had ever been!
Many years ago a family member gave me a 38-page diary written by an American missionary named Reverend Hugo A. Mueller. In his diary, the reverend faithfully recorded day-to-day stories of what was happening to Christians during the Turks’ occupation of Urmia. In his diary, he recorded with some detail what Kasha Yacob didn’t. Here are two entries from his diary:
One missionary in his diary summed up his tragedy more personally:
The stories recorded of the savage brutality against the Christians seemed limitless. It wasn’t beyond the Muslims to soak Christians in oil and burn them alive, saw off their legs and arms, gouge their eyes with knives, chop babies into pieces, and cut open the stomachs of pregnant women to remove their fetus.15
Although I may never know exactly what my mother had seen or experienced, I do know from recorded history that it had to be terrifying.
My Mother’s Story
My mother’s published story in September 1949, is a little different than my fictional account in my novel, The Infidels. I took a few liberties with her experience to provide drama, simply because I didn’t have enough information at my disposal to tell her story. Many details from her past beyond the fragments that she had shared with me and my sister have been buried with her. Nevertheless, my story, though recorded as fiction, is an honest, researched story of what had occurred during the war years. Here is an abbreviation of what my mother had published:
Although my mother never publicly revealed the true depth of her despair, she did allude to it in this article. Like many survivors, she had to pay a high price for what she had seen and knew. Up to nearly the end of her life in the early 1990s, she was haunted by the demons from her past. They broke through her defenses while asleep and came alive in her nightmares. To ease her through the troubled times, especially in the beginning while her psychological wounds were healing, she found comfort in Christianity.
One of the most terrifying experiences that anyone could ever know is being helplessly trapped, surrounded by an evil enemy, determined to destroy you. This was what my mother once knew as a young Christian girl growing up in Persia; this is also what many Christians and non-Muslims living in the Middle East know today. I oftentimes wonder how my mother would react to the current events in the Middle East, if she were alive.
Joe David’s first book, The Fire Within, because of its successful dramatization of important issues in education, made the reading list at two universities and received national public attention in the 1980s. For nearly nine years, he was a frequent radio and television talk show guest in major U.S. cities, where he candidly discussed issues in education.
Over the years, he has written for professional journals, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and books, including the Annenberg/CPB Math and Science Project, NPR Radio (The Best of Our Knowledge), The Forum (University of West Florida), U.S. Airways, Basic Education (Council for Basic Education), Christian Science Monitor, and much more. He is the author of six books.
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