Assyrian Genocide Conference
Posted: Friday, August 31, 2001 at 09:30 AM UT
The year 1915 was the start of an eight year period during which the government of the Ottoman Empire, present-day Turkey, practiced systematic persecution and genocide against its own Christian Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek population.
Dear Conference Attendee,
On behalf of the Assyrian American Association of San Jose and myself, I would like to welcome each and everyone of you to the Second Assyrian Genocide and Persecution Conference. It is indeed an honor for us to be the leading Assyrian organization that has ever gathered and presented such a qualified panel on the issue of "Assyrian Genocide" in United States.
I extend my deepest gratitude to the dedicated scholars and activists for sharing their vast knowledge and experience with us. We salute their dedication to revival of our history, and bringing world recognition to the atrocities of our past. We realize that in order to bring the world attention to our "Genocide", we must learn from similar experiences, and we welcome that opportunity.
A project of this magnitude would not be possible without the relentless devotion of the group of volunteers and your support. My sincere thanks to all of you, and, I hope that we will have a successful and memorable conference.
Almost every day we are exposed to the sad reality of the civilian victims of wars, regional or internal conflicts of a divided country, and the consequences of a racially and ethnically divided world. Religious divide further complicates the prevailing situation. In fact, the US Department of Defense has coined a new expression for these victims: "Collateral Damage."
The terms Massacre, Mass Murder or Regional Conflict are often used to describe such acts of inhumane brutality. Yet there is another type of crime that transcends even these conflicts in its scope of savage cruelty. "Genocide", a specific type of crime defined by the UN Convention on Genocide and Holocaust as a Crime against Humanity.
One must consider with horror that the Jewish Holocaust was neither the first nor the last act of Genocide. Indeed, the Twentieth Century was labeled as the "Age of Genocide", an observation that is essentially an understatement. The beginning of the last century witnessed the extermination of more than 750,000 Assyrians, over 1 million Armenians, and 300,000 Pontic Greeks by the Turkish government from 1915 to 1923. Sadly, this was only the beginning.
Great powers regularly demolish other peoples' claims to dignity and place, and sometimes, as history shows, the outcome is genocide. Two major factors continue to pave the way for future crimes of genocide: Lack of international willingness to punish the perpetrators of these crimes and ultimately, while remaining unpunished, allowing the perpetrators of these
Then exiled Czech novelist M. Kundera wrote, "the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting". The world at large may ignore the events of 1915, but the Assyrian community throughout the world continues to keep alive the memory of the Assyrian Genocide. The Assyrians, together with the Armenians and the Greeks were one of the first victims of genocide. This fact must never be forgotten.
This conference is dedicated to that struggle, as well as to all Assyrian victims of the First Genocide of the Twentieth Century.
The Assyrian American Association of San Jose wishes to thank the following sponsors for making this historic and unprecedented event possible.
Individual Efforts, Products and Services Donated by
And special thanks to the dedicated volunteers of
The Christian genocide perpetrated by the Young Turks is one of the unresolved issues of the 20th century. The descendants of the perpetrators themselves have not accepted responsibility for the massacres, relying instead on a number of methods to deny that such
In the Paris Peace Conference both Armenians and the Assyrians submitted their grievances against the Ottoman Empire detailing the massacres. Some discussions also took place in Sevres but none in Lausanne. Between 1919-22 the Greco-Turkish War overshadowed any claims of the genocide. In the ensuing years Armenians have been vocal and successful in publicizing the Armenian genocide, while until very recently the Assyrian genocide had remained largely unknown to the world. The Akbulut case in 2000 was a turning point, which provided an impetus for the publicization of the Assyrian genocide to the world.
The events that unfolded in 1915 have not only impacted on the victims - Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians. Kurds and Turks are still burdened by the scale of the atrocities their fathers have committed. The Turks have on the whole treated the issues as a taboo and discouraged discussions on it. However, in the last few years for the first some historians, journalists and political activists have emerged in Turkey who are willing to deviate from the official thesis and consider an alternative viewpoint. At this point, it is imperative that researchers document archival material as well as eyewitness accounts to further the case of the recognition of the Assyrian genocide by Turkey.
Dr. Racho Donef
Greek, Turkish, Spanish, Swedish, French, Italian
PUBLICATIONS RELATED TO ASSYRIANS
[To be published] 'Ot Acouptoi crqv Toupxin',
[To be published] 'Ot Aocuptoi crnv 08collaVtKi] Auroxpuropto.', [Assyrians in the
'Turkish National Security Council's report on the Assyrians', www.atour.com,
LECTURES RELATED TO ASSYRIANS
The Assyrians in Turkey: Disappearance of a culture?, Persecution of Syriac-
The Assyrians and Assyrian Identity in the Ottoman Empire, Inaugural Biennial
The Jews of Kurdistan, Sydney Jewish Centre on Ageing, 8 February 1999
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and Race Issues, Discourses on
The Armenian Genocide as a Prototype of Modern Mass Killing and Denial
The Armenian Genocide during World War I, which in many regions also became an Assyrian Genocide, created the prototype of modern mass killing.
Nearly every other instance of genocide in the Twentieth century followed a similar pattern: perversion of the government by a political party; adoption of an exclusivist and chauvinist ideology marking some elements as undesirable, "the other" and justifying extreme violence to create a new regional order; vulnerability of the victim group already demonstrated as in the massacres of 1894-96; scape-goating of the intended victim group; creation of special paramilitary units to conduct and oversee the killings; use of secrecy and cover-up before, during, and after the genocide; positive and negative incentives by rewarding those who participate in the killings and punishing those who refuse to carry out the orders of the perpetrators; ascribing to the victims the very crimes to which they themselves were subjected, and so forth.
It has been said that denial is the final phase of genocide. Following the physical destruction of a people and its material culture, memory is all that is left and is targeted as the last victim to be eliminated. Complete annihilation of a people requires the banishment of recollection and the suffocation of remembrance. Falsification, deception, and half-truths reduce what was to what may have been or perhaps what was not at all. The history of Turkish state-sponsored denial of its genocidal activities have passed through several phases since the end of World War I in 1918. From total negation and diplomatic, political, and economic pressure to suppress any discussion of the crime, the denial has progressed into the phases of rationalization and relativization in order to make it seem more reasonable and to raise doubts about the intent to destroy an entire people.
The arguments and logic used by deniers and rationalizers of the Armenian Genocide are the very same as those put forward in denial of other genocides, except that in the Armenian case these have entered into the mainstream scholarship and teaching. This presentation will compare, with examples, the common arguments used by deniers in the stubborn attempt to avoid acknowledgement of and answerability for the crime of genocide. The concept of academic freedom has given license to deniers in many countries, but it is time to demand that academic freedom be matched equally by academic integrity and responsibility.
Prof. Richard G. Hovannisian
B.A. and M.A. in History
Ph.D. in history from UCLA
Member of the UCLA faculty since 1962
Awards & Honors
... many other honors for his scholarship, civic activities, and advancement of Armenian studies.
Armenia on the Road to Independence (1967)
... and more than 50 scholarly articles on Armenian, Caucasian, and Near Eastern history.
From the Assyrian Genocide to the Lausanne Treaty:
Period of Genocides
The most devastating political acts and killing committed on the Assyrian people happened
1) Genocide of 1895
The genocide of the Turkish-Ottoman against the Christian peoples (Assyrians, Greeks and
2) "Seyfo" ("The Sword of Islam" - Genocide of 1915 - The Year of the Sword")
Although not many countries recognized it, all countries are well aware of the genocide of the Turkish-Ottoman leaders during World War I on the Assyrian, Greek and Armenian peoples. When the Christian peoples in the Balkan obtained their independence and when this Ottoman Empire also lost influence in Africa, the Arabs as well begun to revolt. During World War I the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire only ruled over Trachea, Anatolia, Armenia and Mesopotamia. Because the Turkish-Ottoman leaders feared to loose also these regions, their army started to put into practice genocide in the east of the Ottoman Empire. All inhabitant Christian peoples (Assyrians, Pontos Greeks, Armenians) were stigmatized as "traitors" and with a call for a "holy Islamic war" (the so-called Jihad) they started their cruel massacres. Already before, Sultan Abdulhamid had created the so-called Hamidiye-Murder commandos with the help of local Kurdish clans. The genocide of these groups together with the Turkish-Ottoman army against the Assyrians, the Pontos Greeks and the Armenians was the first genocide of human history. Between 1914 and 1918 about 500.000 Assyrians, hundreds of thousands of Pontos Greeks and 1,5 million Armenians were brutally killed. Hundreds of thousands Assyrians suffered afterwards from famine and disease. Tens of thousand men were deported to other regions or countries. Thousands of children and women were kidnapped by Turks and Kurds and were forced to convert to Islam. The Assyrian people lost two third (!) of their number during this genocide. It was the worst event in their history.
Assyrian in the Treaties of the 20th century
In the beginning of the 20th century, many treaties have been composed and signed between the allied powers. Those treaties determinate the future of the minorities in the Ottoman Empire. All those treaties discussed and tried to protect the national rights of the Assyrians who lived in a strategically important region. The following treaties determined the future of the Assyrians by the two world powers of that period, France and Great Britain.
1) Sykes-Picot Treaty
This treaty, written by the British and the French with the support of the Russians, planned the creation of a Christian country from Armenia till the Mediterranean See. The Christians in this region were Armenians and Assyrians.
2) French-British Treaty in November 1918
In this treaty, compiled by France and Britain, it was accepted that every nation, including the Assyrian, residing in the Turkish-Ottoman Empire, had the right of self- determination.
3) Peace conference of Paris, July 1919
The Assyrian delegation, consisting of 10 persons, that participated in the conference of Paris demanded an Assyrian State in the area of the Zab- Tigris river in the south up till Diyarbakir and the Armenian mountains in the north, that should be under the protection of a western powerful state. The American president Woodrow Wilson stated that every ethnic group living on Turkish territory and that is not Turkish should get the opportunity to develop a reasonable standard of living.
4) The Treaty of Sevres, August 10, 1920
In this treaty, in which the Turkish domination was acknowledged, article 62 dictated the
Moreover, in this treaty it was stipulated that in an autonomous Kurdistan in the north of
Also it was stipulated that every inhabitant of Turkey, not being Turkish, has the right to return to his indigenous area and that a repayment should be paid for the damages they suffered.
5) The treaty of Lausanne, July 24, 1923
The political instability, caused among others by the development of the Soviet Union and the Turkish resistance against the Allied, that occurred after the First World War, lead to a new treaty.
Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, Rumania, Serbia, Croatia-Slovenia and Turkey
The minority-commission discussed the position of the Assyrians during the preliminary meetings. In the many meetings that were held, the British representative Lord Curzon expressed his displeasure. He said: "I hope that the treaty is able to protect the rights of the minorities sufficiently. In the above-mentioned treaty, the national problem of the Assyrians was classified under the wide concept of "non-Muslim".
The treaty contains 8 clauses (37-44) concerning the protection of the non-Muslim minorities:
PROTECTION OF MINORITIES
Turkey undertakes that the stipulations contained in Articles 38 to 44 shall be recognised as
The Turkish Government undertakes to assure full and complete protection of life and liberty to all inhabitants of Turkey without distinction of birth, nationality, language, race or religion.
All inhabitants of Turkey shall be entitled to free exercise, whether in public or private, of any creed, religion or belief, the observance of which shall not be incompatible with public order and good morals.
Non-Moslem minorities will enjoy full freedom of movement and of emigration, subject to the measures applied, on the whole or on part of the territory, to all Turkish nationals, and which may be taken by the Turkish Government for national defence, or for the maintenance of public order.
Turkish nationals belonging to non-Moslem minorities will enjoy the same civil and political
All the inhabitants of Turkey, without distinction of religion, shall be equal before the law.
No restrictions shall be imposed on the free use by any Turkish national of any language in
Notwithstanding the existence of the official language, adequate facilities shall be given to
Turkish nationals belonging to non-Moslem minorities shall enjoy the same treatment and
As regards public instruction, the Turkish Government will grant in those towns and districts, where a considerable proportion of non-Moslem nationals are resident, adequate facilities for ensuring that in the primary schools the instruction shall be given to the children of such Turkish nationals through the medium of their own language. This provision will not prevent the Turkish Government from making the teaching of the Turkish language obligatory in the said schools.
In towns and districts where there is a considerable proportion of Turkish nationals belonging to non-Moslem minorities, these minorities shall be assured an equitable share in the enjoyment and application of the sums which may be provided out of public funds under the State, municipal or other budgets for educational, religious, or charitable purposes. The sums in question shall be paid to the qualified representatives of the establishments and institutions concerned.
The Turkish Government undertakes to take, as regards non-Moslem minorities, in so far as
These measures will be elaborated by special Commissions composed of representatives of
The Turkish Government undertakes to grant full protection to the churches, synagogues,
Turkish nationals belonging to non-Moslem minorities shall not be compelled to perform any act which constitutes a violation of their faith or religious observances, and shall not be placed under any disability by reason of their refusal to attend Courts of Law or to perform any legal business on their weekly day of rest.
This provision, however, shall not exempt such Turkish nationals from such obligations as
Turkey agrees that, in so far as the preceding Articles of this Section affect non-Moslem
Turkey agrees that any Member of the Council of the League of Nations shall have the right to bring to the attention of the Council any infraction or danger of infraction of any of these
Turkey further agrees that any difference of opinion as to questions of law or of fact arising out of these Articles between the Turkish Government and anyone of the other Signatory Powers or any other Power, a member of the Council of the League of Nations, shall be held to be a dispute of an international character under Article 14 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. The Turkish Government hereby consents that any such dispute shall, if the other party thereto demands, be referred to the Permanent Court of International Justice. The decision of the Permanent Court shall be final and shall have the same force and effect as an award under Article 13 of the Covenant.
Turkey claims today that the above mentioned clauses are valid for all non-Muslims. The Greek, Armenians and Jews that live in Turkey made restricted use of these rights.
In spite of their Christian religion these rights were not granted to the Assyrians.
To prevent the Assyrians to claim these rights Turkey took measures:
The Assyrian people are an old nation. The countries that together with Turkey played a role in the realization of the treaty of Lausanne and therefore were responsible for the destiny of the Assyrians did nothing to prevent the Assyrians from being exterminated.
Dr. Gabriele Yonan
Monographs / Works
JOURNALISM AMONG ASSYRIANS
A FORGOTTEN HOLOCAUST
English translation under print by Markus Wiener Publishers, Princeton (2001)
ASSYRIAN GENOCIDE: A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY
ASSYRIANS AND GERMAN DIPLOMACY - NEW LIGHT ON THE HOLOCAUST
Monographs / Reports
Writing Series of the Central Documentation Office for Refugee Assistance (ZDWF)
Periodical: Pogrom (Publication of the Society for Threatened People)
Persecuted Christian nationalities in Turkey: Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and
The unknown genocide of the Assyrians 1915-1918, Pogrom No. 72/73, 1980
The Copts in Egypt, Pogrom No.19, 1982
Assyrians, a national minority introduces itself, Pogrom No.98, 1983, p.49-51 (also
Assyrians/Syrian Orthodox Christians as a politically persecuted minority in Turkey. A
Assyrians in Iraq, Pogrom No.122, 1988, p.27-29
Reports commissioned by the Society for Threatened People Gottingen-Germany
1. Turkey: The development of the political conditions in Turkey under the Ozal-
2. Iran: The development of the political and social conditions in Iran after the Islamic
3. Iraq: Report on the situation of the Christian Assyrians in Iraq
Federation of the Assyrian Association in Germany (Editor)
Assyrian Music, past and present
Traditions of Assyrian food culture
Documentation: Assyrian Refugees in the Federal Republic of Germany.
Syrian Orthodox and Arab Orthodox in Turkey
Syrian Orthodox Christians among Turkish foreign workers
The Syrian Orthodox Parish looks for church property
Emigration remains the last rescue. The fate of the Assyrians in Iran
Assyrians, a forgotten minority
Comparative rights of Assyrian asylum seekers in the Federal Republic of Germany
Inclusion in UNESCO World Heritage list. An initiative for the preservation of the
Lexica / Encyclopaedia
"Assyrian Church of the East" / "Chaldean Church"
Persecution for religious reasons: The Assyrians
Minutes of Meeting: Christians from Turkey as asylum seekers in the Federal
Two Lectures on the occasion of the 21st Orientalist Conference in Berlin, March
Naum Melo, Dust and Smoke. Report of an Assyrian Orthodox Christian from a
Rudolf Macuch "History of the late Syriac and New Syriac Literature"
Willful Blindness: Abraham Foxman and the Armenian Genocide