November 13, 1999
Honorable Madeleine K. Albright
Secretary of State
2231 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Madam Secretary
We, the undersigned European organizations and institutions, represent the Assyrian- Syrian- Aramaic- and Chaldean people in exile in Europe. We have come to a joint agreement, as representatives of our people, to demand that the United States acknowledges, condemns and holds the countries responsible for the genocide and banishment of our people in Mesopotamia. The fact that the French Parliament acknowledged in 1997 the genocide practiced against the Armenians is encouraging, however it is by no means sufficient.
We call upon the USA to demand that the countries concerned give our people, still living in their homelands, their legitimate rights in accordance with the international law. This law implies that our people, one of the most ancient peoples in the world, have a right to live in peace in their homeland.
We mean that we have a well grounded argument for our demands:
1. We consider that USA and the EU, in order to guarantee the implementation of democracy globally and in Europe, ought to work for this aim even on a global level.
2. We also expect that the EU contribute to the application of international norms even globally.
3. For centuries our people have been subject to massacres and plunder in Mesopotamia although they themselves have not actively participated in the continuous conflicts there, which have intensified particularly during the 20th century.
4. This can be called not only a tragedy, but also genocide. In Turkey for example our people have been virtually annihilated. Even to this present date a systematic destruction of our cultural heritage is taking place unabated.
Keeping the points above mentioned in mind, we would like to illustrate
It is obvious that democracy as a way of government is, together with the international norms, highly respected by USA as being a condition for membership. This implies that every country should respect the rights of the ethnic minorities; their language, cultural identity and religious freedom without any threat whatsoever from the majority. Minorities should also be able to be represented in parliament as well as in government.
In 1990 USA, the United Nations and EU has showed that it supports the necessity to maintain these rights and their values both in Bosnia and Kosovo.
Our people are approaching the brink of annihilation in Mesopotamia. This stirs the expectations that USA will support us in our quest to be able to continue to exist in our homeland. We expect to be supported in exactly the same way as the Albanian people in Kosovo have been supported.
Our homeland includes the area between Euphrate and Tigris and is divided among Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Our people have contributed substantially to modern civilization and have consistently lived in peace. This is a well known fact.
During its long history our people has, especially in connection with the expansion of Islam, been subject to terrible attacks, massacres and plunder. Its sufferings has intermittently continued from the 600 BC till this present day. The reasons for such violation vary.
With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire that coincided with the flourish of the idea of national states, a movement began. This movement, which consisted of Young Turks, was established at the beginning of the 20th century and occupied central positions in different parts of the empire, such as Jalal Pascha, TalŒat Pascha, Enver Pascha and Mithat Pascha. This proved to be fatal for our people, as the aim of this movement was to build a homogenous and a pure Turkish state solely for Turks. This meant one language, one race and one culture. At that time our people became a goal for an oppressor with a deep-rooted ideology.
In 1910 about 4,5 millions lived Christians in Turkey whose total population at that time was estimated at around 13 million people. The Christian population consisted mostly of Armenians and Greeks who lived in the West Side of Turkey. It is worth mentioning in this context that in Turkey today out of a population of whose of more than 65 million people there are only 50 000 Christians. If we should take into consideration the same level of nativity, the number of Christians should be around 34 million.
With this objective framework in mind, which is based on the changes of the official number of the population, we shall touch upon the genocide, banishment and annihilation suffered by our people especially in Turkey.
- Since the Turkish army presents excuses for the slaughter of the Armenians, one can't help but notice that the same pretext was used to inflict the same punishment on our people at the same time. It is noteworthy that neither the Armenians nor our people were actual participants in the conflict. It was a conflict that was primarily initiated by the Turkish army and its allies, the Hamidiye regiments who were armed and ready to fight. This combination together with the following points gives grounds to call the events, a genocide against our people:
- Our people trusted the protection of the Ottoman regime. Our young men took part loyally during their military service.
- Our people trusted the protection of the Ottoman Empire, as our men willingly disarmed themselves to show the Ottoman army its loyalty.
- This loyalty however did not obstruct the young Turkish program. The Ottoman army led by the Young Turks in 1914 began its attacks on all the cities that were inhabited by the Armenian or the Assyrian- Syrian- Chaldean people. This slaughter continued until 2,5 millions Christians were killed. The remaining 2 millions fled in masses to the neighboring countries, even to Russia. A large number of Christians were forced to become Muslim, particularly the female Christians.
These tragic events that occurred in 1914-15 are remembered by our people as "the year of the sword”, in our language "Sayfo", because the use of the sword in the killings was a common practice. The year of the sword was followed by a period of banishment that caused demographic changes in our cities in the south east of Turkey.
1. Erzurum: 1914 there were 400 000 people living there, of which 277
000 were Christians.
2. Sivas: 1914 there were 271 000 Christians living there. Today there are none.
3. Harput: 1914 there were 174 000 Christians living there. Today there are none.
4. Diyarbakir: 1914 there were 166 000 Christians living there . Today there are only 500 Christians.
5. Van: 1914 there were 290 000 Christians living there. Today there are none.
6. Bitlis: 1914 there were 195 000 Christians living there. Today there are none.
7. Hakkari: 1914 there were 170 000 Christians living there. Today there are none.
8. Siirt. 1914 there were 25 000 Christians living there. Today there are none.
These are only some examples. Mardin, Turabdin, Jazirah, Urfa, Adana are not mentioned. Nor are the towns and the villages.
There were around 1 000 churches and monasteries in this area. Today there are only a small number of them Mar Gabriel and Zahfaran. In 1997 the Turkish government threatened to close the two most famous monasteries in Mardin. In the Turkish part of Mesopotamia our places of culture are practically wiped out by a kind of conscious policy aiming at destroying our existence in the area. The sole aim seems to be one people, one language, one religion and so forth.
The genocide carried out by the Turkish army in 1914-15 continues. One can find in Modern Turkish history many terrible events, which can explain the reason behind the decrease in the number of our people in the area.
A vacuum occurred after the end of the First World War with the negotiations that centred on Turkey and its borders between the Great Powers and the Turks, until the establishment of the Turkish State in 1923. The treaty of Lausanne 1923 prescribed the Turkish borders. It is worth mentioning in this respect that our people were not even recognised as a minority. Our people were not included in that same Treaty and their fate was left to be dealt with by the Young Turks.
In the constitution that resulted from the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 it was made crystal clear that, in accordance with the Young Turks program, Turkey consists of one race, one language, one history and one religion. The Governing Powers left the Turks to implement the promises that were made in Lausanne. That the Turkish people should respect all individuals and treat all groups alike, in spite of the fact that those same Governing Powers were well aware of the events of 1914 and the following year.
Hakkari, which lies on the border of Iraq today, fell suddenly into the hands of the Turks after having up until then come under the protection of England. Under the pretext that the Assyrian- Syrian- Chaldean peoples could be a risk for the security of the newly built Turkish State. Hakkari was attacked together with its neighbouring Christian villages. A large number of our people were killed, It is estimated that around 10 000 persons were executed. Women and children suffered execution as well. Mustafa Kemal boasted at that time in the parliament that the Christian thugs in the province of Hakkari were eliminated. In consequence a massive flight of our people occurred in the direction of Simeli in the North of Iraq.
The Young Turks did not leave the refugees from Hakkari alone even in Simeli. Iraq as a state was built in 1932. The Turkish minister of the interior paid a visit to the president in Iraq, king Faysal and convinced him that these refugees might pose a risk for the security of Iraq. This led to an attack on Simeli in 1933 which resulted in the execution of 10 000 refugees. Those remaining escaped to the north east of Syria, by the river of Khabour on the border of the city of Hassakeh which was under French administration. This group lives up to our present time by the river of Khabour.
Our institutions especially the religious ones that have been active for more than 600 years began to feel threatened. The Syrian Orthodox patriarch, Elias III was deported to India in 1932 complying with Kemal Ataturk’s order. The patriarch left Zahfaran Monastery in Mardin and settled in Homs first and then in Damascus in Syria.
The real implication of the Young Turks program was manifested as follows:
- Only Turkish schools were permitted.
- Only the Turkish language was allowed.
Our people suffered immensely as a result of this political line. As Christians they did not qualify to be called a minority. This can be considered a kind of risk in such a system. We lost all possibility of employment and other civil rights. Harassment during military service and everyday life became normal practice. Christians were even compelled to undergo circumcision during this time and were made to carry out the worst and the most dangerous duties. Racism against our people was expressed openly.
According to Ataturk who analysed the causes that led to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, it was the ethnic minorities that developed national consciousness, its own language, culture and economic power and eventually could weaken the empire. Ataturk emphasised that such stimulating possibilities must be obstructed at all costs.
By the end of 1920’s our people was forbidden to trade using our most vital means:
- to trade animals
- to trade with foreigners in the neighbouring countries
- to produce wine, raki, tobacco and agricultural products
Furthermore it was forbidden to communicate across the borders with our people.
These restrictions were not practised against the Turkish people. At that time the Turks were not even prevented from producing cannabis, this was produced on a very large scale.
This development continued during 1930 when all the people living in Turkey were obliged to have Turkish names. All the villages and cities with Assyrian-Syrian names were given Turkish names.
The purpose of which was to eradicate our people, partly because we were unable to carry on with our means of living and partly because we were deprived of carrying our own names. Syria which came under the French Mandate in 1930 became a frequent refuge.
During 1940 the selective taxes were applied, the so-called Varlik Vergisi which was applied only on non-Muslims. It was a question of income taxes. The collection of taxes was practised in a very harsh way, raids were carried out by the time of the harvest and our farmers were often compelled to abandon 2/3 of their harvests as a form of payment for the state. In the case of tax that was not paid, a punishment was incurred in the form of working camps where one was obliged to build roads and other occupations in the sphere of infrastructure.
The period of punishment was 3 years. The number of those who were punished and did not come back was strikingly high.
In consequence to this terrible treatment our people began to leave their homes and escape in 1940. The destination was Syria, Lebanon and America. This phenomenon increases as a result of the starvation among our people who were overburdened with the payment of these selective taxes.
With this in mind it is not difficult to understand the rapprochement that took place between Mussolini and the Nazi Germany. Hitler declared that he was inspired by the Turkish massacres on Armenians. The thing that convinced Hitler was the indifference of the world and that the whole affair would soon be forgotten.
The period between 6-7 September 1955 became two black days for the Christians living in Turkey. Mustafa Kemal childhood place in Tessaloniki was burned. Later it was revealed that the Turkish Security Service, MIT was responsible for the action. This gave pretext for a comprehensive persecution against the Christian people living in Turkey at that time. During two days all the Christian shops were plundered, the working places were destroyed, and houses and churches were burnt. Rape of Christian girls took place openly in the streets. The state and those responsible for law and order did not interfere, they were satisfied onlookers.
This had horrible consequences for all the Christian groups in Turkey. The death toll was not officially revealed. The flight of Christians accelerated including the Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians- Syrians- Chaldeans.
The situation made clear that the Turkish State practised persecution against all the Christian group living there actively as well as passively. Those authorities that do not interfere when people become persecuted should be considered as permitting persecution. The secure refuges and places for the Christians were successively destroyed on a large scale. Racist and religious persecution became everyday practice and could be observed and allowed unscrupulously.
In 1960 a high conjecture took place in Europe that the need for workers became urgent. This served as an opportunity for our people to avoid and escape the horribly barbaric situation in their homeland. Many people who could not endure the difficult state of affairs seized this possibility. In addition to that, there are other factors that increased the massive immigration:
- In 1964 during the Cyprus crisis, the Christians in Turkey suffered one week of persecution. Our Christian belief was violated, crosses were hanged on donkeys and dogs to be sent to our living areas. Shops, working places and houses were plundered. The security forces did not interfere or hinder such violations.
- The Turkish media, which was under the control of the state, only served to inflame the turbulent atmosphere.
- In 1967 selective attacks on prominent persons among our people took place. Arrests and harsh interrogations were carried out in many places. The Chaldean priest Suleyman Sen who was preoccupied by gathering our religious books and writings in the library of the church of St. Michael in Mardin fell offer to such practices. Thanks to the efforts of this priest many people could pursue their higher studies. He served as an informal leader in Mardin and Turabdin. Torture was carried out on a large scale, and the library was confiscated by the state. Fabricated accusations such as the priest's wife having had contact with the people working in the Nato-base in Diyarbakir where the priest conducted Holy Mass for Americans and British people living there. After four days the priest was released and became increasingly sick. He attended a hospital in Istanbul and, after only two days, died in a mysterious way, despite the fact that he had been in very good health previous to his arrest. His relatives' request for abduction was refused. Despite the authorities' order, the body of the priest was transported to Midyat where thousands of mourners participated in the funeral ceremony. Many consider him as a martyr. The priest's wife failed in her numerous attempts to regain the library.
- During the turbulence of 1974 in Cyprus when the Turkish forces occupied the northern part of the island, the media played a major part in inflaming the Turkish feelings of nationality, by implying that the Turks in Cyprus were being persecuted at the hands of the Greeks. This served as grounds for a similar wave of punishment and execution of our people in the year of 1978. The monasteries of Mar Gabriel and Zahfaran were closed under the pretext that they were centres of education for the Asala-activists.
- On the 29th of October in the year of 1978 the Christian mayor of Kerboran, Indravos Demir was killed at the hands of the Kurdish tribes loyal to the Turkish regime. This was meant to insure a definite exodus of all Assyrians- Syrians from that area.
- The military coup de ‘at in 1980 initiated something that could be called " the last solution" to the problem of the non-Muslim people. By law it was stipulated that education about Islam, leading an Islamic way of life and praying became obligatory for all Turkish people. This created an obstacle for all non-Muslim children in schools. This was the last nail in our coffin. In practice the Assyrian-Syrian people were unable to sell their properties, they could only abandon them in order to join the massive flight that augmented drastically.
- After 1984 the Kurds began their armed struggle in the south east of Turkey, in the centre of our home region. Those among our people who did not support the state were considered directly as PKK sympathisers.
- The ethnic cleansing resumes yet today. The consequences are common knowledge, 3000-4000 villages were totally destroyed and burned, comprehensive environmental distortion took place and our cultural heritage subsequently lost.
There are only around 1000 people remaining in the region, mostly elderly or others who stay because for some reason it is impossible for them to leave.
Presently one can claim that the young Turks have succeeded in accomplishing their goal, a goal that was established by Ataturk in 1910.
- Turkey is today now cleansed from any other ethnic, religious or cultural point of view.
We would like to conclude by claiming that this catastrophic development
experienced by our people in Turkey is by no means an isolated phenomenon.
Our people in Iraq have also suffered immensely even to this present day.
An historical presentation that would describe its suffering has neither
been heeded nor considered. An exception however is Saddam Hussein's catastrophic
attacks with chemical weapons against our Assyrian villages in 1989. During
this decade the following must be rendered:
- In 1990 the number of our people was 1,5 million.
- After the Gulf War the number was reduced to 700 000.
- The conflict in Kuwait served the interests of Turkey. In 1991 more than 200 000 Assyrians, Syrians and Chaldeans lived in the UN security zone in the northern part of Iraq. In spite of the security zone, Turkey and Masoud Barzani's KDP groups could operate freely under the pretext that they sought the PKK's bases. Our people suffered greatly as they became unwillingly involved in the conflict as was the case in the north east of Turkey.
- As a result of the ceaseless attacks and persecutions, the number of our people there was reduced to 50 000. Barzani and his group, KDP, took this opportunity to persecute our people systematically and mercilessly in view of dominating the security zone alone. This persecution resumed despite the fact that USA and the world opinion demanded that PUK and KDP should respect the rights of the Assyrians in the region.
- We hope that these events and developments are made known internationally and that this presentation is deemed trustworthy:
1. For two years we have conducted a documentation process in Europe and North America.
We have been in contact with people who experienced the events of 1914-15
personally and registered their testimonies. The interviews were carried
out spontaneously with eyewitnesses for future reference for coming generations.
It is our ambition that these interviews are published as soon as possible. We are willing to provide samples of this documentation.
2. In her book, "Ein Vergensser Holocaust Die Vernichtung der Christlichen Assyrer in der Türkei" which was published in 1989, the German writer Gabriele Yonan, has made a thorough study of the genocide practised against our people from 1914 and onwards. The book confirms the events mentioned above and contributes to validate what happened to our people in the 'Sayfo' years. The information gathered in the book and that which we have gathered in all the other interviews complete and confirm each other in a remarkable way. Gabriele Yonan also provides at the end of her book a list of literature for those who are interested in further information and details.
We appeal to you to take into consideration the following:
- In the negotiations that took place in Sevres 1920 between Turkey and the Governing Powers, and particularly in respect to § 62 Turkey was recognised as a state and accepted the conditions that the Assyrian- Syrian- Chaldean people that live in both Turkey and Iraq should enjoy complete protection and rights. Furthermore, that the Assyrien-Syrian people should have the right to return to their original areas and be entitled to receive compensations from Turkey.
- These stipulations have been totally forgotten in Lausanne Treaty 1923. Our people were unable to be granted the status of a minority in Turkey.
From the massacres of 1914 up until now our people have been peaceful and remained unarmed despite the pressure and the violations carried out against them. The slaughter that took place in 1914-15 could have developed to a civil war had our people been armed and reacted in with the same aggression with which they were treated. Despite our peaceful reaction, 2,5 million Christians were executed. This ought to be considered one of the worst and most intensive kinds of genocide that has ever been known to man.
- If one wishes to respect truth and facts, it becomes insufficient to talk of these events as a tragic episode. This amounts to genocide and nothing less.
- The same precision ought to be applied in this respect between a tragic episode and ethnic cleansing.
- Ethnic cleansing aims to purify a certain place from a certain ethnic group, from its culture and religion. Nazi-Germany could not carry out its ultimate solution as regards the Jews, so as Europe becomes free from all Jews.
- If the development resumes as it does today in Mesopotamia, Turkey and Iraq would succeed in what Nazi Germany failed to accomplish.
- Turkey and Iraq could execute this if the Western world continues to remain a passive onlooker and does not interfere.
- This affects democracy in Europe. If such a development continues to take place and the human rights' principle and the international conventions are not applied.
We call upon you today that USA, UN and EU take into consideration the
following fundamental rights:
- The identity of Assyrian- Syrian- Aramean- Chaldean people, that our people makes up a nation in its own right.
- The Ottoman Empire and its inheritors, the Turkish state be condemned of genocide of our people and should in consequence be condemned to pay compensation.
- The Turkish state be charged of genocide which took place in 1924 in the province of Hakkari and ought to pay compensation and ensure the safe return of its original people under the acceptable international norms.
- USA together with UN and EU call for an international conference where one can the question of our people in all its dimensions.
- Our people be respected and included in all kinds of negotiations regarding solutions in the Middle East.
- That International Institutions take serious measures to preserve and protect our cultural heritage.
- USA together with UN and EU build a joint commission for the purpose of investigating the conditions of our people in Mesopotamia, and at the same time initiate humanitarian help for our people in the region.
- Our people receive guarantees to live and enjoy democratic rights protected by the international law and supervision.
Undersigning contact persons and organizations
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