“The Assyrian Genocide: a Product of Ottoman Jihad” is a moving and informative lecture by Sabri Atman, the founder and director of the Assyrian Genocide and Research Center, Seyfo Center. From AINA, April 17:
Ladies and Gentlemen
I belong to the Seyfo Center. 95 years after the genocide, Seyfo or Sepa has become a topical issue in the international arena and it is making headlines. It is now becoming a salient point in international political agendas. Until recently only the Armenian aspect of the genocide was known and most people were not aware that the entire Christian population of the then Ottoman Empire was subjected and suffered under the same genocidal policies of the Young Turks. This is a recognisable difference that I am talking about: it is the recognition and inclusion of the Assyrian and Greek genocide as part of the earlier known Armenian genocide. However, this genocide is yet to be called by its proper name, “Seyfo,” in which Western Assyrian dialect it means “the sword.”
Seyfo was carried out in a true jihadist strategy, ethnically annihilating all the non-Muslim citizens living under the Ottoman occupation, with the objective of homogenizing Turkey with a notion of creating ‘one-Nation’ and ‘one-Religion.’ Most of the victims were killed by swords and it is precisely due to this fact that this genocide is known among our people as “Seyfo.” This is how it was known by its victims, and this is how they passed it on to us with their eye-witness accounts which have become part and parcel of our collective memory.
I would also like to iterate certain beliefs of mine to avoid any confusion. My knowledge on the subject, which is the Assyrian Genocide, is after all not unlimited, but I was born in Turkey, Turkish language is one of the ten languages I speak, and I know the Turkish policy very well and the reality of the Turkish state. The Assyrian Genocide was organized by the Ottoman Turks, and this is the reason I speak mostly about Assyrians and Turkey. This is not because my people from Urmi, Iraq and the rest of the world are less important to me. This is absolutely not the case. What is happening to our people in today’s Iraq is terrible. I am very grateful for the efforts of the Assyrian Aid Society and similar organizations in providing aid to our people in Iraq and making their voices heard in America and the rest of the civilized world.
On September 11th 2001, the world witnessed a severe tragedy in their own backyard. In a very short time all our lives where changed when we saw the monumental World Trade Center buildings destroyed. Nearly three thousand people lost their lives. The scenes of September 11th are still vivid in our memory. The engulfing flames were hellish, the clouds of the buildings collapsing were Hiroshima-like. The images of people jumping out of the 33rd floor are forever disturbing. The idea that people who went to work that day on a normal morning were never going to return to their husbands, wives, and children touched all our hearts. This was a severe and a painful tragedy, which should never be forgotten. As life goes on and close to ten years will have passed, the active memory is still going on. However, there is one consolation for those who lost their relatives and loved ones. They have a resting place for those lost loved ones, which now has been transformed to a memorial of flowers, candles, and pictures, never letting the world forget the tragedy that occurred there. Furthermore, some of those who were responsible for the call of jihad (which means the holy war for Islam) have been punished.
That is, unfortunately, not altogether accurate: in reality, the 9/11 family members are now facing the construction of a memorial seven stories underground that will turn the remains of their loved ones into a tourist attraction. But of course this is not his main point.
We Assyrians as a people have been punished more. Our perfect little world has been changed forever. Our children’s history books have been rewritten. We are not in them. The world tragedy that took place ninety-five years ago is not in our history books! Across the globe, in another part of the world, this tragedy’s painful consequences are still being felt. The word jihad is a familiar word that is not new to Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks. On November 14, 1914 there was a decision to call for jihad, not different from the decision which was called for on the American public and the people of New York. This decision of jihad was preached and read in all of the mosques, while the world stood still watching. As a result, in 1915 the crime of Genocide was committed in Turkey, against the Christians, namely, the Assyrians, the Armenians, and the Greeks. This was the first large genocide of the 20th century, in which not 3 thousand people perished but more than 2 million young-old, men and women, boys and girls were killed. If you divide the number 2 million by 3 thousand, which is the number of those who lost their lives in New York, you will get the number 666. In other words the tragedy that was suffered by our people in 1915 was 666 times bigger numerically than the tragedy that was experienced in New York. No loss of life large or small should be taken for granted, and all losses should always be remembered. Unfortunately, those who watched our people being massacred 95 years ago continue to stand still. Not enough action has been taken, and Turkey, continues to deny that the crime of genocide was ever committed.
The Assyrian Genocide is the unknown genocide of the 20th century. The tragedy of systematic cleansing by the Ottoman Empire of the Christian minorities living under their occupation included the Assyrians, the Armenians, and the Greeks.
Why do I persist in the task of recognition of the Assyrian Genocide? Many non-Assyrians ask me, “Why do you persist on this cause? The past is the past. Let the dead rest.” I say to them, “The Assyrians were killed and displaced during the Genocide; I will never rest until they have received their due justice.” Assyrians, like me, are forever tied to our bitter past and the genocide committed upon our people by the Young Turks during the First World War. As Assyrians, it is our responsibility that the descendants of the old Ottoman Empire represented today by modern and “secular” Turkey recognize the atrocities of its past, and ensure that such crimes will never happen again.
In addition, my response to them is, that the past shapes our future and to progress you must learn from the past….
There is much, much more. Be sure to read it all.