One-hundred and six years ago, the Ottoman Empire committed a series of genocides against the native inhabitants of its territories, including against the Syriac (Aramean–Assyrian–Chaldean) people, referred to by them as the Sayfo, the Sword in Syriac.
The Beth Nahrin National Council (Mawtbo Umthoyo D’Bethnahrin, MUB) issued a statement calling on the Turkish government to recognize the atrocities committed by its predecessor government.
********** MUB STATEMENT **********
Turkey continues the policy of denying the ethnic genocides that it committed in 1915 against the Christian peoples of Beth Nahrin and Anatolia. With this policy of denial, the identity, as well as historical and cultural values of these peoples have been occupied and denied.
Turkey followed, and continues to follow, a policy of ‘one people’, not allowing for the existence of identities and religions beyond those condoned by the state.
The Turkish government refuses to recognize its dark history.
The danger of continued extermination of minorities in the country is present in the extremist ideologies encouraged by the government and planted in homes, schools, and the media. Generations have been brought up with aggressive nationalistic feelings, marking ‘others’ as traitors to be eliminated.
It is the same policy pursued by some of the leading figures in Turkey. As a result of that policy, Christians have again become a target for genocide.
By denying the Sayfo Genocide, the Turkish government aims to exterminate the survivors of the Sayfo. On this basis, churches, monasteries, and cultural and historical heritage are subject to demolition or conversion. Churches have been subjected to willful neglect, sometimes even used as stables for animals.
The policy of expulsion and denial by the Turkish leadership against Christian peoples and other ethnic and cultural groups hinders the development of democratic Turkey. The policies pursued by the ruling Justice and Development Party and National Movement Party further entrenches and worsens these policies.
The Turkish attacks in North and East Syria, Cafrin (Afrin), Shengal (Sinjar), and Nineveh Plains aim to eliminate the demographic diversity that characterizes the region. This Turkish initiative shows the lack of acceptance of popular diversity and Turkey’s simultaneous celebration and denial of the crimes of its past.
In Turkey, there are many democratic people who recognize the Sayfo, whether in public or in cultural debates. However, because of the Turkish government’s attempts, a large part of the people continue to deny the genocide, or refuse to speak publicly about their acceptance.
The recognition of all genocides by different states and institutions is an absolute necessity in protect human values and avoiding the repetition of past crimes. Turkey’s recognition of the Sayfo, its recognition of the truth and its abandonment of its policy of denial, would set in motion a process of healing for the Armenian, Syriac (Aramaean–Assyrian–Chaldean), and Greek people.
Turkey will insist on denying the Sayfo. For now, the healing of old wounds will be pushed into the future.
However, on 24 April, we remember all the martyrs of the Sayfo, including the estimated 1.5 million Armenians, 300,000 Greeks, 300,000 Yezidis, and 300,000 Syriacs (Arameans–Assyrians–Chaldeans). We, as the MUB, condemn the participation of the Turkish, Kurdish, Arab, Circassian, and other forces that engaged in the genocide out of ethnic hatred or Islamic jihad.
We call upon every person in Turkey to acknowledge the Sayfo and stand against the policies which were used to carry out massacres and authoritarian segregation in the name of nationalism and religion. We call on every educated, open, democratic society who supports freedom and human rights, with the aim of healing past wounds, to admit that denial, annulment, and injustice will neither bring democracy nor peace nor freedom to anyone.
Once again, we bow our heads before the martyrs of the Sayfo, and we will commemorate their memory in our struggle.
We pledge, that by our struggle, we will reveal to the world all forms of denial and marginalization that are practiced against our people.
Beth Nahrin National Council
23 April 2021