Uncle Shamoun, a Syriac from Tur Abdin, recalls painful memories of the Sayfo Genocide

NORTH AND EAST SYRIA — In an interview conducted by the Media Office of the Sutoro (Syriac Security Forces), “Uncle” Shamoun spoke about the painful memories of the Sayfo Genocide of 1915.

The Sayfo Genocide was committed by the Ottoman Empire and allied Kurdish, Arab, and Circassian forces in the early 20th century against the Syriac (Aramean–Assyrian–Chaldean) people and occurred parallel to the genocides of Armenians, Greeks, and Yezidis. Upwards of 300,000 of the regions estimated 700,000 Syriacs (Arameans–Assyrians–Chaldeans) were massacred. More than 200,000 were forcefully displaced or deported south.

Uncle Shamoun, who was born in the village of Zaz in modern day Turkey, spoke about the horror of the Ottoman Empire’s crimes. “During the Sayfo, the Syriac residents of the village of Zaz took refuge inside its wall and resisted for 20 days, refusing to surrender, because they did not trust the Ottomans who had besieged the village,” he said. “Three hundred and sixty-five Syriac residents hid in a large deep pit for fear of the Ottomans, who discovered them and burned them all, old and young.”

“Mary, a little girl, was the only survivor of the massacre, as she remained hidden under a pile of corpses.”

Uncle Shamoun continued, a tone of sadness dominating his voice:

“My mother’s commandment was to get to know her family. In those days, the ties of kinship between the families were cut off. People were naked, hungry, poor, destitute, without homes, afraid. No one took mercy on them, as diseases and deadly epidemics spread at that time.

My family fled with those who survived the massacre and arrived at a beekeeping farm and settled there.”

History mentions the resistance and steadfastness of the Syriac (Aramean–Assyrian–Chaldean) people in villages like Aynwardo and Beth Zabday (Azakh), their heroes, such as Mor Shamoun Benjamin and Agha Boutros, immortalized through resistance.

To commemorate the Sayfo, memorials have been erected in Syria, Lebanon, and Armenia. The Syriac (Aramean–Assyrian–Chaldean) people continue their national struggle to the present day, seeking recognition for the massacres suffered by their ancestors.

Read Also: Memories of the Sayfo Genocide remain in the minds of survivor’s and victim’s grandchildren: “Our innocent defenseless Christian ancestors were tormented to death. May God give them the Kingdom of Heaven”