ZALIN, Syria – On June 15, Sayfo Genocide Remembrance Day, the Syriac Union Party (SUP) held a commemoration on the occasion of the 106th anniversary of the Sayfo Genocide which took place in WWI under the leadership of the Young Turks in the Ottoman Empire. The commemoration was attended by residents of the city of Zalin (Qamishli), representatives of political parties, civil organizations, the Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA), and representatives of affiliated institutions of the Beth Nahrin National Council (Mawtbo Umthoyo D’Bethnahrin, MUB). The ceremony began with a minute of silence in memory of the martyrs, followed by the lighting of candles by SUP Co-Chairs Sanharib Barsoum and Nazira Goreya.
On behalf of the SUP, Goreya delivered a speech stating that the Ottomans had decided to rid the ailing Empire of its Christian population and eliminate their civilization, identity, history and culture; “Millions of Syriacs, Armenians and Pontic Greeks were martyred as a result of this.” Goreya indicated that the Turkish policies of aggression of more than 100 years ago are still continuing against the Syriac people. Today, she said, the Turkish government headed by its president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pursues the same exclusionary policies against the Syriacs (Aramean-Assyrian-Chaldean). The Turkish state is the successor of the Ottoman Empire and many Syriac residents of Zalin are descendants of Sayfo survivors forced to flee or deported south from current-day Turkey.
The SUP seeks to internationalize the issue and put pressure on Turkey to recognize the Sayfo, Goreya added. “The SUP will continue to struggle to persuade the international community and countries that have not yet officially recognized Sayfo as genocide to do so, and we call upon them to take the measures needed to establish the full rights of our Syriac people.”
“What has happened in Syria, including the arbitrary incursion of Turkish forces and the Islamic State (ISIS), is a clear and present danger to our people’s future in their historical homeland. We appeal to the human conscience, urging states to apply international law, hold criminals accountable and achieve our people’s rights to life.”
“The peoples will build a future in a democratic, pluralistic, decentralized Syria, and strive to find a political solution that will end the Syrian crisis,” she added.
Head of the Syriac Women’s Union (SWU) in Zalin (Qamishli), Georgette Barsoum emphasized in her speech the fate of women dureing the genocide of 1915. Barsoum pointed out that during the massacres committed against the Syriacs since 1843 until the recent ISIS terrorism, the Syriac woman was a primary target. The terrorists and criminals tried to erase her identity and practiced the most heinous crimes against her, such as murder, rape, kidnapping and torture. They also killed her children and cut open the wombs of pregnant women to bet on the gender of the fotus. The Syriac woman, however, showed resistance and deterred the enemy who wanted to break her will, strength, and determination.
Barsoum stressed that the Syriac woman must realize the responsibility entrusted to her and contribute to work and struggle in various aspects of life alongside with men, in terms of protecting her family, language, culture, and heritage, as well as the pursuit of equality and justice, and the activation of the Sayfo in schools, universities and the media. Barsoum concluded that international solidarity on the issue of Sayfo is very important. Efforts must be unified to restore the stolen rights of our Syriac people.
The commemoration ended with a dramatic performance by the Inana Syriac band, musical performance by Haroutian Madarjian and Renas Malki, and a screenplay on Sayfo. At the end a candlelit procession was held from the headquarters of the Syriac Cultural Association to the Sayfo Genocide monument in the city of Zalin.
Security at the commemoration was in the hands of the Syriac Security Forces (Sutoro) of North and East Syria.
I got invited to speak at a side event of the #IRFMinisterial about minorities in #Syria, Turkish threats to the region, and relations btw US, Turkey, #SDF.
However, I couldn't attend as I'm still doing fieldwork in NE Syria. So I made this video at the #Seyfo monument instead. pic.twitter.com/xpRXlbOzXr
— Doktora Amy Austin Holmes (@AmyAustinHolmes) July 24, 2019
For the article in Arabic see SyriacPress Arabic