Truth Denied for 106 Years

By Suphi Aksoy

Great disaster happened 106 years ago in Mesopotamia and Anatolia. The name of this rampant disaster in the Middle East went down in the history of the Syriac (Assyrian-Aramean-Chaldean), Armenian, and Pontic Greek peoples, as the Genocide of 1915. In the history of humanity, there have been many similar or different ethnic, religious, and social disasters in different parts of the world.

Every disaster has affected the people living in the concerned geography and has caused national tragedies. Therefore, in the history of every people one can find painful stories, dark pages, unforgettable traumas, and wounds that are difficult to heal.

The peoples affected feel the need to keep referring the attacks they have suffered, the atrocities they have experienced, the massacres they have suffered at the hands of the dominant and plundering powers, to international institutions of justice and to the public opinion. They hope that justice will once be served. These wounded peoples hope to free themselves from human subjugation and persecution by finding international solidarity. The calls and cries of these peoples and their quest for justice sometimes find their way to the right platforms, sometimes they hit a deaf wall. Many crimes against humanity that the public opinion and international powers have obscured and sacrificed for their own interests have made oppressed peoples prisoners of pessimism and despair. Dark clouds hang over their lives. Perpetrators are not held responsible.

The Christian peoples, who endured hundreds of years of oppression and exploitation under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, and which culminated in genocide in 1915, are disappointed at the injustice of the world. During World War I, millions of Syriacs, Armenians, and Pontic Greeks were massacred, exiled, or forcibly converted to Islam. The goods and properties of these peoples were appropriated. Their historical and cultural values were destroyed.

Christian peoples were subjected to genocide, rape, betrayal, and plunder in their homes, villages, cities, and homelands by their neighbors. 106 years ago, no effort was made to apologize for this crime against humanity, and no political solution was devised to turn a new page that would stop the blood from the open wounds. On the contrary, the Genocide was repeated with lies and denial. The world turned its back on the truth by turning a blind eye to these lies. Some conscientious people who publicly voiced the genocide were punished to silence them.

In an environment where speaking the truth and questioning the disappearance of the Christian peoples from Mesopotamia and Anatolia is made a crime, calls are made to the grandchildren of those who were massacred in the savage genocide and who were forcibly exiled from their homes and sentenced to starvation, diseases, and death on the roads and deserts to return to their homeland. As if nothing happened. In the last twenty years, representatives of the Turkish Republic have sent out messages to Syriacs to return. Some Kurdish politicians also publicly announce that they want to see Syriacs back in the country and that they apologize for past events.

On the other hand, we have seen many political leaders in the Middle East, especially the governments of Turkey and Syria, posing in recent years as protectors of the Syriacs, trying to lure them to their side. However, status quo regimes based on the synthesis of Turkish Islam, Arab Islam, Persian Islam, and those who make up Kurdish Islam, cannot bring anything positive to Syriacs and other Christian peoples if their current mentality remains the same. It is very clear why Syriacs have fled their homeland since the Sayfo Genocide of 1915, and why they sought refuge in western countries.

It is known to everyone that the main value that a people creates for itself is the homeland on which it lives and on which it has established its civilization. Therefore, no one leaves their homeland voluntarily and without reason. It is also very clear and understandable that the Syriacs do not want to be close with their murderers and the heirs of the mentality that did them all kinds of harm. A person does not want to live in the same place as his rapist and come face to face with him day and night. His psychology seeks the solution in moving away because his spiritual world cannot remove the evil that was done to him.

Taking all the above into consideration, inviting the Syriacs to “return to their homeland” is nothing more than an empty and false statement. The Sayfo Genocide of 1915 has not yet been officially recognized and those responsible have never been tried and convicted. In addition, the appropriated property was never returned, and no constitutional guarantees were given to the peoples who were victims of the genocide.

Only a people who have been subjected to genocide can fully understand the suffer and psychological world of a people who have been subjected to genocide, from the trauma and pain they both have experienced. For this reason, it is of great importance that all oppressed communities in Turkey and the Middle East bring together their pain and join hands in solidarity; this goes for all ethnic, religious identities and social components, women, democratic intellectuals, Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Alevi, Sabeans, Druze, Kaka’i, and all Muslims who have been oppressed because they did not go against their conscience.

It is only when a new life is built that fights together against oppression and injustice and that shares the joys of freedom together, that the return of exiled Syriacs to their homeland can take on meaning and value. Therefore, those who do not condemn or recognize the Genocide of 1915 will be defenders of new genocides and complicit in the crimes of the past.

This op-ed was originally published in Turkish by Gazete Sabro on May 9, 2020. The original can be found here

The views expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SyriacPress.