The Assyrian Genocide: a Product of Ottoman Jihad
by Sabri Atman
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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.
The Assyrian genocide is not at all known globally. An unknown and denied genocide inflicts great emotional pain on us children of a people victimized by genocide. Many of our contemporary society's problems can be deduced from the genocide. Even though the democratic world has failed to prevent the genocide committed against our people, it now has to cooperate to alleviate the problems we are facing today. As part of the first genocide of the twentieth century, Assyrian Genocide studies should be taught in all universities as a topic in the introduction of crimes of genocide and against humanity. Committed wherever and by whomever, genocide remains genocide. It survives the traces of time.
History provides us not only with pure facts about when or where specific events have occurred, but also with a mean to cope with the past. Past genocides have to be known and condemned in order to prevent future genocides. It is a big mistake to think that a genocide lies in the past and should be forgotten. History is not about oblivion. It is about knowledge. It is about education. It is about the future. And this is precisely why the Assyrian Genocide should be known and considered.
We Assyrians lost two thirds of our population in 1915. We were uprooted from our motherland. The remnants of the genocide were cast into distant parts of the world. Today we are struggling with our sheer existence. Finally, many contemporary problems are a product of the genocide. How can we forget about all this?