Syriac Unity Party: 1915 genocide is repeated

Rojava faces a threat of exodus because of the invasion of Turkey. Around 100 Christian families have already been expelled from Serêkaniyê, and the situation in Til Temir is also threatening. Gabriel Shamoun of the Syriac Unity Party fears a second 1915.

The invasive war of Turkey and its mercenary allies against the self-governing regions of Northern and Eastern Syria has devastating consequences for the multi-ethnic and multi-religious civilian population. Serêkaniyê (Ras al-Ain) is one of the cities that fell to the hands of Turkish occupying forces after eleven days of bitter resistance. Nearly 250,000 people have been displaced from the border town and its environs. Among them are also about 100 Syriac and Christian families who were forced into refugee life without means and have now found shelter in school buildings or with the population of the surrounding villages. The fate of some sick Syriac residents, who remained in the city due to health problems, remains uncertain.

ANF talked to Gabriel Shamoun, the local chairman of the Syriac Unity Party (Gabo d'Ḥuyodo Suryoyo) in Hesekê, about the situation of the Syriac population and the threatening exodus. Shamoun fears a second 1915.

"The Syriacs, Assyrians and Armenians lived in peace and security on the basis of our project of a democratic nation, born from the union of cultural and national identities and defending the fundamental rights of the entire population structure. This also applied to the regions of Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî (Tal Abyad). The Syriac, Assyrian and Armenian peoples had oriented themselves to the model of democratic self-government and had built up a communal and equal life. Most recently, a private school was opened in Serêkaniyê, where pupils enjoyed an education that corresponded to their own values and traditions," explains the Syriac politician.

“The genocide is repeated”

Shamoun refers to the mass exodus since the beginning of the invasion of NATO partner Turkey in Northern and Eastern Syria, which violates international law: “Hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes into destitution. They lived in constant fear of indiscriminate bombardments, abductions and killings. Many people have found refuge in Hesekê, Til Temir and Qamishlo.”

Shamoun points out that: "The genocide of 1915 is repeated today. Even then, the Syriac, Assyrian and Armenian populations were deprived of their rights. Today the same fate befalls these people.”

The genocide of the Syriacs describes the events from 1915 to 1917 during the First World War under the rule of the Young Turks in the then Ottoman Empire, which occurred simultaneously with the genocide of the Armenians (Aghet) and the persecutions of the Pontos Greeks. The Syriacs call this dark chapter of their past Sayfo or Seyfo, which means sword. At least 1.5 million people died in the massacres and death marches.

'As long as the invaders do not retreat, no one will return'

Gabriel Shamoun confirms that all areas of Northern and Eastern Syria are affected by the Turkish invasion and that the attacks do not only occur in the border strip planned for a so-called "security zone". "The occupation has devastating consequences for the entire region. Some of our friends have fallen. While the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are acting in accordance with the ceasefire agreement, the occupation forces are yet to take serious steps in this direction. Especially the attacks on villages in and around Til Temir, which are under the control of Syriac forces, are aggravating the security situation on the ground. And until the Turkish state and its militias withdraw, people will not be able to return to their homes. Because all components of the ancestral population are regarded as 'kafir', i.e. unbelievers or opponents of God, and treated accordingly. Under these conditions a return is impossible."

“Ongoing attacks constitute a great danger”

Shamoun fears a much larger wave of attacks on northern and eastern Syria. Neither the US nor the regime in Damascus are taking any serious steps towards a ceasefire, the politician criticizes and continues: “The war continues everywhere in the self-governing territories. The ongoing fighting in the area of Zirgan (Abu Rasan) in particular has a great potential for danger and damage. They indicate that they are a prelude to a possible and imminent major wave of attacks and will be followed by new air attacks on the region. So, the civilian population will continue to suffer."

“Stronger Unity Against Neo-Ottoman Dreams”

Gabriel Shamoun emphasizes that they as Syriac, Assyrian and Armenian peoples will unite and protect their land against the Turkish state with Ottoman dreams. He says:

"This is the most important task we face. We must unite stronger and protect our long-standing unity in order to assert our rights and withstand the attacks. Attacks greatly harm the people in all areas of life including language, culture and history. It is our task to protect these. We must unite as all components of the population and support the SDF, which resists the occupation attacks. We must be one piece under the roof of the SDF.”