The Assyrian Genocide

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

One hundred years ago this year, the Ottoman Turkish Empire systematically started the extermination of the Armenian people. Claiming that the Armenians were a “disloyal element within the Turkish Empire,” the Ottoman forces began a round-up and mass slaughter of Armenians wherever they were. Pope Francis, to the consternation of the current Turkish government, lent his support for the descendants of those Armenians who had endured the genocide against the Armenians within the Turkish Empire. Not as well known, but no less important, was the Ottoman Turkish genocide of the Assyrian people.

But who were and are the Assyrians? They are clearly mentioned in the Bible. The Assyrians, also called the Syriacs, Syrians and Chaldeans, had lived in the Middle East since the 14th Century B.C.E. From 2500 B.C. to 605 B.C., they were part of Babylonia, and were once the rulers of a great empire. Like the Armenians, the Assyrians became Christian and were among the first peoples in the world to become Christian. Like the Armenians, the Assyrians became pawns of mighty empires. The Assyrians were eventually conquered by the Persians (modern day Iran and Iranians) and the Ottoman Turkish Empire. Like the Armenians, the Assyrians were viciously persecuted by the Ottomans. between 1894 and 1897, the Ottoman Turks, and the Kurdish, slaughtered thousands of Armenians and Assyrians as part of an “Ottomanization” campaign.

This set the stage for the systematic genocide of the Assyrian people when the Ottoman Turkish Empire joined the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary against Russia, France and Great Britain during World War I. This gave a perfect excuse to the Ottoman Turks for the massacres of the civilian Armenian and Assyrian populations within the borders of the Ottoman Empire. In fact, the Ottoman Turks also slaughtered the Assyrians within the borders of Persia—disregarding Persia’s neutrality during World War I. No one is sure how many Assyrians were killed. The estimates run between 250,000 and 300,000. Almost all of the Assyrians were driven from Turkish lands where they had been there for thousands of years. To this day, like the Armenian genocide, the current Turkish government does not acknowledge the extermination of the Assyrian people. But as almost all historians of today have documented and acknowledge, the Assyrian genocide, like the Armenian genocide, are statements of fact.

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