Report: An Intergenerational Approach to the Study of Genocide

Assyrian International News Agency
AINA (press release)
July 10 2011

Report: An Intergenerational Approach to the Study of Genocide

Posted GMT 7-10-2011 5:39:1

The workshop entitled, ‘An Intergenerational Approach to the Study of
Genocide’ convened from June 10–16, 2011 in Rijssen, the Netherlands.
Inanna Foundation organized the workshop with the aim to bring
scholars and promising students and activists together to study the
consequences of genocides, more specifically the genocide of the
Assyrians during the First World War. There were about 24 participants
from various European countries and the United States who made
presentations, and dozens more who attended from European countries as
observers and participants during question-and-answer sessions. The
workshop was financed by the European Union within the framework of
Grundtvig Lifelong Learning Programme. The organizers and participants
were very pleased with the results of the workshop, which were a
collective achievement of the participants. The organizers aim to
publish an edited volume based on the contributions made during the
workshop and on papers submitted by other scholars who have shown
interest but could not participate to the workshop.

The workshop was covered as a news item on SuroyoTV and will be
broadcasted in the near future in several chapters or in a documentary
format. SuroyoTV is available in America on the satellite Galaxy25
11929, (V), 22000, FEC 1/2, and in Europe and Asia on the satellite
Hotbird 13deg E 11317, (V), 27500, FEC 3/4.

June 11

Naures Atto of Leiden University (Religious Studies Ph.D. program) and
Soner Önder of the Inanna Foundation welcomed the participants,
introduced the agenda and opened the workshop. In their opening
speech, they elaborated on the importance for later generations of
resolving the dilemma between remembering and forgetting the
experiences of genocide. They explained that the Inanna Foundation has
aimed at bringing the voices of different generations together in
order to make a first step in touching on diverse aspects of the Seyfo
as one example of a genocide committed in the 20th Century. They
furthermore emphasized the importance of bringing together academics
in different fields in order to develop a network of people who can
collaborate on efforts to study the Seyfo from an interdisciplinary

Prof. David Gaunt of Södertörn University (History) and author of
Massacres, Resistance Protectors: Muslim-Christian Relations in
Eastern Anatolia during World War I gave the keynote lecture on The
Place of Seyfo in Modern Genocide Research. He described a transition
from a first generation of genocide scholarship focused on the
Holocaust on an archetypal case and the gas chambers of Auschwitz as
an ideal type against which to measure genocides, to second and third
generations engaged in comparative research into other genocides
during the world wars, European colonization, civil wars, and other
contexts. This transition has proven to be propitious for the study of
Assyrian genocide insofar as it adds to our knowledge of analogous
cases, and legitimizes the study of Seyfo despite some dissimilarities
with the Auschwitz component of the Holocaust.

Dr. Ton Zwaan of the University of Amsterdam (Center for Holocaust and
Genocide Studies) explored the Transgenerational Consequences of
Genocide. He argued that genocide represents an extremely vicious
disruption of social processes with long term effects. The state is
typically centrally, intentionally involved, leading to the victims’
deep sense of disorientation, loss of the social and political context
in which their lives had meaning, loss of nearly of their property,
and migration requiring building new lives. Victims may, generations
later, experience a heightened awareness of vulnerability, threat, and
impunity of their oppressors to punishment, as well as a breach of
trust with society and the world. This breach of trust leads to weak
institutions and leadership on the part of the victim group. Guilt and
shame emerge as normal mourning processes are prevented by the large
number of victims and small number of survivors. Healthy integration
into society and coming to grips with the past can lead to recovery.
The conditions for such recovery include truthful historical
understanding, open public discussion, justice and compensation, and
collective remembrance at the institutional level.

Dr. Ugur Ümit Üngör,Assistant Professor of History at Utrecht
University, described Eastern Turkey as a Zone of Violence and the
Destruction of Ottoman Christians. He analyzed eastern Anatolia as a
multi-generational zone of ethnic and religious violence. He argued
that the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) was lost power in 1918,
though its middle managers took leading roles in the Turkish Republic
under Mustafa Kemal and even into the 1940s. A prominent example was
Mustafa Renda, responsible for the destruction of the Ottoman
Christians of Bitlis province from 1915-1918, allowed to return from
the Malta trials established by Article 230 of the Treaty of Sèvres,
and subsequently appointed to leading roles in the province of
Smyrna/Izmir, the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Interior, the
Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Defense, and the Turkish
parliament. Dr. Üngör argued that the Ottoman Christian minorities
were destroyed as a result of escalation of ethnic conflict at the
provincial level. He argued that eastern Anatolia experienced similar
events in areas experiencing Kurdish rebellions in 1925, 1930, and
1937-38, in Thrace in 1934 as the Jews were targeted, in Marash in
1921, and in Ararat in 1930. Among others, Dr. Üngör displayed a
photograph from the Deutsche Bank archive showing Kurds being loaded
onto railcars for their deportations in the 1930s.

Prof. Ciano Aydin of the University of Twente and Delft University of
Technology (Philosophy) spoke on “Collective Trauma and Cultural
Identity.” There is a complex relationship between identity and
trauma, which can transform some individual or group identities while
solidifying others, or creating solidarity. Collective trauma is
distinguished from individual trauma on the mass basis and
difficulties coping. Dr. Aydin furthermore elaborated on the effects
of collective trauma, which cause a discontinuity and disorganization
for the group who experience the traumatic event. Taking a departure
from Nietzsche’s concept of “active forgetting”, Dr. Aydin endeavored
to show how it is possible to overcome the experienced trauma.

Dr. Önver Cetrez, Assistant Professor at Uppsala University (Religion)
surveyed ‘Genocide and Posttraumatic Stress in a Generational
Perspective: Examples from Different Cases.’ Psychologists have
identified a ‘complex’ of processes by which post-traumatic stress can
have transgenerational effects, impacting the identity, relationships,
and culture of the children and grandchildren of survivors. Some
survivors struggle with issues of isolation, overprotectiveness, and
integration into society due to difficulties with communication and
trust. Separation anxiety, fear, rage, and compassion are common
issues emerging in research on second-generation survivors. Silence
and repression as a result of a failure to share experiences and imbue
them with meaning can lead to second-generation alienation and doubt.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders-Fifth Edition identifies the symptoms of
post-traumatic stress disorder as (1) exposure to a traumatic event,
(2) involving death or a threat of death or injury and a response
characterized by fear or horror, (3) a persistent reexperiencing of
the event through distressing memories of the event, distressing
dreams of the event, flashbacks or a feeling of reliving the
experience, intense emotional distress when encountering symbols or
things associated with the traumatic event, (4) persistent avoidance
of symbols or things associated with the traumatic event and a feeling
of numbness especially when accompanied by efforts to avoid thinking
about or discussing the trauma, encountering people or places related
to it, forgetting important aspects of it, non-participation in normal
daily activities, estrangement from other persons, abnormally
repressed feelings, a sense that live will be short, and (5)
persistent new symptoms of anxiety such as difficulty sleeping, anger
or irritability, finding it tough to concentrate, and (6) significant
effects on one’s career, social relations, or activities as a result
of all of this.

Aryo Makko of Stockholm University (History Ph.D. program) gave a
presentation entitled, ‘From “Forgotten Genocide” to the “Main Pillar
of Identity”: The Role of Seyfo in Contemporary Assyrian
Historiography.’ He argued that from being understood by scholars of
Assyrian history as a mostly forgotten trauma, the perception of Seyfo
has changed in recent years as being an important unifying event for
Assyrians, otherwise divided on denominational and geographical
grounds. The shared experience and knowledge of the Seyfo serve as
common ground for the Western, Eastern, and Persian Assyrians.

June 12

Prof. Efrem Yildiz of Salamanca University (Faculty Philology, Hebrew
and Aramaic studies) detailed The Armenian and Assyrian Eyewitness
Report Through the Eyewitness Testimony of Israel Audo and Jacques
Rhétoré. Israel Audo was the bishop of Mardin at the time of Seyfo.
Jacques Rhétoré was a French Dominican monk from Mosul who was
deported to Mardin, where 75,000 Assyrians lived. Rhétoré wrote that
hundreds of Assyrian clerics were captured, and virtually all killed.
Prof. Yildiz explained that Israel Odo gives much of the same
information as Rhétoré. They both discussed the death of Addai Sher,
the Chaldean Archbishop of Siirt, at some length. Rhétoré’s text ‘Les
chrétiens aux bêtes/Christians to the Beasts: Souvenirs de la guerre
sainte proclamée par les Turcs contre les chrétiens en 1915’ is
available in a Spanish edition.

Prof. David Gaunt of Södertörn University (History) described ‘The
Sources for the History of Seyfo ‘. The sources include British,
American, French, German, and Russian diplomatic and other official
documents, the Vatican archives, memoirs such as those of Jacques
Rhétoré, Hyac in the Simon, Jean Naayem, Lady Surma d’Bait Mar Shimun,
and academic studies by Gabrielle Yonan and other authors. The
submissions of the Assyro-Chaldean delegation to the Paris Peace
Conference are also important. Prof. Gaunt discussed an extensive
bibliography put together by himself, Jan Bet-Sawoce, and Racho Donef.
These same individuals are working to translate the journal L’Action
assyro-chaldéenne from French to English.

Jan Bet-Sawoce of Södertörn University (Mesopotamian Library) gave ‘A
Short Study of the Sayfo Issue in the Vatican Archives.’ The Vatican
archives are important because three French Dominican monks were
eyewitnesses to Seyfo in Mardin. In addition, a special papal delegate
created reports on each province of the Ottoman Empire, and the
condition of the Christians therein, for the Vatican foreign affairs
department. The Vatican documents contain first-hand reports of how
the town criers (tallals) disseminated the call for holy war against
Christians throughout the empire, resulting in massacres. Local
reports of massacres in Urhoy, Kharput, Mardin, Siirt, Bitlis, and
other places were sent in 1915. Massacres in Urmi and Salamas in 1918
are the subject of further reports sent in 1918.

Prof. Hannibal Travis of Florida International University (Law) and
author of the book “Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire,
Iraq, and Sudan” explored: Constructing “The Armenian Genocide”: How
Genocide Scholars Unremembered the Ottoman Assyrians. He argued that
although genocide scholars have tended since the 1960s to describe the
late Ottoman Empire’s genocidal policies as solely an “Armenian
Genocide,” a growing consensus describes these events as a general
Ottoman Christian genocide. Several books and articles were published
from 1966 through 2010 detailing an Armenian genocide that claimed 1.2
to 1.5 million lives, but failing to mention or even minimizing the
death toll among Assyrians and Greeks. Scholars of the Armenian
genocide often state that there were more than two million Armenians
in 1914, and virtually none remaining in Turkey by 1923. They often
neglect to state, however, that there were more than 500,000 Assyrians
in 1914, and that in Turkey in 1919, the Assyrian population was
actually smaller than the Armenian population. In addition, the
Assyrian population of Persia was much more dramatically affected by
the Ottoman occupation of northern Persia than was the Armenian
population, which actually grew from the 1850s to the 1950s, in
contrast to the Assyrian population which fell dramatically. The
reasons why Armenian genocide scholars neglect the Assyrian genocide
include ignorance, statistical questions, and pure politics. The
sources most often used by Armenian genocide scholars describe the
same methods being employed to kill and expel Assyrian communities
living in close proximity to Armenian communities.

Dr. Andrew Palmer of Münster University spoke on U-gubo da-qTiloye —
The Cistern of the Slaughtered Christians and Muslims in M’arre. His
topic was the village of M’aare, which he identified with the Castra
Maurorum or Castle of Maure, and the fourth-century fortress of
M’arrin. M’aare sits on the former Persian/Byzantine Roman border, and
was the site of conflict between Syrian Orthodox and Church of the
East Christians. Tur Abdin and M’arre jutted into Persian territory,
dividing the Church of the East believers in Batman and Nisibis from
one another to some extent. The Assyrians of M’arre were massacred
during World War I, many of their bodies dumped down the cistern or
town well.

June 13

Prof. Michael Abdalla of Poznan University explored Opportunities and
Barriers to Disseminating the Holocaust of the Assyrians in Poland. He
described the need for Christian churches and large organizations like
universities to discuss Assyrians’ whole history, not in pieces. He
described difficulties in attempting to speak on Assyrian persecution
in the Ottoman Empire and Iraq at the Catholic University of Warsaw,
one of whose faculty forbade students to attend an event organized by,
what they still call “heretics”. He explored reasons why Polish
institutions might be willing to raise funds for Georgia or Japan, but
less often for Christian Assyrians in Iraq. Nevertheless, some members
of the Polish church have been very active in facilitating Prof.
Abdalla’s speeches on the Ottoman and Iraqi Assyrians, which have been
well attended. In addition, the Church/People in Distress organization
Poland invited Archbishop Louis Sako from Iraq to speak, and he was
interviewed or profiled in numerous Polish newspapers and television

Scharbil Raid Gharib of the University of Tübingen (Politics, Ph.D.
Programme) presented a talk on ‘Sword and Betrayal–The Repercussions
of Seyfo on the Syriac Speaking Communities.’ He identified several
internal and external factors that have blocked the inclusion of
Syriac speaking people in the modern world. External factors involve
depopulation and dispersion as a result of Seyfo, and internal factors
relate to the culture, politics, and religion of Syriac speaking
communities. Malik Kambar criticized the diplomats of the West for
dividing the Assyrian nation in their own interests. The
denominational division of the Assyrian/Syriac nation represented a
further betrayal. In the aftermath of Seyfo, the leaders of the Syriac
speaking people presented demands aimed at reversing both betrayals,
including liberation from the Turkish and Persian yoke, reparations
for material damage, and a unified Assyrian state under a League of
Nations mandate. Similarly, Archbishop Ignatious Afram I Barsoum
demanded that the delegates to the Paris Peace Conference guarantee
the Syriac speaking people French protection, reparations for lost
churches, monasteries, and schools, and the same material aid as
Armenians. Mar Shimun’s representatives asked for British protection
with an autonomous patriarchal government, with boundaries from
Bashkala and Bitlis in the north to Jazireh in the southeast. The last
remaining sources of Assyrian unity were lost with the exile of Agha
Petros by the British and French, and the massacres at Simele which
destroyed the last remaining power of the Assyrians, politically and

Sabri Atman of Seyfo Center described ‘Seyfo Activities at the
International Level.’ Activism and scholarship have contributed to the
recognition of the Assyrian genocide by the Swedish parliament, the
South Australia parliament, the local government of New South Wales in
Australia, and several governors of the State of New York. A monument
was erected in Fairfield, Australia. Monuments also exist in Chicago,
Illinois and Los Angeles, California. Seyfo Center has been active in
documenting the Assyrian genocide, representing the Assyrian cause in
governmental and intergovernmental institutions, and educating
non-Assyrians and Assyrians alike in educational and political fora.
It is a resource for academics, journalists, politicians, and

Dr. Jan van Ginkel of Leiden University spoke on 1917: A New Bishop in
Amid/Diyarbakir. Who was Mor Dionysus ‘Abd an-Nur Aslan? He told a
fascinating story of a bishop with strong social connections, who was
transferred from Harput to Syria in 1913, and became bishop of
Diyarbakir in 1917. The appointment represented the hope of the Syrian
Orthodox church that Diyarbakir would again become a center of Syrian
Orthodox life in the aftermath of the Seyfo, a hope unrealized.

Abdulmesih BarAbraham of the Yoken-Bar-Yoken Foundation described
Turkey’s Key Arguments in Denying the Assyrian Genocide. He summarized
the works of Salahi Ramadan Sonyel and Bulent Ozdemir on the Assyrian
genocide, which emphasize that the Assyrians were the ‘smallest Ally’
of Britain and Russia, who rebelled against Ottoman Empire. In
addition, both play down the effect of the events on the Assyrians,
claiming that Assyrians had long lived together in peace with Turks
and Kurds, and suffered flight from their homes and losses in battle
as a result. In 1931, the Republic of Turkey issued a directive on the
teaching of history from a Kemalist slant. The Turkish Historical
Society enjoys a constitutional mandate under article 134 of the
constitution of 2005. The Assyrian section of the society was set up
in 2007 under the leadership of Bulent Özdemir. Özdemir argues that
the Jacobites of Mardin, Midyat, Diyarbakir and Mosul lived in peace
because they did not rebel, while the Assyrians of Hakkari, Van and
Urmia suffered losses because they joined with Russia in the war. The
Society’s stand is denial of any wrongdoing by the Turks; to blame are
external powers, missionaries, and the victims for what happened. In
their narrative, there was no planned genocide, but some armed
robberies and outbreaks of illness.

Ibrahim Seven, an independent activist, explored ‘Seyfo in the Turkish
and Kurdish Media.’ A number of books have been published in Turkey by
Turkish and Kurdish authors who recognize the Assyrian genocide,
including not only Seyfo but the genocide perpetrated in the 1840s by
Turks and Kurds. Mr. Seven described some of these books, the
backgrounds of their authors, and their findings.

June 14

Tour of Amsterdam including the Jewish Historical Museum and Anne
Frank House Museum.

June 15

Prof. Shabo Talay of the University of Bergen (Arabic and Aramaic)
described the ‘Impacts of Seyfo on the Aramaic Language.’
Aramaic-speakers have suffered linguistic genocide due to direct
killings, outlawing of their language, and exclusion from their
traditional homes and communities. There has been a sharp decline in
Aramaic speakers, because a language needs a culture, and the culture
of Aramaic-speakers is changing as a result of living in diaspora. Dr.
Talay described how Aramaic-speaking youth growing up in the wake of
Seyfo would suffer punishment in Turkish schools for using Aramaic
words and were forced to recite poems saying ‘my father is a Turk’ and
so on. He explored how Seyfo is often referred to in Aramaic as a
firman, the etymology of which reflects both a decree and
cutting/killing/decapitating. Aramaic also uses kafla, which means
deport or ‘pursue’, for Seyfo. He described the 1993 attack on the
village of Hassan/Hasanna, in which 300 families of Protestant,
Chaldean and Syrian Orthodox Christians fled the last base of Aramaic
speakers in Turkey east of the Tigris river, many of them moving to
Mechelen in the 1990s. This was the death knell of a dialect of
Aramaic east of the Tigris.

Nineb Lamassu of the School or Oriental and African Studies,
University of London (Assyriology) spoke on a ‘Private Archive of
Malik Yaqu and Malik Ismael and Early Attempts at Compensation for
Seyfo .’ The maliks of the Assyrians living in the United States in
the 1960s learned that Germany had paid over $800 million in
reparations to the Jews for the Holocaust, and explored in private
communications the tabulation of Assyrian losses due to Seyfo,
especially churches and agricultural lands and flocks, for a lawsuit
seeking compensation from Turkey. Mr. Lamassu reviewed several letters
from private archives he has consulted in the United States during his
participation in the Modern Assyrian Research Archive project. He
described how MARA will help scholars engaged in similar research in
the future.

Naures Atto of Leiden University (Religious Studies Ph.D. program)
reviewed the history of song lyrics about Seyfo in a talk entitled.
‘Lyrics about the Seyfo.’ She described the evolution of this music
from traditional to more contemporary formats such as hip-hop or rap.

Mousa Elias of the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm spoke on ‘The
Place of Seyfo in Mousa Elias’ Music.’ He described his collaboration
with an Assyrian poet and the preparation of the melody prior to
asking for the lyrics to be written. He then delivered a very moving
performance of his music on the Seyfo.

Nahrin Malki Atto, an independent artist, presented and discussed her
Seyfo -related paintings. She passed around examples of her work and
talked about the tension between evoking Seyfo without being too
didactic about doing so.

In the Open Session, two MA students presented their work. Sanharib
Demir of Bielefeld University (Politics) spoke on ‘Seyfo –A Result of
Conflicting National Identities.’ He described the importance of
Assyrian national identity in the pre-war Ottoman context, as
exemplified by the use of names such as Sanharib to evoke the Assyrian
nations’ past. He analyzed how the rise of racism and ultranationalism
in the Ottoman Empire set the stage for genocide, referring
specifically to the theories of Young Turk ideologist Ziya Gokalp. Oya
Nuzumlali of Sabanci University (Cultural Studies) explored
‘Configurations of Genocide: The Case of Chaldeans in Istanbul.’ She
described preparing survey research on the Chaldean community in
Istanbul today. She explored potential challenges in conducting such a
study, and ways of facing them. She argued that the Chaldean community
in Istanbul bears the scars of a past genocide, including fear of
outsiders, heightened religiosity to the exclusion of worldly
pursuits, and dispersion globally. Many Chaldeans have come from Iraq
in recent years due to persecution, yet some view Istanbul as a mere
wayplace en route to Europe, the United States, or elsewhere.

In an event after the closing dinner which was organized to honor the
Seyfo -related work by David Gaunt, several participants gave a speech
and handed him a present. The invited musician Mousa Elias entertained
the audience with his oud, a session which continued until midnight.

By Hannibal Travis

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS