DEM Party commemorates victims of the Sayfo genocide

DEM Party expressed solidarity with the Syriac people on the 109th anniversary of the 15 June 1915 Sayfo genocide against Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian-Aramean people in the Ottoman Empire.

The date 1915 brings to mind the Armenian Genocide, which was perpetrated by the Committee of Union and Progress, which was in power in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. However, it was not only Armenians who were slaughtered in 1915, but also Greek and Assyrian (Syriac, Chaldean and Aramaic) Christians.

Although the Republic of Turkey refuses to acknowledge this crime against humanity, the Armenian Genocide of 1915 is gaining increasing international recognition. Syriacs in Mesopotamia call the massacres of 1915 ‘Sayfo’ in the Syriac language, which means ‘sword’.

As the Ottoman Empire gradually collapsed, with Christian peoples in the Balkans gaining their independence in 1912, peoples in Africa and Arabia also rebelled. The Ottoman state took advantage of the outbreak of WWI in 1914 to carry out massacres of Christians in the Aegean, Thrace and in Van and Hakkari. In 1915, the Ottomans started a genocide of Syriacs and Armenians in Van, Bitlis and surrounding areas, then extending this to Diyarbakır, Hakkari and Tur Abdin.

This genocide launched against the Syriac, Armenian and Hellenic peoples of Mesopotamia and Anatolia killed more than a million Armenians, half a million Syriacs and 300 thousand Greeks. Hundreds of thousands of others were displaced or forcibly converted to Islam. In the process, the property of the Christian peoples was seized.

The Peoples and Beliefs Commission of the Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) released a statement marking the 109th anniversary of the 15 June 1915 Sayfo genocide against Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian-Aramean people in the Ottoman Empire.

"The lands of Anatolia and Mesopotamia have made significant contributions to the world culture and social development throughout history, and from time to time have witnessed the suffering and crimes against humanity against different peoples and cultures. The period in which a large part of the population of Syriacs, one of the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia, was massacred is known as Sayfo, which means 'sword'. 15 June 1915 is accepted as the beginning of the massacre of Syriacs,” said the DEM Party.

The statement continued: "At the beginning of the 20th century, there were over 500 thousand Syriacs living in these lands, but as a result of the massacres and forced migrations that started in 1915 and continued until 1924, two thirds of the population was destroyed. As a result of the pressures and assimilation policies that continued afterwards, the Syriac language, identity and culture came to the point of extinction.

Hundreds of churches and monasteries belonging to Syriacs were destroyed, many immovable properties belonging to institutions and individuals were confiscated, the names of settlements were changed and schools providing education in Syriac were closed.

Due to these oppressive practices, most of the remaining population was forced to migrate abroad. Today, the Syriac population living in Turkey has declined to 20 thousand.

We know from examples in the world that condemning crimes against humanity and confronting the truth are extremely important steps in the construction of social peace and the development of conscience and feelings of justice. The demand and expectation of the Syriac people is the realisation of a sincere confrontation.

As DEM Party Peoples and Beliefs Commission, we express once again that the demand of the Syriac people to confront Sayfo is our demand. On the 109th anniversary of Sayfo, we share the pain of the Syriac people and honour those who lost their lives."