Aydin Aslan, an Assyrian residing in Brussels, in this program makes a historical review of the Kurdish massacres and betrayal towards the Assyrians. These bitter experiences are the reason why Assyrians today can not rely on the sincerity behind any Kurdish promises. Despite this, the marginalized group Dawronoye prefer to remain loyal to the Kurdish PYD in Syria.
Aydin Aslan, who is a former pupil at the well known monastery of Mor Gabriel in Turabdin, thanks to his language skills, is able to search through Assyrian sources which mention the earliest Kurdish presence in Turabdin or in Assyria in general. In the 7th century a Persian invasion of Turabdin took place, but it is unclear whether some Kurdish elements had followed with the Persians. Some Assyrians say that Mor Gabriel (574-668) was the first who asked for help from Kurdish chiefs to protect Turabdin from the Byzantine rulers violence. But this is not true. It was from Arab tribes Mor Gabriel sought help, says Aydin.
In 1185 the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Mor Mikhael Rabo wrote of Turkoman nomads who used to be attacked by Kurdish bandits in the mountains of Assyria and Armenia. These Kurds lived by plundering or murdering Turkomans on their way between summer and winter residence with their flocks. The Turkomans had enough and attacked the Kurds who started hiding inside the Assyrian and Armenian villages. The local community was suffering hard of the fighting. Finally the Turkomans killed 30.000 Kurds, according to Mikhael Rabo. Thereafter, there is no mention of the Kurdish presence until about the time of the Emirs of Gziro (Jazireh Bohtan) between 1300 and 1855; in total 37 Kurdish Emirs, according to patriarch Afrem Barsom’s book ”Makethbonuto d Turabdin” (Turabdin’s history). Some of these emirs are known for their cruelty against Assyrians; Sharaf Beg (1505-15), Mir Shamdin, The blind Mir Kor (1808) which is known as ”the barbarous Emir”. In 1831, he massacred all the Assyrians in Alqush on the Nineveh Plains, 1833 the Yezidis in Shigor (Sinjar) where he killed three thousand able-bodied men. Women, children and old people were at the time not counted to the victims because they were regarded as part of the war booty. The same year, Mir Kor massacred several villages in Turabdin; Esfes, Arbo, the monastery of Mor Malke, Zaz and Bote.
In 1250 the Assyrians in Hakkari had 250.000 able-bodied men. Therefore the emirs in Gziro did not dare to attack Hakkari. 1441 the Patriarchate of the Eastern Church moved from Alqush to Hakkari which was a stronghold. Because of its inaccessible location the bishops in the great Church of the East (Middle East, India, China, Mongolia) could not gather to appoint a new patriarch. Therefore, the system of inheritance within the same family (Mar Shemun) became a temporary solution. This was misused and a splinter group joined the Vatican in 1551. The Chaldean Church was formed. The Patriarchate of the Eastern Church then moved to Tehran and was there until 1750. Later it was moved back to Hakkari. In the 19th century the patriarch Mar Shemun demanded that the Assyrians would stop paying taxes to the Kurdish emir Nurullah Beg. Before that agreement was made between the Assyrian and Kurdish clans who accepted the supremacy of Nurullah on Gziro (Bohtan) and Hakkari. This put the Assyrians for a time in safety from Kurdish clans attacks. Nurullah complained to Bedr Khan Beg who was a powerful Kurdish emir. Bedr Khan in 1843 marched to Hakkari with 100.000 armed Kurds with military help from the Turkish Sultan. In order to split the Assyrian resistance, he attacked tactically only Assyrian Dez clan and killed in three days about 40.000 Assyrians. Same tactic was later used by the Turks during the Assyrian genocide Seyfo 1915, when they attacked the Assyrians of a particular church affiliation first, and promised freedom for the others, which was a lie. 1846 Bedr Khan returned to Hakkari and carried out a new massacre. Shortly before that, the British archaeologist Austen Henry Layard passed through Hakkari on his way to Mosul. He would dig up the ancient Assyrian capital Nineveh. Layard has described in detail the atrocities Bedr Khan had committed to the Assyrians and tells their horror of what would come next. If it were not for Western missionaries Bedr Khan would try to massacre the other five Assyrian tribes in Hakkari as well. But the Sultan, who had in fact been aware of what Bedr Khan was doing and gave him indirect support, later on had to send the military to stop Bedr Khan. He was arrested and deported to Crete with his eleven wives and 99 children – if this can be regarded as a penalty. In the early 1850s Bedr Khan’s nephews Izzaddin Sher and Masur Beg attacked Turabdin and massacred the population. 1855 was the end of the Kurdish emirate in Gziro as these warlords also were arrested.
1894-96 Kurdish irregulars, the Hamidiye Brigades, participated in Sultan Abdulhamid II’s large-scale massacres of Armenians and Assyrians.
1902 the unrest continued in Hakkari. Two Assyrian chiefs, Malek Barkho and Malek Ismael, wrote a letter to the French consul in Mosul and requested protection from the Muslim Kurdish clan’s threat.
During the genocide of 1915 (and subsequent years) Kurds participated in large scale and are the ones who actually have implemented the genocide. As a ”reward” they took over the house and property of the victims. A small number of Kurdish chiefs rescued a number of families and villages, often at the cost of the surviving Assyrians got to be a free labour for these chiefs.
1915 the Assyrians in Hakkari fled to Urmiah in Persia. In early1920s the Assyrian General Agha Petros tried to return them to Hakkari. He negotiated with the new Turkish Republic’s leaders but got no permission. He wanted to march on Hakkari by his own Assyrian troops, but the British used Lady Surma to persuade the Assyrian clan leaders to abstain. in 1924 the British forces Agha Petros into exile in France where he died in 1932, probably by poisoning. Since then Hakkari is completely emptied of its indigenous Assyrian inhabitants.
1933 the new Iraqi government carried on a massacre of Assyrians in Simele, with 10.000 soldiers and armed bandits who had been released from prison to kill Assyrians. British warplanes gave Iraqis support. About 1.000 armed Assyrian men and more than 2.000 civilians were killed mercilessly. The Iraqi troops were led by a Kurd named General Bakr Sedqi.
In 1985 the PKK started its armed struggle against Turkey. Their guerrilla hid in Assyrian villages in Turabdin and this contributed to the Turkish military emptied some villages of their population. The Assyrians were displaced and migrated to Europe. The Kurds took over their property. Today Kurdish clans and individuals are trying to prevent a return of the Assyrians to their home villages. Only four Assyrian villages in Turabdin (Arkah, Miden, Bsorino and Hah) have retained some 20 Assyrian families left in the village, thanks to a military post in each village. The rest became victims of the PKK’s ethnic cleansing of Assyrians. Out of 50.000 Kurdish village guards in Turkey, who were paid by the state to fight the PKK, there were only a few men in the Assyrian village Bnebil outside Mardin. PKK killed seven of these Assyrians, as well as the mayor of Qellet Cercis Benyamen in early 1990s. Today, when the PKK targets military posts in Turabdin with suicide attacks, they choose Assyrian villages like Hah in May 2016, where 19 Assyrian families remain, but they will not be left in peace.
PKK’s branch in Syria, the PYD, is trying in various ways to drive away the Assyrians by the murder of military leaders, confiscation of property, forced recruitment into its YPG militia, involvement in Assyrian private schools’ curriculum, etc. During the past six months four major attacks and suicide attacks have taken place in same Assyrian quarter of the city of Qameshly. Although the perpetrators have not been identified, the suspicions point to the local Kurdish government who wants to push away the Assyrians.
In northern Iraq the Kurdish administration for a long time has confiscated Assyrian land and harassing Assyrians in different ways to drive them away from their native land. KRG’s management disarmed in 2014 local Assyrian and Yazidi security forces in the Nineveh Plains and in Sinjar. Shortly thereafter, the IS attacked these areas while Kurdish Peshmerga, who had promised to protect the population, were ordered to retreat in the middle of the night.
The overall experience is, says Aydin Aslan, that we as Assyrians can not trust the Kurdish benevolence after so many betrayals. We must learn not to make same mistakes again and again, he concludes.