(AINA) — "We have made a clean sweep of the Armenians and Assyrians of Azerbaijan." Those were the words of Djevdet Bey, the governor of Van Province in Ottoman Turkey, who on April 24, 1915 lead 20,000 Turkish soldiers and 10,000 Kurdish irregulars in the opening act of the genocide of Assyrians, Armenians and Pontic Greeks. In three short years, 750,000 (75%) Assyrians would be killed, 1.5 million Armenians and 500,000 Greeks.
Joseph Zaya (1906-2006) survived the genocide. He was born in a village in the Hakkary mountains (presently South-Eastern Turkey). The Ottoman Empire was something he lived in until the age of nine, when, in the face of genocide, he and his family was forced to flee. He remembered it vividly: long marches, hunger, starvation, butchery, impalement, burning.
"I lost my brother and his wife and four kids right in front of my eyes. Three Kurds and two Turks dragged my brother out and cut off his arms, right in front of me and his wife and kids. They then proceeded to rape his wife and eleven year old daughter, all the while looking at him and taunting him. After which they shot all of them. But they spared me. I don't know why."
"During our escape through the mountains," he continued, "I remember the bodies strewn on both sides of the path. Most women and children were crying but would not dare stop to care for the sick and dead because they knew the Turkish and Kurdish armies were behind them. I remember a child on the side of the road suckling on his already dead mother who had died with her arms around him. That image has haunted me all my life. This is something that we Assyrians should never forget, and the world should not forget it, either."
The genocide was recorded by Arnold Toynbee, famed British historian, as well as countless American and German missionaries. Toynbee's document runs for more than 600 pages and is entitled, "Arnold Toynbee Papers and Documents on the Treatment of Armenians and Assyrian Christians by the Turks, 1915-1916, in the Ottoman Empire and North-West Persia." The national archives of the British, French and American states contain a large collection of documents related to the genocide. The Diplomatic French archives, for example, included 45 volumes on the Assyrian question from 1915 to 1940.
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