By Anzhela Mnatsakanyan – greek city times (via AINA) –
In both historiography and public memory, the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire is almost solely associated with the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Genocides. Although the Turkish government still denies that the Christian population of the Ottoman Empire fell victim to systematic murder, the extermination of the Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks is far from a “forgotten genocides.”
Men, women, and children were shot or hacked to pieces, their blood soaking the earth of their ancestors. Others were taken and then tortured and murdered because they refused to convert to Islam. Women were raped and humiliated.
Others were abducted and forced to abandon their faith, only to recount these tales decades later when their desire to return to their community was no longer an option.
Those were genocides, epic acts of inhumanity, the first in the twentieth century.
Today I want to share the stories of three survivors of Genocides; they were Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian.
Sam Kodorian: Armenian
They took us from Hüsenig to Mezre, to Kharpert to Malatia, and then, after a couple of days walk, to the shores of the Euphrates River. It was around noon when we got there, and we camped. For a while, we were left alone.
Then, sometime later, Turkish gendarmes grabbed all the boys from 5 to 10 years old. I was about 7 or 8. They caught me too. They threw us all into a pile on the sandy beach and started jabbing us with their swords and bayonets.
I must’ve been in the canter because only one sword got me… nipped my cheek. But I couldn’t cry. I was covered with blood from the other bodies on top of me, but I couldn’t cry. If I had, I would not be alive
When it was getting dark, my grandmother found me. She picked me up and consoled me. It hurt so much. I was crying, and she put me on her shoulder and walked around.
Then, some of the other parents came looking for their children. They mostly found dead bodies. The riverbank there was very sandy. Some of them dug graves with their bare hands–shallow graves–and tried to bury their children in them.
Others just pushed them into the river; they pushed them into the Euphrates. Their little bodies floated away.
Theodora Kondou: Greek
We left our village to go to Smyrna. We thought we would return. We wanted to be close to the church of Saint John. There were a lot of people there. One of my father’s friends took us to his house, and we stayed there.
The Turks entered and slayed my father, my mother, my uncle, my auntie, and three of my brothers. I and my younger sisters, two and a half years old and the other three and a half, hid under a loft, and they didn’t see us.
We hid there for 12 days with no food or water. The house had a type of water heater, and water flowed into it. What was I to do? I wanted to wet my lips. I held my nose and took a sip. The water was so filthy I almost vomited. One of my sisters had been wounded by a bullet in her leg.
Then at one point, I decided to venture outside. I saw many people fleeing. I crossed myself, placed my injured young sister on my back, held my other sister by the hand, and went out onto the street. I ran to catch up with everyone else who was running.
At one stage, I noticed a girl seated on a pile of rocks. I shouted out to her, as I needed someone to help me. She didn’t respond. She sat there without moving. I spoke to her without taking too much notice. Her eyes rolled back, but what had happened still didn’t occur.
Before long, I noticed something was wrong. She had been stabbed from behind with a stick that had passed through her mouth. That was when I decided to run faster.
Ben S. Benjamin: Assyrian
I was ten years old. As we proceeded south and could no longer see the site of our village of Ardeshai, we began to see thousands of other Assyrians who had left their homes and towns. Not too many days after our departure, my sister’s infant son died.
Due to the advancing Turks, some miles to the rear of the civilians, there was no time for burial, so my sister and her husband tied the corpse of their infant son on horseback with the hope that there would be a rest period during our escape, for them to bury him underground.
The expected peaceful period never materialized.
On the contrary, after hearing the sounds of Turkish cannon fire in the distance, I shall never forget how the entire family, including some friends, pleaded with my sister and her husband and finally persuaded them to leave the young boy’s corpse on the side of the road.
He was finally wrapped in a blanket and placed under a rock.
Turks were advancing, and I fell and do not remember what happened after; I must have fallen asleep immediately after losing because I woke up thinking it was early morning, but the sun, instead of rising, was setting. Then I realized that I must have slept all day.
As I looked around, I saw something a short distance from me that looked like a bridge. I got up and walked toward it, and as I approached it, I saw a broken wooden bridge with small rocks, the tops of which were exposed above the shallow water under the bridge.
I sat under the bridge for cover, and as the evening approached, I heard someone calling, “Son, are you Assyrian?” In my crying voice, I answered, “Yes, I am Assyrian.” This was an older woman with two more minor children than I and an older girl.
After bitter crying, I asked her about my father and mother. She said she didn’t know who they were. She put her arms around me and started crying, telling me that her son and his wife had been killed, and the three kids with her were her grandchildren. We all slept under that bridge that night.
The older woman was screaming and pulling her hair, and her grandchildren were crying.
I stood there and froze, shaking like I was freezing to death. Suddenly something happened to me. I felt as if someone came from behind and pulled a piece of my skin, the width of a three-quarter inch surgical tape, right from the top of my head in the back down my back and both legs.
The other Turkish soldier pointed his rifle at me and said, “Let us kill all these Christian gavors (infidels).”
My God was there with me because another soldier leaned over and pulled the Turkish soldier’s muzzle away, saying, “Don’t waste any bullets on these. Let us leave them to die from starvation.”
As the soldiers left, they were only a short distance away from us when suddenly we heard cannon shells bombarding the hillside
We could only follow the road direction by seeing the number of dead on the road and the personal belongings left behind, together with abandoned wagons, horses, and many other animals.
One sight I saw, among many others, was a dead mother with a swollen stomach, with her tiny infant child sucking her breast for milk.
The people who survived genocide through will and determination went on to overcome it. They lived, raised their families, formed careers, prayed in new churches, lived in new cities, and wept silently over their physical and psychological scars.
They shared their stories, each slightly varied but echoing the same message; good will eventually triumph, the world will recognize Armenian, Greek, and Assyrians Genocides, and descendants of these Genocides organizers will not try to repeat these crimes against humanity again․
Anzhela Mnatsakanyan is a political researcher, with a focus on Eastern Partnerships, Russia, the EU, and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Ph.D. student in Political Science; Advanced Master of Arts in European Interdisciplinary Studies and a Master in International Relations.