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Introduction to Special Section on Co-Victims of the Armenian Genocide, Assyrians, Yezidis, Greeks
Israel W. Charny

Special Issue 5, Winter 2011
G P N   O R I G I N A L

The Little Known Assyrian Genocide, The Somewhat Known Greek Genocide, and the Virtually Unknown Yezidi Genocide

(and more - including Kurds, Arabs and Jews as the Ottoman Empire pushed at a 'Pure Turkish Kingdom')

This section and its contents had been amazingly long in coming. 

After years of devoting myself to fighting (happily) for recognition of the Armenian Genocide ('the forgotten genocide,' 'the unremembered genocide'), I became sheepishly aware that there were additional victims, indeed co-victims of the Armenians in the course of the main actions of the Armenian Genocide and in the continuation years into which the dire major murder years of Armenians in 1915-1916 flowed, with additional murders of Armenians, but also of other ethnicities and nationalities.  The prevailing ideological rational of the Ottoman Turks was to Turkify the population of Turkey and remove all infidels for sure and other non-Turks to boot.

For me, the process of discovery of the other victims, which I have by no means yet completed to my own satisfaction, was a painful one first of asking Armenian colleagues whom I loved and respected about the other victims and finding too many instances where I was greeted with cumbersome intellectualized formulations that left the facts of additional genocidal murders not exactly outright denied but unclear. In May 2004 a meeting organized by the World Armenian Congress (headquartered in Moscow) took place in Yerevan Armenia, and it was at one of the sessions of that conference that a proposal (that is also reported on elsewhere in this issue) by Professor Richard Hovanissian to identify co-victims of the Armenians was howled down vehemently by half the participants.  I couldn't help but take note. 

At the International Association of Genocide Scholars conference in Boca Raton in 1995, I took the step of assembling a panel on other victims that included Armenian participation, and some of the facts were spoken about but still no clear picture was emerging.  

As I was to report to IAGS members two years later when at long-last a resolution was presented to us in 2007 to recognize the Assyrian and Greek Genocides along with the Armenian Genocide, in 2005 I had been in Yerevan and in the course of a very pleasant and fervent cognac-drinking meeting, the director of the awesome memorial to the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial at Tsitsernakaberd asked me  to go "upstairs" to greet an assembly of Greeks who were there to mark a memorial day for the Greek Genocide!  I was amazed and commented to him on the profound resistances I had encountered to recognizing co-victims of the Armenians, and he replied with a broad sweeping wave of his hand, "Ah, those American Armenians." 

Upstairs I encountered hundreds of Greeks, and Greek priests, and people of all ages with Greek flags, busily engaged in the familiar words and passions of memorial that all of us, from our respective victim-peoples, know so well.

There is a forthcoming book, Genocide against the Greeks, edited by Tessa Hofmann, Matthias Bjørnlund, and Vasileios Meichanetsidis to be published by Aristide D. Caratzas, Athens, Greece.  I have written the Foreword to this book, "The Integrity and Courage to Recognize All the Victims of a Genocide: Naming All Other Victims alongside One’s Own People, and Where Necessary even Acknowledging Violence Done by our Own Victim People, without Defining Oneself a Traitor."  I tell the story of how the resolution before IAGS to recognize the Assyrian and Greek Genocides ended up amazingly tearing apart sections of the leadership with such virulent opposition to the resolution, that we needed to postpone the vote from an intended hand vote at the business meeting to an electronic vote later in the year following a good deal more discussion of the resolution.  The outcome of the vote was overwhelmingly decisive in favor of the resolution, but to my consternation, to this day, long-standing friendships were shattered and lost with some of the opponents of the resolution, some of whom had been outstanding leaders in IAGS who even dropped out of the organization as a result. 

In a forthcoming issue of GPN, I plan to reprint the above Foreword after the book is published. In this issue I am publishing a paper that I presented to a recent conference in Athens on three co-victims of the Armenian Genocide - the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks - entitled "The Psychology of Denying Other Victims of a Genocide: A Quest for Exclusivity and Superiority -- Disturbingly, Not Unlike Similar Motives in those who Commit Genocide."  

The present section in this issue of GPN can not be intended to be exhaustive and complete, but it does provide a significant sampling of materials, first about the little-known Assyrian Genocide, then about the virtually unknown Yezidi Genocide, and then the somewhat better but not enough known Greek Genocide.  The articles include both information-rich statements about some aspects of these quite major genocides as well as a variety of touching and poignant connections with the human experiences of victims and their survivors. It is endlessly amazing and bitterly troubling how our human species is repeatedly capable of committing genocidal horror.  

A final note.  Learning about the co-victims has also brought up for us reference to the strange fact that there were also some Jewish, Kurdish, and even Arab victims of the genocide as the Turkish onslaught swept before it many different representations of non-Turkishness.  The Kurds who were victims also represent a special paradox in that in any number of locations, it was the Kurds who set upon the Armenians and other victims for the Turks and did the killing 'for them,' but we understand that in some areas the Kurds too, as a foreign element in the eyes of the Turkifiers, were also eliminated.  Arabs are paradoxical victims because like the Turks they were Muslim believers, but apparently in some instances their deviant or non-Turkish-identities marked some of them too for removal before the juggernaut of the drive for a pure (damn such drives for purity wherever they arise in human affairs) Turkish ethnic identity.  Please note that regretfully we do not have any materials about these two events for this issue.   

The last small add-on is the fact that the Ottoman rulers of then colonial Palestine actually expelled the Jews twice from the Tel Aviv-Jaffa areas.  The second of these expulsions was under the dictates of arch-Armenian genocide perpetrator, Jemal Pasha, who is quoted as saying explicitly that the Jews would see the same fates as the Armenians. The expulsion raised grave fears in the Jewish community that it was the beginning of an expulsion process leading northwards to the same fate as the Armenians in the Syrian desert; but international pressures - yes, by Zionist Leaders, a not at all noxious word like recent anti-semitic/anti-Zionist advocates purport it to be - brought a reprieve and cancellation of the expulsion a few months later.   In the course of a forced evacuation there were only a few casualties of direct killings by the Turks and a larger number of the inevitable casualties among the sick and the elderly. The evacuation resulted in some 'romantically' marked graves in Israel in memory of those who died under this privation,  but, amazingly, even the collective memory of Israelis is almost lacking in remembrance of this event. We include in this issue a small sampling of information referring to the expulsion.
Altogether, the Turks march towards their purity and domination took in many different peoples. Clearly we should all share the concerns and honor the memories of all the targeted peoples because genocide is a dread human disease that knows no boundaries.

In 2007, the International Association of Genocide Scholars passed a resolution that "The Ottoman campaign against Christian minorities of the Empire between 1914 and 1923 constituted a genocide against Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontian and Anatolian Greeks."   The vote in favor was 83%.

Gregory Stanton, President of Genocide Watch, then the incoming president of IAGS, endorsed the "repudiation by the world's leading genocide scholars of the Turkish government's ninety-year denial of the Ottoman Empire's genocides against its Christian populations, including Assyrians, Greeks, and Armenians." 

Israel Charny was the president of IAGS at the time the resolution was brought forward and has since pointed out that additional non-Turkish peoples were killed, among them outstandingly, in the sense that they have been virtually unknown, the Yezidis, of whom 300,000 - or more - are believed to have been murdered.  The Yezidis are identified as not Christians and not Muslims but combining elements of both and of a so-called pagan religion into their unique tapestry -- which they pass on to the next generation with some degree of secret ritual.  Some have compared them to Druze; others say the Yezidi people are basically Kurdish.    (Additional information about the Yezidi people will be found in this issue of GPN.)

The Assyrian Genocide (which is known as Sayfo or Seyfo) was a mass slaughter of the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac population.  The Assyrian population of southeastern Turkey and northwestern Iran was forcibly relocated and massacred between 1914 and 1920. Estimates on the overall death toll of course vary, with some contemporary reports placing the figure at 270,000, and estimates range to as many as 750,000. The Assyrian Genocide took place in a similar context and in the same time period as the Armenian and Greek Genocides, but scholarship on the Assyrian Genocide is much weaker and its study has largely been overshadowed by those on the Armenian Genocide.   

Assuming 1.25 Armenians, 500,000 Assyrians, and 2 million Greeks, the overall death toll from the Armenian Genocide could be 3.75 million. 


Israel W. Charny, Executive Director, Institute on the Holocaust & Genocide, Jerusalem; Editor in Chief and Executive Director, GPN GENOCIDE PREVENTION NOW worldwide website Co-founder and Past President, International Association of Genocide Scholars; Editor-in-Chief, Encyclopedia of Genocide; Retired Prof. of Psychology & Family Therapy, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University.  Author of Fascism and Democracy in the Human Mind: A New Bridge between Mind and Society (University of Nebraska Press) --  awarded "Outstanding Academic Book of the Year" 2007 by the American Library Association, available in paperback); and Fighting Suicide Bombing: A Worldwide Campaign for Life (Praeger Security International. 2007; reprinted by three publishers in India and Sri Lanka - countries that have had their share of suicide bombers). 


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Executive Director: Prof. Israel W. Charny, Ph.D.
Director of Holocaust and Genocide Review: Marc I Sherman, M.L.S.
This project was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The contents of this website are the responsibility of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem.