|Re: THE GREAT WAR|
- Saturday, October 2 2004, 17:45:37 (CEST)|
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THE GREAT WAR
When the Great War began the Assyrian, who were already sufficiently anxious about their future, found themselves wood in turn by the two sides. Before Turkey joined the Central Powers in November 1914, the Governor of the province of Van had send for the Mar Shimun and promised him preferential treatment of the Assyrians. It was clear, of course, that the Assyrians in their Hakkiari Mountains occupied a key position. In the Caucasus highlands the Ottoman Empire marched with the Russian Empire, and the strength of fortified towns such as Erzerum and Erivan indicated the strategic importance of this area. Moreover, the existing Anglo-Russian in the north; Hakkiari, therefore, provided a spreahead for the Turks against the Russians, and here was the motive for the Turkish promises to the Mar Shimun. The Assyrians, he was told, would be given arms, and schools would be opened and salaries paid to their religious and tribal leaders.
These promises were renewed when Turkey entered the war. Military necessity dictated this, but by this time the Armenian massacres had commenced. These first massacres were not on the scale of those which tool place later, when tat least two million Armenian men, women, and children lost their lives, but they were enough to show how Christian minorities were likely to fare. According to Turkish statements the Turks at first tried to persuade the Armenian to remain quiet, but whether the Armenians gave any real provocation or not the Turks soon decided that the only way to settle the Armenian question was to exterminate the Armenians. How well they succeeded is now history.
The Assyrians, however, were not the same menace. They were far fewer in numbers, and had had little political contact with Russia and England. It would be a feather in the caps of the Turkish Government if it would show that, whatever was happening in Armenia, another Christian “Millet” was quite content with its lot. The Assyrian at first hesitated. They had good reason. It was clear that if the Allies won the war, they were not likely to deal hardly with Assyrians for living refused to rise against Turkey. On the other hand, if the Assyrian did rebel, and the Central Powers won the war, punishment was certain. As things turned out, the Allies were victorious, but that did not help the Assyrians
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