Dr. Uğur Ümit Üngör

As you are aware, scholars focusing on the Assyrian Genocide are a few, why do Genocide scholars broadly speak so little about the fate of co-victims of the Ottoman Empire ‘s Genocide, as opposed to that of the Armenians?

I believe there are 3 main reasons: a) the Ottoman Syriac communities had fewer literate elites who left survivor testimonies. Apart from a few clerical scholars like Qarabashi and Armalto, there was virtually no intelligentsia in Tur Abdin and therefore we lack the sources. Armenian elites on the other hand began producing dozens of accounts from 1918 on; b) the genocide of Ottoman Armenians IS qualitatively different from that of the Syriacs. Armenians were singled out for complete destruction at the country’s very political top and there are no orders by Talaat Pasha to destroy the Syriacs. This may warrant a differential scholarly treatment as well, in the eyes of some; c) I do not believe there is a conspiracy by genocide scholars to silence, trivialize, or minimize the violence committed against non-Armenian victims of Young Turk genocide. It is however probably correct that for Armenian identity politics; the other victims are not useful and worthy of mention. Victim group activists tend to compete rather than cooperate, and activists of lesser-known genocides tend to be jealous of the attention given to better-known genocide.

As a Genocide historian and as a writer of The Making of Modern Turkey ( Nation and state in Eastern Anatolia 1913-50) why so much interest in Armenian and not the Assyrian or the Greeks, where this Genocide truly did happen to all the Christians that lived in Turkey during the Ottoman Empire?

Not an entirely fair question, you might want to read my book much more closely. Chapter 2 in my book is entitled “Genocide of Christians, 1915-1916” and contains significant insights into the genocide of Syriacs in Diyarbekir province (http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199603602.do). In particular, I argue that the first massacres in Diyarbekir region were not against Armenians but against Syriacs, that the local authorities expanded the Armenian genocide into a Christian genocide, and that only when it was too late the provincial authorities complied with the central government’s directives to segregate Armenians from other Christians.

What is your opinion on the Assyrian, Armenian and the Greeks-Turkish rapprochement? Will Turkey ever accept their wrongdoing?

Nobody can see the future, and this depends on what you mean by ” Turkey “: the government denies and falsifies a history that the population acknowledges and remembers. This is an interesting paradox that needs to be discussed more openly. My personal and pessimistic opinion is that the Turkish government will not even acknowledge the genocide if there are no demands of material reparations (money, land, etc.). This has become a matter of hurt pride and dignity, and not material interests.

In your opinion, what can Assyrians around the world do to raise awareness and have more scholars talk about the Assyrian Genocide?

Supporting the conduct and dissemination of research of the highest standard is the only way to raise awareness. Working closely with universities might be a way forward too.

How familiar are you with Seyfo Center and its activities?

I am closely aware of the Seyfo Center and its activities, because I have known Sabri Atman for years now and heard about his plans to set up a research institute and spread knowledge.

By Linda Abraham

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