From Diyarbikkir to Lalish: Walking in the Footsteps of Genocide

“That evening, I found myself exhausted both physically and mentally. But there was one place I still had to visit, an old pedestrian bridge that I describe in my novel.  I thought I would spend some quiet time there, but a wedding was being celebrated on the bridge’s top. The ten- arched bridge, “On Guzlu Copry,” was built by the bishop of Diyarbakkir, Yohanna Z’oro, late in the 4th century, so his parish could cross to the other bank of the Tigris and access the Church of 40 Martyrs. I found to my surprise — and dismay — that a plaque placed on the side of the bridge when it was renovated in 2010 claimed it as the first “Islamic” bridge in Anatolia!”

…learn, learn, learn…

Arabic Literature (in English)

Iraqi novelist Layla Qasrany traveled to Turkey to commemorate the Armenian genocide and visit sites that had appeared in her most recent novel. A side-trip into northern Iraq, where she visited a Yazidi shrine, brought depressing and hopeful news of ISIS:

By Layla Qasrany

Diyarbakir, Turkey

Diarbakýr, Turkey Diarbakýr, Turkey

We say in Arabic that there are five benefits to travel. No one seems to know just what these are, but I derived many benefits from a trip I took recently. The journey began with my arrival in southern Turkey to attend the commemoration of the centennial of the Armenian genocide, in which we paid tribute to the million-plus souls deported from Diyarbakkir who consequently died in the desert of Syria.  One benefit was that I got to walk in the path of the caravan I depicted in my latest Arabic novel.

The first thing I did on the 23rd of April was…

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“Everywhere you see houses and churches on fire”

The year is 2015. It has now been exactly 100 years since the genocide took place. The perpetrators and most of the victims are gone. The Turks and Kurds of today are not the ones guilty of genocide but a process of reconciliation has not occurred.

Some Kurdish leaders and organizations have recognized Kurdish clans’ involvement in the massacre but from the Turkish side there is only silence. It hurts in your heart. But not only the cruel massacres and the holocaust on the Christians; not only did you see your entire family and your relatives killed, thousands of villages being emptied of its indigenous people and your entire history annihilated, but today they say that it never happened. It hurts within you. You can still feel the smell. The process of extermination against you is continued today, 100 years later.

Far from all Turks and Kurds were responsible for the massacre. There are examples of Turkish, Kurdish and Arab families who adopted children or protected persecuted, to save them from a sure death. There are documented cases where governors refused to follow government orders of the massacres. There are also examples of Kurds who protected Christian villages against other Kurds.

The night of April 24, 1915, the first phase of the genocide began when 250 Armenian doctors, lawyers, politicians, government officials, teachers, writers, poets and other intellectuals who could become the core of a future resistance, were arrested overnight and executed within 72 hours. Therefore April 24 is counted as the start of the genocide.

The genocide that destroyed over two million Christians and that emptied the Syriac village of Kerburan, twice. The night is still your friend. For the night is when you still hear your mother’s voice, calling your beautiful name.

The year is 2015, but a part of me died in 1915.

via

Reliving the Armenian genocide: “Everywhere you see houses and churches on fire” – Your Middle East.

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Armenian women crucified by Kurdish clans in Deir-El-Zor, 1915… but at least they have acknowledged their role in the hell experienced by Armenians 100 years ago. 

Aleppo’s Christians’ own Friday of Pain…

Feeling the most frightened and vulnerable are the city’s sizable religious minorities, foremost of which is the Christian community whose neighborhoods have borne the brunt of the recent carnage. For many, the timing was no coincidence.

“They attacked us on one of our most holy of days, this is a clear message to us. They want to drive us out of our homes, to get rid of us entirely. This is their aim. What have we done to them? Why is there silence about this?” Umm George, a visibly anguished resident of Sulaimaniyah, told Al-Monitor. She like many others was camped outside the government-run al-Razi hospital where most of the dead and wounded were taken.

Umm George had a sister inside who was seriously wounded and fighting for her life. Her sentiment was widely shared among others there, with some wanting revenge exacted, while others just raised their hands up to the sky, defeated, and prayed for an end to the madness. The feelings of helplessness and despair were enmeshed with those of bitterness at the perceived inability of the government to protect them. “They don’t care about Aleppo; it is a forgotten city,” was one phrase you would hear often repeated to many nods of agreement.

via

Aleppo’s Christians face rising violence – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East.

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On Holy Friday, Christians mourn the death of Jesus, His martyrdom and his burial, after He was charged with “heresy” or “apostasy” for those intolerant religious men who condemned Him. Old times, new times, same symbolism. 

Men are free. That was God’s present to us. And freedom comes with a responsibility. We should think which is our responsibility in actions like these of Aleppo. Of course these Arab Christians, these Nasrani, aren’t the only victims in that hellish scenario… but they are the ones who can teach us, the Western Christians, the real value of faith. 

More than any other. 

I just hope we, mankind, can save them, and keep them in that part of the world… or they will vanish in time as the Spanish Mossarabs did. 

I, at least, will pray. 

A young women’s call “To Our Countries”

A new occasion to let us all remember that change in Middle East will come invariably from women. Let them be these women singing in exile from Sweden or the brave fighting women of Kobane.

Let this be a call for ALL OF OUR COUNTRIES… even those not in Middle East. 

Because this is not a tragedy for Arabs, Kurds, Turks, Israelis, Palestinians… and all MIddle Eastern People. 

The oldest remnants of human civilization are found in these lands.

so this is a tragedy in the bethren of HUMAN CULTURE.

A tragedy for all humans.

If Middle East keeps being lost… we will all loose… because it’s not “us and them”.

It’s US ALL.

And as far as we don’t change the way things are happening, this shit will never let the world advance.

So let’s help this voice to spread.

Let’s help  this women voice sound louder than the shots of a doshka in Kobane.

Louder than any invocation to Devil before killing someone in the name of a false concept of God.

Because God does not need our blood, ANY BLOOD, to stain the ground to make His point.

Please share. 

To Our Countries لبلادي

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Modern day “crusaders” for survival,… modern day Mossarabs at fight.

The Christian religious symbols, various forms of the cross and Jesus’s name tattooed on the hands and arms of these young fighters signify their strong determination and willingness to fight for their ethnic and religious rights.They proudly show religious tattoos that weren’t done for fashion or popular styles, but to prevent them from lying about their religion if one day captured alive by nemesis jihadists and held captive inside the enemy’s camp.Gabi Dawd, 23, who has a Jesus tattoo on his left arm, said, “I first fought alongside Kurdish comrades in the ranks of the Peoples Protection Units  YPG before joining the Sutoro. If you put yourself in our place as Kurds and Christians then you would understand why we are fighting for our rights. The regime wants us to be puppets, deny our ethnicity and demand an Arab-only state. On the other hand, Islamic forces call for Jihad, war and Islamic Caliphate. We are neither of those and would rather die fighting for our freedom.”He added: “I have the name of Jesus tattooed on my arm so I can never lie about my faith if I’m captured alive by the enemy and fear may overcome my bravery.”

via

A glimpse into the world of Syria’s Christian “Sutoro” fighters

 Your Middle East.

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SYRIAN LESSON FOR LIFE: Be careful about planning HOW to make your dreams come true… For they may die. Or kill you.

These activists were predominantly liberal and secular, but hailed from all social and religious backgrounds. They were united by a vision and a noble aim. They espoused the kinds of freedoms and political rights for which most Syrians yearned. The way they were marginalized and ruthlessly hunted — first by the regime and later by the extremist Islamist rebels as secular apostates and the moderates for exposing their crimes — is just one more tragedy in a seemingly endless list that has afflicted this miserable nation.

The civil activists are now a dying breed, hunted into extinction by the malice of those who view them as a threat. In Syria, that means just about anyone with a gun. Most of them are now dead, in jail or have fled the country.

via Syria’s Islamist rebels force Christian activist to wear veil

– Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East.

Hope (1)

It’s been a while since I used the tag “Arab Spring”. Too much sadness and pain and death and dellusion grew from those  sprouts growing in Tahrir, in Tunisia… then came Yemen…. and unfortunately someone decided that it was right to give islamists a chance in Libya… and in Egypt… to a point that even these idealists from Damascus, Aleppo, Tartus… soon accepted that maybe having those long beards fighting side by side would give a true meaning to the  revolt.

It would even mean a proof of the reconciliation of every side who stood up against the regime, against all totalitarian arab regimes… a chance to shut up the western mouths and tell them that arabs could work united their own way, so islamists were as respectful as any other…  and why not saying it, it would also mean to restore the memory of those thousands killed in Hama.

Like father like son, they said, and we must stop Bashar first, more than anything, because we may not have a new chance and international support. In any case, this is not Libya!… Syrians are multiethnical, respectful, convivial people, who even share temples in some places between confessions.

Yes,… the good old times, when muslims and christians could share a banquet or even a prayer in Seidnaya. 

Dreaming is dangerous, you know?

Specially when you live life pretending to make it look like a dream. Because life is not a dream. It’s real. Blood and flesh. Air and water. Sickness and joy. Hunger and hope. 

Those who pretend to live a dream must remember that dreams end up when we wake up. While nowadays in most of Syria people may feel lucky enough to die while sleeping. 

This Mossarab hates to see history repeating in Syria as it happened in Iraq:

“It is impossible for Christians to live with this armed opposition. … When I asked what they will do with them, some groups said they will force them to wear the veil. Others said they will kick them out. … I was wrong, your fears were justified. Leave this country, it’s not ours anymore.”

And yes, there are still honourable Syrian dreamers fighting the regime. It’s not only beardies doing so (the “govt sponsored” beardies, the not so bad but also not good Al-Nusra guys, or the almost good “saudi sponsored” Islamic Front boys…)… And of course, there is also the kurds I admire.

But there’s less and less of those secular visionaries left alive or inside the country.

“They’re fighting because they have honor, because they are noble men. But they see the crimes of the rebels and the extremists, and they want out. Many are afraid to leave, afraid of reprisals by the rebels or being caught by the regime. They don’t trust the regime enough to give themselves up. They think they’ll be killed.”

That sums up the dilemma of all honorable Syrians, surrounded by enemies on all fronts in a war of dishonor.

Syrian war lasts for more than 3 years now. Spain’s Civil War lasted from 1936 to 1939. After that we went thru 40 years of dictatorship.  Many left the country for exile and never came back. Half of those staying went thru repression and prosecution. Jail and humiliation…

We had to wait until a man from inside the regime and a reformist young King, dared to give shape to a new democratic Spain. That man from inside the regime was called Adolfo Suarez and became the first democratically elected Spanish Prime Minister after Franco’s death.

He passed away 3 days ago and was buried with all honours. 

While  I remembered his achievements and his visionary compromise with my nation, I could not help asking myself where was the arab Mr. Suarez. For a while I thought he was Mohammed Elbaradei. He had everything needed. Except coming from inside the old regime. And that’s why he failed to convince his people and lead the change, and “He has spent to many years outside Egypt”, was the most usual excuse to dislike him.

Then… who may be the leader of a future Syrian transition, when its best hope, its dreamers… may be facing too many years outside their country,… or death? 

I just hope someone inside Syria is watching the cherry and almond trees covered in spring flowers… and planning a dream, instead of dreaming a plan.

That’s why I used again this tag.

Because I do hope some time the flowers will give fruit. 

World’s Oldest Christians face future and survival as a terrible black hole of doubt and harassment.

The testimony of Christians presented by the researchers was impressive. The presentations on suffering, for instance, were divided into three areas. First, the status — including constitutions, laws and practices — of Christians in the Middle East in the various countries were addressed. The second area discussed was the demographic reality of those Christians. And finally, they addressed their expectations for the future.

While discussing the status of Eastern Christians, it quickly became apparent that all Christians of the region suffer from fatal discrimination — in terms of the provisions in their constitutions as well as laws and practices. All the constitutions in the region\’s states — with the exception of Lebanon — include a clear clause that says something to the effect of \”Islam is the state religion\” or \”the primary religion of the state is Islam.\” Furthermore, these constitutions specify that Sharia is a source of the state\’s legislation, laws and regulations. From this primary discrimination emerges a never-ending series of distinctions, persecution and suffering.

via Do Christians Have a Future In the Middle East?

 Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East.

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Copts, Assyrians, Armenians, Oriental Catholics and Orthodox, and recently protestants … 2000 years later, Middle East christians keep struggling for survival, being in most cases the ones who represent moderation and peace in their nations.

As it’s said in the article: 

There is one shared trait among them all: They are victims of a slow and masked form of genocide, one that has been ongoing for some time now. This genocide is on the verge of becoming more clearly detailed today, however. More than one million Christians have disappeared from Iraq, where there were fewer than 2 million Christians to begin with. Half a million Christians have left Syria, where there were once around 2 million. Copts in Egypt have persevered, however at tragic costs to their community. In Lebanon, the retreat has been clear. The conditions, current events and different climates are causing what appears to be a comprehensive transfer. They are all embarking down the same path as Palestinian Christians, as one of the participants from Jerusalem exclaimed. He spoke in a tone marked by a mix of desolation and sadness, “Only around 40,000 Christians remain in our country. In Gaza, where Sharia has prevailed for several years now, there are only 1,300 Christians. Even in Jerusalem, the city of the resurrection of Jesus and the cradle of Christianity, there are no more than 4,000 Christians.”

Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood, among others, were at the conference. They listened, but they did not comment except for a few words on issues that specifically concerned them. Why is this? Was it out of a sense of responsibility for this tragedy? What are the possible ways of dealing with what has become one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes of our time?

This mossarab has them always in mind. And will keep. Wallah!