The Fate of Assyrian-Chaldeans 





Assyrians-Chaldeans in the 19th century


Their historical and political frame

In the XIXth century, Assyrians-Chaldeans, poor and humble, lived within the Ottoman empire, as Sultan of Constantinople’s subjetcs.

In 1839, Sultan Abdul-Medjid I, who reigned until 1861, promulgated an imperial chart, the Hatt-i-Chérîf, which opened an era of administrative, financial, judiciary reforms, the Tanzimat. All the subjects within the empire became equals All the subjects of the empire became equal, without distinction of nationality or religion. But things changed slowly in Northern mountains.  Within Kurdish masses, Christian « Nestorian » population, were divided into seven independent tribes  the ashiret. Beside the people of these tribes which paid few (or not) taxes to the sultan of Constantinople, lived the rayas, a population submitted to the Turkish or Kurdish chiefs. They were sometimes obliged to heavy work, overpowered by royalties, and reduced to a serfdom condition.

On the political field, Assyro-Chaldéens did not have the right to have political parties. No public schools nor universities, only reigned ignorance. Let us stress the ambiguous game played by the Western States, which created like strongholds “to protect Eastern Christians”… but they did not protect anything. They obtained rights of capitation.

Jacobit and Nestorian churches divided in two parts

The union of the Jacobit church with Rome became effective in 1783, thanks to the election of Michel Garoué. Thus was created the catholic Syrian church, which took a final form at the XIXème century.

The orthodoxe Jacobit church persisted, because a bishop refused to link himself in Rome. The Chaldean  patriarch of Babylon, Jean Hormez joined in Rome in 1830, thus creating the branch of the contemporary Chaldean church.  

Assyrian church Mar Gewargis in Kirkuk (source : Assyrians of Kirkuk)

Syriacs are coveted by various missionaries

Dominicans worked in Mesopotamia and in Mosul since 1750, two preaching friars arrived in Mosul in 1759, Dominicans founded the house of Amadia in 1840; the mission set out again, and at the end of the century, there were six houses of missionaries, in Mosul, Mar Yacoub, Amadia, Van, Seert, Jezireh.

Lazarists worked in Persia, since 1840, and opened a house in the village of Khosrawa (district of Salamas), then in Urmiah in 1870. Catholicism spred in about sixty villages.

Orthodox Russians contacted the Assyrians of ' Azerbaidjan and Hakkâri in 1859. A mission was installed in Urmiah and developed, especially since 1898 and met a sharp success. The Nestorian bishop converted with orthodoxy in 1898, followed by thousands of followers.

Anglicans: the first contacts were made in 1835. In 1842 Doctor Percy G Badger arrived at Kotchanès to help the Nestorian patriarch. In 1881, the mission was established in Hakkâri. Later, they created schools, as in Urmiah.

The American Protestants arrived in 1834, they founded a mission in Urmiah. In 1855, people saw the first Protestants Assyrian-Chaldeans. The mission developed since 1870 thanks to the Presbyterians. They founded a hundred of schools, printed books, trained pastors. They published a newspaper, Zahrira d' Bara (ray of light)

Exactions and massacres

Assyro-Chaldéens underwent exactions, massacres, in 1826, in 1843, in 1895. 
Mohammed Pasha, of Soran, known as Mîr Kôr, the one-eyed prince, reigned in 1826, proclaimed his independence facing the Othoman Empire. He wanted to conquer Kurdistan, seized the area, the plains of Mosul, the regions of Akra, Amadia.

March 15, 1832, the cruel  sultan launched a raid, devastated the village of Alqosh where 367 people were killed, went to the monastery of Rabban Hormuz, burned the convent. Gabriel Dambo, and two monks perished. The villages of Tell-Kaif, Tell-Esqof, were also devastated.

The plague prevails in Alqoche in 1828, there were 700 died.

n 1833, Mohammed Pasha returned in the area of Akra and of Amadia, he  made pass the Christian villages of Erbil and Aînkawa by many vicissitudes. At the end of May 1833, its army had established its authority on the whole of Kurdistan located at the north of Iraq until Jazira ibn ` Omar. The one-eyed pasha conquered Iranian Kurdistan, still devastated the Tur ` Abdin, but he had to go to the Turkish authorities. He was assassinated in Trebizond by Sultan’s men in 1837.

In 1843-1847, Bedir Khan, the Kurdish  fanatic emir of Bothan, invaded the territory of Tiyari, massacred more than 10 000 inhabitants, reduced in slavery a great number of women and children, set fire to their villages. The emir crossed the Tiyari mounts later, walked on the district of Tkhoma, and organized a general carnage there.

The Armenian movement, which developed since 1890, caused the hostility of the Moslems. The rebellion of Sassoun, badly prepared, showed dreadful massacres. In 1895-96, in the vilayet of Bitlis, in the south of Sassoun, Diyarbakir, there were three days of slaughters, the 1, 2 November 3, 1895. A lot of Syriac, were killed.
n Urfa, the next year, 6000 people perished.

Syriac villages were devastated in the area of Tur' Abdin.  

Assyrian-Chaldeans at the beginning of the XXth century:


On November 1st 1914, Turkey engaged in the First World War at the sides of Germany and Austria-Hungary. It was decided to fight the Franco-English Agreement and its allies. Assyrian-Chaldeans lived in the Othoman Empire, and more particularly in the vilayet of Diyarbakir, in the vilayet of Mosul, Sandjak de Hakkâri which depended on the vilayet of Van.

The Kurds were established in the same areas. Assyrian-Chaldeans (Nestorians) of Hakkâri were let allure by the vague promises of the Allies, they left their villages to take part in the world war in May 1915.

From Diyarbakir, Bitlis, Van, Harpout

The Othomans occupied Urmia in January 1915. Thereafter, thousand Assyrians-Chaldeans were assassinated in the surrounding plain, and their villages plundered. The city was not released before May 24th by the Russians.
The latter had driven out the Turks of Van, five days before. Jeudet Bey, the military governor of Van, was constrained by the Russians to leave the city, and fled  towards Seert, in the south. He penetrated in the city with 8000 soldiers and ordered the massacre of many Christians

The Chaldean archbishop Addai Scher, a great erudite and orientalist, had a friend who was Osman, the agha of Tanzé, a village located at a few hours of Séert. He was the chief of the Hadide and Atamissa tribe. Osman suggested that the archbishop disguised in Kurdish and fled, led by some of his  men. Addai Scher hid several days in the Kurdish chief’s house. Turkish gendarmes launched out to his track, burnt Osman’s house, threatening it to kill him and his family. Osman fled with his people. The gendarmes discovered the archbishop in his hiding place and killed him, on June 15, 1915.

In July, more than thousand womn and chikldren were displaced.
Les villages alentour connurent un sort dramatique.

From spring to autumn 1915, the Othoman troops, supported by the governor of Mosul’s soldiers, pursued the Assyrian tribes of Hakkâri, which fled through valleys and mountains.

The sister of Patriarch Mar Shimoun murdered by the Kurdish Chief Simko in 1918, wrote  a book on the Haakrî Assyriansî. (source :


Assyrians-Chaldeans and Western Syriacs of the vilayet of Diyarbakir knew the deportations or the horror of massacres. In Diyarbakir, as in August 1914, 1687 shops of Christians were plundered and burned. On September 6, the whole city was attacked by Othoman soldiers and Hamidiyés regiments. Christians were arrested, assigned to the construction of the roads then massacred by Turkish gendarmes.
April 16, 1915, Armenian notables were under arrest, then Orthodox Syriacs, the Catholic Syrians and Chaldeans. Some of them were burnt alive. There were attempts to force people to convert. Convents, churches, goods of Christians were confiscated.

In the vilayet of Diyarbakir, there was, according to the Father Rhétoré, a French Dominican ho was witness of the events, 144 185 killed, disappeared, and among them, 10 010 Chaldeans. According to another Dominican witness, Father Simon, 157 200 Christians were killed.

Repression extended on the Christians from Mardin. At the beginning of May, notables were executed at the gates of the city. A few days later,  Christians of all confessions were arrested. The Christian villages of the surroundings of Mardin were also attacked, plundered by troops of soldiers and Kurds. In the sanjak of Mardin, 74 675 were killed and disappeared, with  6800 catholic Chaldeans.

Tour' Abdin had its share of massacres. It was persecuted at the beginning of the summer 1915 then during the year 1917.

In the city of Jazireh, in May 1915, they arrested notable also. The catholic Syrian bishop, the Chaldeans’ one, Mar Yacoub was imprisonned with his priests, then sent out of the city. The women were dishonoured and sold like slaves. Two hundred and fifty Chaldeans and hundred Syriacs perished. In the surroundings, Jacobit villages and 15 Chaldean villages were destroyed.
In Nisibe, since on June 14, 1915, the Christian district was attacked by troops which massacred men. On 28, the women perished in the Saint-Jacob church. More than thousand Christians were killed and their villages destroyed.

At spring 1915, convoys of women, children, old men deportees, arrived at Urfa, the men having been already massacred. According to the same scenario, the notables of the city were arrested, thrown in prison, beaten and their houses searched. When an Armenian district revolted, twenty thousand people perished.  

It is true also that in Bohtan, some Kurdish muslims, tried with courage to save their Christian neighbors, threatened by Turkish soldiers.

Assyrians-Chaldeans and Western Syriacs of Mosul vilayet

Fortunately, the vilayet of Mosul was relatively saved, thanks to the intervention of the Chaldean patriarch Joseph Emmanuel II Thomas (1900-1947) near the vali Heyder Pasha which did not support really the anti-Christian movement. The majority of the Kurdish aghas of this province refused to displace the men and to plunder the houses.

The end of the war

The Assyrians constituted in 1916, an army of twenty-five thousand soldiers who illustrated themselves at the sides of Russians, on the Caucasus front. In 1917, after the Bolshevik revolution, like the Assyrians felt abandoned, they joined the British lines. Some engaged like auxiliaries in the battalions under, to help the English on the Persian Front.

From February to July 1918, in Urmia and Salmas, there were riots and massacres. The Assyrians knew a tragic exodus. They were tracked, harassed by Turkish soldiers and irregular Kurdish fighters, decimated by diseases, typhus, cholera, variola. Fifty thousand of them died on the burned sun roads. Fifty thousand arrived in Hamadan at 480 kilometers. The English directed them towards the camp of Bakouba, in the north of Baghdad.

Assyrians-Chaldeans under Britton Mandate

Brittons took from Othoman empires the vilayets of Bassora and Baghdad. On March 11, 1917, General Stanley Maud seized Baghdad and on October 10, 1918, the Marshall General entered in Mosul, and took the control of the city.

April 25, 1920, the conference of San Remo gave to Great Britain the mandates on Palestine, Transjordanie and Iraq. The vilayet of Mosul was under French influence since the agreements concluded in May 1916 by Sykes, the British Minister for the Foreign Affairs and Picot, a French diplomat. It had to remain within the borders of Iraq, placed under British domination. France, on the other hand, intended to receive 25% of the oil rights of the area of Mosul, which contained rich person layers.

August 10, 1920, the Treaty of Sevres devoted the dismemberment of the Othoman Empire. It envisaged the creation of an independent Kurdish State, placed under the mandate of the League of Nations. It granted to Assyrians-Chaldeans a protection, within the framework of an autonomous Kurdistan, without speaking about a creation of a State.

Iraq, made up of two provinces, Baghdad and Bassora, became in 1921 a kingdom given to Emir Fayçal, Husein Hashemi ‘son, the sherif of Mecca.

Two  levies, or Assyrian soldiers recruted by Brittons under their Iraqi Mandate

The events precipitated. In Turkey, Mustafa Kemal abolished the caliphate, created a laic Republic, and contested the Treaty of Sevres.  
July 24, 1923, a new treaty, the Treaty of Lausanne, recognized to Turkey the right of being free nation with stable borders. It was unjust for the Kurds, the Armenians, Assyrians-Chaldeans, considered as simple minorities to be protected, which did not obtain any autonomy and wondered about their future.

The question of the borders with Iraq was not solved.


On December 16, 1925, the League of Nations decided that the vilayet of Mosul would be joined to Iraq, and mounts of Hakkâri, attached to Turkey. The Assyrians, which had engaged in the war on the side of the Allies, could not return any more in their villages. They had asked their own territory. Allies had forgotten their promise.


Conference : 5 -8 -2004 Suède

Ephrem –Isa YOUSIF