Muslims – Christians relations And Inter – Christrian Rivalries In Middle East / Dr. John Joseph

Posted by on Dec 9, 2016 in Articles, Library | Comments Off on Muslims – Christians relations And Inter – Christrian Rivalries In Middle East / Dr. John Joseph

1-The Syrians in Tur Abdin

2- The Syrians in Syria

3- The Syrians in Lebanon

3- Bibiography


The internal conditions in the still “Ottoman Empire” were chaotic when the war ended in 1918. Food and most commodities were at famine prices. In Istanbul, sugar, an item typical of other commodities, was retailed at three hundred instead of twenty-five piasters. “Everyone was for himself,” the Times of London reported hundreds of thousands of brigands, some partly organized politically; others, unorganized bands of deserters and robbers, posed the most serious problem of all.1

Istanbul was an occupied city, the sultan not a free agent. The negotiations conducted with his government and signed by him in the Treaty of Sevres perpetuated the rights of the Western powers to interfere in the internal affairs of Turkey and its former provinces. The many minorities of the empire were used as a pretext for intervention. Armenians, Kurds, Maronites, Jews, and Assyrians were used at the end of the war, just as the Arabs were manipulated at its beginning.

An independent Armenia, a scheme of local autonomy for the predominantly Kurdish areas-leading to independence if the Kurds so desired;2 a Jewish national home in Palestine, a Greater Lebanon dominated by the Maronites, special privileges for the Assyrians in northern Iraq, led to an inflation of nationalist hopes and demands that severely strained minority-majority relations, leading to antagonisms from which the Middle East is still suffering.
With the collapse of tsarist Russia, the Armenians in eastern Anatolia found themselves in an especially precarious condition. Many deported Armenians had begun to return to their homes soon after Turkey had signed the armistice. Their nationalists, encouraged by the outbreak of the Russian Revolution on the one hand, and the victories of the allied armies on the other, proclaimed the Republic of Armenia in the Caucasus in May l9l8. The surrender of the Ottoman Empire to the Allies five months later led to the withdrawal of the Ottoman troops from Transcaucasia and northwestern Iran, lessening the dangers faced by the infant Armenian republic. With the help of British imperial troops, the Republic was allowed to establish its full jurisdiction throughout the Kars province during the following spring (April 1919).3 More than fifty thousand Armenian refugees, who had left the province when the Russians abandoned it, were repatriated,4 but with strict orders not to advance into Turkish Armenia. They found it too tempting not to, and soon proceeded to extend the Republic’s borders westward to include eastern Anatolia, driven by a dream of “the soil of Van, Bitlis, Erzerum, Diyarbekir and lands beyond.” 5 Moreover, they were encouraged by the Treaty of Sevres, which formally recognized Armenian independence in eastern Turkey.

While the Armenians were trying to take over in the East, Greeks were dreaming their “Great Idea.” It was in May 1919 when Greece landed troops at Smyrna (lzmir) under the protection of an Allied fleet and proceeded to secure western Anatolia for itself. With Constantinople as the capital and St. Sophia as its cathedral.

The summer of 1920 brought more encouragement for the Anatolian Christians-the French occupation forces had arrived in southwestern Turkey. Armenian young men were enrolled as volunteers for service under French officers. The Christian communities of south-central Turkey were reported by the American missionaries to have declared an “Autonomous Christian Cilicia.” 6

Beaten and humiliated, the Turks struck back. Soon after the war’s end, the return of the Armenians on Turkish soil had led to a movement designed to prevent them from settling and tilling their fields. “Bands led brigands,” wrote the Times, were sent by the provincial notables, leading to warfare ”with all its hideous accompaniments.” 7 When Smyrna was occupied, news was spread of a massacre of the Muslims by Greeks. Unarmed Muslim Turkish villages had been pillaged by the Greeks, reducing their inhabitants to starvation. Were the English now bringing in the Armenians? Many Kurds, wrote Gertrude Bell, “dreaded an inquiry by British and Armenians into their misdeeds against the Armenians in 1915.” 8

Mustafa Kemal started to round up nationalist forces in the spring of 1919 to save Turkey proper from dismemberment. We need not be detained by details of the next few years except to mention that by the second half of 1920, after the Greek danger had been contained, Turkish forces had overrun the greater part of the territory claimed by the Armenian Republic, including Kars and Ardahan. 9
On the Cilician front American missionary reports spoke of burning and bloodshed. At Marash (Mar’ash), after three weeks of fighting, the French troops, helped by the Armenians, were forced to withdraw, the latter left behind, falling into the hands of the Turks now “inspired by an intensified hate.” By the beginning of 1922 the French forces had arranged an armistice with the Turks.

That summer the Turko-French agreement provided for French withdrawal from Cilicia, coupled with Kemalist recognition of French authority in Syria. The Armenians, as Turkish subjects, had to submit themselves to Turkish rule and accept Turkish guarantees for their safety. Those who wanted to leave for French-occupied Syria would be allowed to do so. 10 Armenian “disheartenment,” wrote Dr. John E. Merrill, president of Central Turkey College at Aintab, exceeded that during any of the previous massacres and deportations, for added to the bitterness of the event was consciousness of betrayal.”

In 1922 the Turks granted ” permission…to all Christians ” to leave Turkey, creating yet another flight of refugees in panic.11 Jacobite and Chaldean Christians as well as Armenians became victims of Turkish vengeance. Large numbers of the two non-Armenian communities fled in1921 and 1922, bringing to an end their centuries-old residence in Adana and especially Urfa.12 The vast majority of them were helpless victims of the forces unleashed by the events that we have described, innocent of all political ambition. A Jacobite author speaks of the misdeeds of some agitated youth of his community during the French occupation, that displeased Turkish officials.13

Like other minorities, encouraged by the new freedoms proclaimed by the American president, the Jacobites wanted to be heard at the peace conference in Paris. Some of their leaders, especially those, who had immigrated to the United States, joined the delegation of the “Assyrian National Association of America,” with its ambitious claims. 14 The future patriarch of the Jacobites, Ignatius Afram I. Brsoum, then bishop of Syria, joined the delegation in Paris even though he was soon disillusioned by what he saw there; at one session at the peace conference he found himself defending Arab rights instead of championing the cause of his community. He was cheered by the Arab delegates present, called bishop of Arabism-Mutran al-‘Uruba- and priest of all time – “ Qass al-Zaman.” 15

Outside Cilicia, large numbers of Chaldeans, Jacobites, and Syrian Catholics had remained in their own villages and towns after the Armenian deportations, and they were on the Turkish side when the Armistice was signed. They had often become objects of Turkish retaliation, 16 but it was not until the Kurdish revolt in 1925 that they again suffered massacre and deportation, long after the Turks had settled their problem with their non-Muslim subjects.

The motive of the Kurdish uprising notes a Kurdish writer, “was the endeavor to create an independent Kurdish state and secure the national rights of the Kurdish people.” The chief slogan of the revolt was “ the creation of independent Kurdistan under Turkish protectorate and restoration of the Sultanate.” 17 But the Turkish nationalists were determined to crush the rebellion. If the Kurds were not ” taught a lesson ” very early, then the eastern vilayets of the country would continue to be a source of great danger, forcing the young republic to keep a large army there at a cost that it could ill afford. The Turkish republicans were also convinced that the Kurds were encouraged by the British government in Iraq, where the mandatory administration showed great partiality to them. 18

Moreover, the Ankara government saw in the Kurds an idea-logical enemy; they represented a counterrevolution, the old Turkey fighting the new. When Kurdish forces temporarily occupied Diyarbakr and Kharput, they were reported to have proclaimed Muhammad Salim, the oldest son of Abdul Hamid II as “King of Kurdistan.” The insurgents demanded the restoration of the religious laws and institutions that “the atheist government of Ankara” had abolished; they called upon all Turkish Muslims to join them in a holy war (jihad) against the new republic.19

It did not take long before the heavy hand of the Ankara government had broken the Kurdish uprising and captured its leaders. By April 1925 the rebels had been driven into the mountains which Ismet Pasha, speaking before the Grand National Assembly, said, ” would prove to be their tomb.”20 A Turkish court martial set up at Diyarbakr condemned to death and executed in August 1925 Shayk Sa’id and forty-seven other Kurdish leaders. “Altogether,” writes Ghassemlou, “206 villages were destroyed, 8,758 houses burnt and 15,200 people killed.” About a thousand of the Kurdish notable families were transferred to the western parts of Anatolia. 21

The Jacobites who were spared during the Armenian atrocities became victims during the suppression of the Kurdish revolt. Some Syrian Christians had collaborated with the Kurds or had given them protection either from fear or conviction. 22 Consequently, a number or Jacobites and Chaldeans were surrounded and deported from that part of the Turkish territory that the British government claimed for Iraq to the north of the “Brussels Line.” 23 People who conducted inquiries on the spot have also ascribed these deportations to the desire of the Turkish military authorities to seize the cattle and grain of the Christian villagers in order to feed their hungry and angry troops. Politically, the authorities also feared that the Christians’ loyalties might be with the British and Iraqi authorities across the border. General Laidoner, commissioned by the League of Nations to investigate these deportations, had “satisfied himself beyond doubt” that Turkish officers had first commanded the occupation and search of the villagers for arms. “Afterwards they pillaged the houses and subjected the inhabitants to atrocious and murderous acts of violence. The deportations were made en masse.” 24 The Jacobite patriarch, Mar Ignatius Elias Ill, was expelled from Dayr Za’faran, which was turned into a Turkish barrack. 25

Not all the Christian inhabitants of Anatolia had left their homes, during and after the First World War. Some who had crossed into Syria or Iraq returned to their villages. During the conflicts, the people of Tur Abdin held on to their mountain fastnesses and, as in the past, found refuge in their churches and monasteries. Kullith, 26 Middu, Basabrina, Idil, and Hakh were among the approximately sixty villages still exclusively Christian as late as the mid-1970s. One of the churches of Hakh (Church of the Virgin), dating back to the apostolic times, its magnificent Byzantine mosaic still largely intact, may be the oldest church still in use in the world. Gertrude Bell, describing its exquisite lacework of ornaments, called it the jewel of Tur Abdin. 27

An American student of Middle Eastern Christian churches who visited the Tur in 1974 wrote that what distinguishes the churches and monasteries of the region from other ancient Christian monuments of Asia Minor is the phrase “ still in use.” 28 During his visit he observed the faithful gathering at the various churches every evening for vesper prayers. The village of Kullith had a Syrian Protestant church with a membership of twenty families, remnant of the once flourishing Protestant missionary effort there. 29

The focal point of the Tur region remained the convent of al-Za’fa-ran with its cathedral, the Church of the Forty Martyrs. 30 In the 1970 there were only four monks at the Dayr, which for centuries had served as the summer residence of Jacobite patriarchs of nearby Mardin, and home of sometimes up to sixty monks. 31 About ten other monks serve in other monastic centers-Mar Jibri’il (Gabriel) and Mar Ya’qtib (Jacob)-their time spent on maintaining them, cultivating their gardens and orchards, as well as on meditating, teaching, and entertaining guests, visitors, and villagers who come from long distances to attend Sunday services. The monastery of Mar Jibra’il, in the village of Qartamln, some twenty miles east of Midyat, has been renovated, and some new buildings have been added in recent years to the old structure. In the Middle Ages this convent, sometimes called Dayr ‘Umar, was the most famous and the richest of the Jacobite monasteries. Tradition says that its bishop, Mar Gabriel, had obtained from the caliph, ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab, rights of jurisdiction over all the Christians in the Tur Abdin when the caliph’s forces had driven the Byzantines out. 32

These venerated structures have been maintained and expanded by the generous donations of Jacobites everywhere, especially those who have immigrated to the Americas. To the Syrian Orthodox these lands and landmarks, where in Tur Abdin alone the “Suryan” had seventy monastic centers, 33 are “ hallowed by the blood of martyrs and by miraculous interventions of the Holy Spirit” throughout the centuries. 34 Today, two of the monasteries serve as seminaries. In 1974 the convents of al-Za’faran and Mar Gabriel had about fifty students, some of whom would enter priesthood.35 One of the more distinguished graduates of al-Za’faran was Patriarch Ignatius Afram I. Barsoum, the predecessor of the late prelate, who was a graduate of the seminary at Mar Matta, in northern Iraq. 36

The capital center of Tur Abdin continues to be the town of Midyat, the residence of one of the two Jacobite bishops of Turkey, with a diocese of about twenty thousand faithful living in it and its nearby villages, served by forty priests. The city has five churches, each with its priest. The town is divided into two sections, separated from each other by about two kilometers, one predominantly Muslim, the other Christian. 37

All the historic Christian communities of the eastern half of Anatolia were present in Mardin after the maelstrom of l9l4-l8 had swept over that part of Turkey. 38 The Jacobite were the most important group among the city’s Christians, having taken the place of the Armenians. The Syrian Orthodox still had ”numerous communities” in the surrounding countryside in the 1960s, some of them with their own churches and parish priests.

For a while it seemed that things were going back to the normalcy of the pre-World-War-I days. The Eastern Turkey mission of the American board was able to open its schools in Mardin in late 1924. During the Kurdish disturbances of the late 192Os and early 193Os the missionaries reported that the Turkish officials of the city were very friendly, providing the mission compound with a special guard. 39

Although Mardin was still an Arabic-speaking city during the post World-War-II period, all its inhabitants also spoke Turkish. In the I960s, part of the religious services of the Syro-Jacobites, such as the sermon and the readings from the Gospels, while still in Arabic, were translated into Turkish. The liturgical books were still written in either Syriac or Arabic.40 The city had a bishop in charge of all Syrian Orthodox Christians of Turkey until his death in the late l96Os; since then it has been under the jurisdiction of the bishopric of the Jaziralt in Syria.
Outside the Tur Abdin and Mardin districts, the largest concentration of Syro-Jacobites was in Istanbul and its suburbs. There a community of about seven thousand built and consecrated a new church-school complex in 1963 called Suryani Qadim Maryam Ana Kilisesi, Mother Mary’s Church of the Old Syrians. 41

As elsewhere in the Middle East, the Christian inhabitants of Turkey find more security and comfort, as well as better economic opportunities and more cordial interpersonal relations, in the large cosmopolitan urban centers. But the future of the small Christian population of Turkey seems to be din. Unlike the Arab world, where the Christian presence is stronger and the Christians (such as the Copts of Egypt and the Greek Orthodox of Syria-original inhabitants of these countries) have thrown in their lot with the Arabs and have very largely identified themselves as a community with the national aspirations of their Muslim compatriots, the Turkish experience has resulted in estrangement. Even the future of Tur Abdin seems to be uncertain.

A well-informed visitor to the Tur noticed some obviously genuine friendship there between some Christians and Muslims, and was touched by the friendship ” between a priest and a mullah.” He had seen a Muslim woman with a seriously ill child, asking a Jacobite priest to bless her young with prayer; but the visitor also found the overall inter-religious relationship strained and the situation at a “deplorable stalemate.” The solidly Christian villages, he wrote, ”seem obsessed with the fear that Muslims will acquire property among them.” 42 A whole Christian village after World War II had become Muslim in order to save the village, Indeed, there are several Muslim villages whose elders remember when they were Christian. The young, writes Homer, see little future for themselves and move steadily away from Tur-to Istanbul, into Syria and Lebanon, some to Europe, Australia, and the Americas. 43


The refugees from Anatolia found new homes and villages in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq where they were helped to settle by members of their community who had long lived in these former Ottoman territories. They also received sympathetic support from the Allied powers who during these crucial years were in occupation of these territories.

Syrian lands situated just south of Turkey attracted the majority of the Jacobites and Syrian Catholics, as well as large numbers of Chaldeans, Armenians, Kurds, and a few Jews. 44 They found refuge here thanks to the public security established by the French occupation. Many of the victims of the events of the early 192Os in the provinces of Cilicia and Turkish Kurdistan came to settle in Aleppo, Hims, Hama, and Damascus, but the majority of them found new homes and villages in the Jazirah district of Syria, a “no-man’s land” which before 1927 had practically no settled population except for about forty-five Kurdish villages. 45

As a result of the Kurdish revolts of the mid-1920s and l930 in Turkey referred to above,46 about twenty thousand Kurds came and settled in northern Jazirah along the Turko-Syrian frontier, most of them coming with their flocks and herds, settling down as cultivators either in villages of their own or on the estates of Kurdish landowners. 47 During the interwar years (1919-39) the population of the Jazirah increased, bringing the number of villages and settlements to about 700. In the year 1935 alone, 150 villages sprang up in the region, some of them inhabited from Iraq, following the clash that they had with the Iraqi government. 48

The Jazirah was a potentially fertile corner of Syria, its soil watered by the tributaries of the Euphrates river, the major one being the river Khabur, which flowed through the region from its source at Ras al-‘ Ayn (head of the spring) on the Turkish border, down to the Euphrates south of Dayr al-Zur. Gradually, this northeastern part of Syria was transformed into a potentially explosive region alongside the other politically volatile regions of the county such as Jabal al-Duruz (Druze) and al-Ladhiqiyah (Latakia). In one sense the Jazirah became more difficult to govern; it lacked the homogeneity that the Druze and Alwite districts had. In the late l93Os, the population of al-Jazirah was estimated as follows: 49

Syrian Orthodox and Catholics 35,000
Armenians 25,000
Assyrians (on the Khabur) 9,000
Kurds 20,000
Jews 1,500
Miscellaneous (including Arabs) 9,500

Made up of a population that had recently fled from fire and famine, these former refugees dreaded the prospect of another exodus after the departure of the French, a prospect which seemed to be approaching in the mid-193Os when France in Syria and Lebanon, and England in Egypt and Iraq, were willing to bring their special relationships with these countries to an end.50All the Christian communities in the Middle East, with the possible exception of the Greek Orthodox Arabs 51 and the Coptic Christians of Egypt, feared an untried Muslim-Arab regime taking over from the European occupying powers. 52 If the French were to leave Syria then at least the province of al-Jatirah should be granted some measure of local autonomy, with a special status such as that of Alexandretta. “The overwhelming majority of the population-Christian, Arab, and Kurdish,” wrote John Hope Simpson, “is united in the demand for local autonomy.” 53

Anxiety in al-Jazirah, as in Jabal Druze and the ‘Alawi districts, Carrie to a head when the Franco-Syrian treaty was signed in 1936. The treaty provided for the replacement of the French by Syrian officials. The minimum demand of the Kurds and Christians of the Jazirah had been that their administrators should come from the local population. The central government rejected this condition, insisting that al-Jazirah was an integral part of Syria. The officials from Damascus, unfortunately, often proved insensitive to the fears and forebodings of the local population even though the central government was counciliatory. 54

Tensions erupted into an open conflict early in the summer of 1937 when the Kurds expressed their opposition to the Syrian nationalist officials appointed to the district. The revolt started in the Kurdish town of Hasaka (French Hasetche) and spread to Qamishli and elsewhere, supported by the Christian inhabitants. Encouraged by some local French officials, the insurgents demanded autonomy. In August 1937 the village of ‘Amuda. an important wheat-producing village of some three hundred Christian families, was raided and destroyed by Shammar Arabs and “Kurdish partisans of the Government.” The Christians of ‘Amuda were forced to take refuge at the towns of Qamishli and Hasaka. 55

French motorized infantry units and squadrons of planes were able to tiring the disturbances to an end by mid-August 1937. 56 At the end of that year, the patriarch of the Syrian Catholics, Cardinal Tabbuini, representing the Christian minorities opposed to direct Syrian rule over the Jazirah. approached the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pointing out in a memorandum addressed to it the possible danger of a massacre of Christians in northeast Syria and elsewhere. He proposed that complete equality in religious and personal matters be granted to all the communities of the Jazirab; that an equitable number of Christian officials be appointed: that adequate means of protection be made available in areas where Christian security might be jeopardized; and that the interests of the minorities be safeguarded through the decentralization of government. 57

There were occasional riots in the district against the Syrian officials, one of whom, the governor of the Jazirah, a Greek Orthodox Christian from Damascus, Tawfiq Shamiyah, was kidnapped in December 1937 by people from Hasaka. 58 He was soon released, but the kidnappers were arrested; demands for their release from prison were the cause of agitation and demonstration in the district as late as 1939. 59 The hopes of the Jazirah inhabitants were raised high that year when the Treaty of 1936 was not ratified by the French Chamber of Deputies. The Syrian president and his cabinet resigned and the French high commissioner suspended the Syrian constitution and dissolved the Chamber, appointing a nonpolitical council of directors to govern by decree under his direction.60 The mandatory government at this late hour turned the hands of the clock back to 1920 when the French regime started its rule. Jebel Druze and Latakia, which had been separated from Syria in 1922 but which, according to the 1936 treaty, were to be incorporated into Syria, were reestablished as separate administrations. The sanjak of Alexandretta, which had been officially a part of Syria even though enjoying its own semiautonomous administration, was handed over to Turkey, which annexed it in 1939. 61 The high commissioner’s decree also removed al-Jazirah from the direct control of the Syrian government and placed it under the immediate rule of his delegate at Hasaka. Within six months, however, with World War II raging at France’s door, the functions of governor were once more transferred to a Syrian official; calm was restored as the result of an agreement reached between France and the Syrian government. 62

The political tensions of the Jazirah did not hinder progress. The region’s emigrant, refugee populations understandably felt unsafe and suspicious, but they were also a hardworking and frugal people; they very soon proved to be a very valuable element, serving their neighbors as craftsmen, mechanics, electricians, shopkeepers, and entrepreneurs. Many Christians, Jacobites as well as Armenians, especially the “Protestants” among them, were relatively well educated, having attended American mission schools in Anatolia. 63 Thanks largely to them, by the eve of World War II the district had been turned into a productive area with many prosperous villages and two large flourishing towns-Qamishli with a population of twenty-three thousand of whom twenty thousand were Christians, and Hasaka, with a population of twelve thousand. In 1936 and 1937 the district, traversed by the Istanbul-Baghdad railway, exported by rail alone a hundred thousand tons of wheat in addition to what was transported to the rest of Syria by road. 64

The war years brought in even greater prosperity to al-Jazirah as the Allies encouraged the production of foodstuffs in the Middle East. An official agency was formed during the war to help the Jazirah become a center for grain production. The high prices encouraged local enterprise; the number of tractors and harvesting machinery increased from 30 in 1942 to 930 by 1950. The acreage under cultivation multiplied from fifty thousand in 1942 to over a million acres by l950. 65

The wealth accumulated during the war was invested in more intensive cultivation; the expansion in cotton financed entirely from commercial as opposed to state capital. By the early 1960s, Doreen Warriner could write that the Jazirah was as fully mechanized as any other country in the world. She noted that the pioneers who changed these nomadic grazing lands to a highly mechanized agricultural region were for the most part Christian emigrants from Turkey-Armenians, Jacobites, and Syrian Catholics. There were Muslim farmer-entrepreneurs, but it was the lead. One of the leading agricultural firms in the I96Os was owned by a former Jacobite family from Diyarbakr-Asfar and Naijar Brothers-with branches in Damascus, Aleppo, and Qamishli. The firm cultivated some hundred thousand hectares of land, half of which was rented, the rest purchased. In the late fifties one of the Najjar brothers represented Qamishli in the Syrian parliament, where he urged the government to devote more funds for the building of roads in his district. 66 Mutual appreciation gradually took place in mutual suspicion between the Bedouin natives and the new inhabitants. The Bedouin tribal shaykhs were the large landlords, from whom the merchant-farmers rented the land and sometimes bought it, especially where, through pumped water, they irrigated it. 67 The landlords’ rent amounted from 10 to 15 percent of the gross produce. 68 With the agricultural boom, the tribesmen soon developed interest in farming; the shaykhs started to count their wealth in terms of bales of cotton and tons of wheat as well as in numbers of camels and goats. 69

The political tension of the Jazirah gradually subside when the French finally left Syria in 1946. Their departure made possible the realization by the minorities that they could no longer rely on French backing and intervention. 70 This realization in turn reassured the Syrian government that the minorities would no longer be manipulated by a foreign power as in the past in order to retain their control over the country. President Shukri al-Quwatli’s visit to the Jazirah was greeted with great jubilation in 1945. 71

A Jacobite writer touring the Jazirah has noted the dramatic progress that the members of his community made in the district after independence. The community had two secondary schools in Syria, one in Qamishli and one in Sadad; five preparatory ( junior high ) schools, in Hasakah, Malkiah, Fairuza, Zaydal, and Aleppo; and elementary schools in the various towns and villages. 72

Independent Syria began to build on the foundations that the former refugees and emigres had laid. The government which, according to Doreen Warrier, had “done almost nothing to promote agricultural development,” began to introduce irrigation improvements during the 1960s. A “new Jazirah” was envisioned when the building of the massive Euphrates Dam was started with Soviet aid in 1964. The project, opened in 1973, is at present the second largest electricity and irrigation facility in the Middle East after Egypt’s Aswan High Dam. It is estimated that the harnessed waters of the Euphrates will eventually irrigate enough land to double the farmed areas of the country and make the Jazirah “one of the most attractive and prosperous provinces of the Arab world.” 73 The economic potential of this northeast corner of Syria was further enhanced after independence when oil and natural gas were discovered, thus encouraging the central government to pay greater attention to this once neglected “no-man’s land.”

At the time of writing, the Jazirah, were both the Syrian Orthodox and Catholics have had Episcopal Sees since the late 1930s, is the most populous diocese of the twin communities. 74 After World War II, when the Christian population of Syria was either remaining stable or declining as a result of emigration, the providence of al-Jazirah showed a dramatic increase even though the Muslim growth was much larger. The district remains highly heterogeneous, the proportion of its non-Arab population much greater than in any other region of Syria. 75

Outside the Jazirah, Jacobites and Syrian Catholics settled in Hims, Hama, Aleppo, and Damascus. The Catholic branch of the community predominated in these urban centers, especially in Aleppo, long a Catholic stronghold. 76 In the 1960s major Catholics churches of the Middle East were represented in Aleppo. The Malkites or “Greek Catholics” –the most important and influential Catholic community in Syria- had seven parishes with fifteen secular and three religious priests and a population of 17,000 faithful in this archbishopric; Syrian Catholics had six parishes, with six priests and about 7,500 members; the Maronites, three parishes, with seven priests serving 2,500 people; the Armenian Catholics, seven parishes, with twelve priests, and 15,500 faithful; the Chaldeans (Catholic ex-Nestorians), six parishes, eight priests, and about 6,000 faithful. Of the almost half a million people who lived in Aleppo in 1962, the Christians were estimated to be 30 percent. 77 Most of the Syrian Orthodox in and around Aleppo had settled there after the First World War.” 78

There are few Jacobites in the Syrian capital, even though their Patriarch has resided there since 1957. 79 Most of the Jacobites of Damascus have settled there since World War I; almost all those who were there before then had embraced Catholicism. 80 In the 1960s the Syrian Catholics were estimated at about 4,250 in number, with five churches, seven priests and two elementary schools. 81

Other important Jacobite-Syrian Catholic centers in Syria are Hums, where the Jacobite patriarch resided before moving to Damascus, Hama. 82 Sadad, and Hafar, the last two being exclusively Christian. Syrian Catholic and Orthodox population throughout Syria was estimated in the mid-197Os at just over 100,000 – 82,000 Jacobites, 21,000 Syrian Catholics. 83


1. Times, 20 Nov.1918. See also A. Attrep, ” ‘A State of Wretchedness and.; Impotence’: A British View of Istanbul and Turkey, 1919,”International Journal of Middle EastStudies, (Feb.1978): 1-9.

2. Article 64 of the Treaty provided for Kurdish “independence from Turkey,” if a majority of the Kurds desired it within one year from the coming into force of the Treaty, and if the League of Nations Council considered the Kurds capable of such independence. See text in J. C. Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East; A Documentary Record (Princeton, N.J.:1956), 2:82.

3. As early as April 1918, the Kars province, ceded by Russia in 1878, was abandoned to the Ottoman troops. The Mudros Armistice allowed the Turkish troops to stay in the region of Kars unless it were decided that it too should be evacuated.

4. For details, see Richard G. Hovannisian, “The Armenian Occupation of Kars,1919,” in Recent Studies in Modern Armenian History (Cambridge, Mass.: National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, Inc.,1972), pp.23-44.

5. Ibid., p.38.

6. M.H. 116(1920)558; 118(1922)89; New York Times, 25 Feb.,29March, 13 April, 1921.

7. 22 Nov.1919; 2 Dec.1919.

8. Review of the Civil Administration of Mesopotamia (London: Cmd. 1061, 1920), pp.67-70. The Kurds were assured, wrote Bell, that the British had no intention of pursuing a vindictive policy towards them.

9. A Turco-Armenian treaty was signed in December 1920 which was superseded by the Turkish-Russian Treaty of 1921, when the Republic of Armenia was taken by the Soviets. See S. J. Shaw and E. K. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, 2:35&57.

10. New York Times 14 Nov.1921; 23 Dec.1921; M.H.116(1920): 540.

11. M.H. 118 (1922): 8-9, 89, 148 477-78. For a sympathetic account of these events by one who participated in relief work among the refugees, see Stanley E. Kerr, The Lions of Marash (Albany, N. Y.:l973).

12. Urfa, ancient Edessa, is the site of the Jacobite monastery of Mar Afram, which stood conspicuously at the head of the bay. Urfa was reported to have had only “Three or four Syro-Jacobite” families in the l96Os. See Xavier Jacob, “The Christians of South-East Turkey,” p.399.

13. “Ibn al-‘Ibri,” “al-Ta’ifah al-Suryaniyah,” pp.70, 115. See also Norman A. Homer, “Tur Abdin: A Christian Minority Struggles To Preserve Its Identity,” Occasional Bulletin of Missionary Research 2 (Oct. 1978): 134, where the author merely mentions the Syrian Orthodox as having “their own nationalistic ambitions.”

14. For a photograph of the delegation that attended the Peace Conference see Assyrian Star (Chicago), May-June, 1971, p.8. For Jacobite petitions to the peace conference, see F.O. 608, no.85, files 347~ and 3481(1919). Cf. Ibn al-‘Ibri, “al-TI’ifah al-Suryiniyah,” p. 71, emphasizing that the leaders of the Jac’obite community were convinced that only their own government could restore their denied rights; those who had immigrated to America, he adds, thought differently.

15. Ghrighuriyus Builus Bahnim, Nafahat al-Khizam Aw Hayat al-Batrak Afram (Mosul: 1959), pp.25-27, 193-94. See also Matti I. Moosa, “Kitab al-lu’lu’ al-Manthur, by Ignatius Aphram Barsoum, Syrian Patriarch of Antioch and all the East” (Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1965), p. vii.

16. Times, 14 Jan.1920.

17. Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, Kurdistan and the Kurds (Prague: l%5), p. 50.

18. For a detailed discussion of the role of the Kurds in the border settlement controversy between Turkey and Iraq-the so-called Mosul question-see Joseph The Nestodans and Their Muslim Neighbors, pp.167-94. Cf. A. R. Ghassemlou, Kurdistan and the Kurds, pp.60-61. See also Times 22 March 1926.

19. New York Times, 26 Feb.1925; 19 April 1925; X, p.12. For a discussion of Kurdish opposition to the new regime, see Jweideh, pp.302 Ct seq.; Arfa, The Kurds, pp.33-38, 107-108; Derk Kinnane, The Kurds and Kurdistan, pp. l~l7; W. G. Elphinston, “Kurds and the Kurdish Question,” Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society 35(1948): 43.

20. New York Times, 9 April 1925.

21. In 1932 a law passed by the Ankara government enabled it to deport “hundreds of thousands” of Kurds into areas where they would “constitute 5% of the population.” Most probably the Turkish government was infuriated by the fact that the Kurdish nationalist organization, the khoybun, which organized the 1930 revolt, was under the “direct influence” of the Armenian extreme nationalist party of the Dashnak. See Ghassemlou, Kurdistan, pp. 53-55; Kinnane, Kurds, p.30-31; W. G. Elphinston, “The Kurdish Question,” International Affairs 22 (1946): 96. Cf Arfa, The Kurds p.31. (According to a New York Times report, Armenian and Kurdish representatives of the “Armenian Secret Army for the Liberataon of Armenia” and the “Kurdish Workers Party,” respectively, told a news conference on 7 April 1980 that Turkish Kurds and Armenians had for tbe first time formed an alliance to fight against the government of Turkey. See times, 8 April 1980, p. A42).

22. “lbn al-‘lbri,” “al-Ta’ifah al-Suryaniyah,” p. 116. For the proximity of the Jacobites and Kurdish tribes and villages to each other, see Mark Sykes, “The Kurdish Tribes of the Ottoman Empire,” pp.473.74.

23. The Brussels Line eventually became the recognized boundary line between Turkey and Iraq.

24. For details on these events, see League of Nations, “Report to the Council of the League of Nations by General F. Laidoner on the Situation in the Locality of the Provisional Line of the Frontier between Turkey and Irak fixed at Brussels on October 29, 1924, Mosul, November 23, 1925,” in Great Britain, Cmd. 2560 (1925); League of Nations, Turko-Irak Frontier, Memorandum on the Enquiry conducted . . . into the Deportation of Christians in the Neighbourhood of the Brussels Line, Mosul, November 12,1925,” in Great Britain, Cmd. 2563 (1925); A. 3. Toynbee, Survey of International Affairs, 1925, 1:19, 507-11,516 et seq. See also Time, II Dec., IS Dec., 1925.

25. Ilarry Charles Luke, Mosul and Its Minorities (London: 1925), p. 113. Luke gives the date of expulsion as “spring of 1924.” For a discussion of Turkey’s policy toward its Kurdish population after the 1930s, See Kinnane, Kurds, pp.31-34.

26. Turkish Dereici, a village of some two hundred families, between Mardin and Midyat.

27. See her Amurath to Amurath, pp.317-IS. For photographs of the church see Abrohom Nouro, My Tour in the Parishes of the Syrian Chutch in Syria and Lebanon, p.60/321.

28. Norman A. Homer, “Tur ‘Abdin: A Christian Minority Struggles To Preserve Its Identity,” p. 134.

29. Ibid.

30. Named after the forty Roman legionnaires who, according to the legend, were thrown into an ice-cold lake early in the fourth century when they would not renounce Christianity.

31. Homer, “Tur ‘Abdin”, p.136. Cf. Jacob, “The Christians of South-East Turkey,” p.401.

32. See Ilorner, “Tur ‘Abdin,” p.134; Bell, Amurath to Amuratth, p.314; C. Dauphin, “Situation actuelle des coinniunautes chretien nes du Tur ‘Abdin (Turquie Orien tale),” Proche- Orient Chretien(1972): 326; Nouro, My Tour, p.36/297.

33. Adrian Fortescue, The Lesser Eastern Churches, p.341; Gertrude L. Bell, “Churches and Monasteries of the Tur Abdin and the Neighbouring Districts,” Zeitschrift fur Geschichte der Architectur 9(1913): 5-6. Several of these monasteries, according to Bell, were scanty structures which most probably were intended for one or two persons. They were devoid of any decorative features, rudely built of undressed stones. Consult her Amurath to Amurath, pp.301-14, for a description of some of these convents “garrisoned by a single monk.”
34. Horner, “Tur Abdin,” p.137; Nuoro, My tour, p. 21/282;Ibn al-‘Ibri, “al-TI’ifah al-Suryiniyah,” p.125. For details on these and other monasteries as they were in the 19705, see Claudine Dauphin, “The Rediscovery of the Nestorian Churches of the Hakkari (South Eastern Turkey),” p.326.

35. See “al-Madrasah al-Iklirikiyah fi Dayr al-Za’faran,” M.B. I (1962): 485; ibid., 4 (1965)138.
36. See Nouro, My Tour, pp 35-36/28~97. See also pp.20-1.

37. Dauphin, “Rediscovery,” p.325; Horner, “Tur Abdin.” For more on Midyat, see p.104.

38. Only Armenian Catholics are mentioned by Father Xavier Jacob, who visited Mardin in the 19665. See his “Christians of South-East Turkey,” pp.399401; see also Dauphin, ibid., p.325.

39. M.H. 121 (1925): 105; 122 (1926): 338; 127 (1931): 489.

40. See pp.17-8; Jacob, “Christians,” p.325.

41. See M.B. 2 (1963): 21011; 6 (1967): 54; 11 (1973): 567-71, including photographs showing the Jacobite patriarch Ighnatiyus Ya’qub III visiting the “vali” of Istanbul and other Turkish dignitaries.

42. Horner, “Tur Abdin,” pp. l3~35; Dauphin,”Rediscover,” p.327. Claudine Dauphin, also a recent and well-informed visitor to Tur Abdin, found no trace of hostility between the two communities but confirms the fact that as a result of constant emigration, the Christians are “surrounded” more and more by Muslims.

43. Ibid., 135. See also Dauphin, ibid., John Krajcar, “Turkey: A Graveyard of Christianity,” World Mission 15 (Spring 1964): 64-72. Starting in the 19665, large numbers of Jacobites, mostly from the Tur Abdin region, have settled in southern Sweden, especially in the city of Sodertal1je. Their number was estimated at over 15,000 in the summer of 1980. (Information in letter to the author from Dr. Yusof Matti, dated 29 July 1980, from Jarfalla, Sweden.) For details on Christian workers, including the Syrian Orthodox, and refugees from Turkey in Europe, see Christian Minorities of Turkey, report produced by the Churches Committee on Migrant Workers in Europe (Brussels: 1979), pp.11-30 and passim.

44. John Hope Simpson, The Refugee Problem: Report of a Survey (London: 1939), p.556.

45. For a detailed account of the refugee and emigrant beginnings in the district, see ibid., pp.458 Ct seq.; Ibn al-‘lbri, “al-TI’ifah al-Suryiniyah,” pp.119-120. See also Robert Montagne, “Quelques Aspects du Peuplement de la Haute-Djezireh,” Bulletin d’Etudes Orientales (Damascus) 2 (1932): 53-66. The majority of the Jazirah’s Arab population was nomadic, often clashing with the Kurds, especially during the seasons when they brought their flocks close to Kurdish areas for grazing.

46. See pp.101-2.

47. Some of the Kurdish aghas lived on the Turkish side of the border; after the French occupation of Syria, a few of them had moved to the Syrian side. See Simpson, Refugee Problem, pp.458, 555; Elphinston, “Kurdish Question,” p.100; Andre Gilbert and Maurice Fevret, “La Djezireh syrienne etson Reveil economique,” Revue de geographie de Lyon 5 (1953): 9-1O; cf Ghassemlou, Kurdistan, p.82.

48. By 1940 close to 9,000 Assyrians from Iraq had been settled on the river Khabur in 32 different villages. They were transferred to Syria and there under the agency of the League of Nations with backing from England, France, and Iraq. Turkey had objected in 1936 to their settled on the Khabur on the Turko-Syrian frontier. See New York Times, 15 Now. 1936; Times, 25 March 1940; 10 April 1940; Gibert and Fevret, ibid., p.10; Bayard Dodge, “The Settlement of the Assyrians on the Khabur,” R. C A. S. J. 27 (1940): 301-320. By mid-1970 the Assyrian population of Syria, most of them in the Jazirah, was given by one informed source as 30,000, their Catholic brethren (the Chaldeans), as 9,000. See Xavier Jacob, “Die Christen im heutigen Syrien,” Stimmen der Zeit; Katholische mota~hfur dasgeistesleben der gegen wart 196 (1978): 345
49. Simpson, Refugee Problem, p.556. liourani gives another estimate for 1937, as follows: Arab Moslems, 41,900; Kurds, 81,450; Chnstians, 31,050; Assyrians, 8,000; others, 4,150. See his Syria and Lebanon: A Political Essay (London: 1946), p.141 n.

50. Iraq received its independence in 1932; the Franco-Syrian treaty negotiated in 1936 provided for Syrian independence in 1939.

51. See pp.9-10.

52. See Betts, “Christian Communities” pp. 7~7l. Betts notes that this pro-Western sentiment continued “to dominate the outlook of a majority of Christian Arabs;” see also Hourani, Syria and Lebanon, p.63.

53. Refugee Problem, pp. 55~57.

54. Ibid., p.556; Hourani, Syria and Lebanon, p.215.

55. Simpson, ibid., 556; Doreen Warriner, Land Reform and Development in the Middle East: A Study of Egypt, Syria, and Iraq (London 1962), p 87. Robert B. Betts speaks of a “massacre of Christians” at ‘Amuda which “initiated a strong movement for local autonomy. . .” Christians in the Arab East, pp.36-37, using Hourani’s Syria and Lebanon as his source Hourani, however, rightly attributed the autonomy movement to the fears of both the Kurds and Christians of Arab rule, and speaks of the Kurds starting the revolt of 1937, and of an “altercation” at ‘Amuda, when a number of Christians were killed.” Ibid., p.216; and pp 141,215. Consult also New York Times, 13 Aug. 1937, which speaks of pillaging of Christian shops and homes in ‘Amuda, attributing the revolt to Kurds fighting for autonomy.”

56. See New York Times, 12 Aug., 13 Aug.,1937; Simpson, Refugee Probim p.556.

57. Hourani, Syria and Lebanon, p.216.

58. Almost half of the Christians in Syria belong to the native church of Syria originally affiliated with Byzantium-the Greek Orthodox church and its offshoot, the Greek Catholic church. In the early 197Os, there were almost twice as many Greek Orthodox Arabs (202,000) as there were Greek Catholic Arabs (112,000). See Jacob, “Christen im heutigen Syrien,” p 344; for statistics on Syrian Christians, consult Betts, “Cliristian Com munities,” pp.102-3.

59. New York Times, 24 April 1938; Hourani, Syria and Lebanon, p. 216.

60. For a discussion of the reasons why the French government rejected the treaty and the deadlock that followed, see Hourani, ibid., pp.217-29. See also Times, 4 July, 1939.

61. Thousands of Armenian refugees were reported “pouring” into Syria and Lebanon on 25 July 1939 from the Sanjaq when Turkish troops took over from the withdrawing French. New York Times, 26 July 1939. For a detailed discussion of the cession to Turkey of the Sanjaq of Alexandretta, see Toynbee, Survey, 1938, 1:479-92.

62. Hourani, Syria and Lebanon, p.229; for the text of the decree setting up the administrative regime in al-Jazirah, see ibid., p.356.

63. For a discussion of the American mission schools and colleges in Anatolia, see pp. 81-2. See also Jacob, “Christen im heutigen Syrien,” p. 345, where he speaks of a community of about 19,000 Protestants in Syria, made up largely of Armenians and Jacobites.

64. Simpson, Refugee Problem, p.556. See also Armalah, Athar Faransa, pp. 2l~l2.
65. Norman N. Lewis, “The Frontier of Settlement in Syria,”International Affairs 31 (1955): 59-60; George Kirk, Survey of International Affairs 193~1946 (Oxford: 1952), pp. 88-89, 122-23, 178-82, 299; Martin W. Wilmington, The Middle East Supply Center (London: 1971), pp. 119-22.

66. Doreen Warriner, Land Reform and Development in the Middle East: A Study of Egypt, Syria, and Jraq, pp.74, 90-92.
67. As in the case of the British in Iraq, the French mandatory authorities assigned the ownership of tribal lands-usually state lands which the tribes traditionally occupied and used for their flocks-to the tribal shaykhs. The latter became the legal owners of large tracts of uncultivated land, their tribesmen receiving nothing, even losing their rights to graze on lands which were rented or sold. During the mandatory period, the French authorities were often accused by the Syrian nationalists of willfully; strengthening the bedoums as a force against the nationalist movement. Ibid., p.88; A. R. George, “The Nomands of Syria: End of a Culture?” Middle East International, April 1973, p. 21. For tribal land policies in Iraq, consult Philip W. Ireland, Iraq: A Study in Political Development New York: 1938), pp.93-95.

68. The merchant-farmers received from 45 to 60 percent of the crop on lands I where they supplied the water; as owners of tractors and combines as well as pumps, they commanded up to 85 percent of the output. See International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, The Economic Development of Syria (Baltimore, Md.: 1955), p.37. Gilbert and Fevret, “Djezireh syrienne,” pp.93-97.

69. It should be noted that traditionally the bedouins of Syria and Iraq have produced a large part of these countries’ wool as well as their meat and dairy products. See Norman N. Lewis, “The Frontier of Settlement in Syria, l80O-1950,” pp.59-60; George, “Nomads,” p.22; Warriner, Land Reform, pp.92-93; International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Economic Development, p.292.

70. As late as the early l96Os foreigners were barred from entering the Jazirah without special government permission. See Gordon H. Torrey, Syrian Politics and the Military, J945-1958 (Columbus, 0. 1964), p.32; Wairiner, Land Reform, pp. 86, 88.

71. See Armalah, Athar Faransa, pp.212-13.

72. See Nouro, My Tour, pp.31-32/292-93, where the Jacobite author lists the major centers of his community in the Jazirah. Cf. “lbn al-‘Ibri,” “al-Ta ‘ifah al-Suryaniyah,” p.38.

73. David Nicolle, “The New Jazira,” Middle East Jnternational 28 (Oct. 1973): pp.26-28. See also Daily Star (Beirut), 6 July 1973.

74. Called the Diocese of Jazirah and Euphrates, the Syrian Catholics numbered approximately 7,000 in the I96Os and had seven churches, five II chapels, nine priests, one secondary school, and five elementary schools. See N.C.E., vol.13, p.904; Simpson, Refugee Problem, p.557, Homer, “Tur Abdin,” p.134; Armalah, Athar Faransa, pp.208-9.

75. See Betts, Christians in the Arab East, pp. 97-101. The prosperity of the region has attracted Muslim settlers from the other parts of the country, thus reducing the numerical importance of the Christian population. In the early sixties the government itself was helping farmers to move from the congested Hama region to the sparsely populated Jazirah where new villages were constructed for them. Warriner, Land Reform, p.226; Eva Garzouzi, “Land Reform in Syria,” Middle East Journal, 17 (1963): 83, 90; George, “Nomads,” p. 22. Kinnane Kurds, p. 44, speaks of the Syrian government’s intensified effort to Arabise the Jazira under the Ba’th.

76. See pp.37-8.

77. N.C.E., vol. 1, p. 286; vol. 13, p. 904. See also Jacob, “Christen im heutigen Syrien,” p.343.

78. The Ottoman provincial yearbook of 1908 gave the Jacobite and Syrian Catholic populations of the province of Aleppo as 1852 and 3130, respectively. Cited in Krikorian, Armenians p.82.

79. In 1974 a new Syrian Orthodox church, dedicated to “The Virgln,” was consecrated in Damascus. See M.B. 12 (1974): 240-42.
80. Damascus too has always been an important center of the Catholics of the Middle East, its most important community being the Greek Catholics (Malkites), with a population divided into fourteen parishes in the 196(ls, amounting to 14,000 people. Other Catholic sects during that decade included Maronites (2,000) and a small congregation of Armenian Catholics. See Hambye, “The ‘Syrian’ Quadrilateral,” p. 334; Jacob, “Christen im heutigen Syrien,” p.344.

81. N.C.E., vol.13, p.904.

82. Hims and Hama together form a diocese of both sister churches. Dependent on this Syrian Catholic bishopric are two well-known monasteries, one dedicated to Mir Musa (Saint Moses) the Ethiopian, whose original building, with frescoes of exquisite beauty, may go back to the seventh century or earlier; the other is named after Mar Yulayin (Julian). See Armalah, Athar Faransa, pp.134-36; Stephen Rahhal, “Some Notes on the West Syrians,” E. C. Q. 6 (1946): 379.
83- Jacob, “Christen im heutigen Syrien.” pp.343-46. For a statistical account of these communities during the 1960s, consult Betts, Christians in the Arab East, pp. 1003.

* Muslims – Christians relations And Inter – Christrian Rivalries In Middle East