The Armenian genocide of 1915 has been well documented. Much less known is the Turkish genocide of the Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac peoples, which occurred simultaneously in their ancient homelands in and around ancient Mesopotamia - now Turkey, Iran and Iraq. The advent of the First World War gave the Young Turks and the Ottoman government the opportunity to exterminate the Assyrians in a series of massacres and atrocities inflicted on a people whose culture dates back millennia and whose language, Aramaic, was spoken by Jesus. Systematic killings, looting, rape, kidnapping and deportations destroyed countless communities and created a vast refugee diaspora. As many as 300,000 Assyro-Chaldean- Syriac people were murdered and a larger number forced into exile. The "Year of the Sword" (Seyfo) in 1915 was preceded over millennia by other attacks on the Assyrians and has been mirrored by recent events, not least the abuses committed by Islamic State.
Joseph Yacoub, whose family was murdered and dispersed, has gathered together a compelling range of eye-witness accounts and reports which cast light on this 'hidden genocide.' Passionate and yet authoritative in its research, his book reveals a little-known human and cultural tragedy. A century after the Assyrian genocide, the fate of this Christian minority hangs in the balance.
The 1915 genocide of the Assyrians has often been overshadowed by that of the Armenians, but Yacoub, an emeritus professor of political science at Catholic University of Lyon, France, brings it back into the light and exposes Turkey's multipronged effort to erase millennia of Christian history from its territory. Yacoub, whose ancestors faced death and banishment at the hands of the Turks, connects the genocide with the 21st-century horror of ISIS and a period of renewed uncertainty and danger for Christians across the Middle East. In a scholarly, erudite work that draws liberally from primary sources in a plethora of languages, Yacoub demonstrates that "sufficient evidence has been presented to conclude that the events of 1915 constitute a genocide." His argument is correct, though it is not the facts that are in dispute so much as a public apathy that has allowed the Assyrians to slip into the mist of history. Of the current moment, Yacoub notes "that a people as suffering and oppressed as the Assyrians should be fully integrated into the conscience of humanity and justice finally handed to them." Yacoub succinctly and irrefutably makes his case, but the success of his mission is far from assured.