Simeil – The Cemetery of Betrayed Giants From Hakkari to Khabour via Simeil
By: Yusuf Malek, Beirut 11-8-1938 - Courtesy of Modern Assyrian Research Archive (MARA)
Publish Date: 8/9/2012
Five years to-day, the world was startled by the news of a cold-blooded massacre of many hundreds of Assyrians in Iraq by Iraqi regular troops in uniform. It was a wholesale massacre not of armed men fighting face to face. But of disarmed men and undefended women and children.
On the 10th of August, 1933, the Assyrians in the neighboring villages of Simeil were informed by the Government Officials to assemble at Simeil some 8 miles from Dohuk in Mosul for safety under the Government flag for attacks of tribes. The Assyrian believed that promise possibly because the thought that the British lending grounds in the vicinity of Simeil. The cemetery of betrayed giants would offer them some protection against treachery and so honor Sir Percy Cox declaration made on behalf of His Majesty’s Government on May 19th 1924, at the Constantinople Conference who said:
“Moreover, since the negotiations at Lausanne were broken off, one problem has gained considerably in importance in the eyes of His Majesty’s Government. This problem is the future of the Assyrians other than those of Persian origin. His Majesty’s Government feels under the strongest obligation to secure their settlement in accordance with the reasonable claims and aspirations of their race. They have made an earnest appeal which His Majesty’s Government cannot regard with indifference, to be established in their former homes under a British Protectorate.”
On the morning of August 11, there occurred the disgraceful massacre after the men had been disarmed the previous day on the promises given to them for safety. When the men all of whom were almost ex-levy soldiers who had reordered services of inestimable value to the British forces were killed, the glorious army took their departure to look out for more villages like Simeil. The Assyrian calculations about Simeil landing ground were wrong and we fear that our present accounts are full of similar miscalculations. What the machines of the Royal Air Force were able to do is described by Lt. Col. Sir A. T. Wilson, M. P. who says: “The Assyrians are food fighting men”: from 1919 onward they performed invaluable service, first with the British army, which they saved from utter disaster in 1920.
But the position in which the British Government has placed itself today in Iraq is as intolerable as it is unparalleled. British advisers, whose advice is not asked, A British Military Mission forced to be silent spectators of foul deeds, four squadrons of the British Air Force, whose intervention has been confined of recent months, to dropping leaflets on Assyrians telling them to surrender. They did so, and were massacred a day or two later in cold blood.
A British eye-witness said “I saw and heard many horrible things in the Great War, but what I saw in Simeil is beyond human imagination”
Lt. Gen. Sir A Haldane in describing one of the many services rendered by the Assyrian Levies and irregulars in one of his engagements with fierce elements opposing his troops in Mosul says:
“But for this entirely fortuitous support, it is possible that a large portion of the Mosul Division might have been swamped by wave of anarchy.”
Lt. Col. Sir A. T. Wilson, in his capacity as Civil Commissioner for Iraq, commenting on the above statement of General Haldane makes the following observations on page 291 of his Mesopotamia – A Class of Loyalties 1917 – 1920:
“This successful stroke on the part of the Assyrians, coming at a critical moment, was of the greatest value; and General Haldane was able to concentrate his attention on the Middle Euphrates and the Diyala regions.” On page 150 the same author says: “They had earned a deserved reputation for gallantry.”
When the Assyrians forewarned the League of Nations before the termination of the British mandate of the dreadful future that awaited them and demanded guarantees – other than scraps of papers – for their safety. Sir Francis Humphreys the British accredited representation on June 19, 1931:
“His Majesty’s Government fully realized his responsibility in recommending that Iraq should be admitted to the League of Nations which was in its view the only logical way of terminating the mandate. Should Iraq prove herself unworthy of the confidence which had been placed in her, the moral responsibility must rest on His Majesty’s Government, which would not attempt to transfer it to the Mandates Commission.”
From the mountains Hakkari their Home in Turkey, the Assyrians were driven on account of their loyalty to British Government as has been declared by Colonel McCarthy, Head of the British Military Mission in Persia during the war. In Iraq they have been subjected to a terrible massacre, and their woes have not come to end. One fourth of their numbers were forced to take refuge on the Khabur. The conditions of those remaining in Iraq against their will are as bad as ever and there is every possibility of the history of Simeil being repeated.
People wonder why have the promises made to the Assyrians by the Greatest Empire not been kept? WE have followed up this Assyrian affair step by step from its early stages and we have failed to find a better and more conclusive answer than that given by Dr. Davie B Perley in his What Price Disillusionment- in which he writes:
“To defend India, Great Britain must possess itself of vital strategic points along the routes of communication, and of the essential commodities of modern warfare, such as the oil of Mosul. And when changes in the Diplomatic relations rendered the Assyrians no longer necessary for the safety of the imperial interests, England was not likely to consider abstract questions of right and wrong when, and particularly when, such questions had reference to the penniless Assyrians.”