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Let's Talk Turkey

Part II

Armenian Genocide:

Never have there been a people more badly treated and abused by the Turks than the Armenians. Everybody has heard about the Armenian Genocide except Turkey. Up till today Turkey refuses to acknowledge the horrendous events of 1915 and indeed even before that from 1894-1896.

But it all started well before that – in 1514 the Ottomans occupied Armenia (the first nation in the world to make Christianity its official religion) after the battle of Galdiran. The Armenians skilled craftsmen even then were taken advantage of by the occupiers and their skills put to use without being given a just reward. In general under Ottoman rule things took a turn for the worse and many Armenian families felt that they had no option except to move elsewhere. This was the first movement of Armenians to Syria-for many sought Syria and found sanctuary there. Others chose Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan.

The main reason for the Armenian genocide was Turkey's wish to Turkify the whole region. In 1909 the Armenians of Adna were slaughtered and those residing in 'West Armenia" were forced to emigrate. This was not a whim of the moment policy but one that was well planned for.

Let's Talk Turkey

Part I_Cilicia

Let's talk Alexandretta and before that Cilicia. Let's talk Armenian genocide. Let's talk Cyprus 1974. Let's talk Syrian and Armenian displacement from Kassab in Syria in 2014. Let's talk Hasekeh, Kamishli and Idleb October 2019. In short let's talk Turkey.

 The sad story of Alexandretta and how it was stripped off Syria by Turkey and France is a lesson taught in history to every child attending Syrian schools.

 It all started with Cilice early on. Cilice was in the region of north Syria. At the start of WW1 and in a correspondence between Sherif Hussein and Mac. Mahon Sherif Hussein asked that Cilicia be returned to Syria after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. That request was denied.

 In 1921 and in a reconciliatory gesture by France to the Ottoman Empire one hundred and sixty thousand square Kilometers (approximately the area of Syria now) was ceded to Turkey. Syrian land given to Turkey by French authority.

 Possibly a rehearsal of what was to happen later in Palestine when the British gave Palestine to the Jews (the Balfour declaration 1917).

 The inhabitants of Cilicia then were Arabs, Armenians (who were the original inhabitants) Kurds and Circassians. Previously the Armenians had been forcefully evicted from Cilicie and massed in camps in Aleppo, Damascus and Beirut.

 Under the French mandate Armenian return to Cilicie was facilitated and offices were established solely concerned with the return of Armenians to Cilicie. This was done not because the Armenians had a right to return to Cilicie (and they did) but because the French wanted to weaken the Ottoman hold on the area by returning its original ethnicities to it. By July 1919, very few Armenians remained in Damascus. The situation of Armenians in Cilicie improved because the French were able to see the possibility of using them to solidify French hold on the area- and the Armenians at that point were convinced that they had French sympathy and had hopes of establishing a self rule area there.

 In 1919 a Colonel Bremond was posted to the area of Cilicia and in a celebration hosted in his honor he said that he had come to put his skill to use as "jurisdiction organizer" of to the area and put it under the control of the Armenians-that Armenians will form the backbone of the army in Cilicia.

 Sadly the contrary happened and hardly a year passed before France dismantled the Armenian volunteers and lost its control over the area and it fell again under Turkish power (the Ankara agreement 1921where Turkey also acknowledged the French mandate over Syria).

 France did that in a gesture of goodwill towards Kemalist Turkey in the hope that it would win them over from forming any kind of bond with Soviet Russia.

 It is that particular agreement that resulted in great misfortunes for Syria later on. By giving Cilicia to Turkey, Henry Franklin Bouillon (who had no idea of course of the exact geographical location of Cilicia or what ethnicities inhabited that area), Syria's natural northern borders were pushed southward 50 km thus giving Syria a fluid border with Turkey, a very difficult border to protect against a very dangerous neighbor.

 The Ankara Agreement is also illegal because it is illegal for a mandate power (France) to cede any part of the country under its mandate to a foreign country (Turkey) without even a representative from Syria. By losing Cilicia, Syria lost a greatly productive area its own size. It also lost its own solid natural borders with Turkey.

Turkey's promises of protecting different ethnicities were fake as Turkey forced displacement upon them and committed genocide. By 1923 all different ethnicities were uprooted, their land and money seized by Turkey.

Most important of all, water remained in Turkey's hands and from that time until the present day Turkey has used this issue politically to pressurize both Syria and Iraq.  

And it is through these very borders that Erdogan today has sent his mercenaries and terrorists to wreak havoc and destruction on Syria.

Editor in Chief

Reem Haddad

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A tale told by Hayat

This is the harrowing tale of a woman called Hayat who comes from Zebdeen a village in the Ghouta of Damascus. Hayat is an educator and this is her passion. From a young age she started working in a kindergarten and after completing her education she became a full time teacher there and then a headmistress.

Hayat wears a headscarf and lives in an ultra conservative society, yet she is very secular. She believes in education for girls strongly-that girls should be independent and shrug off the yoke of subordination. Hayat was given her own fair chance in life by another woman who saw her potential and urged her to continue her education.

It is the moral and ethical duty of a journalist to tell the truth. To report with an open mind and a beating heart.

On August 21st of this year, New York Times published an article with the following heading " What victory looks like: A Journey through shattered Syria" – The innuendo here is that victory has led to the shattering of Syria leading the reader to think the crisis in Syria and the blood and destruction are all the fault of the Syrian Army and the government. The article says, very much tongue in cheek, "We-three journalists with the New York Times – had come to Syria to see what his victory looked like".

The Politics of Bread

One of the direct reasons for the French Revolution of 1789 was the high price of Bread and its scarcity.

Bread is considered an essential food and from it comes the term "Bread Winner" (a person who earns  money and supports his family). In the Bible it is referred to as The "Staff of Life" and its importance dates back to the Ancient Egyptians and Romans.

The importance of bread is also stressed in the last supper of Christ when he broke a piece of bread and passed it amongst his disciples – the broken bread symbolic of his body that was to be broken on the cross.   

Bread cost and availability has been a factor in most revolutions and social upheavals. In Egypt in 2011 in Tahrir Square along with pictures of Nasser bread  was raised as a symbol of their demand for equality and the right to live above the poverty line. It is almost as if bread defines the  needs of humanity. It defines societies division into classes.

In Syria bread is a main food component due to its low cost. It is eaten with every meal ( bread is hardly ever thrown away even dried bread is put to use) Bakers use a particular kind of flour which has protein added to it. The loaves are big- more than twice the size of pitta bread available in Western supermarkets. These loaves are then baked with incredibly high heat. The result is delicious tasting  cheap bread. It is to be noted that a common complaint amongst refugees was their inability to get used to non Syrian bread.

 Building numerous bakeries was one of the earlier steps that was taken by late President Hafez Al Assad. In Syria bread availability is a measure of the stability of the country. This has been so historically and is true up till now.

In 2011, when the war started in Syria, terrorist attacked and destroyed many government institutions including bakeries. In Adra a province of Damascus a painful incident happened-  one that will remain in the memories of people for a long time. Terrorists attacked the local bakery there and in a scene taken out of the fairytale Hansel and Gretel and the witch the workers of the bakery were thrown in the oven and left there to roast to death. The aim, was for bakeries to close, for bread to become scarce and for hunger to arrive at the doorsteps of Syrians.

This happened up to a point in Gouta and other places. Fear and repression imposed by terrorists on the locals resulted in bakeries being closed and bread if available, was available on the black market.    

It was a ploy used by terrorists in that area to push the people to the very edge of the precipice where jumping over the edge would be easier than living on the edge.

The Syrian government was well aware of what was happening  and tried to overcome this problem and they succeeded partly. It should be noted at this point that Syrian bread is incredibly cheap. Ten loaves cost fifty Syrian liras the equivalent of ten cents- one tenth of a dollar. The reason is that the government heavily subsidizes bread in that it subsidizes flour and it subsidizes the fuel used to work the ovens. Had the government not heavily subsidized bread the ten loaves  would have cost approximately 350 Syrian liras that is the equivalent to 70 cents- still cheap by world standards but difficult for a certain class of Syrians. To overcome the problem of the siege imposed by armed groups on certain areas the government decided to continue to allow subsidized flour and subsidized fuel to enter to these areas. Government bakeries were of course shut down by terrorists, but private bakeries (all with a government license) still operated -hence the irony- the very same terrorists who shut down government bakeries now ate from private owned bakeries bread subsidized by the government.

However sometimes the subsidies never reached those terrorist besieged areas, for the flour and fuel were stolen by  terrorists and sold for exorbitant prices. Civilians became gaunt while the terrorists grew in size looking beefy as is obvious in all film material that shows them. It was these discontented civilians that played a role in ousting the terrorists who had hungered them.

During the crisis that started in 2011 the government had to ration many items but bread was never one of them. On the contrary more bakeries were opened and additional shifts were introduced so that bakeries stayed open more hours. Up till today Syria remains one of the cheapest countries in the world when it comes to the price of bread – and so reinforcing support from local populations.

And so bread a symbol of the word of God, of fecundity and normality was rarely absent from a Syria torn by a war, carried out on it, by Takfiri terrorists. 

Reem Haddad

Editor in Chief