Deir ez-Zor Camps
|Deir ez-Zor Camps|
Armenian refugees collected near the body of a dead horse at Deir ez-Zor
|Location||Deir ez-Zor, Ottoman Empire|
The Deir ez-Zor camps were concentration camps in the heart of the Syrian desert where many thousands of Armenian refugees were forced into death marches during the Armenian Genocide. The United States vice-consul in Aleppo, Jesse B. Jackson, estimated that Armenian refugees, as far east as Deir ez-Zor and south of Damascus, numbered 150,000, all of whom were virtually destitute.
Those Armenians who survived during the genocide in 1915-1916 were driven onward in two directions – either toward Damascus, or along the Euphrates to Deir ez-Zor. During the early period of massacres, 30,000 Armenians were encamped in various camps outside the town of Deir ez-Zor. They were under the protection of the Arab governor Ali Suad Bey until the Ottoman authorities decided to replace him with Zeki Bey, who was known for his cruelty and barbarity. When the refugees, including women and children, reached Deir ez-Zor, they cooked grass, ate dead birds, and although there was a cave near the Deir ez-Zor for prisoners to store until they starved, no "camp" seems ever to have been planned for the Armenians.
According to Minority Rights Group,
"Those who survived the long journey south were herded into huge open-air concentration camps, the grimmest of which was Deir-ez-Zor... where they were starved and killed by sadistic guards. A small number escaped through the secret protection of friendly Arabs from villages in Northern Syria".
According to Christopher J. Walker, "'Deportation' was just a euphemism for mass murder. No provision was made for their journey or exile, and unless they could bribe their guards, they were forbidden in almost all cases food and water." Those who survived landed up between Jerablus and Deir ez-Zor, "a vast and horrific open-air concentration camp".
In the village of Margadeh (88 km from Deir ez-Zor), there is an Armenian chapel dedicated to those massacred there during the genocide, that "houses some of the bones of the dead". Lebanese and Syrians make pilgrimages to this memorial organized by the Armenian Apostolic Church of Aleppo.
Over the next [to 1915] three years, the Turkish government ordered the deportation of the remaining Armenian people in the Ottoman Empire to concentration camps in the desert between Jerablus and Deir ez-Zor. They were marched through the country on foot in a hard and cruel journey. Women and children were forced to walk over mountains and through deserts. These people were frequently stripped naked and abused. They were given insufficient food and water, and hundreds of thousands of Armenian people died along the way.
Nouritza Matossian wrote for Armenian Voice,
Last month I visited the desert of Deir-ez-Zor in the killing fields, caves and rivers where a million Armenians perished. I was shown a piece of land that keeps subsiding. It is called the Place of the Armenians. So many thousands of bodies were buried there that the ground has been sinking for the last 80 years. Human thigh bones and ribs come to the surface.
"For Armenians, Der Zor has come to have a meaning approximate to Auschwitz", wrote Peter Balakian in The New York Times. "Each, in different ways, an epicenter of death and a systematic process of mass-killing; each a symbolic place, an epigrammatic name on a dark map. Der Zor is a term that sticks with you, or sticks on you, like a burr or thorn: “r” “z” “or” — hard, sawing, knifelike".
The memorial and museum were destroyed by ISIS in 2014.
The Armenian Genocide museum in Deir ez Zor
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- Deir ez-Zor Armenian Genocide Memorial
- Deir ez-Zor Armenian Genocide Memorial Church at YouTube
- Monument and Memorial Complex at Der Zor, Syria