Deir ez-Zor camps

Coordinates: 35°20′00″N 40°9′00″E / 35.33333°N 40.15000°E / 35.33333; 40.15000
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Deir ez-Zor camps
Concentration camp
Bodil Biørn's caption: "The Armenian leader Papasian considers the last remnants of the horrific murders at Deir ez-Zor in 1915–1916."
Deir ez-Zor camps is located in Syria
Deir ez-Zor camps
Location of Deir ez-Zor in contemporary Syria
Coordinates35°20′00″N 40°9′00″E / 35.33333°N 40.15000°E / 35.33333; 40.15000
LocationDeir ez-Zor, Ottoman Empire
Armenian refugees collected near the body of a dead horse at Deir ez-Zor

The Deir ez-Zor camps were concentration camps[1] in the heart of the Syrian desert in which 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.[2]


Those Armenians who survived during the genocide in 1915-1916 were driven onwards in two directions: towards 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 Salih Zeki Bey, who was known for his cruelty and barbarity.[3][4] When the refugees, including women and children, reached Deir ez-Zor, they cooked grass, ate dead birds,[5] and although there was a cave near a place called Deir ez-Zor that was used at the end of one march to store prisoners until they starved, no "camp" seems ever to have been planned for the Armenians.[6]

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.[7]

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".[8]

Armenian genocide[edit]

The Ottoman government persecuted the Armenian people and forced them to march out to the Syrian city of Deir al-Zour and the surrounding desert without any facilities and supplies that would have been necessary to sustain the life of hundreds of thousands of Armenian deportees during and after their forced march to the Syrian desert.[9][10]

Haj Fadel Al-Aboud, who was the mayor of Deir al-Zour, provided them with food and housing and means of livelihood and security. The Armenians returned the favor to Al-Aboud when French colonial authorities sentenced him to death in Aleppo; they supported and defended him, which led the French to reduce the sentence to exile in Jisr al-Shughur.[11]


Armenian pilgrims gathered in the Syrian village of Margadeh, near Deir ez-Zor, to commemorate the 94th anniversary of the Armenian genocide

In the village of Margadeh, (88 km from Deir ez-Zor, an Armenian chapel dedicated to those massacred there during the genocide "houses some of the bones of the dead".[12] Lebanese and Syrians make pilgrimages to this memorial organized by the Armenian Apostolic Church of Aleppo.[13]

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.[14]

"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".[15] In 2010, the President of Armenia, Serzh Sarkisian, stated: "Quite often historians and journalists soundly compare Deir ez Zor with Auschwitz saying that 'Deir ez Zor is the Auschwitz of the Armenians'. I think that the chronology forces us to formulate the facts in a reverse way: 'Auschwitz is the Deir ez Zor of the Jews'.[16]

The memorial and museum were destroyed by ISIL in 2014.[17] The site was recaptured in 2017.[18] Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has pledged to restore the site, as part of the rebuilding of Syria.[19]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Winter, Jay (2009). America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Cambridge University Press. p. 162. ISBN 978-051-149760-5. OL 34442571M.
  2. ^ Bramwell, Anna C. (2021) [1988]. Refugees in the Age of Total War. Taylor & Francis Group. p. 45. ISBN 978-100-045957-9. OL 33927375M.
  3. ^ Walker 1990, p. 223, 220.
  4. ^ Kieser, Hans-Lukas (2020). Talaat Pasha: Father of Modern Turkey, Architect of Genocide. Princeton University Press. p. 263. ISBN 978-0-691-20258-7. OL 29464070M.
  5. ^ Friedman, Saul S. (2004). A History of the Holocaust. Vallentine Mitchell. p. 330. ISBN 0-8530-3435-4. LCCN 2003057169. OL 17142643M.
  6. ^ Everdell, William R. (1997). The First Moderns: Profiles in the Origins of Twentieth-century Thought. University of Chicago Press. pp. 124–125. ISBN 0-2262-2480-5. LCCN 96044334. OL 1004603M.
  7. ^ George, Joan (2002). Merchants in exile the Armenians in Manchester, England, 1835-1935. Gomidas Institute. p. 164. ISBN 1-9036-5608-7. OL 22062404M.
  8. ^ Walker 1990, p. 205, 210.
  9. ^ "Exiled Armenians starve in the desert; Turks drive them like slaves, American committee hears ;- Treatment raises death rate". The New York Times. 8 August 1916. Archived from the original on 2 February 2012. (cited by McCarthy, Justin (15 August 2010). The Turk in America: The Creation of an Enduring Prejudice. University of Utah Press. p. 177. ISBN 978-1-60781-013-1.)
  10. ^ Danieli, Yael (1998). International Handbook of Multigenerational Legacies of Trauma. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-306-45738-8. [Victims] were often held without food for days so they would be too weak to escape.
  11. ^ Alshamary, Anwar, Biggest Baggara Tribe, Dar Almaref, Homs, 1996, Page: 363..
  12. ^ Mannheim, Ivan (2001). Footprint Syria & Lebanon Handbook. Footprint Handbooks (published 25 July 2001). p. 391. ISBN 978-190-094990-3. OL 8762669M.
  13. ^ "Deir ez-Zor, International Travel News, 2007". Archived from the original on 2008-12-04. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
  14. ^ ""Ararat" World Premier in Cannes, by [[Nouritza Matossian]]// Armenian Voice, Summer 2002, Issue 46". Archived from the original on 2005-03-17. Retrieved 2009-01-10.
  15. ^ Bones, by Peter Balakian, The New York Times, December 5, 2008
  16. ^ Marutyan, Harutyun (2014). "Museums and Monuments: comparative analysis of Armenian and Jewish experiences in memory policies". Études arméniennes contemporaines (3): 57–79. doi:10.4000/eac.544. ISSN 2269-5281.
  17. ^ "ISIS Destroys Armenian Genocide Memorial in Syria". 29 September 2014.
  18. ^ "Photos: Der Zor's Armenian Genocide Memorial Church Liberated by Syrian Armed Forces". 6 November 2017.
  19. ^ "Assad to rebuild Armenian Genocide Memorial Church in Deir Ezzor". 10 January 2019. Archived from the original on 15 November 2019. Retrieved 30 July 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Walker, Christopher J. (1990). Armenia: The Survival of a Nation. Croom Helm. ISBN 0-7099-0210-7. OL 16322719M.
  • Tatrean, Vahram; Dadrian, Vahram (2003). Ara Sarafian (ed.). To the desert: pages from my diary. Translated by Agop Jack Hacikyan. Gomidas Institute. ISBN 1-9036-5627-3.
  • Kaiser, Hilmar; Eskijian, Nancy; Eskijian, Luther (2002). At the Crossroads of Der Zor: Death, Survival, and Humanitarian Resistance in Aleppo, 1915-1917. Taderon Pr. ISBN 978-190-365612-9. OL 12267751M.
  • Miller, Donald E.; Miller, Lorna Touryan (1999). Survivors: an oral history of the Armenian genocide. University of California Press. ISBN 978-052-021956-4. OL 7710700M.
  • 2011 Documentary Film — Grandma's Tattoos (dir. Suzanne Khardalian [sv])

External links[edit]