By Bar Daisan, AINA News
Sodertalje, Sweden (AINA) — A documentary film on the Turkish genocide of Assyrians in World War One premiered yesterday in the city of Sodertalje, 36 kilometers south of Stockholm. The documentary, titled Seyfo 1915 – The Assyrian Genocide was directed by Assyrian filmmaker Aziz Said, who lives in Berlin. The film was produced by the Assyrian Federation of Sweden. Nearly 600 people attended the premiere.
The documentary tells the story of the genocide perpetrated by the late Ottoman government against the Assyrians, Greeks and Armenians — the Christian population of Turkey.
“Many of those who came to see the movie are people who themselves have lost relatives who were murdered a hundred years ago,” said Afram Yacoub, the President of the Assyrian Federation in Sweden.
The story of the film starts in Sweden. A Sweden-born journalist of Assyrian origin travels with a film crew to her parent’s homeland in Tur Abdin in southeastern Turkey in order to follow remaining traces of the crimes committed there during the year 1915. Assyrians call the year 1915 Seyfo, meaning sword. The film crew visited the cities Mardin, Diyarbekir, Midyat, Siirt and multiple other locations of where the genocide occurred.
The film includes testimony from several European, Turkish and Assyrian historians, as well as genocide researchers, including Professor Taner Akcam, Dr. Gabriele Yonan and Professor David Gaunt. The film includes testimony from survivors of the genocide.
750,000 Assyrians (75%) were killed in the genocide, as well as 500,000 Greeks and 1.5 million Armenians.
Related: Assyrian Genocide 100
The viewer of the documentary is transported into the villages in southeastern Turkey and confronted with images of devastation, where once proud houses and churches stood. The area looks like abandoned. The evidence of the past horror visible in many stone and wall ruins. The statements of the descendants of the victims of the genocide are heart-wrenching, indicating the scale of the tragedy.
Speaking at the premiere, director Aziz Said said the project was “a very emotional experience…I wanted to share with you this story and what I’ve learned with this film…its objective is to serve as a bridge of reconciliation, acceptance and peaceful coexistence between Turks, Kurds and Assyrians not only in Turkey but also in the European Diaspora. I hope it helps understand history of the region.”
The film contributes 100 years later to the memory of the greatest catastrophe in modern history of the Assyrians. This is particularly important for today’s young Assyrian people in the Diaspora and the interested European co-citizens and Kurdish and Turkish neighbors in Turkey. Such a documentary thus helps to keep the memory of the victims of the genocide alive, because Turkey as the formal successor state of the Ottoman Empire has not recognized this genocide and even vehemently denies it.
“Under the directorship of Aziz Said an impressive and professional document has been created,” said Dr. Gabriele Yonan, author of the very first book published 1989 in German about the Assyrian Genocide and who was among the invited guests in Berlin. “At the same time it is evidence that even after four generations Seyfo is alive among the descendants of victims and perpetrators. Also, it is shows that historical research focused on the Assyrian genocide has made progress in recent decades. Seyfo 1915 – Assyrian Genocide will be certainly an important film for the next generation.”
Two weeks ago the documentary was shown at a private screening in Berlin. While the German Parliament was discussing whether to recognize the genocide, the documentary was shown on Monday, April 22nd to an invited audience at the town hall of Berlin’s Schoneberg, a location famous for hosting John F. Kennedy on June 26th, 1963, when he said “Ich bin ein Berliner.”
Berlin’s audience of about 100 invited spectators were Germans, Turks, Kurds and Assyrians. Also present was the film crew that accompanied Aziz Said for several months in Turkey and Sweden.
“I was deeply touched and my heart was full of compassion for the Assyrian families, victims and relatives alike,” said Imogen Schafer, following the end credits of the documentary while the passionate beautiful music of the film was fading away at the background.