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Deir ez-Zor Camps

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Title: Deir ez-Zor Camps  
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Subject: Armenian Genocide, Death march, Deir ez-Zor, Armenian casualties of deportations, Karen Jeppe
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Deir ez-Zor Camps

Deir ez-Zor Camps
Concentration camp
225 px
Armenian refugees collected near the body of a dead horse at Deir ez-Zor

35°51′00″N 38°43′00″E / 35.85000°N 38.71667°E / 35.85000; 38.71667Coordinates: 35°51′00″N 38°43′00″E / 35.85000°N 38.71667°E / 35.85000; 38.71667

Location Deir ez-Zor, Ottoman Empire
Operational 1910s
Inmates Armenians
Killed 150,000

The Deir ez-Zor camps were concentration camps[1] in the heart of the Syrian desert where many thousands of Armenian refugees were forced into death marches during the Armenian Genocide. The US 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 – either 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 under the protection of the Arab governor Ali Suad Bey, for what the Ottoman authorities decided to replace him by Zeki Bey, who was known for his cruelty and barbarity.[3] When the refugees, including women and children, reached Deir ez-Zor, they cooked grass, ate dead birds,[4] 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.[5]

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".[6]

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".[7]


In the village of Margadeh (88 km from Deir ez-Zor), there is an Armenian chapel dedicated to those massacred here during the genocide, that "houses some of the bones of the dead".[8] Lebanese and Syrians make pilgrimages to this memorial organized by the Apostolic Church of Aleppo.[9]

On October 20, 2008 Australian Federal Shadow Minister for Finance, Competition Policy and Deregulation and member of the Australian House of Representatives Hon. Joe Hockey marked,

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.[10]

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.[11]

"For Armenians, Der Zor has come to have a meaning approximate to Auschwitz", wrote Peter Balakian in 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".[12]


See also



  • To the Desert: Pages from My Diary, by Vahram Dadrian. Translated by Agop J Hacikyan, Taderon Press, 2006 ISBN 1-903656-68-0
  • At the Crossroads of Der Zor: Death, Survival, and Humanitarian Resistance', by Hilmar Kaiser, Luther and Nancy Eskijian, Gomidas Institute, 2002
  • Survivors: An Oral History Of The Armenian Genocide, by Donald E. Miller, Lorna Touryan Miller, University of California Press, 1999, ISBN 0-520-21956-2

External links

  • Deir ez-Zor Armenian Genocide Memorial
  • Deir ez-Zor Armenian Genocide Memorial Church at YouTube
  • Monument and Memorial Complex at Der Zor, Syria

Documentary films

  • 2011 – Grandma's Tattoos (dir. Suzanne Khardalian)
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