Collection of the Remains of Armenian Martyrs in the Deir ez-Zor Desert – A Photo from 1938

Collection of the Remains of Armenian Martyrs in the Deir ez-Zor DesertThis photo shows a scene of the collection of the remains of Armenians who had been killed in the Syrian desert Deir ez-Zor. Harutyun Hovakimian is in the pit. To his left is the owner of a local tavern Murat Gilichian, in the background is the bell ringer of St. Hripsime Church of Deir ez-Zor and an unknown worker.

This photo was taken by photographer Onik (last name unknown) in 1938.

Prior to this on August 15, 1938, the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Sahak II Hapaian, former Patriarch of Constantinople Zaven Ter-Yeghaian, the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem Mesrop Nshanian, and the representative of the Cilician Catholicosate Petros Sarajian held a meeting, during which it was decided to erect a monument to the victims of the Genocide in the territory of the Cilician Catholicosate. It was decided to bury their ashes in the Catholicosate as well.

Harutyun Hovakimian from Ajna, who had been engaged in collecting orphans in the Syrian desert and was well acquainted with the local area, was entrusted with collecting the remains.

Soon, he and Satenik Haykian arrived at the site where the spiritual leader of Zeytun Hovhannes Garanfilian, a prominent Armenian from Kilis Toros Chaglasian, director of the German bank in Aintab Levon Sahakian, and many others had been killed by the orders of the then governor of Deir ez-Zor Zeki-Pasha.

Hovakimian together with the owner of a tavern in Deir ez-Zor Murat Ghilichian, the bell-ringer of the church of St. Hripsime of Deir ez-Zor, and one worker unearthed and gathered a part of the remains from a burial ground in the desert. Later, they collected the remains of Armenian children killed near the bridge in Deir ez-Zor.

Unburied remains were also taken from Shadad and Markada, where extermination of Armenians had been also carried out. In three boxes, they were delivered to Antilia and handed over to the Cilician Catholicosate. Later, all the collected remains were buried in the Deir ez-Zor chapel of the Holy Martyrs.

“A man had to have a stony heart and a cold mind to be able to descend into this grave without confusion and tears, which was seemingly filled with calls for revenge, or mournful cries condemning the indignation of their peace, and sometimes a whisper of blessing filled with a gratitude to the living who still remembered them.”

Excerpt from unpublished memories of Harutyun Hovakimian

Photo source: Collection of the National Archives of Armenia

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