Skip to main content
From the ArchivesPoetry

[The Dead, Floating Towards Syria]

By Alexandra Malouf

My father’s father, Hakob, was forcibly deported with his parents in the days of the Armenian Genocide from the village of Karmounj, near Yedessia. Going on foot, hungry and thirsty, sun-scorched and exhausted, they had reached Der-Zor. There the Turks had started to cut off the heads of the Armenians with axes and to throw them in the Euphrates River. It is said that the water of the Euphrates River was colored red by the Armenians’ blood. My grandfather Hakob had miraculously escaped the slaughter. An Arab desert man had taken him as a shepherd to graze his sheep. After many years Hakob had married a girl, an orphan like him, and they had had three sons and two daughters. The three sons had named their firstborn sons Hakob in honor of their father. So, my name is also Hakob after my grandfather.

Our large Moutafian family, numbering 25 souls, lives up till now in Der-Zor and is well-known here by its prosperous situation.

There are also 10-15 other Armenian or semi-Armenian families in Der-Zor. The Armenians are in good friendly relations with the local Arabs. The latter are very kind and hospitable people. The Arab desert tribal chiefs often visit us. They always remember and tell us the narratives about the Armenian deportees they have heard from their fathers and grandfathers, about how the Turkish gendarmes had brought the poor Armenian exiles in groups to Der-Zor; they had massacred them and had thrown their corpses in the Euphrates River. That is why the Armenians erected, in 1991, right in the center of today’s Der-Zor the Saint Martyrs’ Church-Memorial complex dedicated to the memory of one and a half million innocent Armenian martyrs…

[T]there is a large cave called “Sheddadié.” Again, according to the testimony of Arab desert men, that name derives from the Arabic word “Shedda,” which means “a place of terribly great tragic event.” The elderly Arab desert men relate that the Turk gendarmes had brought the Armenian deportees, had packed them into that large cave, had shut its entrance and had set fire to it. There remained only the bones of the Armenians reduced to ashes…

Those, who come to Der-Zor, do not go back without seeing these places. But during the past few years, petroleum was found near Sheddadié, consequently the Syrian government has forbidden the visits to those places. But the names of these two localities, Markadé and Sheddadié, were given by the desert Arabs, who had witnessed the massacre of the Armenians with their own eyes.

Citation for erasure poem source text:
Hagop Hovhannes Moutafian’s testimony 1980, Deir ez-Zor, The Armenian Genocide