Year of the Sword

The Assyrian Christian Genocide, A History

November 2016 9781849046428 288pp


The Armenian genocide of 1915 has been well documented. Much less known is the Turkish genocide of the Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac peoples, which occurred simultaneously in their ancient homelands in and around ancient Mesopotamia — now Turkey, Iran and Iraq. The advent of the First World War gave the Young Turks and the Ottoman government the opportunity to exterminate the Assyrians in a series of massacres and atrocities inflicted on a people whose culture dates back millennia and whose language, Aramaic, was spoken by Jesus. Systematic killings, looting, rape, kidnapping and deportations destroyed countless communities and created a vast refugee diaspora. As many as 300,000 Assyro-Chaldean- Syriac people were murdered and a larger number forced into exile.

The ‘Year of the Sword’ (Seyfo) in 1915 was preceded over millennia by other attacks on the Assyrians and has been mirrored by recent events, not least the abuses committed by Islamic State.

Joseph Yacoub, whose family was murdered and dispersed, has gathered together a compelling range of eye-witness accounts and reports which cast light on this ‘hidden genocide.’ Passionate and yet authoritative in its research, his book reveals a little-known human and cultural tragedy. A century after the Assyrian genocide, the fate of this Christian minority hangs in the balance.


‘A significant and welcome contribution to the field of genocide studies . . .  Yacoub’s book establishes a very strong foundation to the academic study of the Assyrian Genocide in English.’ — Review of Middle East Studies

‘This important and revelatory book tells of the biblical race which has suffered genocide twice within a century: over half were destroyed by the Ottoman atrocities of 1915, and now their descendants in Mosul and elsewhere are being put to the sword by ISIS. The Assyrians today deserve more than our pity – they need our protection.’ — Geoffrey Robertson QC, human rights barrister, Doughty Street Chambers, and author of An Inconvenient Genocide

‘Meticulous and moving, Year of the Sword documents the forgotten horrors that befell the Syriac-speaking Christians of the Ottoman Empire. This is a book for all times, but especially our own, when the Middle East’s distinctive ethno-religious diversity is again under threat from violence and forced migration. Readers will be sobered and better informed thanks to Yacoub’s efforts.’ — Christian Sahner, Research Fellow in History, St. John’s College, University of Cambridge, and author of Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present

‘Meticulous and moving’ — Christian Century

‘Yacoub’s work is essential reading and sheds light on a dark chapter of twentieth century Middle Eastern history that has been deliberately silenced.’ — Vicken Cheterian, Webster University, Geneva, author of Open Wounds: Armenians, Turks and a Century of Genocide

‘[An] important contribution to genocide studies.’  — Middle East Quarterly

‘Yacoub, whose family was murdered and dispersed, has gathered together a compelling range of eye-witness accounts and reports which cast light on this “hidden genocide.” Passionate and yet authoritative, his book reveals a little-known human and cultural tragedy.’ — Pan Armenian Network


Joseph Yacoub is Emeritus Professor at the Catholic University of Lyon and the author of several books on minorities and Christians in the Middle East.

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