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USF Libraries Exhibits

Armenian Refugees in Iraq

Souren Aprahamian, Armenian Survivor

Finally, everybody was exhausted and had to stop. Well, it wasn't too far from Hamadān, so the British took over. And we ended in an enclosure there. For some reason, the British just would not let people in that enclosure get out. We happened to be in there. And my uncle -- see, our family always provided a priest for the village. In 1912, when my grandfather died, by right of inheritance my father, being the eldest of the family, would inherit the cloak. He didn't want that, so his third brother Daniel became the priest. He became Der Stepan. He was in there with his family, wife and son; they both died there.

And then the word came that there were trucks that would transport us to our next destination. And by luck, we were able to get on one of those trucks. Otherwise, we would have never made it. With this truck, in two days we were in Ba'qūbah, our final destination. That's a village about thirty miles east of Baghdad, on outer banks of the River Diyala. It took couple months for the remainder of the refugees to get there. This is August of 1918. So we had left in March, and here we are, destination, far from our original intentional of being in Armenia, in Mesopotamia, Iraq.

We stayed there until September of 1918, and the Arabs rebelled against the British. And our camp consisted of ten sections of Armenians and forty-five sections of Assyrians, on a peninsula formed by the meandering river. So when the battle began, the bullets crisscrossed, and the tents didn't provide very much protection. Eventually the British were able to bring some forces and drew the Arabs back, and they moved us from there to Baghdad. From Baghdad, with the river boats we ended up near the city of Basrah. The camps were established at Nahr al-'Umah.

In 1921, my brother sent money. My brother was in America: he came in 1913, same as my future father-in-law. Most of them came back in 1916, when Van was liberated, but he had the misfortune -- or fortune, let's put it. If he had come back with the rest -- all those that came back died, were killed. My brother didn't have any money to come back, so he remained in America, and he since brought us to America.