Minorities in the Middle East: Christian Minorities 1838–1967

  (13) 978-1-84097-185-9    Extent:  10 volumes, 6500 pages
Author: B. Destani   Published: 2007
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available

This large collection of primary source material consists of original political despatches, correspondence and reports covering: Christian communities in the Levant 1838 to 1955 in overview, and the affairs of the Assyrian communities 1880 to 1951, the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Jacobite, Chaldean and Syrian Catholic communities, and Protestant communities in the Levant and Iraq, in particular, with further detail about the Maronite communities in the Levant 1841 to 1958, and Coptic Christian communities in the Levant and Egypt 1917 to 1967. These volumes also cover the Jeddah murders of 1858 and 1895, and the treatment of Armenians in Turkey and the Levant, including the Armenian massacres during the First World War.


The question of how countries treat their minority populations has become a major international preoccupation in the modern world. The importance of the treatment and position of ethnic minority populations has increased perhaps as international human rights legislation has been increasingly debated and applied. In addressing the issues of minority cultures in the predominantly Muslim Middle East, we have divided the subject primarily by ethnic minority, on a country-by-country basis though, in common with many diplomats and legislators over the last 150 years, the researchers found that ethnicity is no respecter of formal boundaries and cannot be contained comfortably within state lines.
In the early part of the work, (the period from the mid-nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century), the government of the Middle East revolved around the power of the Porte – Constantinople. With the fall of the Ottoman Empire the Paris Peace Conference saw the Great Powers’ re-drawing of the borders causing great distress to large numbers of ethnic groups. During the first decade of the twentieth century the waning power of the Ottoman Empire had raised the hopes of nationalist movements and during the First World War many nationalists fought on the Allied side with a view to furthering their nationalist ambitions. The new borders, and the French and British Mandates, both denied the hopes for new culturally-based nation states and upset the previous status quo.
The foregoing collections on Kurdish Communities and Druze Communities have begun to address the questions of minorities with nationalist aspirations. Within this set there are two more discrete cultural groups whose ambitions would include the reclamation or recognition of a homeland beyond or outside of the conventional state boundaries of the Middle Eastern States – the Armenians and the Assyrians. However, in concentrating on ethnicity, we have drawn together here the Christian minorities in the Middle East and so nationalism is not specifically addressed but is included when arising from a sense of cultural difference or a difference in treatment of populations.
Geographically the collection covers the Arab Middle East, centring on the Levant, but it includes the (non-Arab) states of Turkey and Iran in order to include the majority of the Assyrian and Armenian peoples. The first three volumes in some ways provide an overview to the whole work introducing the subject of the treatment of Christian minorities using a few central file classes and the research is presented from the point of view of the Government receiving information from its Ambassadors.
The remaining seven volumes reflect a wider range of file classes, this cross-examination of the files provides greater detail from the minority point of view, although inevitably it also produces crossover. There are two volumes of material on the Assyrians from 1880 to 1951 with an emphasis on the period following the Paris Peace Conference after World War One. Two volumes of material detailing the treatment of the Armenians cover the years 1846 to 1958 but the main body of material is from the 1890s regarding the reports of massacres by the Turks at Azvot and Lattakia and from 1915 – the withdrawal of the Turks from Trebizond and its aftermath. One volume of material covers the position of the Maronite communities in Syria and Lebanon including their relations with the Druzes. Coverage of Protestant communities, particularly in Jerusalem and Nazareth, is represented by one volume and includes the massacre by the Druzes of both Maronite and Protestant Christians at Deir-el-Kamar. One volume covers Catholic denominations including the Greek Orthodox population, Roman Catholic, Jacobite, Chaldean and Syrian Catholic communities and this material is fairly evenly spread from 1844 to 1955. Although there was an Ambassador in Cairo from 1883, the documents covering Coptic Christian communities in the Levant and Egypt begin with the expulsion by the Turkish Authorities of the Coptic Archbishop of Jerusalem and his clergy to Nablus in 1917. There is also some, perhaps unusually extended, coverage of the Jeddah murders of 1858 and 1895. The shock of the murder of the British and French Consuls was responded to by bombing of the town, and a huge correspondence arose thereafter between the British, French and Ottoman authorities, a proportion of which has been included.


Archive Editions presents the final ten volumes in our archival survey of minorities in the Middle East. Having already published collections on the Jews and the religious community in Jerusalem, the Kurds, the Druze and Muslim minorities, this collection concentrates on the position and treatment of Christians in the Middle East. As with the foregoing sets, material concerning minorities is often partial and fragmented in some ways, but drawn together the material provides a body of evidence upon which to base an evaluation of the treatment of Christian minorities in the Middle East in the last 150 years.


1. Christian Communities in the Levant 1838-1860
2. Christian Communities in the Levant 1860-1861
3. Christian Communities in the Levant 1864-1955
4. The Treatment of Armenians in Turkey and the Levant (Volume I) 1846–1915
5. The Treatment of Armenians in Turkey and the Levant (Volume II) 1915–1958
6. Assyrian Communities in the Levant and Iraq (Volume I) 1880–1938
7. Assyrian Communities in the Levant and Iraq (Volume II) 1938–1951 (1973)
8. Greek Orthodox Communities, Roman Catholic, Jacobite, Chaldean and Syrian Catholic
    Communities in the Levant and Iraq 1844–1955
9. Maronite Communities in the Levant 1841–1958, and Coptic Christian Communities in the
    Levant and Egypt 1917–1967
10. Protestant Communities in the Levant 1841–1913


Extract from political despatch No. 36 from Mr James Finn, Consul, Jerusalem, to the Earl of Clarendon, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 15 September 1857:
“…1. Palestine is a country of peculiar attraction to all bodies of Europeans possessing extended and distinctly defined creeds, such as Roman Catholic, Greek, Protestant and Jewish.
2. The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is that of a body of population irrespective of religious considerations.
3. The Roman Catholic nations of Europe are expressing their desire for populating it by Colonies.
4. The Russians in various modes are purchasing lands which may easily serve for agricultural Colonies and have means at command for introducing a peasant population into the country, under the host harmless appearance.
5. As each of these great denominations except the Jewish, is supported by powerful nations, an unexpected spark may suddenly cause an explosion, eminently dangerous to Turkish rule in Jerusalem and Palestine – and though no such incident should occur, yet the present silent progress of the movement in Russian purchases cannot be too carefully watched.
6. It is therefore important for the Sultan to procure a population which should be grateful and loyal – and to take the initiative in putting them into the country.
7. Such a people may be found in the Jews: for their affections are centred here, and they own no willing subjection to any European Power…”
Extract from despatch from Consul Skene, Aleppo to Sir H. Bulwer, Therapia, 16 June 1860:
“Kiahia Bey, with some zabtiés … penetrated to the other quarters of the Christians, stopping every one of them that they chanced to meet, without making any distinction whether they were standing quietly at their doors, or coming out of church, in order to take them to the Seraglio, beating them, on the way, in the most cruel manner. … A barber named Yussef, who happened to be at the door of this shop, saw a zabtic pass by, leading a young Christian, about fourteen or fifteen years of age, crying at being maltreated. The barber, wishing to console him, told him not to be afraid, for he would soon be released. Kiahia [Bey], seeing him speak to his young co-religionist, ordered his canvasses to seize him; and when on the ground, himself beat him in so violent a manner that to this day he is bedridden. … The Consular Body insisted that the Kiahia and Hassan Chäoush should appear in Court in order to prove what had taken place on that deplorable day. … the Kiahia only recognised the case of the barber, and reserved to himself the justification of it.”
Letter No. J1263/171/16 from the Bishop of Gloucester, to the Secretary of State, Foreign Office, 4 May 1932:
“The Foreign Office has very kindly sent me copies pf papers relating to certain proposals which are before the Egyptian Government with regard to the status of the Coptic Community. I have also had communications from Egypt… Unlike most of the other minorities in Egypt, [the Copts] have no outside friends or outside supporters… Until comparatively recently … the Copts were recognized as forming a valuable, and at one time an indispensable element in the Government of the Country… [but] the reforms introduced at the time of the dual-control weakened their position very much … and undoubtedly the Egyptian government, partly influenced by modern administrative ideals, and partly by a certain amount of Mahommedan intransigence, is attempting to destroy some of their ancient privileges.
Enclosure from letter by Général Agha Petros Ellow, Commander-in-Chief, of the Assyro-Chaldean Forces, 11 December 1922 (A word from Brig. General H.H. Austin, C.M.G.):
“ I feel that but few in England realize to what extent the small and obscure ‘Our Smallest Ally’ – the Assyrian Nation helped to shoulder our burdens in the Middle East, by resisting the Turko-German aggression along the Turko-Persian frontier, in fourteen distinct engagements. From March to July 1918 they defeated every Moslem force that was brought against them….”
Extract from Parliamentary Question: Mr Eden in reply to Mr Ammon, 3 February 1938:
“It is hardly correct to describe the Assyrians as the allies of His Majesty’s Government during the War. In view, however their sympathy for this unhappy people, His Majesty’s Government did everything in their power to secure the inclusion within Iraq of the territory formerly occupied by the Assyrians, and it was the Council of the League of Nations which decided in 1925 upon a frontier line which left the territory in Turkey.”
Extract from enclosure no 3 (comments by Brigadier Clayton on enclosure (1)) in secret despatch No. 152 from Mr T. Shone, Consul, Beirut, to Mr E. Bevin, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 9 August 1945:
…the classification of the Christian sects is misleading since it does not stress the fact that the Armenians form an important racial group of their own, as do the Assyrian Nestorians on a much smaller scale. Apart from this racial division, the main difference is between the Uniate (Catholic) Churches on the one hand, and the so –called Orthodox on the other. The former comprise the Greek and Syrian Catholics, the Maronites and the Chaldeans; the Armenian Catholics also have ties with this group. The latter group include the Greek Orthodox, the Syrian Orthodox (Jacobites) and the Protestants. The Armenian Orthodox (Gregorians) and the Assyrian Nestorians are swayed chiefly by racial ties. It might be made clear that all these Christian churches, except the Armenians and the Nestorians, are Arab, just as much as are the Moslems.”