Søstrene i Irak som nå er hardt rammet av IS og har måtte forlate flere klostre og lever som flyktninger i Erbil, var også på flukt for 100 år siden under det armenske folkemordet. Da mistet de 7 søstre under flukten – Som sr. Luma skriver: «In 1915, we lost seven sisters from my community (Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena) they were among millions who lost their lives during the years of genocide. Today, 100 years later we are living another genocide in Middle East.»
Søstrene i Irak har utgitt en bok om deres historie, «DRAWN BY LOVE A History of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena Mosul, Iraq». Der skriver de følgende om dødsmarsjen:
On the morning of June 29, 1915 the governor’s command was carried out with the shout: “Move quickly! Take no possessions with you. Follow us!” by then more than 600 women and countless children had sought shelter with the Catherinettes (the Srs. of St. Catherine of Siena Mosul) In the heat of the summer sun with temperatures rising over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the women and children began the slow march to Mosul in a long human caravan. Trudging over rough roads through the mountains and valleys the women endured extreme hardships during the day. At night they were unable to sleep, on constant watch for soldiers who were looking for women to rape. To protect themselves the Catherinettes agreed that each would walk with her own family so as not to appear to be religious. Sausan Kaka and Raji Krandy, who were from Mosul walked with the eight boarders the youngest of whom was fourteen. The oldest Bernadeen Georgees, was twenty years old: she would survive the ordeal and later enter the community as Sister Marie Bernard.
On the second day of the journey, emotionally and physically unable to continue Sausan Kaka collapsed. The soldiers tore off her clothes until naked she fell on her knees praying. The soldiers shot the brave prioress dead, but her soul rose to eternal life that day.
Along the way the body of another Catherinette thirty0year0old Wanda Nasry, was found dead on the ground. Before the soldiers shot her she had been heard praying over and over again. “O blood of Jesus save me.” The naked bodies of Wanda’s mother and sister-in-law were also found, slashed with dagger wounds.
The Turkish soldiers marched the women and children from morning until night. As the days progressed, the number of women began to decrease; first by ten then by thirty or more. Soldiers killed many; others escaped hiding in towns where the caravan stopped. Our group of women followed a Muslim man who promised to lead them to safety in exchange for money. After a few hours, he turned around and killed them, stealing their clothes and money. Those who remained with the caravan, refusing to relinquish their Christian faith knew of their all-but-certain fate.
After twelve days of walking the caravan arrived at Savur, a town in Turkey about twenty miles from Mardin. The townspeople came out offering them food. The caravan remained overnight and did not move again until late the next morning. Unlike the routine of other days, the soldiers appeared to be in no hurry to get the group going. It soon became clear why; the delay gave the Kurds from surrounding town’s time to gather. At noon when the caravan reached a point on the road next to a deep rocky ravine and stream below a horde of Kurds suddenly rained down on the caravan armed with knives, machetes, and socks filled with stones. The Turkish soldiers withdrew several hundred yards up the road to watch-and later joined the assault.
Screams and cries for mercy were met by angry shouts and monstrous laughter. The women were forced to take off their clothes-to avoid being tortured, they were told. The solders wanted the women named so their clothing would not identify them after they were dead and so they could see the garments.
Then came the slaughter. The Kurds assaulted the Christians with their crude weapons killing their defenseless victims and then slashing their abdomens open to fill them with stones. The weighted bodies were thrown down the rocky ravine to the stream below Women who begged for their lives were asked, “Do you want to be mine?” A few said, “Yes” evading death. Others were simply taken enslaved without option and some women found a way to escape in the midst of the violent chaos. For the Catherinettes the barbaric actions of the Kurds and Turkish soldiers that day were like a wild animal attacking the soul of Christianity. Heaven was the only witness to this massacred save the few victims who miraculously survived to tell the tale; including two Catherinettes- Warena Isa and Henna Yousif.
Warena Isa had done everything she could to protect herself during the caravan march. Seven years earlier at the age of sixteen Warena had joined the Catherinette community at Siirt and now in forced exile, she walked with her mother sister-in-law niece and a dear friend who had two young sons. Warena covered her face with mud to hide her youthful beauty and carried her three-year-old niece so the soldiers wound think she was married. On the day of the massacre, when Warena was ordered to take off her clothes the soldiers, tore the baby girl away from her. Warena and her companions walked and prayed. In the chaos of the moment. Warena’s friend turned to a Muslim man gave him what gold she had and said pointing to Warena, “This gold is yours if you save me, my two sons and my sister.” But at that moment a Kurd stabbed Warena and her sister –in-law because Warena refused to follow him. Warena’s mother was killed at the same time and both were hurled into the ravine. Warena remembers rolling down the hills with rocks falling over her naked body and head praying the Hail Mary over and over.
An hour later, Warena Isa opened her eyes. The Muslim man was standing above her trying to revive her. Fortunately, a dead woman lying nearby still had clothes on her body. Warena took the clothes, put them on and followed the Muslim man until they arrived at a nearby town. At his home she found her friend and her two sons all saved by the same man. Her friend had sent the Muslim back to look for Warena among the dead bodies. For three weeks, the two women and boys received good care in the house of this honorable Muslim man their Good Samaritan. After recovering from wounds and regaining strength the women decided to go to Mardin where Warena had relatives.
The Muslim asked his father to accompany the two women to the city. They left dressed as Muslim women. When they arrived at a Chaldean church Archbishop Israel Odo welcomed them. Warena Isa was further relieved when she learned that Friar Berre and two other Dominican friars had come to the city and were staying with the Syriac bishop. Warena ended up living as a guest of the Catholic Syriac Sisters in Mardin until she was able to rejoin her community in Mosul.
Warena Isa was the sole survivor among the six Catherinettes who began the forced march from Siirt to Mosul. Only half of all the women and children who began the horrific journey in Siirt made it to Mosul. Most of the rest were killed, died of hunger or exposure along the way, or were massacred near Mardin.
It is right and just to honor all these women and each of the Catherinettes including the two who were killed in Jazeerat as martyrs. On pain of death they were asked to deny their Christian faith but refused. They knew that if they converted to Islam nothing would happen to them.
These are the seven Catherinettes who died as martyrs:
• Sausan Kaka O.P. One of the three founding Sausanat, responsible for establishing two convents, in Qaraqosh (1893) and Telkeif (1900). She served as prioress of the community in Siirt and was shot to death in 1915, at sixty-one years of age, on the forced march from Siirt to Mosul.
• Raji Krandy, O.P.; Born in Mosul into a well-known family. Raji studied at a Catholic Syriac school. At the age of eighteen she asked to join the Catherinette community when it was still in its early years of formation. Raji was first sent to the mission in Qaraqosh and then, in 1905 to Siirt. Raji was thirty when she was killed in 1915 on the forced march from Siirt. Her friends her repeating the prayer, Let us prepare for death today…today heaven is for us. The Kurds buried her under rocks while she was still alive her body covered with knife wounds.
• Henna Yaqob, O.P.; Born in Siirt in 1871 Henna asked to join the Catherinettes in 1897 two years after the mission was founded there; she was twenty-six years old. She became a teacher after three years of study, and taught until the First World War. Henna was stoned to death on the march to Mosul at forty-four years of age.
• Sadie Saado, O.P. Influenced by her friend. Henna Yaqob Sadie joined the Catherinettes in her hometown of Siirt in 1898 when she was seventeen years old. She consecrated her life to God teaching and forming the young girls of Siirt. Sadie was killed in 1915 at the age of thirty-four; Henna died nearby. They were both praying asking god to forgive their murderers.
• Warda Nasry O.P.; Born in Siirt in 1884 Warda entered the school of the Dominican Presentation sisters in Siirt and then joined the community of Catherinettes, becoming a teacher. At the age of thirty, Warda died when a soldier shot her through her breast while she was praying. Her mother and sister-in-law were stabbed to death at the same time on the march to Mosul.
• Raji Rafoo O.P.; Born in Mardin in 1872 Raji joined the Catherinettes when she was nineteen and almost immediately afterwards became part of the founding community at Jazeerat Ibn Omar in 1891. On august 21 1915, at the age of forty-three she was stabbed to death on the shores of the Tigris River while being forced back to Mosul.
• Warda Paulos, O.P.; Born in Jazeerat Ibn Omar, Warda joined the community of Catherinettes who had been missioned there. Warda was stabbed to death on the shores of the Tigris River on august 21, 1915 at the age of twenty-five, while on the forced march that was exiling her from her hometown.
DRAWN BY LOVE
A History of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena
by Sr. Marie Therese Hanna, OP
The Death March