The Circassians of Syria


Hard struggle of Cevad Anzor

The Circassians of Syria have experienced lot difficulty since leaving the Northwest Caucasus. The Circassians are part of a large, important group living in the Caucasus region since ancient history. They were in contact with many peoples who passed through the plains to their north. During that time, The Circassians were almost in constant warfare with their neighbors. By 1860's the Circassians were forced to migrate to various parts of the Ottoman Empire.

In Syria, the Circassians lived in the Golan Heights.After the 1967 Arab-İsraeli war, they withdrew further into Syria, specifically to Damascus.Finding their settlement unsatisfactory, they petitioned the U.S.A. in the mid 1970's for asylum. The U.S. allowed many of them to immigrate to America, where they settled in New Jersey and New York City.

The Circassians who remained in Syria are well off. Many of them works in government, civil service or the military. Most Circassians learn Arabic in school, speak Adygey ( their native language ) among themselves and study English.Students in junior high school study written Circassian in cyrillic script. However there are no newspapers and few Circassian books printed in Syria.

Cultural events play an important role in maintaining the ethnic identity of the Circassians. During holidays and weddings, they perform folk dances and songs in their traditional dress.

Historically, The Circassians were organized into four casts: princes, nobles, freemen and slaves. The princes organized the wealth and external relations of the villlages. The freemen were farmers, herdsmen or worked in plants. The slaves served the princes and nobles as servants and laborers.

Circassians are Sunni Muslims for the past three or four hundred years.Circassian population in Syria in 1990 28500 ,1995 33800, 2000 40000.

Real owners of the Golan Heights

There are two Circassian villages in Aleppo, three villages in Hama, six villages in Humus, eleven villages in Golan Heights.
The first migration to Syria followed the route from the port of Samsun at Black Sea then to Uzunyayla region of Kayseri then to Syria. Name of the Leader of the immigrants was Julian and it is said that the name Golan is the variation of it. At the time of 1967 Arab-Israeli war,there were 12 Circassian villages at the Israeli occupied Golan Heights of Syria. At 1872 migration, The Circassian population of 1000 were settled at Hama, Humus and Golan Heights, which were small villages at that time. The second wave of migration in August of 1878 came from Balkans: 1200 Circassians followed the route Salonika Istanbul to Syria, and they also settled at Hama and Humus. The migration wave continued and the Circassian population of Syria at that time climbed up to 70.000.

Hard Struggle of Cevad Anzor

The Circassians of Syria actively involved in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war,with a unit,in leadership of Cevad Anzor and 200 Circassians were martryed. They saved the occupied lands but the Arabs failure of resistance caused the Israeli re-occupation, and special unit of the Circassians are dissolved.

Fast Losses in population

The total population of Syrian Circassians were 38000 in year 1960.Kabardians were at Aleppo Hanasır, Abedzah were at Mumbush, again Abedzah were at Humus Tel Amıri, Tılil, İnnasır,Anzat, Chechens were at Aynil Hamra, Dagestanis were at Derfur, and those settled at Damascus all have suffered health problems and took refuge with their brethren in Kuneytre. Circassian villages of Kuneytre were: Mansura(Abedzah, Bjedug) Mudariye(Kabardians) Selmaniye (Bjedug) Enzivan Mumsiye Biracem Berika Cueyza (All Abedzah) Hıshnye(Kabardians) Fahan (Osset-Abkhaz). Circassians of Syria wished to repatriate to Caucasus and their situation were locally investigated by a visiting delegation from Kabardino-Balkaria Republic of the Soviet Union.
Their petition were fruitless. The Syrian adminisration's cold approach is also a negative factor.

Heavy punishment for culture

Circassian intellectuals of 1920's have made considerable contribution to vitalize the culture. Over 40 primary schools in Circassian were serving and majority ot them were at Kuneytre. Then in 1928 weekly newspaper Marc was published in Damascus in Circassian in latin alphabet, Arabic and French as well. Syrian administration questioned these intellectuals for political behaviour and their schools were shut down along with the Marc newspaper and the Circassian Benevolent Association of Keneytre.

Re-exile after Israeli Occupation

At the end of 1967 Syria-Israel war, the villages of Golan Heights are occupied by Israel and it was re-exile for Circassians whom settled at Damascus. One of the villages at Aleppo is Abzah and the other is Kabardian. Chechens live in Rakka, Rasulayn, and Kamıshlı. Majority of Syrian Circassians are Abzah and other Circassian tribes of Bjedug, Shapsıg and Hatikuay. Abkhazian population of Syria being small have caused them to forget their language.

The close relations between Syria and Soviet Union in the post second World War era, have enabled the Syrian Circassians to further their communication with the Caucasus, especially in 1960's. Books, journals and cultural materials of Caucasus were introduced. Yet ,seemingly the cultural identity and language erosion is their major problem. They have The Circassian Association but there is not much else.

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