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Agha Petros

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Agha-petros

Agha Petros

Agha Petros Elia of Baz (Syriac: ܐܓܐ ܦܛܪܘܣ ) (April, 1880 – 2 February 1932), whose real name was Petros Elia, was an ethnic Assyrian[1] military leader during World War I.

Biography

Petros Elia was born in the Lower Baz village, Ottoman Empire in April 1880.

There he received his elementary education before attending a European missionary school in the Iranian city of Urmia. After finishing his studies, he went back to his village of Baz and became a teacher there.

He later emigrated to British Columbia(Canada). To make a living, he resorted to « religious begging »[2] and thus collected a certain amount of donations purportedly for the building of an orphanage in Macedonia. However, as the Canadian police, suspecting a felony, were about to arrest him, he fled the country[2].

He was later to be found in Rome where he passed himself off as a Assyrian tribal chief desirous to bring his tribe from the Assyrian Church of the East over to the fold of the Roman Catholic Church (called « Chaldean Church »). Impressed and grateful for this decision, the Vatican authorities granted him an official decoration[2].

Petros then returned to the Ottoman Empire and displayed his Vatican decoration to local authorities to ask for a job at an Ottoman Consulate. A job that he did get, thanks to his fluency in numerous languages, including Syriac, Turkish, Arabic, French, Persian, Kurdish, English, and Russian, as a secretary, and as a Consul in Urmia in 1909.

He married Zaripha Khanim and eventually established himself as a rug merchant. He was in that position when the war started, and although he had no military training he was approached by the Allies (because of his high position) and was given command of the left wing of the army of « Assyrian Volunteers » (the right wing being commanded by Mar Shimun’s brother David Shimunaia, the center being under the command of Mar Shimun)[3].

Allied officers (French, Russian and British) served as military advisers to Petros Elia to make for his lack of military skills, making the title "General" often applied to Petros something of an overstatement.

Unfortunately, Petros Elia was merely concerned by his own ambition and he did not work in harmony with the Patriarch[2]. He even schemed against Mar Shimun, by trying to dissuade the Allies to trust the Patriarch. Knowing Petros Elia’ s shady reputation, the Allies did not trust him[2]. British Lieutenant Gasfield and French Surgeon-Major Caujole have recorded their low esteem for the man in their reports[2].[4]

His volunteers had quite a few successes over the Ottoman forces, notably at Suldouze where Petros’ 1,500 horsemen overcame the forces of Kheiri Bey (8,000 men) [5].

After being exiled by British authorities, he approached a Doctor Gilly of the Red Cross and told him he wanted to establish an Assyrian village on the estate of a French Manor (Château Novital in Saint-Jory, near Toulouse, France). Doctor Gilly (with the help of a Miss Parker) secured the funds for the purchase of Novital. Petros Elia took possession of the premises and had his suite of fellow Assyrians work hard in order to « refund » the money. No housing was actually built for the Assyrians who lived in the stables and other facilities of the farmstead. Petros’ mother often rebuked him for the plight of his fellowmen. She was later found hanging from a high tree in the manor park, the police inquest concluded that the elderly lady had committed suicide (that conclusion was not shared by everybody).

Encouraged by Petros Elia, the Assyrians living on the premises grew tired of this way of life and decided to leave Novital either to emigrate or to fend for themselves in France. That is how Petros Elia became the sole occupant of the purported Assyrian settlement that was to be created in the first place.

Novital became a place where memorable debauchery parties took place.

Petros was the head negotiator for the Assyrians between 1919 and 1923. On July 24, 1923, he took part in the League of Nations Peace Conference in Lausanne, Switzerland.

He died in France, on February 2, 1932 of a heart attack in a street of Toulouse.

Military history

Agha Petros defeated the Turks in Sauj Bulak and drove them back to Rowanduz. Agha Petros had no real control over Assyrians or Armenians, and was indeed greatly mistrusted by many of them. There was deep disunion in the ranks, instead of posting a force to contain the Turks who he had defeated he moved his forces to Sain Kala which reached seven days after the British detachment retired.[6]

In his work Shall this Nation die?, Joseph Naayem reports an unfortunate occurrence when he failed to give his promised support to Mar Shimun.[7]

References

  • Bet Nahrain
  • Zindamagazine Archives
  • Joseph Naayem, Shall this Nation die?, Chaldean Rescue, New York, 1920 online version
  • (fr) Méthy Daniel, L'action des grandes puissances dans la région d'Ourmia (Iran) et les Assyro-Chaldéens: 1917-1918 in Studia Kurdica n°1-5, Paris,1988, ISSN 0765-1074

Notes

  1. "Neo-Assyrianism & the End of the Confounded Identity". Zinda. http://www.zindamagazine.com/html/archives/2006/08.07.06/index_sat.php. "The fact remains that throughout the last seven years and the last 150 years for that matter the name Assyrian has always been attached to our political ambitions in the Middle East. Any time, any one of us from any of our church and tribal groups targets a political goal we present our case as Assyrians, Chaldean-Assyrians, or Syriac-Assyrians – making a connection to our “Assyrian” heritage. This is because our politics have always been Assyrian. Men like Naom Faiq and David Perley emerging from a “Syriac” or “Jacobite” background understood this as well as our Chaldean heroes, General Agha Petros d’Baz and the late Chaldean Patriarch Mar Raphael Bidawid." 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 (fr) Méthy Daniel, L'action des grandes puissances dans la région d'Ourmia (Iran) et les Assyro-Chaldéens: 1917-1918 in Studia Kurdica n°1-5, Paris,1988, ISSN 0765-1074, p86
  3. Joseph Naayem, Shall this Nation die?, Chaldean Rescue, New York, 1920, p277 online version
  4. Viktor Shklovsky, Russian commissar in Urmia region wrote : « … he governed a certain locality in Turkey and ruined the populace with exorbitant taxes, while residing in America he was sentenced to a term of hard labor in Philadelphia. At the present time he sides with Russia and is our official dragoman. His services are to be used with extreme caution. » Zindamagazine
  5. Joseph Naayem, Shall this Nation die?, Chaldean Rescue, New York, 1920, p290 online version
  6. The Tragedy of the Assyrians By R. S. Stafford
  7. Joseph Naayem, Shall this Nation die?, Chaldean Rescue, New York, 1920, p296 online version : « The cause of our flight was Agha Petrus who had written to Mar Shimun at Salmas, advising him to commence the attack on the Turks, who had retired on Kara Tepe, and promising that he would reinforce him with 3,500 men. The attack began. Agha Petrus came two days later with only 300 men. Arrived at Salmas from Schakar Yazi, he retook the road to Urmiah, whilst Mar Shimun’s men advanced steadily. »

See also

fi:Agha Petros sv:Agha Petros

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