The Syriac Orthodox Church is one of the most ancient Christian Churches tracing its roots to the Church of Antioch. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts of the Apostles 11:26). Apostle Peter is believed to have established a church in Antioch in AD 37, the remnants of which are still in Antakya (the modern name of Antioch), Turkey.
The Assyrian language is Aramic and it’s the language of our Lord Jesus.
Before the war approximately one half of the Assyrian population lived in what is today Southern Turkey. The Young Turks took control of the Ottoman Empire only five years before the beginning of World War I. The Ottomans planned to join the side of the Central Powers. In 1914, knowing that it was heading into the war; the Ottoman government passed a law that required the conscription of all young males into the Ottoman army to support the war effort.
Assyrians in what is now Turkey primarily lived in the provinces of Hakkari, Şırnak, and Mardin. These areas also had a sizable Kurdish population. The Ottoman Empire entered World War I on October 29, 1914. My grandfather Gorguis was a young guy, very handsome, educated comes from a well known family from Adana, was also forced to join the army and fight the first world war.
He told stories about the war and how badly the Christian soldiers were treated, some of them were used as bodies’ fence to protect the Empire Army, and who remained alive returned home without their manhood, so that no child will bare their names. My grandfather was very lucky that his education and wisdom moved him from the front lines to the logistic line, where he works on fixing the heavy equipments and machinery.
The Assyrian genocide took place in the same context and time-period as the Armenian and Greek genocides. Contemporary sources usually speak of the events in terms of an Assyrian genocide, along with the Armenian genocide and Greek genocide by the Ottoman Empire, listing the Greek Orthodox, Syriac Christian and Armenian Christian victims together. For example, the International Association of Genocide Scholars reached a consensus that "the Ottoman campaign against Christian minorities of the Empire between 1914 and 1923 constituted genocide against Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontian and Anatolian Greeks."
After the war my grandfather married Rihana. A pretty young lady from Ephesus, their first child was a baby girl (Araliah), then my father. When the genocide happened and the Ottoman soldiers where moving from one town to another, my grandparents, their relatives and friends all gathered at the town church, and in the middle of the night during a sever snowy weather, ran away on horses using old wagons, and some were walking… crossing from town to town walking on bodies not even looking behind or where they are stepping… In the effect of that critical situation they lost the baby girl who didn’t survived the harsh cold weather, my father was still an infant… he made it to Lebanon, where they settled and lived till they died, hoping that one day they will go back to their Town and their home….
During my childhood times when we used to visit our grandparents, you always find Teta Rihana in the kitchen cooking a big meal, the smell of her food reached the main road, and you know that something delicious is happened on my Teta`s stove. One of these meals is the Sheish Barak Yuksuk, which is almost similar to the Lebanese Sheish Barak, but instead of the Yogurt sauce which cooked the dumplings, you use tomato sauce.
Sheish Barak Yuksuk:
Yuksuk is a Turkish word for soup, and Sheish Barak means meat dumplings
1/2 recipe Ajeen or basic dough recipe
3 cloves garlic, crushed with a dash of salt
1 cup finely chopped fresh mint (if fresh is not available use couple spoons dried)
½ kg (16 oz) ground meat (either beef or lamb)
bones or oxtails for the broth
3 medium sized onions, finely chopped
¼ cup fried pine nuts
1 tspn salt
¼ tspn ground allspice
¼ tspn ground cinnamon
2 tbls butter
1 cup of dried chickpeas soaked in water over night
4 cup of tomato juice + 8 oz chopped tomatoes
fresh lemn juice( 1-2 lemons depend on your taste)
Basic Dough or Ajeen
(this is used in many savoury pastries)
1 kg (32 oz / 5 cups) plain flour
1 ¼ cups warm water
½ cup olive oil
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tbls salt
2 tbls sugar
Sift the flour into a working surface.Mix in salt and sugar. Make a well in the centre.Pour olive oil and vegetable oil in the well.Mix the dry ingredients into the liquid.Add water gradually. Knead the dough into a ball (if the dough is too stiff add some water).Knead the dough on a floured working surface until it is smooth and elastic this can be done in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, or in a food processor.Form the dough into a ball and put into a lightly floured bowl, covered with a damp cloth. Leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.
Preparing the Sheesh Barak
Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to about 1 cm thickness. Using a round cookie cutter (medium size), press over dough to get equal rounds.Fry onion in shortening till color changes a little. Add meat, salt, allspice and cinnamon. Stir occasionally and fry for 7-8 minutes. Add pine nuts and Mix. Drain the mixture as butter would affect closing the pastries.
Spread the round a little with your fingers. Place 1 tspn of the filling on it. Fold over one end to make a semi-circle. Press edges down to seal. Take the two ends from the straight side, bring them together to make a small ring. Press well. Repeat till rounds are done.
You will have left over dough , (this is the best part) roll the remaining dough in thin rope and cut into diagonals. Place the stuffed dough and the cut pastries in a tray with parchment, Bake in a hot oven (400F) for 10 minutes or until golden.
If you are using bones or oxtail, wash and dry with paper towel, and bake in the oven till brown, and drain all the fat. Move them to a plate .
In a big pot add the tomato juice and the tomatoes the oxtails and the chickpeas and cook until the sauce thickens and the meat starts to fall down from the bones. Mash the garlic and chop the fresh mint or sprinkle the dried mint if using and add it to the pot, boil for 7 minutes more. Add the Sheish Barak and keep boiling for fifteen minutes add the lemon juice and stir. and continue cooking for 5 more minutes...
The smell is unbelievable . Grabe a plate and enjoy a delicious home comfort meal.