DOCTOR FRAIDOON ATTURAYA
In the crucial moments of the nation’s history there are always passionairies who act for it giving a dimension of its development. The outcomes can be both positive or negative. As a rule, under these circumstances the nationalistic outburst is aggressive and often ill thought or moderate and more reasonably progressive consequently.
Dr.Robert De Kelaita in his analysis of Assyrian nationalistic movement points out that intellectuals and professionals arguably dominate in the first phase (1892 to 1914). In our opinion during the second phase (1915 to 1933) the national idea was picked up by more conservative and aggressive tribal maliks and clerical leaders.
However all through these years there was a star of Dr.Fraidoon Atturaya shining high in the sky to guide the nation. Yet his personality was too far from any true-like assessment. His esoteric personality was closed even to his supporters, who showed their irritation that eventually led to his tragic untimely death. It is a great pity that the archives of the Assyrian National Council and Assyrian Socialist Party were destroyed and the personal archive of Dr.Fraidoon Atturaya likewise, We just fail to assess his great capacities and the size of the contribution he made in the Assyrian national movement letting along his practical work he did for his nation as a physician and a public leader.
Fraidoon bet Avraham (Atturaya) was born in 1891 in Urmia where there was a Russian orthodox faith mission. This fact considerably changed his life. He finished the premier Tiflis secondary school with full credits and then went on his education in metropolitan Russia, in a medical school at Kharkov University. When he wrote great poetry that soon was turned into very popular song. He was an active member of the political movement, published his essays in "Kokhwa" (Star) in Urmia. After he graduated from university with the best credits in 1915. Dr.F.Atturaya without any hesitation volunteered to go to the Caucasian front as an army physician he served at 492nd army hospital in Khoi (Iran). It was then he collaborated with the Russian vice-counselor Kirsanov to run a refugee special committee group. Thousands of Assyrians fled from genocide and hunger to the Transcaucasus through this red cross-assisted working committee.
In February 1917 Russia saw a bourgeois democratic revolution. Many Assyrian intellectuals supported this event enthusiastically’. At that time Dr.Fraidoon Atturaya, Rabbi Benjamin Bet Arsanis and Dr. Baba Bet Parhad gathered to found the first national political party. “The Assyrian socialist Party".
The prominent educator and historian, he renowned Assyrian politic figure M. Sargisov (rabbi Ljova) found in the Russia’s foreign archives the text of the “Urmia Manifesto of the United Free Assyria”. This material ran to some 20 paragraphs and was completed by Dr. F. Atturaya in the Assyrian language in April 1917. In the first paragraph he elaborated on the pursuit and challenges of the union in a hope for a new democratic Russia, “the goal of the free Assyrian unity is to establish in the future the national self-governing in the regions like Urmia, Moslem Turabdin, Nisibin, Jezira, Julamerk along with the reunification with the great free Russia in terms of economic and military agreements”.
It must be emphasized that the Assyrian clergy on the whole took a positive stance with the February Revolution in Russia. However Mar Shimun was irritated by the Manifesto as it proclaimed separation of Church from the state. Still in May 1917 Mar Shimun wrote to the Russian vice-counselor N.Nravin, “A group of Assyrians is working in Tiflis in order to win this nation autonomy. This organization wants to do a harm to the suffering Russia. With this report I have honor to call for your actions against this gang of anarchists and give me the names of the people who will be responsible for this action. In the end, I maintain that I and my nation seek no autonomy at the moment”.
Actually Dr. F. Atturaya opposed publicly the religious disintegration of the nation in assertion that the missionaries in Iran in a way were representing their countries’ interests. It was the method used by all foreign missions. In august trough September 1917 the paper “The Regional Council Digest” printed a very harsh discussion between Dr. F. Atturaya and the head of the Russian orthodox mission in Urmia bishop Pimen. Dr. F. Atturaya spoke of the negative role of the missionaries in the religious disintegration of thee Assyrians. In his reaction to bishop Pimen’s speech to protect his orthodox faith mission, Dr. F. Atturaya took to some even more harsh words, “finding only the anger spent in vain, I can conclude by suggesting you, the missionaries, should thing better of your role and your future. Your actions will be wanted neither by your own people nor by the Assyrian democracy. You just will lead your nation to the misery and self-destruction instead. You have sowed only hatred and disaccord into the hearts of the people”.
The withdrawal of Russia from the war in 1918 and the murder of the patriarch and Mar Shimun Benjamin brought about very hard times for the Assyrians. The general exodus, the mass casualties and the absence of leadership resulted in the breakup of the national political and military forces. The majority of the Assyrian National Council members gathered in Tiflis. From that time Dr. F. Atturaya ran the council. However, as a result of endless conflicts all the council members had to be re-elected. Some leaders of pro-English or pro-French orientation criticized Dr. F. Atturaya. He was put under arrest by the then regime a few times before communists took over Georgia.
After the Soviet power spread its influence on Iran Dr. F. Atturaya hoped for repatriation of Assyrians in Urmia and Salmacis. He set out on a trip to see Mr. G. Chicherin the Russian foreign minister, in 1921. However, this meeting was not fruitful.
During the following years until he was finally arrested in 1926, Dr. F. Atturaya continued to be an active public figure as well as to do his professional duties of a very prominent physician in Tiflis at the time.
Dr. Fraidoon Atturaya was executed behind the bars in KGB as an “English spy” in 1926. His last letter was dated back to August 30, 1926. He sent it to the USSR Supreme Court of justice and had a title “my spy case, devised by my personal enemies”. One page had in the left upper corner a phrase that ran “To be saved for the chronicles this sample of lies, fraud and violence”. In all 24 paragraphs this letter (we have a print copy here) shows the courage and steadfastness of Dr. F. Atturaya. Everyone who might have heard somehow about the political trials in 1930’s in the USSR (for reference, see the works by A. Autokhanov and S. Cohen) would know how KGB framed the “steadfast marxistleninists” to confess they all were “spies” and “enemies of the nation”.
Accusing his enemies of slander and treachery, Dr. F. Atturaya clearly sees the weak point in his stance of a “romantic revolutionary” and a “humble Christian” as he ironically reflected.
The human history is full of obscurities; such were those days again. One things is certain, the failure of the pro-English mission of Surmi-Khanum and pro-French mission of Malik Kambar in Paris at a peaceful Conference and in the league of Nations gives us a reason to thing that the comeback of Assyrians to their native lands without submitting any early demands as well as a joint effort from all political parties and groups would have stopped the disintegration of the nation. And definitely it is too sad to see how former patriots and nationalists hurried to adopt the Bolshevik’s principles.
The physician and the public figure Dr. Fraidoon Atturaya will live in the memory of the nation as a brilliant poet and playwright likewise. In his poetry Dr. F. Atturaya is beautifully lyrical and yet he is a faithful son of his country. We kindly offer you here a poem “Chyrii” (Autumn).
MELTA("The Word") 1995 Volume 1, No 1