Sister Hatune Dogan is a Syrian Orthodox nun. She was born in Turkey, but her family fled to Germany to escape persecution. She now works in the field to help persecuted Christians all over the world, especially in the Middle East.
Sister Hatune was one of the featured speakers at the “Solidarity for Persecuted Christians” events in Orlando last month. On May 17, 2014 she was interviewed by Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff.
Many thanks to Henrik Ræder Clausen and Alan Kornman of The United West for the recording, to Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff for the transcript, to Henrik Ræder Clausen for the timing, and to Vlad Tepes for the editing and subtitling:
NOTE: Sister Hatune’s English is not as good as her German, so we made the effort to transcribe the speech, normalize the English syntax, and then subtitle it. This also make it easy to provide SRT files for people who want to translate it for their own subtitles in other languages. When making small changes — verb tenses, plurals, grammar, prepositions, and so on — I didn’t indicate my revisions in the transcript. However, when the difference was significant I put the alternate word or phrase in square brackets, so that viewers can see where I made the change.
Transcript of the Interview with Sister Hatune Dogan
Q: Sister Hatune, welcome to Orlando. Thanks for being here. I would like you to tell the audience little bit about yourself, about your early life. I understand you were born in southeast Turkey and your native language is Aramaic. Can you please tell us more about this?
A: Yes, I was born in 1970 in Zaz, a village in southeast Turkey. I grew up as a Syrian-Orthodox Christian, I am a Syrian-Orthodox-Christian.
With me, we are ten children, and my mother tongue, for this location in Tur Abdin, Mount Hermite, there is still — thank God — the Aramaic language as a mother tongue, reading and writing.
Even the Turkish government forced us to speak and to use only Turkish, but they could not change the culture in the village. Only in school it was totally forbidden.
I tell you the truth, I am proud that we still have this language, because there is no other area in which Aramaic is the mother tongue. They say somewhere in Syria there are villages [with Aramaic], but this is not really Aramaic.
Q: What is so special about Aramaic?
A: Aramaic. Because it is Jesus’ language.
Q: Jesus spoke Aramaic?
A: Yes, it is the oldest language in history, and if someone knows Aramaic, the phonetic of this language covers all other pronunciation. If someone [knows Aramaic], it is easy to also use other languages.
Q: So when you recite the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic, you are speaking like Jesus did.
A: 100%, yes. But for this language we were persecuted.
Under Turkish law, I went for five years in my village to a Turkish school, and the teacher was automatically Muslim because the Christians in Turkey, until today, they cannot be employed by the government, any jobs. That is why automatically — our teacher in our plain Christian village all students were Christians, but the teacher was Muslim.
He forced us every Friday to attend Islamic religion classes but we [refused]. Every Friday we got hit on our hands with a [ruler], eight times. Four times on the right hand, four times on the left hand. Every Friday! Because we denied together these Islamic religion classes.
Q: During the Armenian genocide, we know that 1.5 million Armenian Christians were murdered by the Turks. But were there also other groups such as the Syrian-Orthodox that were targeted?
A: I would like to say, you know that the Syrian-Orthodox church is based on the Chair of Peter in Antioch until today. The church of Antioch, the apostle […] says in 1125, it was the first time they called them Christians. Christianity spread from there to all over the world and this church at the beginning of the 8th century, they counted the number of Christians of this church, my church. Seventy-two million people.
Out of these seventy-two million, now there are only half a million.
Where are these Christians?
Q: That’s a good question. Where are they?
A: Yes. And these Christians were later split [into] Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant and Armenian. I told you about that. These four groups were living in Turkey and the surrounding areas.
The main genocide was 1000 until 1200. Under the caliphate, also this time, they had Koran. How to kill and it is legal to kill and cut and these things. I will not speak about the Koran now. But that is the period, under this fanaticism that the Christians had no rights to have a house that is 10 cm higher than the [house of a] Muslim. It has to come down. A Christian has no right to ride on a horse. Christians have no right to have a [steeple] on a church. They were completely [pulled] down under the caliphate.
Q: These are the dhimmi laws.
A: Dhimmis — I will speak later about the dhimmi. Dhimmi is — I am talking about what has happened.
Q: Yes. But those were the laws back then.
A: Yes. Dhimmis — The caliphate put these laws.
Since that time, since the 10th century, these laws, not before, they were established, fixed. And so Christians in that time, they had to carry a wooden cross, a big cross, in the fields, for 200 years, and they [said], “We are overloaded from this cross, so we will say only [with] our mouths we will be Muslim, then they will take this cross from our back.” They [said] that, but in the second generation, in the big cities, they then so easily became Muslims.
But our area, Tur Abdin, where I am from in southeast Turkey, is 120 km long and 80 km wide, there are 243 villages, and these are plain Christian, were plain Christian until 1915 or 1914. And in this area, that was 1915, the genocide you talk about as Armenian, Armenians were killed, 1.5 million. And they call it until today the Armenian genocide. But, no! Syrian-Orthodox, they killed more than Armenians, because this location is a Syrian-Orthodox area.
Q: Tell me the numbers. I’m sure you have some of them.
A: Three million minimum.
Q: We have to tell the people — we have to tell our listeners, and those who are watching that this is not just Armenians, but this is much more. So what are the numbers?
A: I tell you, three million. Not 1.5, three million they killed. I have facts here. This book in the German language and I have only twelve villages, Syrian-Orthodox villages here. Some of the villages before the genocide, there were seven hundred families. In the Orient, a family [consists of] seven members normally. Minimum.
Q: We can do the math… Seven hundred times seven.
A: Yes, and they didn’t let go one of them —
Q: So everybody died. Everybody from this village died. We have seven hundred times seven… 4,900…
A: Only from one village…
Q: And no one from this village survived.
A: No one. I have here just twelve total, here; I count them in total. There are 52,000 only from twelve villages they killed in total. 52,000 just from 12 villages. That is [found in the] resources in this book. I will return later to this book.
I have here this book, and it [tells about how the blood of Christians killed was shared] in 1914/15. And in [just] one colony, out of 40,000 members no one came back. The eyewitness, he was fifteen years old. Only viewed by one person.
Today Erdogan and the Turkish government say it is not allowed to speak of genocide. He warns our patriarch: “If you don’t shut the mouth of your children in Europe and other areas [not] to speak about genocide, I will do according to my will and wish,” he warned them. It is horrible.
Q: It is indeed. In your experience, what are some of the strange ideas that Muslims have about entering paradise?
A: Entering paradise… the Muslims there [were thinking] when I was a small child and also today by Iraqi and Syrian refugees and hearing daily and seeing daily. And my grandma also in her time in 1915 [heard]… they believe if they kill one unbeliever — who could be Buddhist, Hindu, Jew, Christian, anyone not Sunni Muslims — they will go directly to heaven. That is [what] they believe and they are doing that also.
An example: I met — in March 2014 I met Mahmoud at the Syrian border. This young man, he [would] like to do something. He registered his name at the university to study, but he doesn’t have a job; he is on the waiting list. He asked his father, “What shall I do, father?” “Yeah, go to the mosque, maybe they will give you something.” He goes to the mosque, and the mosque, they look, he is a young man, he’s healthy — they sent him to the jihad camps.
In jihad camp they [brainwash people] and told him that if you kill one unbeliever — a normal Muslim has forty virgin girls if he dies, he will have sex with them [and so on]. But if he kills one unbeliever, he will get a gift of 72 [girls]! And this young man, he liked — one day eleven [virgins], another — to live this leisure of a sex life with these virgin girls. 72!
And he [went and was wounded] and they treat him in Gaziantep […], and that will be paid for by the Turkish government, completely. And what he wrote, he told me there are three [jihad camps]: in Urfa, Antakya, and in Gaziantep, the three big, largest jihadist [camps]. They come from abroad, they teach them there how to treat them, how to kill, what to do, and then they send them to Syria. And more than that also, he went there, he tried to kill and kill, but he didn’t personally… He told me, “I didn’t kill anybody. But they killed my friends next to me, and I saw they — he exploded himself.” And he was looking at — his body had become [torn to] pieces. And he was —
It’s not funny, sorry for that, but sometimes I have to laugh about this.
He was looking next to him [and saw] that even his penis was [torn to] pieces, and he was thinking, “Oh my God, how could this penis have sex again? It is not possible!” And so he came to himself; he ran away to Turkey. This is a Kurdish-Muslim young boy.
And he told [me], “Sister, I am still a Muslim. I don’t want to say I belong to another faith because I don’t know another faith, but I don’t believe anything in Islam; it is only lies from bottom to top. And they blow our heads so much that we believed [all this] 100%. But now I came to know that everything is a lie. If I tell you what I hear — lying, now that I know is lying — three months, [it] would not be finished, day and night, if I [were to] tell you.
See, these people, they believe in sexual life after death. And the gents, they are thirsty to go soon to do something, to kill the unbeliever, to go to this area [paradise]. It’s — I understand them from one side.
Q: Of course.
A: I understand them.
Q: But — they want to have fun at some point…
A: Yes. That is horrible, but it is reality.
Q: Now we come to a very difficult part, because we know that you work as a counselor, especially for distressed Christian girls. And I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of stories. Would you share some of the stories you hear from these distressed girls?
A: See, I myself, I am a refugee. I fled from southeast Turkey under the hard persecution. I am a Christian. I know the language of […] Christians, I know the mind of the people in that location, in the Middle East, totally.
And I was thinking how I heard that there is again ethnic cleansing of other Christians. I could not stay in Germany, sit on the couch and wait for some information. I thought I had to go there personally because I know [what it is like there]. I went there and I feel it is my duty.
Even — I am guiding a foundation, in 35 countries, over 5,000 volunteers workers with me. Our mission is according to Matthew 25:40: [When you are] serving the needy, you are serving me. But, [in] 2005, I heard about the disaster there. I [said], “OK, my main work is the persecution of the Christians in the Middle East. That is why I am there also. And I went there personally. I met so many people.
But how I heard the story of the girls… I spoke personally with 218 girls, [the ones that were kidnapped,] the youngest one was 5 1/2 years [old]. They misused her. In Turkey, in Syria, in Iraq, in Jordan, in Lebanon, in Egypt. These are the locations [where] we were working. I myself, I am not working by myself. I have local people there. I control, guide and help and motivate.
But my own work is with the girls, because I am a psychotherapist, I am a spiritual counselor, and I was myself persecuted, I know [what it is like]. I myself, I was [almost] raped until I was 14 years old, in Turkey, by Muslims. Four times [they tried]. It did not happen, thank God. Still I am a virgin. But it was at the last minute God saved me. But I know [what it is like]. And that is why I try to understand them.
Q: What did these girls tell you?
A: These girls…
Q: What did they experience?
A: It is horrible. I cannot explain everything but these 218 girls under [their breath] they told me that what had happened to them: they [the perpetrators] raped them, they cut some portions of them — a sample — from this number that I spoke [to], 13 of them, they cut half of the vagina. I saw it with my own eyes. How many there are that I didn’t see, I don’t know. Three, they cut their breast, only because they [the abductors] were not happy with the ransom. All of them, they had to pay ransom to come to be freed. [If] they were not happy with that, some of them, they cut their faces.
I have photos, I have much […], I have video, I have everything there [to prove this]. I have all these girls, the youngest one I had to cry on her shoulder. Others cried on my shoulder. And I have feelings for these girls. These traumatic views, they’ll never go from my brain, from my mind. I am psychologically normally [strong], but through the power of my Lord, through my psychological knowledge, through my Bible I can pass over these heavy things till today.
Q: So is this what you think is happening with those Nigerian girls that were abducted?
A: Minimum. I am sorry for all of them.
But I’d like to say for [everyone] worldwide to do [something] against this act, to save the right of the — human rights, [women’s] rights, that a human has the right to leave [Islam], not to be persecuted, not to be abused, not to be raped. If something happens, they have to be under the highest punishment, those who do it.
Q: Amen. Amen. Have you ever come into contact …Have you ever come into contact with Muslim terrorists?
A: Oh yes! [In] 2009 I was in northern Syria. And one priest called me, he told me, Sister, here is one man, please, I think you have to talk to him. I said OK, and we came together.
He was one of these slaughterers before and he was seeing horror-dreams. He could not continue, and he said he saw Jesus too, that Jesus was warning him why is he slaughtering his children? And so he came to the priest. He became Christian. His name is now John. Previous name, I don’t know — I will not say [his previous name] if I know.
He told me, Sister, we did this and that, I saw this and that. And then I said, OK. I have video clips. I have 174 video clips how they are slaughtering the Christian people.
And I am sure that if you pray for the persecuted Christians that will have power. And I beg everybody who is listening to me to pray for the persecuted Christians or people, but also for the persecutors to return from Saul to be Paul. How I met some people like this, that they came to know that what they are doing is not correct.
I beg everybody to pray also for me and my foundation worldwide that we can we can serve according to Matthew 25:40. Read the Bible. You will know what I mean.
Q: And with this we conclude today’s interview, and thank you very much, Sister Hatune, and we wish you all the best, and we wish you many many prayers so you stay strong and healthy.
A: Thank you very much. God bless you.