Dr. Shedd with refugees, Urumia

Dr. William A. Shedd and his wife Mary Lewis Shedd were longtime missionaries to Persia. Dr. Shedd died on the flight from Urumia to Hamadan. He is credited with saving the lives of thousands of Assyrian and Armenian Christians.

Refugees fleeing Urumia, Persia

When the Russian army withdrew from Persia, the Assyrian and Armenian minorities were totally vulnerable. The invading Ottoman army drove the remaining Christians out of Persia.

Near East Relief feeding station, Teheran

Near East Relief ran orphanages and refugee feeding centers in six districts of Persia. The organization often provided food in exchange for labor in larger cities. Most of the refugees in Persia were Assyrian or Armenian Christians. This photo appeared in the January 1920 issue of The New Near East magazine.

Nestorian Christian family in Persia, c.1900

A Nestorian Christian family making butter in Maraman, Persia, c. 1900. Ethno-religious minorities in Persia enjoyed relative peace and autonomy before the Ottoman invasion.

Russian soldiers in Persia, c. 1910

The Russian army occupied northwest Persia in the years leading up to the Armenian and Assyrian Genocides. Living conditions for ethno-religious minorities in Persia suffered dramatically when the Russian army withdrew.

Assyrians on the road to Tabriz

The Assyrian refugees in this picture had recently survived a raid by local Kurds. The raiders took all of the refugees’ possessions — even their clothing. Near East Relief provided the refugees with food and clothing as they tried to return home to Tabriz. This photograph appeared in the May 1922 issue of the New Near East magazine.

Dr. William A. Shedd

Dr. William A. Shedd was a Near East Relief worker in Persia. He died during the evacuation from Urumia to Hamadan. He saved the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of refugees. Image from his wife Mary Lewis Shedd’s 1922 book, The Measure of a Man.

Near East Relief ambulance, Urumia

American relief workers used this horse-drawn ambulance during the siege of Urumia in February 1918. The Russian army withdrew from northwest Persia in 1917. This left Urumia vulnerable to attacks from the Ottoman Turkish army. Miraculously, the local Persian population defended the city against invaders until July 1918.

Persian refugees traveling from Hamadan to Baghdad

Persian refugees traveled on foot and by donkey as they fled violence in the Urumia region. While Ottoman Christian families had been separated under the Tehcir Law, families in Persia had been permitted to stay together. An estimated 80,000 Persian Christians fled Urumia in 1917-1918. 

Boys’ Orphanage in Tabriz, Persia

The Near East Relief orphanage for boys in Tabriz, Persia. Tabriz was the site of Near East Relief’s administration for all of Persia. The orphanage housed an estimated 1,000 boys at its height. This was the last Near East Relief orphanage in Persia; it closed in 1927 when the final children were outplaced.

Near East Relief headquarters, Urumia

The main building at the American College of Urumia served as Near East Relief headquarters for the region. This building was one of the few important structures left standing after the devastating siege of Urumia.

Relief station in Teheran, Persia

Near East Relief provides bread to Christian refugees in Teheran, Persia at a relief station. Very early in the organization’s history, Near East Relief joined forces with the existing Persian relief committee in America. Most of the refugees in Persia were Assyrian, Nestorian, Syriac, and Chaldean Christians rather than Armenians. By 1920 there was also a large community of internally displaced Persian Muslims in the Urumia region.

New Year’s Celebration at the Tabriz orphanage

Children at the Near East Relief orphanage in Tabriz, Persia. The children appear to be celebrating the New Year.

Arshaloys Haroutounian is in the fourth row, third from the back. Arshaloys received her surname at the orphanage; she never knew her original family name. Hagob Hagobian is in the back row with his two brothers. When Hagob left the orphanage he became a truck driver — a lucrative job. He returned to Tabriz with the intention of finding and marrying a girl who was an orphan there. He found Arshaloys, who was working as a servant in a private home. The two were married.

Story and photograph courtesy of Ani Bagdasarian Semerjian.

Bread line

Bread line at a Near East Relief center