Syrian passengers and survival rate

Mar 26, 2001
When I saw this category I thought I'd start a thread about one demographic of the steerage passengers that I've been curious about. The first time I looked over the survival rates by nationality, I found the percentage of survivors among the women and children of Middle Eastern nationalities to be surprisingly high.

In general, I figured they had considerable odds against them, not only because of their class and the language barrier, but also because of possible biases among crew and other passengers and what I am assuming was a patriarchal culture that might not have placed high value on saving the lives of the females.

I noticed in my observations, that Steward Pearcey seemed to play a role, as he had guided up a large group of passengers to Boat C that seemed to consist of British and Syrian women and children. Has anyone found other information that illuminates this particular set of figures?
Dec 6, 2000
Hello Arthur,

Look at my paper on this web-site you will see a breakdown of the 3rd Class figures by boarding port and for Southampton into the White Star: British and non-British.

"Women and children: British 44.4%; non-British 34.6%; Cherbourg 70%; Queenstown 54.1%."

Bob Godfrey

Nov 22, 2002
The overall survival rate of this group was indeed exceptionally high, the highest of all nationalities in 3rd Class at over 40%. For comparison, less than 20% of British 3rd Class passengers survived. So who were these 'Syrians'? They were not in fact from that part of the Middle East which we now know as Syria. They were Christians from the Lebanon, a culture far more western than eastern, and to the casual observer they would have been hard to distinguish from southern European passengers like the Italians or Greeks. A good number of them were established emigrants returning from visits to their homeland to conduct family business, to marry or to sing the praises of life in America. Many of these people were enterprising characters who 'knew the ropes' and could speak English well, and provided good leadership for groups of family members and neighbours who decided to accompany them back to the US.

The groups who fared worst in the survival stakes were those like the 32 Bulgarians - all male, mostly unskilled and first-time emigrants with probably not a word of English between them - who had no claim on lifeboat space even if they got as far as the boat deck. Not one survived.
Mar 26, 2001
That explanation definitely makes sense. While I've read the biographies, I hadn't thought of the several such as Mariana Assaf who were fairly prosperous business owners and well versed in American culture. Though it should be noted that their post Titanic mortaility rate wasn't the greatest. The first deaths were the two baby girls from that group and it seems several more died as young woman in their 20s from breast cancer.

I did also notice that the emigrants representing the Eastern Europe countries fairly poorly, such as the Croatian and Slav passengers among which the only survivors were a woman (Mara Osman) plus two men who either snuck into or successfully leapt into lifeboats.
Feb 11, 2006
For those interested, I have had an article published on the Syrian community in New York's response to the sinking of the Titanic in the Arab Studies Quarterly Journal Winter/Spring 2005 Issue. My sources are from the Arabic newspapers published in 1912 and other English language sources. I was able to compose a near accurate list of names and villages/towns/cities of origin. Two female passengers, for instance, have been incorrectly listed vis a vis surname since 1912. I have contacted certain individuals so that their names appear corrected.

From these sources I have also written a book entitled <the> which remains with a publisher at the present. It took over six years to complete - a biographical approach as well as community response. I await word patiently.

[Moderator's Note: This message, originally posted in a separate thread, has been moved to this pre-existing one addressing the same issue. MAB]

Mike Poirier

Dec 31, 2004
Hello Leila
What wonderful news about the book. Titanic International's magazine, Voyage, featured an article on Jennie George awhile back. Keep us informed!