[James Bryce, Viscount Bryce - born May 10, 1838, Belfast, Ireland - died January 22, 1922, Sidmouth, Devon, England.
British politician, diplomat, and historian best known for his highly successful ambassadorship to the United States
(1907-13) and for his study of the U.S. Constitution.
After his education at the Univ. of Glasgow and at Oxford, he practiced law in London for a short time before becoming
professor of civil law at Oxford. He wrote significant works in several fields; the first of these was his History of the
Holy Roman Empire (1864). He entered politics and became a leader of the Liberal party, occupying a variety of posts,
including the presidency of the Board of Trade and the chief secretaryship of Ireland. His interest in sociology and
philosophy is evident in the second of his great treatises. The American Commonwealth (1888), a classic that is still read
and used. Bryce was ambassador to the United States from 1907 to 1913; he was one of the most popular ever to be in
Washington, since his knowledge of Americans, as revealed in his writings, was profound. He was created a peer in 1914.
His other major works are Studies in History and Jurisprudence (1901) and Modern Democracies (1921).]
Documents presented to
VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
By Viscount Bryce
With a preface by
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CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
LETTER FROM VISCOUNT BRYCE TO VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON, SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS.
July 1st, 1916.
MY DEAR SIR EDWARD,
In the autumn of 1915 accounts of massacres and deportations of the Christian population of Asiatic Turkey began to reach Western Europe and the United States. Few and imperfect at first---for every effort was made by the Turkish Government to prevent them from passing out of the country---these accounts increased in number and fullness of detail, till in the beginning of 1916 it became possible to obtain a fairly accurate knowledge of what had happened. It then struck me that, in the interest of historic truth, as well as with a view to the questions that must arise when the war ends, it become necessary to try to complete these accounts, and test them by further evidence, so as to compile a general narrative of the events and estimate their significance. As materials were wanting or scanty in respect of some localities, I wrote to all the persons I could think of likely to possess or to be able to procure trustworthy data, begging them to favour me with such data. I addressed myself in particular to friends in the United States, a country which has long had intimate relations with the Eastern Christians and to which many of those Christians have in recent years emigrated. Similar requests were made to Switzerland, also a neutral country, many of whose people have taken a lively interest in the welfare of the Armenians. When the responses from these quarters showed that sufficient materials for a history---provisional, no doubt, but trustworthy as far as the present data went---could be obtained, I had the good fortune to secure the co-operation of a young historian of high academic distinction, Mr. Arnold J. Toynbee, late Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. He undertook to examine and put together the pieces of evidence collected, arranging them in order and adding such observations, historical and geographical, as seemed needed to explain them. The materials so arranged by Mr. Toynbee, followed by such observations as aforesaid, I now transmit to you. They are, of course, of unequal value, for while most of them are narratives by eyewitnesses, some few report at second hand what was told by eye-witnesses. In a short introduction prefixed, I have tried to estimate their value, and so need only say here that nothing has been admitted the substantial truth of which seems open to reasonable doubt. Facts only have been dealt with ; questions of future policy have been carefully avoided.
It is evidently desirable not only that ascertained facts should be put on record for the sake of future historians, while the events are still fresh in living memory, but also that the public opinion of the belligerent nations---and, I may add, of neutral peoples also---should be enabled by a knowledge of what has happened in Asia Minor and Armenia to exercise its judgment on the course proper to be followed when, at the end of the present war, a political re-settlement of the Nearer East has to be undertaken.
LETTER FROM VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON, SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, TO VISCOUNT BRYCE.
August 23rd, 1916.
MY DEAR BRYCE,
I have to thank you for sending me the collection of documents on the Armenian Massacres which has been so ably put together by Mr. Arnold J. Toynbee.
It is a terrible mass of evidence; but I feel that it ought to be published and widely studied by all who have the broad interests of humanity at heart. It will be valuable, not only for the immediate information of public opinion as to the conduct of the Turkish Government towards this defenceless people, but also as a mine of information for historians in the future, and for the other purposes suggested in your letter.
GREY OF FALLODON.
Documents presented to
VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
By Viscount Bryce
With a preface by VISCOUNT BRYCE.
In the summer of 1915 accounts, few and scanty at first, but increasing
in volume later, began to find their way out of Asiatic Turkey as to the
events that were happening there. These accounts described what seemed to
be an effort to exterminate a whole nation, without distinction of age or
sex, whose misfortune it was to be the subjects of a Government devoid of
scruples and of pity, and the policy they disclosed was one without precedent
even in the blood-stained annals of the East.
It then became the obvious duty of those who realised the gravity of these events to try to collect
and put together all the data available for the purpose of presenting a
full and authentic record of what had occurred. This has been done in the
present volume. It contains all the evidence that could be obtained up till
July 1916 as to the massacres and deportations of the Armenian and other
Eastern Christians dwelling in Asia Minor, Armenia and that north-western
corner of Persia which was invaded by the Turkish troops. It is presented
primarily as a contribution to history, but partly also for the purpose
of enabling the civilised nations of Europe to comprehend the problems which
will arise at the end of this war, when it will become necessary to provide
for the future government of what are now the Turkish dominions. The compilation
has been made in the spirit proper to an historical enquiry, that is to
say, nothing has been omitted which could throw light on the facts, whatever
the political bearing of the accounts might be. In such an enquiry, no racial
or religious sympathies, no prejudices, not even the natural horror raised
by crimes, ought to distract the mind of the enquirer from the duty of trying
to ascertain the real facts.
As will be seen from the analysis which follows, the evidence here collected comes from various sources.
A large, perhaps the largest, part has been drawn from neutral witnesses who were living in or passing through Asiatic
Turkey while these events were happening, and had opportunities of observing them.
Another part comes from natives of the country, nearly all Christians, who succeeded, despite the stringency of the Turkish
censorship, in getting letters into neutral countries, or who themselves escaped into Greece, or Russia, or Egypt and were
there able to write down what they had seen.
A third but much smaller part comes from subjects of the now belligerent Powers (mostly Germans) who were in Turkey when
these events were happening, and subsequently published in their own countries accounts based on their personal knowledge.
In presenting this evidence it has been necessary in very many cases to withhold the names of the witnesses, because to
publish their names would be to expose such of them as are still within the Turkish dominions, or the relations and friends
of these persons, to the ruthless vengeance of the gang who now rule those dominions in the name of the unfortunate Sultan.
Even in the case of those neutral witnesses who are safe in their own countries, a similar precaution must be observed,
because many of them, or their friends and associates, have property in Turkey which would at once, despite their neutral
character, be seized by the Turkish Government. These difficulties, inevitable in the nature of the case, are of course only
temporary. The names of the great majority of the witnesses are known to the editor of this book and to myself, and also to
several other persons, and they can be made public as soon as it is certain that no harm will result to these witnesses or
to their friends. That certainty evidently cannot be attained till the war is over and the rule of the savage gang already referred to has come to an end.
The question now arises---What is the value of this evidence? Though
the names of many of the witnesses cannot be given, I may say that most
of them, and nearly all of those who belong to neutral or belligerent countries,
are persons entitled to confidence in respect of their character and standing,
and are, moreover, persons who have no conceivable motive for inventing
or perverting facts, because they are (with extremely few exceptions) either
neutrals with no national or personal or pecuniary interests involved, or
else German subjects. Were I free to mention names, the trustworthiness
of these neutrals and Germans would at once be recognised.
Let us, however, look at the evidence itself.
(i) Nearly all of it comes from eye-witnesses, some of whom wrote it down themselves, while others gave it to persons who wrote it out at the time from the statements given to them orally. Nearly all of it, moreover, was written immediately after the events described, when the witnesses' recollection was still fresh and clear.
(ii) The main facts rest upon evidence coming from different and independent sources. When the same fact is stated by witnesses who had no communication with one another, and in many cases did not even speak the same language, the presumption in favour of its truth becomes strong.
Take, for instance, the evidence regarding the particularly terrible events at Trebizond. We have a statement
from the Italian Consul-General, from the Kavass of the local branch of the Ottoman Bank, a Montenegrin under
Italian protection, and from an Armenian girl whose family lived in the neighbourhood of the Italian Consulate, and
who was brought out of Turkey by the Italian Consul-General as his maid servant. The testimony of these three witnesses
exactly tallies, not only as to the public crimes committed in the city before they left it, but also
as to their personal relations with one another (for they each mention on
the others explicitly in their several statements). Yet they were in no
touch whatever with one another when their respective testimonies were given.
The Consul-General gave his at Rome, in an interview with an Italian journalist;
the Kavass gave his in an interview with an Armenian gentleman in Egypt;
and the girl hers in Roumania to a compatriot resident in that country.
The three statements had certainly never been collated till they came, by
different channels, into the hands of the editor of this book. In addition
to this, there is a statement from another foreign resident at Trebizond, which reached us through America.
Or take the case of the convoys of exiles deported from the Vilayet of Erzeroum, and, in particular, from the towns of
Erzeroum and Baibourt. We have a second-hand account of their fate in Doc. 2, a despatch from a well-informed source at
Constantinople; we have a first-hand account, which completely bears out the former, from a lady who was herself deported in
the third convoy of exiles; we have the narrative of two Danish nurses in the service of the German Red Cross at Erzindjan,
who witnessed the passage of the Baibourt exiles through that place and finally
there are three witnesses from the town of H., several days' journey further
along the exiles' route, who refer independently to the arrival of convoys
from Erzeroum and the neighbourhood. One of these latter witnesses is a
(third) Danish Red Cross nurse, one a neutral resident at H. of different nationality, and one an Armenian inhabitant of the town.
These are two typical instances in which broad groups of events are independently and consistently recorded, but there are
innumerable instances of the same kind in the case of particular occurrences. The hanging of the Armenian Bishop of
Baibourt, for example, is mentioned, at second-hand, in Doc. 7 (written at Constantinople) and Doc. 12 (a selection of
evidence published in Germany); but it is also witnessed to by the author of Doc. 59, an actual resident at Baibourt who was
present there at the time of the murder. Again, the disappearance of the Bishop of Erzeroum on the road to exile
is not only recorded in Doc. 11, a memorandum from a competent source at Bukarest, but is confirmed, in Docs. 57 and 76, by
testimony obtained from eye-witnesses on the spot after the Russian occupation of Erzeroum had left them free to speak out.
(iii) Facts of the same, or of a very similar, nature occurring in different
places, are deposed to by different and independent witnesses. As there
is every reason to believe ---and indeed it is hardly denied---that the
massacres and deportations were carried out under general orders proceeding
from Constantinople, the fact that persons who knew only what was happening
in one locality record circumstances there broadly resembling those which
occurred in another locality goes to show the general correctness of both sets of accounts.
Thus, the two Danish Red Cross nurses (Doc. 62) state that they twice witnessed the massacre, in cold blood, of gangs of
unarmed Armenian soldiers employed on navvy work, along the road from Erzindjan to Sivas. In Doc. 7 (written at
Constantinople) we find a statement that other gangs of unarmed Armenian soldiers were similarly murdered on the roads
between Ourfa and Diyarbekir, and Diyarbekir and Harpout; and the massacre on this latter section of road is confirmed by a
German lady resident, at the time, at Harpout (Doc. 23).
Again, there is frequent mention of roads being lined, or littered, with the corpses of Armenian exiles who had died of
exhaustion or been murdered on the way. If these allusions were merely made in general terms, they might conceivably be
explained away as amplifications of some isolated case, or even as rhetorical embellishments of the exiles' story without
foundation in fact. But when we find such statements made with regard to particular stretches of road in widely different
localities, and often by more than one witness with regard to a given stretch, we are led to infer that this
wholesale mortality by the wayside was in very deed a frequent concomitant
of the Deportations, and an inevitable consequence of the method on which
the general scheme of Deportation was organised from headquarters. We hear
in Doc. 7, for instance, of corpses on the road from Malatia to Sivas, on the testimony of a Moslem traveller; we hear of
them on the road from Diyarbekir to Ourfa in Doc. 12
(a German cavalry captain), and on the road from Ourfa to Aleppo in Doc. 9 (an Armenian witness), in
Doc. 135 (an interned Englishwoman), and also in Doc. 64 (a Danish Red Cross nurse). The latter gives the detail of
the corpses being mangled by wild beasts, a detail also mentioned by the German authors of Docs. 12 and 23. Similar testimony
from German officers regarding the road between Baghdad and Aleppo is reported independently in Docs. 108 and 121.
(iv) The volume of this concurrent evidence from different quarters is
so large as to establish the main facts beyond all question. Errors of detail
in some instances may be allowed for. Exaggeration may, in the case of native
witnesses, who were more likely to be excited, be also, now and then, allowed
for. But the general character of the events stands out, resting on foundations
too broad to be shaken, and even details comparatively unimportant in themselves
are often remarkably corroborated from different quarters. The fact that
the Zeitounli exiles at Sultania were for some time prevented by the local
Turkish authorities from receiving relief is attested in Doc. 4 (Constantinople) and Doc. 123 (the town of B. in Cilicia),
as well as in Doc. 125 from Konia. The malicious trick by which the exiles from Shar were deflected from a
good road to a bad, in order that they might be compelled to abandon their
carts, is recorded independently in Docs. 12 and 126.
(v) In particular it is to be noted that many of the most shocking and horrible accounts are those for which there is the
most abundant testimony from the most trustworthy neutral witnesses. None of the worst cruelties rest on native evidence
alone. If all that class of evidence were entirely struck out, the general effect would be much the same, though some of the
minor details would be wanting. One may, indeed, say that an examination of the neutral evidence tends to confirm the native
evidence as a whole by showing that there is in it less of exaggeration than might have been expected.
Docs. 7 and 9, for instance, both of which are native reports at second-hand, refer in somewhat rhetorical
terms to the corpses of murdered Armenians washed down by the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates. Yet their words are more
than justified by many concrete and independent pieces of evidence. The description in Doc. 12 (German material) of
how barge-loads of Armenians were drowned in the Tigris below Diyarbekir, renders more fully credible the accounts of how
the Armenians of Trebizond were drowned wholesale in the Black Sea. Doc. 12 also contains the statement, from a German
employee of the Baghdad Railway, that the Armenian exiles who reached Biredjik were drowned in batches every night in the
Euphrates; and similar horrors are reported from almost every section of the Euphrates' course. Docs. 56, 57, 59 and 62
describe how the convoys of exiles from the Vilayet of Erzeroum were cast into the Kara Su (western branch of the Euphrates)
at the gorge called Kamakh Boghaz, and were then either shot in the water or left to drown. The author of Doc. 59
was present at such a scene, though she was herself spared, and the information in Docs. 56 and 57 was obtained direct
from a lady who was actually cast in, but managed to struggle to the bank and escape. The authors of Doc. 62 received
their information from a gendarme who had been attached to a convoy and had himself participated in the massacre. Doc. 24
records the experiences of an Armenian woman deported from Moush, who was driven with her fellow-exiles into the
Mourad Su (eastern branch of the Euphrates), but also managed to escape,
though the rest were drowned. Doc. 66 describes corpses floating in the river in the neighbourhood of Kiakhta, and Doc. 137
the drowning of exiles in the tributaries of the Euphrates between Harpout and Aleppo. These are evidently instances
of a regular practice, and when we find the exiles from Trebizond and Kerasond
being disposed of in the same fashion in a comparatively distant part of
the Turkish Empire, we are almost compelled to infer that the drowning of
the exiles en masse was a definite part of the general scheme drawn out by the Young Turk leaders at Constantinople.
Perhaps the most terrible feature of all was the suffering of the women with child, who were made to march with the
convoys and gave birth to their babies on the road. This is alluded to in Doc. 12, from a German source, at second-hand, but
in Docs. 129 and 137 we have the testimony of neutral witnesses who actually succoured these victims, so far as the extremity
of their plight and the brutality of their escort made succour possible. It should be mentioned that in Doc. 68 an Armenian
exile testifies to the kindness of an individual Turkish gendarme to one of her fellow-victims who was in these straits.
(vi) The vast scale of these massacres and the pitiless cruelty with which the deportations were carried out may seem to
some readers to throw doubt on the authenticity of the narratives. Can human beings (it may be asked) have perpetrated such
crimes on innocent women and children? But a recollection of previous massacres will show that such crimes are part of the
long settled and often repeated policy of Turkish rulers. In Chios, nearly a century ago, the Turks slaughtered almost the
whole Greek population of the island. In European Turkey in 1876 many thousands of Bulgarians were killed on the suspicion
of an intended rising, and the outrages committed on women were, on a smaller scale, as bad as those here recorded. In 1895
and 1896 more than a hundred thousand Armenian Christians were put to death by Abd-ul-Hamid, many thousands of whom died as
martyrs to their Christian faith, by abjuring which they could have saved their lives. All these massacres
are registered not only in the ordinary press records of current history
but in the reports of British diplomatic and consular officials written
at the time. They are as certain as anything else that has happened in our
day. There is, therefore, no antecedent improbability to be overcome before
the accounts here given can be accepted. All that happened in 1915 is in
the regular line of Turkish policy. The only differences are in the scale
of the present crimes, and in the fact that the lingering sufferings of
deportations in which the deaths were as numerous as in the massacres, and
fell with special severity upon the women, have in this latest instance been added.
The evidence is cumulative. Each part of it supports the rest because each part is independent of the others. The main facts are the same, and reveal the same plans and intentions at work. Even the varieties are instructive because they show those diversities of temper and feeling which appear in human nature everywhere.
The Turkish officials are usually heartless and callous. But here and there we see one of a finer temper, who refuses to carry out the orders given him and is sometimes dismissed for his refusal. The Moslem rabble is usually pitiless. It pillages the houses and robs the persons of the hapless exiles. But now and then there appear pious and compassionate Moslems who try to save the lives or alleviate the miseries of their Christian neighbours. We have a vivid picture of human life, where wickedness in high places deliberately lets loose the passions of racial or religious hatred, as well as the commoner passion of rapacity, yet cannot extinguish those better feelings which show as points of light in the gloom.
It is, however, for the reader to form his own judgment on these documents
as he peruses them. They do not, and by the nature of the case cannot, constitute
what is called judicial evidence, such as a Court of Justice obtains when
it puts witnesses on oath and subjects them to cross-examination. But by
far the larger part (almost all, indeed, of what is here published) does
constitute historical evidence of the best kind, inasmuch as the statements
come from those who saw the events they describe and recorded them in writing
immediately afterwards. They corroborate one another, the narratives given
by different observers showing a substantial agreement, which becomes conclusive
when we find the salient facts repeated with no more variations in detail
than the various opportunities of the independent observers made natural.
The gravest facts are those for which the evidence is most complete, and
it all tallies fatally with that which twenty years ago established the
guilt of Abd-ul-Hamid for the deeds that have made his name infamous. In
this case there are, moreover, what was wanting then, admissions which add
weight to the testimony here presented, I mean the admissions of the Turkish
Government and of their German apologists. The attempts made to find excuses for wholesale slaughter and for the removal
of a whole people from its homes leave no room for doubt as to the slaughter
and the removal. The main facts are established by the confession of the
criminals themselves. What the evidence here presented does is to show in
detail how these things were effected, what cruelties accompanied them,
and how inexcusable they were. The disproval of the palliations which the
Turks have put forward is as complete as the proof of the atrocities themselves.
In order to test the soundness of my own conclusions as to the value of the evidence, I have submitted it to the judgment of
three friends, men for whose opinion everyone who knows them will have the highest respect---a distinguished historian,
Mr. H. A. L. Fisher (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield); a distinguished scholar, Mr. Gilbert Murray (Professor
of Greek in the University of Oxford); and a distinguished American lawyer of long experience and high authority,
Mr. Moorfield Storey, of Boston, Mass.---men accustomed in their respective walks of life to examine and appraise evidence;
and I append the letters which convey their several views.
This preface is intended to deal only with the credibility of the evidence
here presented, so I will refrain from comment on the facts. A single observation,
or rather a single question, may, however, be permitted from one who has
closely followed the history of the Turkish East for more than forty years.
European travellers have often commended the honesty and the kindliness
of the Turkish peasantry, and our soldiers have said that they are fair
fighters. Against them I have nothing to say, and will even add that I have
known individual Turkish officials who impressed me as men of honesty and
good-will. But the record of the rulers of Turkey for the last two or three
centuries, from the Sultan on his throne down to the district Mutessarif,
is, taken as a whole, an almost unbroken record of corruption, of injustice,
of an oppression which often rises into hideous cruelty.
The Young Turks, when they deposed Abd-ul-Hamid, came forward as the apostles of freedom,
promising equal rights and equal treatment to all Ottoman subjects. The
facts here recorded show how that promise was kept. Can anyone still continue
to hope that the evils of such a government are curable? Or does the
evidence contained in this volume furnish the most terrible and convincing
proof that it can no longer be permitted to rule over subjects of a different faith?
LETTER FROM MR. H. A. L. FISHER, VICE-CHANCELLOR OF SHEFFIELD UNIVERSITY, TO VISCOUNT BRYCE.
Sheffield, August 2nd, 1916.
MY DEAR LORD BRYCE,
The evidence here collected with respect to the sufferings of the Armenian
subjects of the Ottoman Empire during the present war will carry conviction
wherever and whenever it is studied by honest enquirers. It bears upon the
face of it all the marks of credibility. In the first place, the transactions
were recorded soon after they took place and while the memory of them was
still fresh and poignant. Then the greater part of the story rests upon
the word of eye-witnesses, and the remainder upon the evidence of persons
who had special opportunities for obtaining correct information. It is true
that some of the witnesses are Armenians, whose testimony, if otherwise
unconfirmed, might be regarded as liable to be over-coloured or distorted,
but the Armenian evidence does not stand alone. It is corroborated by reports
received from Americans, Danes, Swiss, Germans, Italians and other foreigners.
Again, this foreign testimony comes for the most part from men and women
whose calling alone entitles them to be heard with respect, that is to say,
from witnesses who may fairly be expected to exceed the average level of
character and intelligence and to view the transactions which they record
with as much, detachment as is compatible with human feeling. Indeed, the
foreign witnesses who happened to be spectators of the deportation, dispersion,
and massacre of the Armenian nation, do not strike me as being, in any one
case, blind and indiscriminate haters of the Turk. They are prompt to notice
facts which strike them as creditable to individual members of the Moslem
I am also impressed with the cumulative effect of the evidence. Whoever
speaks, and from whatever quarter in the wide region covered by these reports
the voice may proceed, the story is one and the same. There are no discrepancies
or contradictions of importance, but, on the contrary, countless scattered
pieces of mutual corroboration. There is no contrariety as to the broad
fact that the Armenian population has been uprooted from its homes, dispersed,
and, to a large though not exactly calculable extent, exterminated in consequence
of general orders issued from Constantinople. It is clear that a catastrophe,
conceived upon a scale quite unparalleled in modern history, has been contrived
for the Armenian inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire. It is found that the
original responsibility rests with the Ottoman Government at Constantinople,
whose policy was actively seconded by the members of the Committee of Union
and Progress in the Provinces. And in view of the fact that the representations
of the Austrian Ambassador with the Porte were effectual in procuring a
partial measure of exemption for the Armenian Catholics, we are led to surmise
that the unspeakable horrors which this volume records might have been mitigated,
if not wholly checked, had active and energetic remonstrances been from
the first moment addressed to the Ottoman Government by the two Powers who
had acquired a predominant influence in Constantinople. The evidence, on
the contrary, tends to suggest that these two Powers were, in a general
way, favourable to the policy of deportation.
LETTER FROM PROFESSOR GILBERT MURRAY, REGIUS PROFESSOR OF GREEK IN THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD, TO VISCOUNT BRYCE.
82, Woodstock Road,
Oxford, June 27th, 1916.
DEAR LORD BRYCE,
I have spent some time studying the documents you are about to publish relative to the deportations and massacres of Armenians in the Turkish Empire during the spring and summer of 1915. I know, of course, how carefully a historian should scrutinize the evidence for events so startling in character, reported to have occurred in regions so far removed from the eyes of civilized Europe. I realize that in times of persecution passions run high, that oriental races tend to use hyperbolical language, and that the victims of oppression cannot be expected to speak with strict fairness of their oppressors. But the evidence of these letters and reports will bear any scrutiny and overpower any scepticism. Their genuineness is established beyond question, though obviously you are right in withholding certain of the names of persons and places. The statements of the Armenian refugees themselves are fully confirmed by residents of American, Scandinavian and even of German nationality; and the undesigned agreement between so many credible witnesses from widely separate districts puts all the main lines of the story beyond the possibility of doubt.
LETTER FROM MR. MOORFIELD STOREY, EX-PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION, TO VISCOUNT BRYCE.
I have examined considerable portions of the volume which contains the statements regarding the treatment of the Armenians by the Turks, in order to determine the value of these statements as evidence.
I have no doubt that, while there may be inaccuracies of detail, these statements establish without any question the essential facts. It must be borne In mind that in such a case the evidence of eye-witnesses is not easily obtained; the victims, with few exceptions, are dead; the perpetrators will not confess; any casual spectators cannot be reached, and in most cases are either in sympathy with what was done or afraid to speak. There are no tribunals before which witnesses can be summoned and compelled to testify, and a rigid censorship is maintained by the authorities responsible for the crimes, which prevents the truth from coming out freely, and no investigation by impartial persons will be permitted.
Such statements as you print are the best evidence which, in the circumstances, it is possible to obtain. They come from persons holding positions which give weight to their words, and from other persons with no motive to falsify, and it is impossible that such a body of concurring evidence should have been manufactured. Moreover, it is confirmed by evidence from German sources which has with difficulty escaped the rigid censorship maintained by the German authorities---a censorship which is in itself a confession, since there is no reason why the Germans should not give full currency to such evidence unless the authorities felt themselves in some way responsible for what it discloses.
In my opinion, the evidence which you print is as reliable as that upon which rests our belief in many of the universally admitted facts of history, and I think it establishes beyond any reasonable doubt the deliberate purpose of the Turkish authorities practically to exterminate the Armenians, and their responsibility for the hideous atrocities which have been perpetrated upon that unhappy people.
LETTER, DATED ALEPPO, 8th OCTOBER, 1915, FROM FOUR MEMBERS OF THE GERMAN MISSIONS STAFF IN TURKEY TO THE IMPERIAL GERMAN MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AT BERLIN.
We think it our duty to draw the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the fact that our school work will be deprived, for the future, of its moral basis and will lose all authority in the eyes of the natives, if it is really beyond the power of the German Government to mitigate the brutality of the treatment which the exiled women and children of the massacred Armenians are receiving.
In face of the scenes of horror which are being unfolded daily before our eyes in the neighbourhood of our school, our educational activity becomes a mockery of humanity. How can we make our pupils listen to the Tales of the Seven Dwarfs, how can we teach them conjugations and declensions, when, in the compounds next door to our school, death is carrying off their starving compatriots---when there are girls and women and children, practically naked, some lying on the ground, others stretched between the dead or the coffins made ready for them beforehand, and breathing their last breath!
Out of 2,000 to 3,000 peasant women from the Armenian Plateau who were brought here in good health, only forty or fifty skeletons are left. The prettier ones are the victims of their gaolers' lust; the plain ones succumb to blows, hunger and thirst (they lie by the water's edge, but are not allowed to quench their thirst). The Europeans are forbidden to distribute bread to the starving. Every day more than a hundred corpses are carried out of Aleppo.
All this happens under the eyes of high Turkish officials. There are forty or fifty emaciated phantoms crowded into the compound opposite our school. They are women out of their mind; they have forgotten how to eat; when one offers them bread, they throw it aside with indifference. They only groan and wait for death.
" See," say the natives Taâlim el Alman (the teaching of the Germans)."
The German scutcheon is in danger of being smirched for ever in the memory of the Near Eastern peoples. There are natives of Aleppo, more enlightened than the rest, who say: "The Germans do not want these horrors. Perhaps the German nation does not know about them. If it did, how could the German Press, which is attached to the truth, talk about the humanity of the treatment accorded to the Armenians who are guilty of High Treason ? Perhaps, too, the German Government has its hands tied by some contract defining the powers of the [German and Turkish] State; in regard to one another's affairs ? "
No, when it is a question
of giving over thousands of women and children to death by starvation, the words "Opportunism" and "definition of powers" lose their meaning. Every civilised human being is "empowered" in this case to interfere, and it is his bounden duty to do so. Our prestige in the East is the thing at stake. There are even Turks and Arabs who have remained human, and who shake their heads in sorrow when they see, in the exile convoys that pass through the town, how the brutal soldiers shower blows on women with child who can march no farther.
We may expect further and still more dreadful hecatombs after the order published
by Djemal Pasha. (The engineers of the Baghdad Railway are forbidden, by this order, to photograph the Armenian convoys ; any plates they have already used for this must be given up within twenty-four hours, under penalty of prosecution before the Council of War.) It is a proof that the responsible authorities fear the light, but have no intention of putting an end to scenes which are a disgrace to humanity.
. . .We know that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already, from other sources, received detailed descriptions of. what is happening here. But as no change has occurred in the system of the deportations, we feel ourselves under a double obligation to make this report, all the more because the fact of our living abroad enables us to see more clearly the immense danger by which the German name is threatened here.
I. GENERAL DESCRIPTIONS
The Ottoman Government did its utmost to prevent the news
of what it was doing to the Armenians from leaking through to the outer
world. A stringent censorship was established at all the frontiers, private
communication was severed between Constantinople and the provinces, and
the provinces themselves were isolated from one another. Nearly all our
information has been obtained from witnesses who succeeded in making their
way out of Turkey after the massacres and deportations had occurred, and
who wrote down their experiences after reaching America or Europe. The evidence
of these witnesses is first-hand, but it is mostly confined to the particular
region in which each witness happened to reside, and it has therefore been
grouped in this collection province by province, in geographical order.
We possess, however, certain general accounts which reached Europe and America
at an earlier date, for the most part, than the individual narratives, and
they are printed here in advance of the rest---partly for the chronological
reason, and partly because they give a broad survey of what happened, which
may impress the general features upon the reader before he approaches the
detailed testimony of the sections that follow.
In contrast to the bulk of our evidence, the majority of these preliminary documents give their information at second-hand; but practically every statement they make is more than borne out in detail by the first-hand witnesses, and this is particularly the case with the more startling and appalling of the facts they record.
The most interesting document in this section is No. 12, which was compiled from German sources, published in a German journal, and immediately suppressed by the German Censorship.
1. DESPATCH FROM MR. HENRY WOOD, CORRESPONDENT OF THE AMERICAN "UNITED PRESS" AT CONSTANTINOPLE; PUBLISHED IN THE AMERICAN PRESS, 14th AUGUST, 1915.
So critical is the situation that Ambassador Morgenthau, who alone is
fighting to prevent wholesale slaughter, has felt obliged to ask the co-operation
of the Ambassadors of Turkey's two Allies. They have been successful to
the extent of securing definite promises from the leading members of the
Young Turk Government that no orders will be given for massacres. The critical
moment for the Armenians, however, will come, it is feared, when the Turks
may meet with serious reverses in the Dardanelles or when the Armenians
themselves, who not only are in open revolt but are actually in possession
of Van and several other important towns, may meet with fresh successes.
It is this uprising of the Armenians who are seeking to establish an independent
government that the Turks declare is alone responsible for the terrible
measures now being taken against them. In the meantime, the position of the Armenians and the system of deportation,
dispersion, and extermination that is being carried out against them beggars all description.
Although the present renewal of the Armenian atrocities has been under
way for three months, it is only just now that reports creeping into Constantinople
from the remotest points of the interior show that absolutely no portion
of the Armenian population has been spared. It now appears that the order
for the present cruelties was issued in the early part of May, and was at
once put into execution with all the extreme genius of the Turkish police
system---the one department of government for which the Turks have ever
shown the greatest aptitude, both in organisation and administration. At
that time sealed orders were sent to the police of the entire Empire. These
were to be opened on a specified date that would ensure the orders being
in the hands of every department at the moment they were to be opened. Once
opened, they provided for. a simultaneous descent at practically the same
moment on the Armenian population of the entire Empire.
At Broussa, in Asiatic Turkey, the city which it is expected the Turks
will select for their capital in the event of Constantinople falling, I
investigated personally the manner in which these orders were carried out. From eye-witnesses in other towns from the
interior I found that the execution of them was everywhere identical. At
midnight, the police authorities swooped down on the homes of all Armenians
whose names had been put on the proscribed list sent out from Constantinople.
The men were at once placed under arrest, and then the houses were searched
for papers which might implicate them either in the present revolutionary
movement of the Armenians on the frontier or In plots against the Government
which the Turks declare exist. In this search, carpets were torn from the
floors, draperies stripped from the walls, and even the children turned
out of their beds and cradles in order that the mattresses and coverings
might be searched.
Following this search, the men were then carried away, and at once there
began the carrying out of the system of deportation and dispersion which
has been the cruellest feature of the present anti-Armenian wave. The younger
men for the most part were at once drafted into the Army. On the authority
of men whose names would be known in both America and Europe if I dared
mention them, I am told that hundreds if not thousands of these were sent
at once to the front ranks at the Dardanelles, where death in a very short
space of time is almost a certainty. The older men were then deported into
the interior, while the women and children, when not carried off in an opposite
direction, were left to shift for themselves as best they could. The terrible
feature of this deportation up to date is that it has been carried out on
such a basis as to render it practically impossible in thousands of cases
that these families can ever again be reunited. Not only wives and husbands,
brothers and sisters, but even mothers and their little children have been
dispersed in such a manner as to preclude practically all I hope that they
will ever see each other again.
In defence of these terrible measures which have been taken, the Turks
at Constantinople declare that no one but the Armenians themselves is to
blame. They state that when the present attack began on the Dardanelles,
the Armenians were, notified that if they took advantage of the moment when
the Turks were concentrating every energy for the maintenance of the Empire,
to rise in rebellion, they would be dealt with without quarter. This warning,
however, the Armenians failed to heed. They not only rose in rebellion,
occupying a number of important towns, including Van, but extended important
help to the Russians in the latter's campaign in the Caucasus.
While this is the Turkish side of the situation, there is also another
side which I shall give on the authority of men who have passed practically
their entire lives in Turkey and whose names, if I dared mention them, would
be recognised in both Europe and America as competent authority. According
to these men, the decision has gone out from the Young Turk party that the
Armenian population of Turkey must be set back fifty years. This has been
decided upon as necessary in order to ensure the supremacy of the Turkish
race in the Ottoman Empire, which is one of the basic principles of the
Young Turk party. The situation, I am told, is absolutely analogous to that
which preceded the Armenian massacres under Abd-ul-Hamid. So far, however,
the Young Turks have confined themselves to the new system of deportation,
dispersion and separation of families.
4. LETTER FROM AN AUTHORITATIVE SOURCE, DATED CONSTANTINOPLE, 15th / 28th JUNE, 1915; PUBLISHED IN THE NEW YORK JOURNAL "GOTCHNAG," 28th AUGUST, 1915.
In America you have probably not yet heard of the terrible crisis through
which the Armenians of Turkey are passing at this moment. The severe censorship
to which all communications between Constantinople and the provinces are
subjected, and the absolute embargo on travelling under which the Armenians
have been placed, have resulted in depriving us, even in Constantinople,
of all but the scantiest information regarding the whole provincial area.
And yet what we know already is sufficient to give you some idea.
In every part of Turkey the Armenian population is in a more or less
serious plight, in suspense between life and death. Apart from the distress
produced by the illegal requisitions, the paralysis of industry, the ravages
of the typhus, and the mobilisation of the men---first of those from 20
to 45, and then of those from 18 to 50 years of age---thousands of Armenians
have been suffering during the last two months in prison or in exile.
At the beginning of the month of April, immediately after the events
at Van, the Government issued an order requisitioning Armenian houses, schools,
and episcopal residences, even in the most obscure corners of the provinces,
and making the possession of arms, which were allowed until now, or of books
and images, which were freely sold in public, a pretext for imprisonments
and convictions. The effect of this order has beep such that in the prisons
of Kaisaria alone there are, at the present moment, more than 500 Armenians
in custody, without reckoning those who, by a mere administrative act and
without any charge being brought against them, have been deported into districts inhabited entirely by Mohammedans.
However, even this state of things is mild enough in comparison with the condition of affairs in Cilicia and the provinces bordering on the Caucasus.
The Turkish Government is now putting into execution its plan of dispersing
the Armenian population of the Armenian provinces, taking advantage of the
preoccupation of all the European Powers, and of the indifference of Germany
and Austria. They began to execute this plan about four months ago, starting
with Cilicia, where the entire Armenian population of Zeitoun, Dört Yöl and the neighbourhood, and a considerable
part of the population of Marash and Hassan-Beyli, have been removed from their homes by brute force and without warning.
Some of the exiles, about 1,000 families,: have been sent to the Sultania
district of the Vilayet of Konia. The majority,
however, have been dispersed among the villages of the province of Zor,
beyond Aleppo, and through the districts in the immediate neighbourhood
of Aleppo itself---Moumbidj, Bab, Ma'ara, Idlib, etc. This compulsory emigration
is still in progress. The same fate is in prospect for Adana, Mersina, Hadjin,
Sis, etc. As can be seen from the despatches and letters which arrive from
these districts, all these people are being deported without the possibility
of taking anything with them, and this into districts with a climate to
which they are absolutely unaccustomed. There, without shelter, naked and
famished, they are abandoned to their fate, and have to subsist on the morsel
of bread which the Government sees good to throw to them, a Government which
is incapable of providing even its own troops with bread.
The least details of this compulsory emigration that reach us at Constantinople, reduce one to tears at their recital. Among those 1,000 families deported to Sultania there are less than fifty men. The majority made the journey on foot ; the old people and the young children died by the wayside, and young women with child miscarried and were abandoned on the mountains. Even now that they have reached their place of exile, these deported Armenians pay a toll of about ten victims a day in deaths from sickness and famine. At Aleppo they need at present £35 (Turkish) a day to provide the exiles with bread. You can imagine what their situation must be in the deserts, where the native Arabs themselves are near starvation.
A sum of money has been sent from Constantinople to the Katholikos of Cilicia, who is at the present moment at Aleppo, witnessing the misery and agony of his flock. At Aleppo, at any rate, the authorities permit the distribution of relief to these unfortunate people ; at Sultania, on the other hand, it has so far been impossible to bring any relief within their reach, because the Government refuses permission, in spite of the efforts of the American Embassy.
The same state of affairs now prevails at Erzeroum, Bitlis, Sairt, etc. According to absolutely trustworthy information which we have received, they have begun, during the last two or three weeks, to deport the Armenians of Erzeroum. and the neighbourhood towards Derdjan; the rest have been given several days' grace. From Bitlis and Sairt we have just had despatches forwarded to us, imploring relief. From Moush we have no news, but the same state of affairs must certainly prevail there also. At Klinyss there has been a massacre, but we do not yet know how serious it was. In the neighbourhood of Sivas several villages, Govdoun among others, have been burnt. . . .
5. LETTER FROM THE SAME SOURCE, DATED CONSTANTINOPLE, 12 /25th JULY, 1915; PUBLISHED IN THE NEW YORK JOURNAL "GOTCHNAG," 28th AUGUST, 1915.
Since my last letter, our nation's position has unhappily become more serious, inasmuch as it is now not merely the Armenians of Cilicia who have been deported, but the Armenians of all the native Armenian provinces. From Samsoun and Kaisaria on the one hand to Edessa on the other, about a million and a half people are at this moment on their way to the deserts of Mesopotamia, to be planted in the midst of Arab and Kurdish populations. These people cannot take with them anything but the barest necessities, because of the impossibility of transport and the insecurity of the roads; so that very few of them indeed will succeed in reaching the spot marked out for their exile, while, if immediate relief is not sent them, they will die of hunger. . . .
6. LETTER FROM THE SAME SOURCE, DATED CONSTANTINOPLE, 13 /26th JULY, 1915, AND ADDRESSED TO A DISTINGUISHED ARMENIAN RESIDENT BEYOND THE OTTOMAN FRONTIER.
Since the 25th May last, events have followed hard upon one another, and the misery of our nation is now at its zenith.
Apart from a few rumours about the situation of the Armenians at Erzeroum, we had heard of nothing, till recently, except the deportation of the inhabitants of several towns and villages in Cilicia. Now we know from an unimpeachable source that the Armenians of all the towns and all the villages of Cilicia have been deported en masse to the desert regions south of Aleppo.
From the 1st May onwards, the population of the city of Erzeroum, and
shortly afterwards the population of the whole province, was collected at
Samsoun and embarked on shipboard. The populations of Kaisaria, Diyarbekir,
Ourfa, Trebizond, Sivas, Harpout and the district of Van have been deported
to the deserts of Mesopotamia, from the southern outskirts of Aleppo as
far as Mosul and Baghdad. "Armenia without the Armenians"---that
is the Ottoman Government's project. The Moslems are already being allowed
to take possession of the lands and houses abandoned by the Armenians.
The exiles are forbidden to take anything with them. For that matter,
in the districts under military occupation there is nothing left to take,
as the military authorities have exerted themselves to carry off, for their
own use, everything that they could lay hands on.
The exiles will have to traverse on foot a distance that involves one
or two months' marching and sometimes even more, before they reach the particular
corner of the desert assigned to them for their habitation, and destined
to become their tomb. We hear, in fact, that the course of their route and
the stream of the Euphrates are littered with the corpses of exiles, while
those who survive are doomed to certain death, since they will find in the
desert neither house, nor work, nor food.
It is simply a scheme for exterminating the Armenian nation wholesale, without any fuss. It is just another form of massacre, and a more horrible form.
Remember that all the men between the ages of 20 and 45 are at the front.
Those between 45 and 60 are working for the military transport service.
As for those who had paid the statutory tax for exemption from military
service, they have either been exiled or imprisoned on one pretext or another.
The result is that there is no one left to deport but the old men, the women
and the children. These poor creatures have to travel through regions which,
even in times of peace, were reputed dangerous, and where there was a serious
risk of being robbed. Now that the Turkish brigands, as well as the gendarmes
and civil officials, enjoy the most absolute licence, the exiles will inevitably
be robbed on the road, and their women and girls dishonoured and abducted.
We are hearing also from various places of conversions to Islam. It seems that the people have no other alternative for saving their lives.
The courts martial are working everywhere at full pressure.
You must have heard through the newspapers of the hanging of 20 Huntchakists
at Constantinople. The verdict given against them is not based on any of
the established laws of the Empire. The same day twelve Armenians were hanged
at Kaisaria, on the charge of having obeyed instructions received from the
secret conference held at Bukarest by the Runtchakists and Droshakists.
Besides these hangings, 32 persons have been sentenced at Kaisaria to terms
of hard labour, ranging from ten to fifteen years. Most of them are honest
merchants who are in no sort of relation with the political parties. Twelve
Armenians have also been hanged in Cilicia. Condemnations have become daily
occurrences. The discovery of arms, books and pictures is enough to condemn
an Armenian to several years' imprisonment.
Besides this many people have succumbed under the rod. Thirteen Armenians
have been killed in this way at Diyarbekir, and six at Kaisaria. Thirteen
others have been killed on their way to Shabin Kara-Hissar and Sivas. The
priests of the village of Kourk with their companions have suffered the
same fate on the road between Sou-Shehr and Sivas, although they had their
hands pinioned and were defenceless.
I will spare you the recital of other outrages which have occurred sporadically all over the country, under the cloak of searches for arms and for revolutionary agents. Not a single house has been left unsearched, not even the episcopal
residences, the churches or the schools. Hundreds of women, girls, and even
quite young children are groaning in prison. Churches and convents have
been pillaged, desecrated and destroyed. Even the Bishops are not spared.
Mgr. Barkev Danielian (Bishop of Broussa), Mgr. Kevork Tourian (Bishop of
Trebizond), Mgr. Khosrov Behrikian (Bishop of Kaisaria), Mgr. Vaghinadj
Torikian (Bishop of Shabin Kara-Hissar), and Mgr. Kevork Nalbandian (Bishop
of Tchar-Sandjak) have been arrested and handed over to the courts martial.
Father Muggerditch, locum-tenens of the Bishop of Diyarbekir, has died of
blows received in prison. We have no news of the other bishops, but I imagine
that the greater part of them are in prison.
We are so cut off from the world that we might be in a fortress. We have no means of correspondence, neither post nor telegraph.
The villages in the neighbourhood of Van and Bitlis have been plundered,
and their inhabitants put to the sword. At the beginning of this month,
there was a pitiless massacre of all the inhabitants of Kara-Hissar with
the exception of a few children who are said to have escaped by a miracle.
Unhappily we learn the details of all these occurrences too late, and even
then only with the utmost difficulty.
So you see that the Armenians in Turkey have only a few more days to live, and if the Armenians abroad do not succeed in enlisting the sympathy of the neutrals on our behalf, there will be extraordinarily few Armenians left a few months hence, out of the million and a half that there were in Turkey before the war. The annihilation of the Armenian nation will then be inevitable.
7. LETTER FROM THE SAME SOURCE, DATED CONSTANTINOPLE, 2 /15th AUGUST, 1915, AND ADDRESSED TO THE SAME ARMENIAN RESIDENT BEYOND THE OTTOMAN FRONTIER.
Since I wrote my last letter (of which you have acknowledged the receipt),
we have been able to obtain more precise information from the provinces
of the interior. The information with which we present you herewith is derived
from the following witnesses : an Armenian lady forcibly converted
to Islam, and brought by an unforeseen chance to Constantinople ; a
girl from Zila, between nine and ten years old, who was abducted by a Turkish
officer and has reached Constantinople; a Turkish traveller from Harpout;
foreign travellers from Erzindjan, and so on. In fine, this information
is derived either from eye-witnesses or from actual victims of the crimes.
It is now established that there is not an Armenian left in the provinces
of Erzeroum, Trebizond, Sivas, Harpout, Bitlis and Diyarbekir. About a million
of the Armenian inhabitants of these provinces have been deported from their
homes and sent southwards into exile. These deportations have been carried
out very systematically by the local authorities since the beginning of
April last. First of all, in every village and every town, the population
was disarmed by the gendarmerie, and by criminals released for this purpose
from prison. On the pretext of disarming the Armenians, these criminals
committed assassinations and inflicted hideous tortures. Next, they imprisoned
the Armenians en masse, on the pretext that they had found in their
possession arms, books, a political organisation, and so on---at a pinch,
wealth or any kind of social standing was pretext enough. After that, they
began the deportation. And first, on the pretext of sending them into exile,
they evicted such men as had not been imprisoned, or such as had been set
at liberty through lack of any charge against them ; then they massacred
them---not one of these escaped slaughter. Before they started, they were
examined officially by the authorities, and any money or valuables in their
possession were confiscated. They were usually shackled--either separately,
or in gangs of five to ten. The remainder---old men, women, and children---were
treated as waifs in the province of Harpout, and placed at the disposal
of the Moslem population. The highest official, as well as the most simple
peasant, chose out the woman or girl who caught his fancy, and took her
to wife, converting her by force to Islam. As for the children, the Moslems
took as many of them as they wanted, and then the remnant of the Armenians
were marched away, famished and destitute of provisions, to fall victims
to hunger, unless that were anticipated by the savagery of the brigand-bands.
In the province of Diyarbekir there was an outright massacre, especially
at Mardin, and the population was subjected to all the afore-mentioned atrocities.
In the provinces of Erzeroum, Bitlis, Sivas and Diyarbekir, the local
authorities gave certain facilities to the Armenians condemned to deportation;
five to ten days' grace, authorisation to effect a partial sale of their
goods, and permission to hire a cart, in the case of some families. But
after the first few days of their journey, the carters abandoned them on
the road and returned home. These convoys were waylaid the day after the
start, or sometimes several days after, by bands of brigands or by Moslem
peasants who spoiled them of all they had. The brigands fraternised with
the gendarmes and slaughtered the few grown men or youths who were included
in the convoys. They carried off the women, girls and children, leaving
only the old women, who were driven along by the gendarmes under blows of
the lash and died of hunger by the roadside. An eye-witness reports to us
that the women deported from the province of Erzeroum were abandoned, some
days ago, on the plain of Harpout, where they have all died of hunger (50 or 60 a day).
The only step taken by the authorities was to send people to bury them, In order to safeguard the health of the Moslem population.
The little girl from Zila tells us that when the Armenians of Marsovan,
Amasia and Tokat reached Sari-Kishila (between Kaisaria and Sivas), the
children of both sexes were torn from their mothers before the very windows
of the Government Building, and were locked up in certain other buildings,
while the convoy was forced to continue its march. After that, they gave
notice in the neighbouring villages that anyone might come and take his
choice. She and her companion (Newart of Amasia) were carried off and brought
to Constantinople by a Turkish officer. The convoys of women and children
were placed on view in front of the Government Building at each town or
village where they passed, to give the Moslems an opportunity of taking their choice.
The convoy which started from Baibourt was thinned out in this way, and
the women and children who survived were thrown into the Euphrates on the
outskirts of Erzindjan, at a place called Kamakh-Boghazi. Mademoiselle Flora A. Wedel Yarlesberg, a Norwegian lady of good family
who was a nurse in a German Red Cross hospital, and another nurse who was
her colleague, were so revolted by these barbarities and by other experiences
of equal horror, that they tendered their resignations, returned to Constantinople,
and called personally at several Embassies to denounce these hideous crimes.
The same barbarities have been committed everywhere, and by this time
travellers find nothing but thousands of Armenian corpses along all the
roads in these provinces. A Moslem traveller on his way from Malatia to
Sivas, a nine hours' journey, passed nothing but corpses of men and women.
All the male Armenians of Malatia had been taken there and massacred; the
women and children have all been converted to Islam. No Armenian can travel
in these parts, for every Moslem, and especially the brigands and gendarmes,
considers it his duty now to kill them at sight. Recently Messieurs Zohrad
and Vartkes, two Armenian members of the Ottoman Parliament, who had been
sent off to Diyarbekir to be tried by the Council of War, were killed, before
they got there, at a short distance from Aleppo. In these provinces one
can only travel incognito under a Moslem name. As for the women's
fate, we have already spoken of it above, and it seems unnecessary to go
into further particulars about their honour, when one sees the utter disregard
there is for their life.
The Armenian soldiers, too, have suffered the same fate. They were also all disarmed and put to constructing roads. We have certain knowledge that the Armenian soldiers of the province of Erzeroum, who were at work on the road from Erzeroum to Erzindjan, have all been massacred. The Armenian soldiers of the province of Diyarbekir have all been massacred on the Diyarbekir-Ourfa road, and the Diyarbekir-Harpout road. From Harpout alone, 1,800 young Armenians were enrolled and sent off to work at Diyarbekir ; all were massacred in the neighbourhood of Arghana. We have no news from the other districts, but they have assuredly suffered the same fate there also.
In certain towns, the Armenians who had been consigned to oblivion in
the prisons have been hanged in batches. During the past month alone, several
dozen Armenians have been hanged in Kaisaria. In many places the Armenian
inhabitants, to save their lives, have tried to become Mohammedans, but
this time such overtures have not been readily accepted, as they were at
the time of the other great massacres. At Sivas, the would-be converts to
Islam were offered the following terms : they must hand over all children
under twelve years of age to the Government, which would undertake to place
them in orphanages; and they must consent, for their own part, to leave
their homes and settle wherever the Government directed.
At Harpout, they would not accept the conversion of the men; in the case of the women, they made their conversion conditional in each instance upon the presence of a Moslem willing to take the convert in marriage. Many Armenian women preferred to throw themselves into the Euphrates with their infants, or committed suicide in their homes. The Euphrates and Tigris have become the sepulchre of thousands of Armenians.
All Armenians converted in the Black Sea towns---Trebizond, Samsoun,
Kerasond, etc.---have been sent to the interior, and settled in towns inhabited
exclusively by Moslems. The town of Shabin-Karahissar resisted the disarming
and deportation, and was thereupon bombarded. The whole population of the
town and the surrounding country, from the Bishop downwards, was pitilessly massacred.
In short, from Samsoun on the one hand to Seghert and Diyarbekir on the other, there is now not a single Armenian left. The majority have been massacred, part have been carried off, and a very small part have been converted to Islam.
History has never recorded, never hinted at, such a hecatomb. We are driven to believe that under the reign of Sultan Abd-ul-Hamid we were exceedingly fortunate.
We have just learned the fate of some of the provincial bishops. Mgr.
Anania Hazarabedian, Bishop of Baibourt, has been hanged without any confirmation
of the sentence by the Central Government.
Mgr. Bosak Der-Khoremian. Bishop of Harpout, started on his road to exile
in May, and had barely left the outskirts of the town when he was cruelly
murdered. But we have still, no news of the Bishops of Segliert, Bitlis,
Moush, Keghi, Palou, Erzindjan, Kamakh, Tokat, Gurin, Samsoun and Trebizond,
or for a month past of the Bishops of Sivas and Erzeroum. It is superfluous
to speak of the martyred priests. When the people were deported, the churches
were pillaged and turned into mosques, stables, or what not. Besides that,
they have begun to sell at Constantinople the sacred objects and other properties
of the Armenian churches, just as the Turks have begun to bring to Constantinople
the children of the unhappy Armenian mothers.
It appears that the massacres have been less cruel in Cilicia, or at
least we have no news yet of the worst. The population, which has been deported
to the provinces of Aleppo and Der-el-Zor and to Damascus, will certainly
perish of hunger. We have just heard that the Government has refused to
leave in peace even the insignificant Armenian colonies at Aleppo and Ourfa,
who might have assisted their unhappy brethren on their southward road;
and the Katholikos of Cilicia, who still remains at Aleppo, is busy distributing
the relief we are forwarding to him.
We thought at first that the Government's plan was to settle the Armenian
question once and for all by clearing out the Armenians of the six Armenian
provinces and removing the Armenian population of Cilicia, to forestall
another danger in the future. Unhappily their plan was wider in scope and
more thorough in intention. It consisted in the extermination of the whole
Armenian population throughout the whole of Turkey. The result is that,
in those seven provinces where the Government was pledged to introduce reforms,
there is not one per cent. of the Armenian population left alive. So far,
we do not know whether a single Armenian has reached Mosul or its neighbourhood.
And this plan has now been put into execution even in the suburbs of Constantinople.
The majority of the Armenians in the district of Ismid and in the province
of Broussa have been forcibly deported to Mesopotamia, leaving behind them
their homes and their property. In detail, the population of Adapazar, Ismid,
Gegvé, Armasha and the neighbourhood has been removed---in fact,
the population of all the villages in the Ismid district (except Baghtchedjik,
which has been granted several days' grace). The Principal of the Seminary
at Armasha has also been removed with his colleagues in orders and his seminarists. They have had to leave everything behind, and
been able to take nothing with them on their journey. Six weeping mothers
confided their little ones to the Armenians of Konia, in order to save their
lives, but the local authorities tore them away from their Armenian guardians,
and handed them over to Moslems.
So now it is Constantinople's turn. In any case, the population has fallen
into a panic, and is waiting from one moment to another for the execution
of its doom. The arrests are innumerable, and those arrested are immediately
removed from the capital. The majority will assuredly perish. It is the
retail merchants of provincial birth, but resident in Constantinople, who
are so far being deported---among them Marouké, Ipranossian Garabed,
Kherbekian of Erzeroum, Atamian Karekin, Krikorian Sempad of Bitlis, etc.
We are making great efforts to save at any rate the Armenians of Constantinople
from this horrible extermination of the race, in order that, hereafter,
we may have at least one rallying point for the Armenian cause in Turkey.
Is there anything further to add to this report? The whole Armenian population of Turkey has been condemned to death, and this decree is being put into execution energetically in every corner of the Empire, under the eyes of the European Powers; while, so far, neither Germany nor Austria has succeeded in checking the action of their ally and removing the stain of these barbarities, which also attaches to them. All our efforts have been without result. Our hope is set upon the Armenians abroad.
11. MEMORANDUM DATED 15/28th OCTOBER, 1915, FROM A WELL-INFORMED SOURCE AT BUKAREST, RELATING TO THE EXTERMINATION OF THE ARMENIANS IN TURKEY.
1. At Vezir Köprü (district of Marsovan) all Armenian women and girls from 7 to 40 years of age have been sold at auction. Women were also presented to the buyers without payment.
2. At Kaisaria more than 500 Armenian families were forced to embrace Islam. A father asked his son in Constantinople to follow his example, "in order to prevent worse consequences for his parents."
3. All Armenian judicial officials in the provinces have been discharged. All Turkish officials who have shown special zeal in the extermination of the Armenians have been promoted. Thus Zeki Bey, Kaimakam of Develou (Kaisaria), the man who directed in person the terrible tortures of the Armenian prisoners and was responsible for the death of most of them, has been made mektoubdji of the Vilayet of Constantinople.
4. The Young Turk Government has published, as an excuse or perhaps as a means of exciting greater hatred against the Armenians, a book entitled The Armenian Separatist Movement, which is as ridiculous as it is criminal. The reader finds in it not only copies of entirely fictitious publications, but actually pictures of enormous depots of arms and munitions purporting to be Armenian.
5. In Konia, and everywhere else, the wives of the Armenian soldiers who have not been deported have been taken as servants or concubines into Turkish families.
6. In Marash more than three hundred Armenians have been executed
by Court Martial, besides the numerous victims murdered in the course of
the deportations. At Panderma many important Armenians have been
condemned to death by the Court Martial. The vicar Barkev Vartabed has been
condemned to five years' penal servitude. The Archbishop of Erzeroum, His
Grace Sempad, who, with the Vali's authorisation, was returning to Constantinople,
was murdered at Erzindjan by the brigands in the service of the Union and
Progress Committee. The bishops of Trebizond, Kaisaria, Moush, Bitlis, Sairt,
and Erzindjan have all been murdered by order of the Young Turk Government.
According to reports from travellers, all the Armenian population of Trebizond
has been massacred without exception. Almost the whole male population in
Sivas, Erzeroum, Harpout, Bitlis, Baibourt, Khnyss, Diyarbekir, etc., has
been exterminated. At Tchingiler, a small village in the district of Ismid,
300 men have been murdered because they did not obey the order to leave
their houses. The people deported from Rodosto, Malgara and Tehorlu, who
have been deprived of all their possessions in accordance with the new "temporary
law" of the 13/26th September, have been separated from their families
and sent on foot from Ismid to Konia on the arbitrary order of the notorious
Ibrahim, dictator of the Ismid district. Thousands of poor Armenians expelled
from Constantinople are made to march on foot from Ismid to Konia and still
further, after they have delivered up everything they possess to the gendarmes,
including their shoes. Those who can afford to travel by rail are also fleeced
by the gendarmes, who not only demand the price of the ticket from Constantinople
to their destinations, but extract the whole of their money by selling them
food at exorbitant prices. They demand payment even for unlocking the door
of the water-closet.
7. German travellers from Aleppo describe the misery of the deported Armenians as terrible. All along the route they saw corpses of Armenians who had died of hunger.
The Arab deputies from Bagdad and Syria report that the misery in the deserts of Hauran is indescribable :
"The railway discharges into the mountains vast numbers of Armenians,
who are abandoned there without bread or water. In the towns and villages,
the Arabs try to bring them some relief; but generally the Armenians are
abandoned at five or six hours' distance from their homes. We saw on the
way numbers of women and old men and children dying of hunger, who did not
know where to look for help."
Some Armenians are leading a life of misery among the Arabs, forty or forty-five hours' journey from Bagdad. Every day numbers of them die of hunger. The Government gives them no food. Moreover, fresh troops have been sent to Bagdad, and these will be a new scourge to the unfortunate exiles.
8. Three Special Commissions have been sent through the provinces to liquidate the abandoned goods and estates of the Armenians, in conformity with the new temporary law" of the 13/26th September, 1915.
12. INFORMATION REGARDING EVENTS IN ARMENIA, PUBLISHED IN THE "SONNENAUFGANG" (ORGAN OF THE "GERMAN LEAGUE FOR THE PROMOTION OF CHRISTIAN CHARITABLE WORK IN THE EAST "), OCTOBER, 1915; AND IN THE "ALLGEMEINE MISSIONS-ZEITSCHRIFT." NOVEMBER, 1915.
This testimony is especially significant because it comes from a German source, and because the German Censor made a strenuous attempt to suppress it.
The same issue of the "Sonnenaufgang" contains the following editorial note :
"In our preceding issue we published an account by one of our sisters (Schwester Möhring) of her experiences on a journey, but we have to abstain from giving to the public the new details that are reaching us in abundance. It costs us much to do so, as our friends will understand ; but the political situation of our country demands it."
In the case of the "Allgemeine Missions-Zeitschrift," the Censor was not content with putting pressure on the editor. On the 10th November, he forbade the reproduction of the present article in the German press, and did his best to confiscate the whole current issue of the magazine. Copies of both publications, however, found their way across the frontier.
Both the incriminating articles are drawn from common sources, but the extracts they make from them do not entirely coincide, so that, by putting them together, a fuller version of these sources can be compiled.
In the text printed below, the unbracketed paragraphs are those which appear both in the "Sonnenaufgang" and in the "Allgemeine Missions-Zeitschrift" ; while paragraphs included in angular brackets (< >) appear only in the "Sonnenaufgang," and those in square brackets ([ ]) only in the " Allgemeine Missions-Zeitschrift."
Between the loth and the 30th May, 1,200 of the most prominent Armenians and other Christians, without distinction of confession, were arrested in the Vilayets of Diyarbekir and Mamouret-ul-Aziz.
<It is said that they were to be taken to Mosul, but nothing more has been heard of them.>
[On the 30th May, 674 of them were embarked on thirteen Tigris barges, under the pretext that they were to be taken to Mosul. The Vali's aide-de-camp, assisted by fifty gendarmes, was in charge of the convoy. Half the gendarmes started off on the barges, while the other half rode along the bank. A short time after the start the prisoners were stripped of all their money (about £6,000 Turkish) and then of their clothes ; after that they were thrown into the river. The gendarmes on the bank were ordered to let none of them escape. The clothes of these victims were sold in the market of Diyarbekir.]
<About the same time 700 young Armenian men were conscribed, and were then set to build the Karabaghtché-Habashi road. There is no news of these 700 men either.
It is said that in Diyarbekir five or six priests were stripped naked one day, smeared with tar, and dragged through the streets.>
In the Vilayet of Aleppo they have evicted the inhabitants of Hadjin, Shar, Albustan, Göksoun, Tasholouk, Zeitoun, all the villages of Alabash, Geben, Shivilgi, Furnus and the surrounding villages, Fundadjak, Hassan-Beyli, Harni, Lappashli, Dört Yöl and others.
[They have marched them off in convoys into the desert on the pretext of settling them there. In the village of Tel-Armen (along the line of the Bagdad Railway, near Mosul) and in the neighbouring villages about 5,000 people were massacred, leaving only a few women and children. The people were thrown alive down wells or into the fire. They pretend that the Armenians are to be employed in colonising land situated at a distance of from twenty-four to thirty kilometres from the Bagdad Railway. But as it is only the women and children who are sent into exile, since all the men, with the exception of the very old, are at the war, this means nothing less than the wholesale murder of the families, since they have neither the labour nor the capital for clearing the country.]
A German met a Christian soldier of his acquaintance, who was on furlough from Jerusalem. The man was wandering up and down along the banks of the Euphrates searching for his wife and children, who were supposed to have been transferred to that neighbourhood. Such unfortunates are often to be met with in Aleppo, because they believe that there they will learn something more definite about the whereabouts of their relations. It has often happened that when a member of a family has been absent, he discovers on his return that all his family are gone---evicted from their homes.
[For a whole month corpses were observed floating down the River Euphrates nearly every day, often in batches of from two to six corpses bound together. The male corpses are in many cases hideously mutilated (sexual organs cut off, and so on), the female corpses are ripped open. The Turkish military authority in control of the Euphrates, the Kaimakam of Djerablous, refuses to allow the burial of these corpses, on the ground that he finds it impossible to establish whether they belong to Moslems or to Christians. He adds that no one has given him any orders on the subject. The corpses stranded on the bank are devoured by dogs and vultures. To this fact there are many German eyewitnesses. An employee of the Bagdad Railway has brought the information that the prisons at Biredjik are filled regularly every day and emptied every night---into the Euphrates. Between Diyarbekir and Ourfa a German cavalry captain saw innumerable corpses lying unburied all along the road.]
<The following telegram was sent to Aleppo from Arabkir:---"We have accepted the True Religion. Now we are all right." The inhabitants of a village near Anderoum went over to Islam and had to hold to it. At Hadjin six families wanted to become Mohammedans. They received the verdict: "Nothing under one hundred families will be accepted."
Aleppo and Ourfa are the assemblage-places for the convoys of exiles.
There were about 5,000 of them in Aleppo during June and July, while during
the whole period from April to July many more than 50,000 must have passed
through the city. The girls were abducted almost without exception by the
soldiers and their Arab hangers-on. One father, on the verge of despair,
besought me to take with me at least his fifteen-year-old daughter, as he
could no longer protect her from the persecutions inflicted upon her. The
children left behind by the Armenians on their journey are past counting.
Women whose pains came upon them on the way had to continue their journey
without respite. A woman bore twins in the neighbourhood of Aintab; next
morning she had to go on again. She very soon had to leave the children
under a bush, and a little while after she collapsed herself. Another, whose
pains came upon her during the march, was compelled to go on at once and
fell down dead almost immediately. There were several more incidents of
the same kind between Marash and Aleppo.
The villagers of Shar were permitted to carry all their household effects
with them. On the road they were suddenly told: "An order has come
for us to leave the high road and travel across the mountains." Everything---waggons,
oxen and belongings---had to be left behind on the road, and then they went
on over the mountains on foot. This year the heat has been exceptionally
severe, and many women and children naturally succumbed to it even in these
early stages of their journey.
There are about 30,000 exiles of whom we have no news at all, as they have arrived neither at Aleppo nor at Ourfa.>
VILAYET OF VAN.
The Vilayet of Van had a higher percentage of Armenians
in its population than any other province of the Ottoman Empire; it
was also the border province of the north-eastern frontier, towards Russian
and Persian territory, and as such was the earliest to be exposed to invasion
after the breakdown of the Turkish offensive against the Caucasus in the
winter of 1914-1915.
The documents contained in this section give a detailed
and perfectly self-consistent account, from five independent sources, of
those events at Van which led to the first open breach between the Armenians
in the Ottoman Empire and the Turks, and which gave the Government a pretext
for extending the scheme of deportation already operative in Cilicia to
the whole Armenian population under its jurisdiction.
The evidence makes it clear that there was no unprovoked insurrection of the Armenians at Van, as the Ottoman Government asserts in its official apologia. The Armenians only took up arms in self-defence, and the entire responsibility for the outbreak rests with Djevdet Bey, the local governor-whether he was acting on his own initiative or was simply carrying out instructions from Constantinople.
15. THE AMERICAN MISSION AT VAN: NARRATIVE PRINTED PRIVATELY IN THE UNITED STATES BY MISS GRACE HIGLEY KNAPP (1915).
The first part of this narrative, down to and including the subsection headed "Deliverance," has been transcribed almost word for word by Miss Knapp from a letter she wrote at Van, on the 24th May, 1915, to Dr. Barton, and has, therefore, all the value of contemporary evidence.
The period of the (first) Russian occupation of Van is also covered by two further letters from Miss Knapp to Dr. Barton---a long one written piece-meal on the 14th, 20th and 22nd June, and a second dated 26th July. These contain much more detail than the three corresponding sub-sections of her narrative, but the detail is principally devoted to personal matters and to the care of the Moslem refugees. As neither subject was strictly relevant to the purpose of the present collection, it seemed better to reprint the narrative rather than the letters in the case of these sections also.
There is also a letter (published in the Eleventh Report of the Women's Armenian Relief Fund) from Miss Louie Bond to Mrs. Orpin, written on the 27th July, almost the eve of the evacuation but this, too, is practically entirely devoted to personal matters.
For the period of the retreat there are no contemporary letters, but only an undated memorandum by Miss Knapp, which agrees word for word with the latter part of her present narrative, from the beginning of the section headed "Flight" to the end.
THE SETTING OF THE DRAMA AND THE ACTORS THEREIN.
Van was one of the most beautiful cities of Asiatic Turkey---a city of
gardens and vineyards, situated on Lake Van in the centre of a plateau bordered
by magnificent mountains. The walled city, containing the shops and most
of the public buildings, was dominated by Castle Rock, a huge rock rising
sheer from the plain, crowned with ancient battlements and fortifications,
and bearing on its lakeward face famous cuneiform inscriptions. The Gardens,
so-called because nearly every house had its garden or vineyard, extended
over four miles eastward from the walled city and were about two miles in width.
The inhabitants numbered fifty thousand, three-fifths of whom were Armenians,
two-fifths Turks. The Armenians were progressive and ambitious, and because
of their numerical strength and the proximity of Russia the revolutionary
party grew to be a force to be reckoned with. Three of its noted leaders
were Vremyan, member of the Ottoman Parliament ; Ishkhan, the one most
skilled in military tactics ; and Aram, of whom there will be much
to say later. The Governor often consulted with these men and seemed to
be on the most friendly terms with them.
The American Mission Compound was on the south-eastern border of the
middle third of the Gardens, on a slight rise of ground that made its buildings
somewhat conspicuous. These buildings were a church building, two large
new school buildings, two small ones, a lace school, a hospital, dispensary
and four missionary residences. South-east, and quite near, was a broad
plain. Here was the largest Turkish barracks of the large garrison, between
which and the American premises nothing intervened. North and nearer, but
with streets and houses between, was another large barracks, and farther
north, within rifle range, was Toprak-Kala Hill, surmounted by a small barracks
dubbed by the Americans the "Pepper Box." Five minutes' walk to
the east of us was the German Orphanage managed by Herr Spörri, his
wife and daughter (of Swiss extraction) and three single ladies.
The American force in 1914-1915 consisted of the veteran missionary,
Mrs. G. C. Raynolds (Dr. Raynolds had been in America a year and a half
collecting funds for our Van college, and had been prevented from returning
by the outbreak of war) ; Dr. Clarence D. Ussher, in charge of the
hospital and medical work; Mrs. Ussher, in charge of a philanthropic lace
industry; Mr. and Mrs. Ernest A. Yarrow, in charge of the Boys' School and
general work ; Miss Gertrude Rogers, principal of the Girls' School ;
Miss Caroline Silliman, in charge of the primary department, and two Armenian
and one Turkish kindergarten; Miss Elizabeth Ussher, in charge of the musical
department; Miss Louise Bond, the English superintendent of the hospital;
and Miss Grisel McLaren, our touring missionary. Dr. Ussher and Mr. Yarrow
had each four children; I was a visitor from Bitlis.
BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP SEA.
During the mobilization of the fall and winter the Armenians had been
ruthlessly plundered under the name of requisitioning; rich men were ruined
and the poor stripped. Armenian soldiers in the Turkish army were neglected,
half starved, set to digging trenches and doing the menial work ; but,
worst of all, they were deprived of their arms and thus left at the mercy
of their fanatical, age-long enemies, their Moslem fellow-soldiers. Small
wonder that those who could find a loophole of escape or could pay for exemption
from military duty did so; many of those who could do neither simply would
not give themselves up. We felt that a day of reckoning would soon come---a
collision between these opposing forces or a holy war. But the revolutionists
conducted themselves with remarkable restraint and prudence; controlled
their hot-headed youth ; patrolled the streets to prevent skirmishes ;
and bade the villagers endure in silence---better a. village or two burned
unavenged than that any attempt at reprisals should furnish an excuse for massacre.
For some time after Djevdet Bey, a brother-in-law of Enver Pasha, minister
of war, became Governor General of Van Vilayet, he was absent from the city
fighting at the border. When he returned in the early spring, everyone felt
there would soon be "something doing." There was. He demanded
from the Armenians 3,000 soldiers. So anxious were they to keep the peace
that they promised to accede to this demand. But at this juncture trouble
broke out between Armenians and Turks in the Shadakh region, and Djevdet
Bey requested Ishkhan to go there as peace commissioner, accompanied by
three other notable revolutionists. On their way there he had all four treacherously
murdered. This was Friday, the 16th April. He then summoned Vremyan to him
under the pretence of consulting with this leader, arrested him and sent him off to Constantinople.
The revolutionists now felt that they could not trust Djevdet Bey, the
Vali, in any way and that therefore they could not give him the 3,000 men.
They told him they would give 400 and pay by degrees the exemption tax for
the rest. He would not accept the compromise. The Armenians begged Dr. Ussher
and Mr. Yarrow to see Djevdet Bey and try to mollify him. The Vali was obdurate.
He "must be obeyed." He would put down this "rebellion"
at all costs. He would first punish Shadakh, then attend to Van, but if
the rebels fired one shot meanwhile he would put to death every man, woman and child of the Christians.
The fact cannot be too strongly emphasized that there was no "rebellion."
As already pointed out, the revolutionists meant to keep the peace if it
lay in their power to do so. But for some time past a line of Turkish entrenchments
had been secretly drawn round the Armenian quarter of the Gardens. The revolutionists,
determined to sell their lives as dearly as possible, prepared a defensive line of entrenchments.
Djevdet Bey said he wished to send a guard of fifty soldiers to the American
premises. This guard must be accepted or a written statement given him by
the Americans to the effect that it had been offered and refused, so that
he should be absolved from all responsibility for our safety. He wished
for an immediate answer, but at last consented to wait till Sunday noon.
Our Armenian friends, most of them, agreed that the guard must be accepted.
But the revolutionists declared that such a force in so central a location
menaced the safety of the Armenian forces and that they would never permit
it to reach our premises alive. We might have a guard of five. But Djevdet
Bey would give us fifty or none. Truly we were between the devil and the
deep sea, for, if both revolutionists and Vali kept their word, we should
be the occasion for the outbreak of trouble, if the guard were sent ;
if it were not sent, we should have no official assurance of safety for
the thousands who were already preparing to take refuge on our premises.
We should be blamed for an unhappy outcome either way. On Monday, when Dr.
Ussher saw the Vali again, he seemed to be wavering and asked if he should
send the guard. Dr. Ussher left the decision with him, but added that the
sending of such a force might precipitate trouble. It was never sent.
Meanwhile Djevdet Bey had asked Miss McLaren and Schwester Martha, who
had been nursing in the Turkish military hospital all winter, to continue
their work there, and they had consented.
WAR! "ISHIM YOK, KEIFIM TCHOK."
On Tuesday, the 20th April, at 6 a.m., some Turkish soldiers tried to
seize one of a band of village women on their way to the city. She fled.
Two Armenian soldiers came up and asked the Turks what they were doing.
The Turkish soldiers fired on the Armenians, killing them. Thereupon the
Turkish entrenchments opened fire. The siege had begun. There was a steady
rifle firing all day, and from the walled city, now cut off from communication
with the Gardens, was heard a continuous cannonading from Castle Rock upon
the houses below. In the evening, houses were seen burning in every direction.
All the Armenians in the Gardens---nearly 30,000, as the Armenian population
of the walled city is small---were now gathered into a district about a
mile square, protected by eighty "teerks" (manned and barricaded
houses) besides walls and trenches. The Armenian force consisted of 1,500
trained riflemen possessing only about 300 rifles. Their supply of ammunition
was not great, so they were very sparing of it ; used pistols only,
when they could, and employed all sorts of devices to draw the fire of the
enemy and waste their ammunition. They began to make bullets and cartridges,
turning out 2,000 a day ; also gunpowder, and after awhile they made
three mortars for throwing bombs. The supply of material for the manufacture
of these things was limited, and methods and implements were crude and primitive,
but they were very happy and hopeful and exultant over their ability to
keep the enemy at bay. Some of the rules for their men were : Keep
clean; do not drink ; tell the truth ; do not curse the religion
of the enemy. They sent a manifesto to the Turks to the effect that their
quarrel was with one man and not with their Turkish neighbours. Valis might
come and go, but the two races must continue to live together, and they
hoped that after Djevdet went there might be peaceful and friendly relations
between them. The Turks answered in the same spirit, saying that they were
forced to fight. Indeed, a protest against this war was signed by many prominent
Turks, but Djevdet would pay no attention to it.
The Armenians took and burned (the inmates, however, escaping) the barracks
north of our premises, but apart from this they did not attempt the offensive
to any extent---their numbers were too few. They were fighting for their
homes, their very lives, and our sympathies could not but be wholly on their
side, though we strove to keep our actions neutral. We allowed no armed
men to enter the premises, and their leader, Aram, in order to help us to
preserve the neutrality of our premises, forbade the bringing of wounded
soldiers to our hospital, though Dr. Ussher treated them at their own temporary
hospital. But Djevdet Bey wrote to Dr. Ussher on the 23rd that armed men
had been seen entering our premises and that the rebels had prepared entrenchments
near us. If, at the time of attack, one shot were fired from these entrenchments,
he would be "regretfully compelled" to turn his cannon upon our
premises and completely destroy them. We might know this for a surety. We
answered that we were preserving the neutrality of our premises by every
means m our power. By no law could we be held responsible for the actions
of individuals or organisations outside our premises.
Our correspondence with the Vali was carried on through our official
representative, Signor Sbordone, the Italian consular agent, and our postman
was an old woman bearing a flag of truce. On her second journey she fell
into a ditch and, rising without her white flag, was instantly shot dead
by Turkish soldiers. Another was found, but she was wounded while sitting
at the door of her shack on our premises. Then Aram said that he would permit
no further correspondence until the Vali should answer a letter of Sbordone's,
in which the latter had told Djevdet that he had no right to expect the
Armenians to surrender now, since the campaign had taken on the character
of a massacre.
Djevdet would permit no communication with Miss McLaren at the Turkish
hospital, and would answer no question of ours concerning her welfare, though
after two weeks he wrote to Herr Spörri that she and Schwester Martha
were well and comfortable. Dr. Ussher had known the Vali as a boy and had
always been on the most friendly terms with him, but in a letter to the
Austrian banker who had taken refuge on the German premises, the Vali wrote
that one of his officers had taken some Russian prisoners and cannon and
that he would cause them to parade in front of "His Majesty Dr. Ussher's
fortifications, so that he, who with the rebels was always awaiting the
Russians, should see them and be content." This letter ended with the
words: "Ishim yok, keifim tchok" ("I have no work and much
fun.") While he was having no work and much fun, his soldiers and their
wild allies, the Kurds, were sweeping the countryside, massacring men, women,
and children and burning their homes. Babies were shot in their mothers'
arms, small children were horribly mutilated, women were stripped and beaten.
The villages were not prepared for attack ; many made no resistance ;
others resisted until their ammunition gave out. On Sunday, the 25th, the
first band of village refugees came to the city. At early dawn we heard
them knocking, knocking, knocking at our gate. Dr. Ussher went out in dressing
gown and slippers to hear their pitiful tale and send the wounded to the
hospital, where he worked over them all day.
THE MISSION'S FIRST-AID TO THE INJURED.
Six thousand people from the Gardens had early removed to our premises
with all their worldly possessions, filling church and school buildings
and every room that could possibly be spared in the missionary residences.
One woman said to Miss Silliman:
"What would we do without this place ? This is the third massacre
during which I have taken refuge here." A large proportion of these
people had to be fed, as they had been so poor that they had bought daily
from the ovens what bread they had money for, and now that resource was
cut off. Housing, sanitation, government, food, relation with the revolutionist
forces, were problems that required great tact and executive ability. The
Armenians were not able to cope with these problems unaided. They turned
to the missionaries for help.
Mr. Yarrow has a splendid gift for organisation. He soon had everything
in smoothly running order, with everyone hard at work at what he was best
fitted to do. A regular city government for the whole city of thirty thousand
inhabitants was organised with mayor, judges, and police---the town had
never been so well policed before. Committees were formed to deal with every
possible contingency. Grain was sold or contributed to the common fund by
those who possessed it, most of whom manifested a generous and self-sacrificing
spirit; one man gave all the wheat he possessed except a month's supply
for his family. The use of a public oven was secured, bread tickets issued,
a soup kitchen opened, and daily rations were given out to those on our
premises and those outside who needed food. Miss Rogers and Miss Silliman
secured a daily supply of milk, and made some of their school-girls boil
it and distribute it to babies who needed it, until 190 were being thus
fed. The Boy Scouts, whom thirteen-year-old Neville Ussher had helped organize
in the fall, now did yeoman's service in protecting the buildings against
the dangers of fire, keeping the premises clean, carrying wounded on stretchers,
reporting the sick, and, during the fourth week, distributing milk and eggs
to babies and sick outside the premises.
Our hospital, which had a normal capacity of fifty beds, was made to
accommodate one hundred and sixty-seven, beds being borrowed and placed
on the floor in every available space. Such of the wounded as could walk
or be brought to the hospital came regularly to have their wounds dressed.
Many complicated operations were required to repair the mutilations inflicted
by an unimaginable brutality and love of torture. Dr. Ussher, as the only
physician and surgeon in the besieged city, had not only the care of the
patients in his hospital, the treatment of the wounded refugees and of the
wounded Armenian soldiers, but his dispensary and out-patients increased
to an appalling number. Among the refugees exposure and privation brought
in their train scores of cases of pneumonia and dysentery, and an epidemic
of measles raged among the children. Miss Silliman took charge of a measles
annex, Miss Rogers and Miss Ussher helped in the hospital, where Miss Bond
and her Armenian nurses were worked to the limit of their strength, and
after a while Mrs. Ussher, aided by Miss Rogers, opened an overflow hospital
in an Armenian school-house, cleared of refugees for the purpose. Here it
was a struggle to get beds, utensils, helpers, even food enough for the
patients. Indeed all this extra medical and surgical work was hampered by
insufficient medical and surgical supplies, for the annual shipment had
been stalled at Alexandretta.
At the end of two weeks the people in the walled city managed to send
us word that they were holding their own and had taken some of the government
buildings, though they were only a handful of fighters and were cannonaded
day and night. About 16,000 cannon balls or shrapnel were fired upon them.
The old-fashioned balls sunk into the three-feet thick walls of sun-dried
brick without doing much harm. In time, of course, the walls would fall
in, but they were the walls of upper stories. People took refuge in the
lower stories, so only three persons lost their lives from this cause. Some
of the "teerks" in the Gardens were also cannonaded without much
damage being done. It seemed the enemy was reserving his heavier cannon
and his shrapnel till the last. Three cannon balls fell on our premises
the first week, one of them on a porch of the Usshers' house. Thirteen persons
were wounded by bullets on the premises, one fatally. Our premises were
so centrally located that the bullets of the Turks kept whizzing through,
entered several rooms, broke the tiles on the roofs, and peppered the outside
of the walls. We became so used to the pop-pop-pop of rifles and booming
of cannon that we paid little attention to them in the daytime, but the
fierce fusillades at night were rather nerve-racking.
A man escaping from Ardjish related the fate of that town, second in
size and importance to Van in the vilayet. The kaimakam. had called the
men of all the guilds together on the 19th April, and, as he had always
been friendly to the Armenians, they trusted him. When they had all gathered,
he had them mown down by his soldiers.
Many of the village refugees had stopped short of the city at the little
village of Shushantz, on a mountain side near the city. Here Aram bade them
remain. On the 8th May we saw the place in flames, and Varak Monastery near
by, with its priceless ancient manuscripts, also went up in smoke. These
villagers now flocked into the city. Djevdet seemed to have altered his
tactics. He had women and children driven in by hundreds to help starve
the city out. Owing to the mobilisation of the previous fall, the supply
of wheat in the Gardens had been very much less than usual to begin with,
and now that 10,000 refugees were being given a daily ration, though a ration
barely sufficient to sustain life, this supply was rapidly approaching its
limit. The ammunition was also giving out. Djevdet could bring in plenty
of men and ammunition from other cities. Unless help came from Russia, it
was impossible for the city to hold out much longer against him, and the
hope of such help seemed very faint.
We had no communication with the outside world; a telegram we had prepared
to send to our embassy before the siege never left the city ; the revolutionists
were constantly sending out appeals for help to the Russo-Armenian volunteers
on the border, but no word or sign of their reaching their destination was
received by us. At the very last, when the Turks should come to close quarters,
we knew that all the population of the besieged city would crowd into our
premises as a last hope. But, enraged as Djevdet was by this unexpected
and prolonged resistance, was it to be hoped that he could be persuaded
to spare the lives of one of these men, women and children ? We believed
not. He might offer the Americans personal safety if we would leave the
premises, but this, of course, we would not do; we would share the fate
of our people. And it seemed not at all improbable that he would not even
offer us safety, believing, as he seemed to believe, that we were aiding
and upholding the "rebels."
Those were dark days indeed. Our little American circle came together
two evenings in the week to discuss the problems constantly arising. We
would joke and laugh over some aspects of our situation, but as we listened
to the volley firing only two blocks away, we knew that at any hour the
heroic but weakening defence might be overpowered; knew that then hell would
be let loose in the crowded city and our crowded compound; knew that we
should witness unspeakable atrocities perpetrated on the persons of those
we loved, and probably suffer them in our own persons. And we. would sing:
"Peace, perfect peace ; the future all unknown
Jesus we know and He is on the throne,"
and pray to the God who was able to deliver us out of the very mouth
of the lion.
On Saturday forenoon a rift seemed to appear in the clouds, for many
ships were seen on the lake, sailing away from Van, and we heard that they
contained Turkish women and children. We became a "city all gone up
to the housetops," wondering and surmising. Once before such a flight
had taken place, when the Russians had advanced as far as Sarai. They had
retreated, however, and the Turkish families had returned.
That afternoon the sky darkened again. Cannon at the Big Barracks on
the plain began to fire in our direction. At first we could not believe
that the shots were aimed at our flag, but no doubt was permitted us on
that point, Seven shells fell on the premises, one on the roof of Miss Rogers'
and Miss Silliman's house, making a big hole in it; two others did the same
thing on the boys'-school and girls'-school roofs. On Sunday morning the
bombardment began again. Twenty-six shells fell on the premises before noon.
When the heavy firing began Dr. Ussher was visiting patients outside
and Mrs. Ussher was also away from home at her overflow hospital, so I ran
over from our own hospital to take their children to the safest part of
the house, a narrow hall on the first floor. There we listened to the shrieking
of the shrapnel and awaited the bursting of each shell. A deafening explosion
shook the house. I ran up to my room to find it so full of dust and smoke
that I could not see a foot before me. A shell had come through the three-feet-thick
outside wall, burst, scattering its contained bullets, and its cap had passed
through a partition wall into the next room and broken a door opposite.
A shell entered a room in Mrs. Raynold's house, killing a little Armenian
girl. Ten more shells fell in the afternoon. Djevdet was fulfilling his
threat of bombarding our premises, and this proved to us that we could hope
for no mercy at his hands when he should take the city.
In this darkest hour of all came deliverance. A lull followed the cannonading.
Then at sunset a letter came from the occupants of the only Armenian house
within the Turkish lines which had been spared (this because Djevdet had
lived in it when a boy) which gave the information that the Turks had left
the city. The barracks on the summit and at the foot of Toprak-Kala were
found to contain so small a guard that it was easily overpowered, and these
buildings were burned amidst the wildest excitement. So with all the Turkish
"teerks," which were visited in turn. The Big Barracks was next
seen to disgorge its garrison, a large company of horsemen who rode away
over the hills, and that building, too, was burned after midnight. Large
stores of wheat and ammunition were found. It all reminded one of the seventh
chapter of II. Kings.
The whole city was awake, singing and rejoicing all night. In the morning
its inhabitants could go whither they would unafraid. And now came the first
check to our rejoicing. Miss McLaren was gone ! She and Schwester Martha
had been sent with the patients of the Turkish hospital four days before
Mr. Yarrow went to the hospital. He found there twenty-five wounded soldiers
too sick to travel, left there without food or water for five days. He found
unburied dead. He stayed all day in the horrible place, that his presence
might protect the terrified creatures until he could secure their removal
to our hospital.
On Wednesday, the 19th May, the Russians and Russo-Armenian volunteers
came into the city. It had been the knowledge of their approach that had
caused the Turks to flee. Some hard fighting had to be done in the villages,
however, before Djevdet and his reinforcements were driven out of the province.
Troops poured into the city from Russia and Persia and passed on towards
Aram was made temporary governor of the province, and, for the first
time for centuries, Armenians were given a chance to govern themselves.
Business revived. People began to rebuild their burned houses and shops.
We re-opened our mission schools, except the school in the walled city,
the school-house there having been burned.
THE TABLES TURNED.
Not all the Turks had fled from the city. Some old men and women and
children had stayed behind, many of them in hiding. The Armenian soldiers,
unlike Turks, were not making war on such. There was only one place where
the captives could be safe from the rabble, however. In their dilemma the
Armenians turned, as usual, to the American missionaries. And so it came
to pass that hardly had the six thousand Armenian refugees left our premises
when the care of a thousand Turkish refugees was thrust upon us, some of
them from villages the Russo-Armenian volunteers were "cleaning out."
It was with the greatest difficulty that food could be procured for these
people. The city had an army to feed now. Wheat---the stores left by the
Turks---was obtainable, but no flour, and the use of a mill was not available
for some time. The missionaries had no help in a task so distasteful to
the Armenians except that of two or three of the teachers of the school
in the walled city, who now had no other work. Mr. Yarrow was obliged to
drop most of his other duties and spend practically all his time working
for our protégés. Mrs. Yarrow, Miss Rogers and Miss Silliman
administered medicines and tried to give every one of the poor creatures
a bath. Mrs. Ussher had bedding made, and secured and personally dispensed
milk to the children and sick, spending several hours daily among them.
The wild Cossacks considered the Turkish women legitimate prey, and though
the Russian General gave us a small guard, there was seldom a night during
the first two or three weeks in which Dr. Ussher and Mr. Yarrow did not
have to drive off marauders who had climbed over the walls of the compound
and eluded the guard.
The effect on its followers of the religion of Islam was never more strongly
contrasted with Christianity. While the Armenian refugees had been mutually
helpful and self-sacrificing, these Moslems showed themselves absolutely
selfish, callous and indifferent to each other's suffering. Where the Armenians
had been cheery and hopeful, and had clung to life with wonderful vitality,
the Moslems, with no faith in God and no hope of a future life, bereft now
of hope in this life, died like flies of the prevailing dysentery from lack
of stamina and the will to live.
The situation became intolerable. The missionaries begged the Russian
General to send these people out to villages, with a guard sufficient for
safety and flocks to maintain them until they could begin to get their living
from the soil. He was too much occupied with other matters to attend to
After six weeks of this, Countess Alexandra Tolstoi (daughter of the
famous novelist) came to Van and took off our hands the care of our "guests,"
though they remained on our premises. She was a young woman, simple, sensible,
and lovable. We gave her a surprise party on her birthday, carrying her
the traditional cake with candles and crowning her with flowers, and she
declared she had never had a birthday so delightfully celebrated in all
her life. She worked hard for her charges. When her funds gave out and no
more were forthcoming and her Russian helpers fell ill, she succeeded where
we had failed and induced the General to send the Turks out into the country
with provision for their safety and sustenance.
THE PESTILENCE THAT WALKETH IN DARKNESS.
Our Turkish refugees cost us a fearful price.
The last day of June Mrs. Ussher took her children, who had whooping
cough, out of the pestilential atmosphere of the city to Artamid, the summer
home on Lake Van, nine miles away. Dr. Ussher went there for the week-end,
desperately in need of a little rest. On Saturday night they both became
very ill. Upon hearing of this I went down to take care of them. On Monday
Mr. and Mrs. Yarrow also fell ill. Ten days yet remained till the time set
for closing the hospital for the summer, but Miss Bond set her nurses to
the task of sending the patients away and went over to nurse the Yarrows.
This left me without help for five days. Then, for four days more, two Armenian
nurses cared for the sick ones at night and an untrained man nurse helped
me during the daytime. Miss Rogers had come down on Thursday, the day after
commencement, for the cure of what she believed to be an attack of malaria.
On Friday she too fell ill. Fortunately, there was at last a really good
Russian physician in town, and he was most faithful in his attendance. The
sickness proved to be typhus Later we learned that at about the same time
Miss Silliman, who had left for America on her furlough on the 15th June,
accompanied by Neville Ussher, had been ill at Tiflis with what we now know
was a mild form of the same disease. Dr. Ussher might have contracted it
from his outside patients, but the others undoubtedly contracted it from the Turkish refugees.
Mrs. Yarrow was dangerously ill, but passed her crisis safely and first
of all. Miss Bond then came to Artamid, though Mr. Yarrow was still very
ill, feeling that the Usshers needed her more on account of their distance
from the doctor. Miss Ussher took charge of the Yarrow children up in Van; Mrs. Raynolds managed the business affairs of the mission.
Mrs. Ussher had a very severe form of the disease, and her delicate frame,
worn out with the overwork and terrible strain of the months past, could
make no resistance. On the 14th July she entered into the life eternal.
We dared not let the sick ones suspect what had happened. Dr. Ussher
was too ill at the time and for more than two weeks longer to be told of
his terrible loss. For three months preceding his illness he had been the
only physician in Van, and the strain of over-work and sleeplessness told
severely now. After he had passed his typhus crisis, his life was in danger
for a week longer from the pneumonia which had been a complication from
the first. Then followed another not infrequent complication of typhus,
an abscess in the parotid gland which caused long-continued weakness and
suffering, at one time threatened life and reason, and has had serious consequences
which may prove permanent. Mr. Yarrow was so ill that his life was quite
despaired of. It was by a veritable miracle that he was restored to us.
Meanwhile the Russian army had been slowly advancing westward. It had
not been uniformly successful as we had expected it to be. Indeed, the Russians
seemed to fight sluggishly and unenthusiastically. The Russo-Armenian volunteers,
who were always sent ahead of the main army, did the heavy fighting. By
the last week of July the Russians had not yet taken Bitlis, only ninety
miles distant from Van. Suddenly the Turkish army began to advance towards
Van, and the Russian army to retreat.
On Friday, the 30th July, General Nicolaieff ordered all the Armenians of the Van province, also the Americans and other foreigners, to flee for their lives. By Saturday night the city was nearly emptied of Armenians and quite emptied of conveyances. Nearly all our teachers, nurses, employees had left. It was every man for himself and no one to help us secure carriages or horses for our own flight. We at Artamid, with a sick man to provide for, would have had great difficulty in getting up to the city in time, had not Mrs. Yarrow risen from her sick-bed to go to the General and beg him to send us ambulances. These reached us after midnight.
There was little question in our minds as to our own flight. Our experience
during the siege had shown us that the fact of our being Americans would
not protect us from the Turks. Had not our two men, Mr. Yarrow and Dr. Ussher,
been absolutely helpless we might have debated the matter. As it was, we
women could not assume the responsibility of staying and keeping them there,
and even if we had stayed we could have found no means to live in a deserted city.
We were fifteen Americans and had ten Armenian dependents ---women and
children---to provide for. The head nurse of the hospital, Garabed, plucky
and loyal little fellow that he was, had sent on his mother and wife and
had remained behind to help us get out of the country. Dr. Ussher's man-cook,
having been with us at Artamid when the panic began, had been unable to
secure conveyance for his sick wife. We greatly needed his help on the journey,
but. this involved our providing for a third sick person. We had three horses,
an American grocer's delivery cart, really not strong enough for heavy work
on rough and mountainous roads, and a small cart that would seat three. Our two other carts were not usable.
We begged the General to give us ambulances. He absolutely refused---he
had none to spare. But, he added, he was to be replaced in a day or two
by General Trokin ; we could appeal to him when he came; the danger
was not immediate. Somewhat reassured and not knowing how we could manage
without help from the Russians, we made no effort to leave that day. But
the next day, Monday, we heard that the volunteers who were trying to keep
the road open to Russia would not be able to do so much longer---there was no time to lose. We set to work.
One of cur teachers who had not succeeded in getting away before Monday
morning, kindly took a small bag of clothing on his ox-cart for each of
us. We spread the quilts and blankets we should need on the way on the bottom
of the delivery cart, intending to lay our three sick people on these. Garabed,
who had never driven a team in his life, must drive two of our horses in
this cart. Mrs. Raynolds would drive the third horse harnessed to the small
cart, and take the babies and what food there was possibly room for; no
provisions could be bought on the way. The rest of us must walk, though
Mrs. Yarrow and Miss Rogers were newly risen from a sick bed and the children
were all under. twelve. We put loads on the cows we must take with us for
the sake of the babies and the patients. But the cows were refractory; they
kicked off the loads and ran wildly about the yard, tails up, heads down,
whereupon the single horse broke loose and "also ran," smashing the small cart.
At this moment, the "psychological moment," two doctors of the Russian Red Cross rode into our yard. Seeing our plight they turned and rode out again. They returned a little later and on their own responsibility promised to take us with the Red Cross caravan. Thank the Lord!
We now put our loads on the delivery cart; put the wheels of the smashed
cart on the body of a wheelless cart, and now that we might take a little
more with us than food and bedding, packed In bags what we felt to be absolutely
necessary. What we left behind we should never see again ; we felt
certain that the Russian soldiers before they left would loot our houses
and perhaps burn them to forestall the Turks.
The Red Cross provided us with two ambulances with horses and drivers, and a stretcher carried between two horses for Dr. Ussher. He was usually taken into one of their sick tents when we camped at night ; most of the rest of us slept on the ground in the open.
We left on Tuesday, the 3rd August. The Russians appeared to have received
news that made them very uneasy, and, indeed, General Trokin himself left
Van that very afternoon, as we learned later. The next day at sundown we
heard the firing between the Kurds and the volunteers who were so gallantly
trying to keep them at bay, to keep the road to Russia open as long as possible.
It sounded startlingly near. We travelled till two a.m. that night in order
to reach Bergri, where we should be, not safe, but beyond the line along
which the Turks would try to intercept travellers. We were just in time.
General Trokin's party, that had left Van only a few hours later than we,
were unable to reach Bergri, and had to return and get out by the longer
route through Persia. Had we with our slower rate of travel been obliged
to do this, we might not have been able to get out at all.
THE ARROW THAT FLIETH BY DAY.
That afternoon---Thursday afternoon---we forded a wide and deep river, then entered a narrow valley, from the mountains commanding which Kurds suddenly began to fire down on the Red Cross caravan and the thousands of foot travellers. One man in an ambulance was killed, others wounded. The drivers of ambulances and litters whipped up their horses to a mad gallop. It was a race for life. The sight of those gasping, terror-stricken thousands was one never to be forgotten. The teacher who had taken our bags of clothing threw everything off his ox-cart in order to escape with his life. The Armenians on our long wagon threw off much of the luggage to lighten it, and thus we lost most of what we had brought with us.
Once out of the valley we were comparatively safe. We met a force of volunteers and Cossacks who entered the valley to engage with the Kurds. Mrs. Raynolds had been riding in the small cart. After the danger was over, while getting out of the cart, she fell and broke her leg below the knee. The Red Cross physicians set it at once, but she suffered greatly during the remainder of the journey over the rough roads, though lying at full length in one of our ambulances. She was quite helpless. Mr. Yarrow lay, too, in his ambulance, which he was unable to leave day or night during the journey, except when he was carried into a Red Cross tent on Sunday.
On Friday all but the four helpless ones and the babies walked over Mt. Taparez. On Saturday we again climbed on foot a high mountain, from sundown till three o'clock the next morning. The caravan rested on Sunday at a Red Cross camp near the top of Tchingli Mt. at the foot of Mt. Ararat. Here Dr. Ussher had two severe operations on his face without anaesthetics. On Monday at sunset we reached Igdir. Dr. Ussher was taken to a military hospital for officers, and the military sent him on to Tiflis on Thursday. We could not secure carriages until Wednesday morning to take us to the railway station at Etchmiadzin. We arrived in Tiflis the next morning.
SAFE !---BUT SORROWING.
Most of us had lost nearly everything but the clothes we stood in, and these we had worn day and night during the ten days' journey. Small wonderthat the first hotel we went to had "no rooms." Mr. Smith, the American Consul, was most kind and did everything he could for us. He secured a room in a private hospital for Mrs. Raynolds and a bed in the city hospital for Dr. Ussher.
Dr. Ussher was again brought to death's door by very severe dysentery contracted on the road. He had become a nervous and physical wreck and in appearance the ghost of himself.
Dysentery was epidemic among the scores of thousands of refugees from Van Province who had crowded into Transcaucasia. The very air seemed poisoned; our children were all ill, and it seemed to us that they would not get well until we could leave Tiflis.
Mrs. Raynolds' broken bone refused to knit. She seemed also to be suffering from a collapse of her whole system. She would lie there patient, indifferent to what was going on about her, sunk in memories of the past, perhaps---who can say ?
On the 24th August we were astounded at receiving a telegram from Dr. Raynolds. We had not heard of his leaving America and here he was at Petrograd ! It seems he had started for Van. as soon as he had heard of the Russian occupation, in company with Mr. Henry White, who was to teach in our college. At Petrograd he learned from the ambassador that the Van missionaries were in Tiflis, but of the reason therefor he had heard not a word, nor had he heard of his wife's condition.
Mrs. Raynolds brightened for a moment when told that her husband was on the way to her. Then the things of earth seemed to slip away from her ; she might not tarry even for the dear one's coming. On Friday, the 27th August, her tired spirit found rest . Two days later Dr. Raynolds arrived to find wife gone, house gone, the work of his lifetime seemingly in ruins, the people he had loved exiles and destitute.
On Tuesday Mrs. Raynolds was laid to rest in the German Lutheran cemetery, and around her were gathered many of those whom she had lived to serve.
Then Dr. Raynolds and Mr. White decided that there was nothing left for them to do but return with us to America, and we left that week for Petrograd. There the American managers of what corresponds to our Y.M.C.A. were exceedingly kind and helpful. The city was so full of refugees from Poland that we in the Association halls the first night, but had to sleep on tables succeeded in securing rooms the next day. The children recovered and Dr. Ussher's improvement in health from the time of our arrival in Petrograd was simply wonderful. Mr. Yarrow seemed now quite himself again, although in reality he had not fully regained his strength.
Travelling up by rail round the Gulf of Bothnia, we spent a few days in Stockholm and sailed from Christiania on the 24th September, on the Danish ship " Hellig Olav."
We had had absolutely no news from any station in Turkey since the middle of April, and from America only what information Dr. Raynolds had brought us. On our arrival in New York, on the 5th October, we heard of the massacre of the Armenians in Bitlis by Djevdet Bey as soon as he had reached there after having been driven from Van. We heard of Miss Ely's death there in July, and of my brother's death, on the 10th August, in Diyarbekir; we heard that Miss McLaren was ill with typhus in Bitlis, and later that she was well ; we learned of the massacre of Armenians all over Turkey and of their deportation. The Van refugees have been fortunate by comparison in that they could flee. Money for their relief has been sent to Transcaucasia ; a few of them have succeeded in securing passports and getting to America.
17. VAN: NARRATIVE BY MR. Y. K. RUSHDOUNI, PUBLISHED SERIALLY IN THE ARMENIAN JOURNAL "GOTCHNAG," OF NEW YORK.
Van is a city built on a level plain, and has at the present time an area of about ten or twelve square miles.
The Old City is small (scarcely a single square mile in area) its centre is the market place and an ancient rock fortress. The real Van is the Aikesdan (the Vineyards), which rises slowly towards the East on an imposing scale. In Aikesdan each house, with few exceptions, has a vineyard and a garden. Its streets are broad and tree-lined. On each side of these trees run small rivulets, which are bordered by rows of willow and poplar trees. Van is in reality a beautiful, extensive and attractive garden. On its western side, about two or three miles distant, there stretches the beautiful blue lake of Van, surrounded by high, snow-clad mountains, the most prominent of which are Sipan, Nimroud, Kerkour and Azadk.
On the eastern side of Van rise the mountains of Varak, on the slopes of which stand the village of Shoushantz (named after Shoushanig, the daughter of Sennacherib), and also the famous monastery of Varak, with its seven altars, where Khrimean Hairik published his "Ardsouig Vaspouragani" ("The Eagle of Vaspouragan"). On the slopes of these mountains are also found the monasteries of Garmeror and St. Gregory, the chapel of St. Lousavorich (The Illuminator), and Gatnaghpur, Khachaghpur, Salnabad and Abaranchan, fountains of historical fame. There are also the Upper Varak villages---the historic summer resorts of Sultan Yailassi and Keshish Göl.
On the north side of Van there is the ancient and famous Toprak-Kalé (Earthen Fort). Again in the same direction are the villages of Shahbagh and Araless, behind which extends the district of Van-Dosb.
On the southern side of the city, beyond the hills of Artamid, one reaches the Valley of Haig; Vostan, the capital of Rushdounik ; and the mountains of Ardosr, with the tomb of Yeghishé on their slopes.
The Armenian and the Turkish quarters in Van were divided, and, except for a few streets, were all at some distance from each other. These two elements in the population had no relations with each other except those of a commercial nature. The Market and the Old City were in the hands of the Armenians, but were surrounded by Turkish quarters. There were Armenian houses which were eight miles away from the market-place, and to go there and back it was necessary to pass through the Turkish quarters. The Armenians covered this distance on foot, horseback or spring-wagons---these being the only means of transportation.
The day after war had been declared by Germany against Russia, Turkey declared a "state of war" in Van, and called all the young men between 21 and 45 to the colours, without distinction of race or religion. For the needs of the Army the Government requisitioned all the goods and provisions in the Market. In some cases they made partial payments, but afterwards they gave promissory notes to all the owners, which were payable after the war. This was a heavy loss to the Armenians, as the whole Market was practically in their hands. They lost all their petroleum, sugar, raisins, soap, copper, European clothing and various other commodities, besides almost half their remaining goods.
Owing to the sudden declaration of war and the requisitioning of the Market, it was impossible for the Armenians to transfer their goods elsewhere or to hide them, especially as the Market was an hour-and-a-half's distance from the Armenian quarters of Aikesdan.
All the tradesmen, shopkeepers, farmers and men of all vocations immediately answered the call to arms. A crowd gathered in front of the Government Building in such a way that it was impossible to keep order. There were some people who waited for three days continuously, from morning till night, and were unable to get a chance to register their names. The Dashnakist party encouraged the Armenians to do their duty faithfully as citizens. Mr. Aram, one of their leaders, collected together 350 to 400 fine young men, and, to the accompaniment of Turkish music, songs and dances, led them to the Government Building to register. The Government officials were considerably surprised at this willingness on the part of the Armenians; they held them up as an example in upbraiding the Turks, and particularly the Kurds, who had answered the call very reluctantly.
The Government treated the Armenians very liberally, exempting all the Gregorian and Protestant teachers of 25 years of age, and allowing them to continue their schools, on the condition that they would all go to the Government Building and register, so that in case of necessity they might be called up as militia for the protection of the City.
During the first two weeks this impartial treatment by the Turkish Government filled the Armenians with gladness and trust, and the Armenian soldiers that had deserted returned and gave themselves up. The only thing which gave rise to anxiety was the financial crisis. Trade and farming had completely stopped. The merchants were robbed, and all the traders were in the hands of the Government. It was the time to prepare for the annual taking of stock, but there were no available means.
Under the pretence of supplying the needs of the Army, the Government confiscated all the provisions. This was the first symptom of injustice and partiality. The understanding was that every man would be entitled to buy a certain amount of food and wood after informing the Government of the number and needs of his family, and after obtaining permission from them, and that every month those families whose men were on active service would receive 30 piastres (5s.) per head.
At this time the Armenians' claims were very often ignored; and because
the Government was aware that the Armenians would not, whatever happened,
go hungry and without clothing or wood for fuel, it collected from all the
Armenian quarters and villages, in the form of a heavy tax, a certain quantity
of wheat, wood, sheep, fat, and clothing. In addition the majority of the
Armenian and Syrian soldiers were left without arms and clothing, and very
often without anything to eat, under the pretence that the clothing and
the arms were not yet ready, and that they had no means of transporting
food in so short a time. This caused the desertion of many from the Army,
and some remained away altogether. Others borrowed money and asked the Government,
through influential officials, to be allowed to pay exemption money, and
it seems that the Government also was trying to find a means to come to
an understanding with the Armenians. It therefore published a special notice
announcing that all the non-Moslems above 26 years of age would be exempted
from the Army by payment of a special fee. The Armenians sold everything
to pay the Government, that they might profit by this occasion. The period
of exemption was extended by the Government to the following spring.
It is worth mentioning here that, according to the Turkish officials, there were about the same number of deserters among the Turks and Kurds, but they never paid as much exemption money as the Armenians did.
The Government sided with the Germans even when they were neutral, whereas the Armenians---unfortunately---sympathised with the Allies. But even then no special injustice was done. The Government showed kindness to the Armenians, at least on the surface, while the Governor, Tahsin Pasha, had such close relations with the leaders of the Dashnakist party that people thought he was their special friend. Besides this it was arranged that two Armenian Members of the Ottoman Parliament who were the representatives of Van, Messrs. Vahan Papazian and Vremyan, should stay with the people to keep them and the Government on good terms with one another.
After the entry of the Turks into the war, however, the situation assumed
a different aspect. The Government began to adopt a cold and suspicious
attitude towards the Armenians, who had performed their duty towards the
Government to the best of their ability, and even after the abolition of
the "Capitulations" had joined the Turks in their celebrations
of the event. In spite of all this, the coolness between them was very marked,
and this became especially apparent after it was found that the Armenians
had supplied volunteers to the Russians, and that they were the very troops
who had occupied Bayazid. It was then reported that all the Kurdish tribes
had gone over to the side of the Russians and had caused great prejudice
to the Turks. This terrified the Turks to such a degree that many rich women
went to the American missionary ladies of Van to ask their protection, saying :
"We are not afraid of the Russians as much as we are of the Kurds."
But the unfortunate part was that, in Government circles, the dominant topic
of conversation was the Armenian Volunteers.
It was before this that Tahsin Bey summoned the heads of the Dashnakists (the heads of the Hunchakists were already in prison) and pointed out to them that the Armenians had begun a volunteer movement, and that this movement would be dangerous to them ; and afterwards in a special letter he suggested to them, and especially to Mr. Vremyan, that they should write to the heads of the Dashnakists of Bayazid and stop this movement. This letter was sent to Mr. Toros, the head of the Dashnakists of Ardjish, but Mr. Toros was killed by a Turkish gendarme. At the same time it was stated that the Turkish Government had made special overtures to the Dashnakists and proposed that they should form bands of chettis composed of Turks and Armenians and raid Caucasia, but I do not know how it happened that this was refused by the Armenians.
A short time after the Turks intervened in the war, all the Armenians in the Turkish Army were disarmed and employed as ordinary labourers. The arms of the Armenian gendarmes in the local districts were taken and given to the Turks, while the latter were left free on the understanding that they would be called up, though this never actually took place. This general disarming filled the Armenians with fear and suspicion. Those of the disarmed Armenians who found means of escape, deserted, and some whom I knew personally were sent back by the officials.
Turkey had not yet declared war, but she was mobilising her forces, when the members of the Armenian Reform Committee came to Van with M. Hoff, the Inspector-General. The Government did not carry out the plan, which was prepared and announced to the Armenians, for receiving the Inspector-General and his party with pomp and ceremony, but they sent them to the beautiful little village of Artamid on the southern side of the city, situated on the shore of Lake Van. After they had stayed there a few days they were sent back again, carrying with them the scheme of Armenian Reforms.
Shortly after Turkey had declared war, Tahsin Pasha was called to Erzeroum, and in his place Djevdet Bey, the brother-in-law of Enver Pasha, was selected as Governor for Van.
About the end of the autumn, when the Russian Army had annihilated the
Turkish Army on the Persian border, had taken Bashkalé and Sarai,
and was moving towards Van, there was a violent panic among the Turkish
officers and general public. Many of the officers sold their property and
transferred their families by boats to Bitlis. Other prominent families,
like the Hamoud-oglou---who had done great harm to the Armenians---took
the same course. Among the rank and file those that were afraid addressed
themselves to the Armenians, who received them very kindly. The object of
the Armenians was to teach some dangerous officers a good lesson, but they
had no intention whatever of harming the innocent officers and the Turkish
I met many who said very plainly: "Here is a good opportunity for us to show our Turkish compatriots and neighbours that we Armenians never harboured any bad intentions towards them, but had always demanded simply a state of equality, which would be beneficial to all who wished to live a peaceful life."
At the time when the Turkish army was annihilated on the Persian border,
and there was not even the militia in Van and less than 400 gendarmes between
Van and Bitlis, it would have been very easy for the Armenians to occupy
the greater part of the provinces of Van and Moush, if they had wanted to
revolt and masssacre the Turks (who were in fear of their lives) or do what
the Turks had done in the past to the "Giaours" ("Infidels").
The Government knew this, and for this reason treated the Armenians very flatteringly. The Armenian people was thankful to be able to live without fear and to have friendly and sincere relations with their Turkish neighbours. The Dashnakist Party also, who had been in close touch with the Government, were content with this situation, and were satisfied now that the Government considered them of importance and asked their advice on the welfare of the "Vatan" (Fatherland).
Unfortunately this state of affairs was of short duration. Suddenly the
Russian army retreated. The different fragments of the Turkish Army rallied
again, and instead of pursuing the enemy, they exterminated the Armenian
and Syrian population of Bashkalé, Sarai and all the surrounding
villages. They had massacred all the male population, and in certain places---according
to the reports of a Turkish commander who was a Russian subject---had thrown
them into wells. The most beautiful of the women had been distributed among
the Moslems, and some of them were even sent to Van; the old and weak women
who remained were collected together and driven to various places like a
herd of cattle. The Armenian Bishop of Van sent a Turco-Armenian delegation
to the Government to ask its help for the sufferers, but the Government
entirely ignored the request, or postponed it from day to day.
The Governor of Van went to the front, leaving an assistant in his place,
and by his patriotic exertions he re-organised the Turkish Army. He succeeded
in winning to the side of the Turks the rebellious Kurds and even Smgo the
Chief, who lived under Russian protection. This news was immediately telegraphed
to Van and Constantinople. Djevdet Bey, the lion general of the Turks, with
his reorganised army, followed the Russians up to Tabriz, and occupied it.
It is unnecessary to repeat that the Turkish Army, wherever it went, carried
with it fire an sword and all kinds of terrible tortures, which were inflicted
upon the "Infidels." Regarding this, the American missionaries
are the best informed eye-witnesses.
Owing to these Turkish successes on the frontier and the Armenian volunteer
movements, the Government and the Turkish public changed their attitude
towards the Armenians. The Government was more civil in its demands and
asked all the deserters to appear before it, although without actually promising
them arms and their restoration to the Army. To all questions concerning
this, the answer was: "That is for us to decide." The war taxes
were doubled, and to all the petitions and objections regarding this, the
answer was: "The Army is more important than the populace."
The Government began now not to attach much importance to their friends
the Dashnakists, and there was a time when the Assistant Governor refused
even to receive Mr. Vremyan in audience, saying : "I cannot stand
his rudeness and blustering."
A little distance from Van all the country places like Nordouz, Hazaren
and Boghaz-Kessen were destroyed. Part of the inhabitants were massacred,
others found refuge in Van, and the remainder altogether disappeared. The
horrors spread to the other districts and villages round Van. Garjgan was
evacuated; the village of Pelou, which had 120 houses, and the ten villages
of Gargar were sacked.
In a semi-civilised country it is an easy matter for a Government to
find pretexts for its acts, when the Governor so desires. For instance,
in Pelou a drunken young man had a fight with a gendarme, pulled out his
revolver and killed him. In the mountains above the village of Shoushantz,
six Kurdish deserters were killed---but none of the authorities ascertained
by whom they were killed, or who they were. These and similar events gave
cause and pretext to the Turkish Government for censuring the Armenians.
But no one was censured for the massacres and general unrest at Sarai, Bashkalé,
Nordouz, Hazaren and Boghaz-Kessen. Then new army corps and machine guns
were brought up to Van to be transferred to the frontier; all the Turkish
and Kurdish citizens from 15 to 60 years of age were armed with these weapons,
and when the Armenian Bishop protested to the Government, the answer was:
"We are arming them to organise them into militia; after a little while
we will collect them all and put them into barracks. If the Armenians are
also willing to volunteer and come to the barracks, let them come and we
will give them arms."
After the events at Pelou and Gargar, it was reported that a Turkish
mob from Bitlis had devastated the district of Garjgan with fire and sword,
and was advancing on Kavash and Haiotz-Tzor, and that after destroying these
places they would proceed towards Van. Upon the arrival of this report,
some Dashnakists went out towards Ankegh. and Antanan in Haiotz-Tzor and
destroyed the bridge near Ankegh, to prevent the Turks sending help to the
mob which was advancing from Bitlis, and also to stop the mob from marching
upon Van. After this the Armenians also killed a few gendarmes and Kurds.
Among those killed was reported to be the Judge of Vostan. As far as I remember
seven persons were killed at this time. This event caused fear among the
Turks and Kurds. The Government therefore sent Mr. Vremyan as a mediator.
Mr. Vremyan settled the question, putting the blame on the Kaimakam of Vostan,
who had sent for the mob from Bitlis. The Government superseded the Kaimakam
of Vostan and promised to find and return the booty from Pelou and to restore
the people who were deported to their homes. This was never done. An Armenian
proverb says that "A thief is afraid of himself," and the Turks
also were afraid of themselves on account of what they had done. While travelling
through Haiotz-Tzor and Kavash they assumed Armenian names. Yet the officials,
whenever they got a chance, protested to foreigners that the Armenians were
ungrateful, that they furnished volunteers to the Russians, and wanted autonomy;
"And therefore," they said, "we will not leave this country
to them. Let the Russians take the country, but we refuse to let the Armenians
rule over our families and our kin." It is unnecessary to add that
there were as many Moslem volunteers as Armenian in the Russian forces.
The Turkish Government was very prudent. So long as it was weak it flattered
the Armenians and praised them to their faces; the leaders of the Dashnakists.
Vremyan, Aram and Ishkhan, were treated as advisers of the Government. The
Armenians on their part tried not to be the cause of any disturbance in
the country. The only ground for anxiety in the relations between the Government
and the Armenians was the question of the Armenian deserters. After the
Armenian soldiers were disarmed, they did not dare to remain in their posts,
and used to desert. When it was discovered that the Turkish Government had
armed all the male Mohammedans from 14 to 60 years of age, they were no
longer willing to give themselves up, and decided to die with their wives
and children. A few Turkish officials confessed that it was wrong to disarm
the Armenians because there were more Kurdish deserters than Armenian, but
the Government refrained from attaching as much blame to the Kurds as they
did to the Armenians.
To consider all these problems, a meeting was called under the presidency
of Yeznig Vartabed, the Assistant of the Bishop, in which all sections of
the Armenian population of Van were represented. The meeting was held at
the house of Kevork Agha Jidajian, and came to the following conclusions :
That the Turkish Government was treating the Armenians with suspicion ;
that all work, trade, and farming had stopped ; that certain districts
such as Nordouz, Gargar and Garjgan had been cleared of their inhabitants,
and that the Armenians of Sarai and Bashkalé had been annihilated
when the Russian army retreated ; finally, that in case of a revolution
the Armenians at Van would be able to hold out for some time, but that,
taking into consideration the whole of Armenia, it was necessary to maintain
peace with the Turks at all costs.
As certain deserters could not give themselves up at the .moment for
important reasons, they decided to ask the Government to accept exemption
money for them. The meeting decided to negotiate on these lines through
Mr. Vremyan as their Deputy, with Avedis Effendi Terzibashian as an adviser
experienced in Turkish psychology. The meeting also proposed to open negotiations
through some merchants on similar lines. A week later the Armenians held
a joint conference with the Turks at Jidajian's house. At this conference
they decided to live together as neighbours without taking account of any
changes of policy in the Government. The Turks promised to ask the Government
not to give any cause for revolution.
However, the situation was far from being satisfactory, and unrest was
in the air. All the workmen were working for the Government; the tradesmen
would go to their shops, bear rumours, and go home again, to stay at home
for four or five days; and the attitude of the Government kept changing
like a weathercock, in conformity with the successes or failures at the
front. Sometimes it was very severe and unreasonable, and sometimes very
smooth and peaceful. Everyone was uneasy, as they did not know how long
such a situation would last. We were afraid of massacres. We were afraid
of the retreating Turkish army, which would undoubtedly devastate everything
on its way. We were afraid of famine, as the Government had not given the
people a chance of provisioning themselves, and we knew that the villages
and farms had been robbed. A part of the working class was in the army.
The cattle and sheep belonging to the refugees had been confiscated and
sold. Many people confided to me that they wished that whatever was going
to happen would happen quickly and relieve them from their suspense. Meanwhile,
the people of Van armed themselves, and kept secret watch day and night
at different street corners, to be prepared for any eventuality,
About the beginning of spring, rebellion started in the district of Van-Dosb,
or Timar, a few hours' distance from Van. The inhabitants of the village
of Erer in this district were massacred. When the turn came for the village
of Bairak, the local Armenians defended themselves with the help of the
Armenians in Van against the Kurds and the gendarmes. When the Government
saw that people were getting ready and that things would drift from bad
to worse, it went to the Bishop and expressed its regret for the events
that had taken place, and asked the Armenians to send their representatives
to stop the fighting at Bairak. This was immediately done. Some blamed the
Vice-Governor, who had taken Djevdet's place, for these affrays. Mr. Vremyan
and the Vice-Governor fell out , the Vice-Governor having refused to receive
Mr. Vremyan in audience, but as Mr. Vremyan was a Deputy (Member of the
Ottoman Parliament) he was allowed to remain in the district with the sanction
of the Government. Mr. Vremyan blamed the Vice-Governor for the situation,
and sent a telegram to this effect to the Governor, Djevdet, who was at
the front. Djevdet, answered him thanking him, and asking him to preserve
peace until his return, when he would put everything in order, "Inshallah"
(" God willing ").
It was the last week of Lent when Djevdet Bey reached Van with 400 trained
soldiers, called Lez, and a few field guns,
and was received by the Armenians with royal honours; but while passing
through Armenian villages he shut his eyes to the barbarous behaviour of
his soldiers towards the Armenian women. In the new village of Upper Haiotz-Tzor
a number of women were violated, a man was killed, and others were beaten
almost to death, on the pretence of having arms. For this, one of the young
men wanted to follow Djevdet and kill him, but the Armenian revolutionists
did not allow him to do so. As soon as, Djevdet Bey reached the city, he
thanked Vremyan and all those who had done their best for the peace of the
city, and started negotiating with the Armenians concerning the deserters.
He persuaded the Armenians to give themselves up, or at least a certain
part of them, so that he might have less difficulty in getting back the
Turkish and Kurdish deserters.
During Passion Week the negotiations with the Government were postponed
on account of a terrible snowstorm. At this time there was an army of 4,000
with some artillery in Van. There was no special cause for anxiety, but
everybody felt there was something in the air, which turned out to be the
case. After Easter, when the negotiations were taken up again with the Government,
it was reported that there had been conflicts at Shadakh. The general impression
was that the Government was behind it. The Government wanted to arrest a
member of the Dashnakist party called Joseph. The Armenians would not allow
him to be arrested, and that started the trouble. Shadakh is about 24 hours'
journey from Van, towards the south, on one of the tributaries of the Tigris.
During the massacres of 1895 and 1896, the Armenians of Shadakh had succeeded
in defending themselves with great success and honour. After that, the Government
had wanted to trap the Armenians and massacre them, and fill their places
with Kurds and Turks, but it was not successful, and now in April the massacres
had started from there. The liberty-loving Armenians of this place defended
themselves bravely for about two months, until the end of May, when the
Volunteers went to their assistance.
Djevdet Bey asked the Dashnakists to send a delegate and put a stop to
these occurrences. The members of this deputation were Mr. Ishkhan and three
young Armenians, a Turkish Prefect of Police, and a few gendarmes. On the
evening of the 16th April, in the Kurdish village of Hirj, the Armenian
delegates were all assassinated---a trap laid by the Government. Some trustworthy
people from Haiotz-Tzor (Armenian Valley) reported that the very day that
Mr. Ishkhan was going to Shadakh .as a peace delegate, the Armenians of
Upper Haiotz-Tzor came to him and said: "For how long shall we endure
it ? They have not spared anything. There was only Shadakh left, and
they massacred even the people of Shadakh." Mr. Ishkhan, who was a
fighter by nature, had declared to the Armenian villagers that they must
keep the peace at all costs, and had ordered them to give the Government
everything that was asked for ; if one village was burnt, they were
ordered to escape to another village.
Here I would like to explain in parenthesis the reason why I always mention
the Dashnakist party. They were the people who were mixed up with politics;
they were the friends and advisers of the Young Turk Party, and, having
formed a "bloc" with them, they always sided with the Turks in
parliamentary conflicts. The Government on their part wanted to keep them
on their side, knowing that they had great influence over the villagers,
in the Episcopal Court, and in the Chancery of the Catholics of Aghtainar.
The Ramgavars (Democrats) were not mixed up with politics. They had their
own paper, "Van-Dosp," and were busy with their own propaganda
and their own trade and teaching, only once in a while fighting against
the Dashnakists. They did not, like the Dashnakists, have special members
who gave all their time to political affairs. The Hunchakists were very
few in number, and during mobilisation their leaders, Messrs. Ardashes Solakhian
and Proudian, were arrested and afterwards killed.
On Saturday morning, the 17th April, Djevdet Bey asked the following
leaders of the Dashnakists---Messrs. Vremyan, Aram. Avedis Effendi Terzibashian.
(a merchant), and Kevork Agha Jidajian---to visit him for a conference.
Aram could not go, for one reason or another ; the others went and
were retained. After that it was reported that all those that went as peace
delegates were killed by the Government. This started a panic among the
Armenians, and young men under arms took up special positions. Father Nerses
of the New Church, Set Effendi Kapamajian and myself went to the American
missionaries to ask them to intercede with the Government on our behalf
to maintain peace. Before the missionaries had reached the Government Building,
Terzibashian and Jidajian were freed, so that they could advise the Armenians
to go and surrender, but Vremyan was kept to be sent to Constantinople.
Djevdet Bey told the missionaries that he had already sent for them. He
also added that, as the peace of the country was disturbed, the American
missionaries must make room for 50 soldiers for their own protection. If
they could not do that, then they must all go to the Government Building,
with their whole households. The missionaries came back with the impression
that everything was over, and that Djevdet Bey had changed altogether. The
same night the Armenians had a meeting in the New Church, where Terzibashian
Effendi told them what Djevdet, Bey had said and communicated to them the
result of the negotiations. He said that it was impossible to influence
Djevdet; sometimes he was quite reasonable, and at other times he was harsh
and immovable and wanted all the deserters to surrender either that day
or the following, and all the Armenians to give up their arms. Again it
was decided to ask him to accept part of the deserters and receive exemption
money for the rest. Signor Sbordone (the agent of the Italian Consul), the
American missionaries and the Armenian merchants made proposals to Djevdet
Bey to this effect, but they were unable to find out what his intentions
were. Sometimes he declared on oath that he would not bring dishonour on
his father, Tahir Pasha, who ruled over Van in peace during a time of great
disturbances, and sometimes in a fury he would say : "There will
either be nothing but Turks or nothing but Armenians left in this city.
After I have finished Shadakh I will overthrow Van. I will not leave a single
house standing except the house of my father. I will not spare either male
or female, youth or old age. The Armenians must give up their arms and their
deserters, and they must pass in front of my window to go to the barracks.
If I hear the report of a gun or revolver, I will consider that a signal
to carry out what I have just told you."
On Monday, the 19th April, Djevdet Bey was in a slightly different mood.
He issued an order for everybody to go about their business, saying that
nothing would happen. We had been isolated for a whole week from the districts
outside the town and were ignorant as to what was going on there, and we
did not even know that we were surrounded by Turkish trenches and troops.
On the very day that Djevdet Bey told us that "All was well,"
Agantz, a big town in the district of Van, was sacked and ruined. Prominent
inhabitants of Agantz, like Abaghtzian, Housian and Shaljian, were invited
to go to the Government Building to receive orders from the Kaimakam. The
other Armenians were collected from the streets and from their houses. At
night, after dark, they took these men in groups of fifty with their hands
tied behind their backs, brought them to the river bank at the back of the
city, and there killed them all. Only three were able to unloose their hands
and escape at night, after pretending to be dead. One of them went to an
Armenian village near by and was the cause of this village's escape ;
another of them went to the boats that were on the shore and saw that most
of the sailors had been killed, but told the rest about it, who thereupon
launched their boats into the open lake and rowed for the Monastery Island.
The third disappeared altogether.
Haroutune Agha Housian was wounded in three places, but escaped to his
home. When the Turkish officers counted the wounded, however, they found,
by their list, that Mr. Housian was missing, and when they found him in
his house they killed him. All the male inhabitants of Agantz were killed
except these three, and, by the permission of the Government, the Armenian
households---that is, the women and children and property---were divided
among the Turks. In order to secure their property, the Turks betrothed
themselves to Armenian girls and women, with the intention of marrying them.
Djevdet Bey announced to everybody that "Asayish her Kemal der"
("Peace was perfect"), and at the same time he put pressure on
the American missionaries either to sign a statement that they had refused
the protection of the Government, or agree to accept a guard of 50 soldiers
for the missionary compound. He laid more emphasis on this latter proposition,
saying that he would send the same number of soldiers to the German missionaries.
The American missionaries were so considerate as to ask the advice of the
Armenians, and the latter, especially Mr. Armenag Yegarian, saw in the proposal
a plot to seize the Armenian quarters and homes. Accordingly they made the
missionaries understand that the only thing which would protect them would
be the American flag and the order of the Government, and that, even if
5,000 soldiers were there, it would be impossible to be protected against
the Government. With this in view, they told the missionaries that, if Djevdet
sent more than 10 or 12 soldiers, they would be obliged to open fire on
them and would not let one into the Armenian quarters. Taking all these
points into consideration, the missionaries informed the Government that
they were willing to accept as many soldiers as the Government sent them,
but that they would not be responsible for their safe arrival and were very
unwilling to start a conflict on that account. "We are not afraid of
the Armenians," they said, "and we think that 10 or 12 soldiers
and an order from you will be sufficient to protect us."
On Tuesday morning, the 20th April, at six o'clock, some Turkish soldiers saw a few Armenian women coming to the city from the village of Shoushantz , half-an-hour's distance from Van. They attempted to violate them, and when two Armenian young men went to remonstrate with the Turkish soldiers, the latter opened fire on them and killed them. This was not very far from the German Mission, and the Principal of the German missionaries, Herr Spörri, and his wife witnessed this incident. He also was kind enough to write explicitly to Djevdet, stating that it was the Turkish soldiers who attempted to violate the women and then killed the Armenian young men who had tried to save the women's honour.
But Djevdet had received his signal, and as soon as the reports were heard from Ourpat Arou (where the women had been violated), artillery fire was opened upon the Armenian quarters of Aikesdan, and was also turned upon the inhabitants of the Market-place, which was surrounded by Turkish quarters.
Then we understood that we were really surrounded, and so the armed Armenian
young men held the street corners and did not allow the Turkish or Kurdish
mobs to enter. The Armenian lines protected an area of about two square
miles, which was held by 700 Armenians, 300 only of whom had regular arms
and a certain amount of military training. The others were simply civilians
who had revolvers and a few ordinary weapons. All the fighters had decided
to fight to the bitter end in defence of their families.
Even the American missionaries confessed that they could not conceive
how a Government could display such meanness and treachery towards citizens
who had been so faithful in their duties. It is important to mention that
the sympathies of the American missionaries had been with the Armenians
at all times. They not only opened the doors of their compounds and houses,
but also placed families and property in security, and began to give their
personal services to the sick and the children.
All the people of Van, without exception, began to work with one soul.
Those who had arms and were able to fight rushed to take their stand and
stop the Turks from entering the Armenian quarters, and those who were able
to work took spade and shovel to go and strengthen the fighting men's positions
by constructing trenches and walls. The little boys worked as scouts, the
women and girls undertook the care of the sick and the children. Besides
that, the women did all the sewing and cooking for the fighters.
With the object of caring for the wounded, a Red Cross detachment was
raised with the assistance of Dr. Sanfani (Khosrov Chetjian) and Dr. Khatchig.
To secure law and order, a local Government was formed, with judicial, police
and sanitary branches. Its administration was conducted in perfect order
the whole month through. The Americans said that Van had never had such
a good Government under the Turkish rule. An end was put to revolutionary
disputes ; only such expressions as "Armenian soldier," "Armenian
Self-defence Committee" and the like were heard; and they named their
positions "Dévé Boyi," "Dardanelles,"
"Sahag Bey's Dug-out," and so on.
For the better organisation of the defending forces they appointed a
military council, which was formed of the representatives of the revolutionary
parties and the non-party Armenians, and which carried on the work very
successfully. This body was in communication with the lines and supplied
soldiers wherever and whenever it was necessary. The Supply Committee also
did good work in supplying food and beds for those who were working in the
different stations. Under the presidency of Bedros Bey Mozian, the ex-Mayor
of Van, and with the leadership of Mr. Yarrow, they formed a Relief Society
whose object was to collect supplies and provide the necessaries of life
for those who were destitute and had lost their homes. This committee was
a great assistance to the fighting forces.
One of the local papers began to publish the news of the fighting and distribute it to the people. The Normal School band, under the leadership of Mr. K. Boujikanian, played Armenian military airs, the "Marseillaise," and other tunes, to hearten the fighters. The greater the intensity of the Turkish artillery fire and the louder the roar of the guns, the louder the band played, and this made Djevdet more furious than the bullets of the Armenians ; he did not even restrain himself from expressing his feelings in his bulletins.
During the first days of the fighting, the Military Committee, by special
bulletin, made a public appeal to the Turks, reminding them of their pledges
to one another, and proclaiming that Governments change but the people always
remain neighbours, and that there was no reason why they should be at enmity
with one another. By this they put the whole of the blame on Djevdet, who
possessed nothing else in Van but a horse, " and he could ride off
on that and escape." After making this point, the proclamation suggested
to the Turkish inhabitants that they should force Djevdet, to desist from
the bloodshed. I do not know the result of this announcement.
The Military Committee also gave orders to the Armenian soldiers not
to drink, not to blaspheme the religion of the enemy, to spare women, children
and unarmed men, to respect neutrals, and to prevent anyone from entering
their compounds under arms. They also ordered that all the wounded should
be taken to the American Hospital, and that only true reports should be
During these dark days the Armenian people were very full of life. Everybody
did his or her best. They all had good hope that Djevdet would not succeed
in annihilating the Armenians of Van. The spirit of the fighters was enough
to inspire those that were in despair. I have seen young men who had fought
the enemy day and night, without sleeping. Their eyesight had been so affected
that they were practically blind, and they were transferred to the Red Cross
Station to be treated. Even then they were very cheerful. While the shrapnel
was raining upon Van, the Armenian children were playing soldiers in the
Armenag Yegarian, with his cool and able leadership; Aram, with his constant
presence and advice; P. Terlemezian, with his great heart ; Krikor
of Bulgaria, with his indefatigable industry and inventive genius---they
were very able leaders. To save their lives and honour all the Armenians
of Van had placed their services at the disposal of the Military Council,
who awarded crosses and medals to encourage those who were worthy of them.
I was present when a little girl received one of these medals. During the
retaking of a position in Angous Tzor she bravely went ahead, spied out
the ground and brought back news that the Turks had laid no traps for the
advancing Armenian soldiers.
From the very first day of the fighting the Turks burned all the Armenian houses that were outside the Armenian fighting zone, but the village of Shoushantz and Varak Monastery were still in the hands of the Armenians. Mr. H. Kouyotunjian was in charge of the entrenchments at Varak, and he came down to Aikesdan once in a while to report everything that was going on there.
After a week all the Armenians in the surrounding country came in to
Aikesdan by way of Varak and Shoushantz, bringing with them famine, sickness
and terrible news. Those that came from Haiotz-Tzor (Armenian Valley) reported
that two Turkish armies had passed through the Armenian villages with artillery.
The first army paid for everything that they took, and the people were encouraged
by this act to issue from their retreats, but the second army surrounded
them and massacred them. The Government carried out its work on such a well-planned
system that villages were massacred without having had warning of the fate
of their neighbours only a mile away. All the inhabitants of the villages
that surrendered were massacred. There were villages that succeeded in removing
their people and taking them to the mountains, but in general we must confess
that the villagers did not prove very brave. They were not able to co-operate
for their common defence, and there were even some who did not like to oppose
the Government. In comparison with the city people they were short of ammunition,
and they managed to convoy their families into the city by simply firing
in the air. which was one of the reasons why the city people rather looked
down on them. But the fact is that if they had had enough ammunition and
the right leaders, they would have been able very easily to drive the enemy
out of Haiotz-Tzor, Kavash and Tamar.
During the first two weeks the Government massacred the men and had all
the women kidnapped, and deported the remainder from village to village
to give the Turkish population a chance of wreaking their vengeance. But
afterwards, in order to strike at the defensive powers of Van and to starve
the Armenians into surrender by making them use up their provisions, they
collected all the survivors from the villages and sent them to Aikesdan
and to the city proper. The people in the city refused to pass anybody through
the lines of defence ; the enemy therefore sent them to Aikesdan, telling
them that those who returned would be shot. The people of Aikesdan recognised
their terrible straits and took them in ; there were a large number
of wounded among the women and children. I saw a woman from the village
of Eremer, whose husband was serving in the Turkish army and whose twelve-year-old
boy was slain before her eyes. She was wounded herself, as well as her two
remaining children, one four years and the other eleven months old. I shall
never forget the drooping look of the little one and the wounded arm that,
hung by his side, nor the woman herself, who was almost mad. All these were
given over to Dr. Ussher, who treated them immediately. I also remember
a woman who had lost seven of her children and had gone out of her mind.
She lay on the ground clutching her hair. She threw dust on her head and
cursed the Kaiser all the time.
The American Hospital, which could accommodate only 50 patients, had 150 sick, and they were obliged to fill every available place with the wounded. Scarlet fever, whooping cough and smallpox carried off many of the little ones.
Besides the fighting and working forces, we had to supply food for about
13,000 people. At the beginning it was possible to give one loaf of bread
to each individual every day, but afterwards we were obliged to cut it down
to half a loaf, supplemented with other food. All the oxen and cows in the
city were slaughtered, and when we had lost all hope of procuring cattle
from outside there were even people who suggested killing the dogs. The
lack of ammunition was also severely felt, so that in Aikesdan for every
thousand rounds fired by the Turks the Armenians could only reply with one.
After a few days the Turks occupied the positions of Shoushantz and Varak,
and burned the library of old manuscripts at Varak Monastery. All the Armenians
and Syrians from these occupied villages came over to the city and consequently
increased the famine and plague. Up to this time women between 65 and 70
years old carried letters backwards and forwards between Djevdet and the
Austrian banker Aligardi, Signor Sbordone, and the German and American missionaries.
These women carried a white flag in one hand and the letter in the other,
and passed to and fro in safety, with the exception of one who was shot
by the Turks because she was unfortunate enough to fall down and lose the
flag, and another one who was wounded by the Turks. Djevdet tried to discourage
the Armenians by descriptions of Turkish successes, and also suggested that
they should give up their arms and receive a complete amnesty, like the
people of Diyarbekir. In a letter addressed to Mr. Aligardi, the Austrian,
he wrote: "Dear Aligardi, Ishim yok, keifim tchok" ("I have
nothing to do but amuse myself"). In another, addressed to Dr. Ussher,
he said : "I will parade the prisoners and guns I have taken from
the Russians in front of His Majesty Dr. Ussher's fort, so that he may see
But the Armenians did not let Djevdet do as he pleased. They severed communications and did not allow any more letters to pass through the lines. Then, under the direction of Professor M. Minassian, they succeeded in making smokeless powder, cartridges and three guns, whose reports were heard with great rejoicings by all the Armenians. They made about 2,000 cartridges a day, and the blacksmiths made spears, so that, if necessary, they could fight with spears when the ammunition was all gone. The Armenians also dug underground passages, through which they blew up certain Turkish barracks and entrenchments.
Thus they burned and destroyed the great stone barracks of Hamoud Agha;
the Telegraph and Police Station of Khatch Poghotz (Cross Street) ;
half the police station of Arar, and the English Consulate, which was one
of the chief Turkish strongholds. This encouraged the Armenians a great
deal, so that there was a time when Djevdet was obliged to send 500 soldiers
against a position held by only 44 Armenians, who after fighting for three
or four hours left 33 dead on the field and retired. A young man called
Borouzanjian, the only son of his widowed mother and the support of his
orphan sisters, resigned his post as hospital orderly and went to fight
in the trenches. He killed four Turkish soldiers and was finally killed
himself. He praised God while dying that he had done his duty, and asked
his comrades to sell his revolver and other personal belongings and to give
the proceeds of them to his mother, so that she could live on them for a
During this time they sent word to the Armenian Volunteers in Russia, asking them to come to their aid.
When the villagers came to Aikesdan and thus increased the number of labourers and fighters, the trenches were elaborated and increased in number, so that they now covered two square miles. When the Turkish artillerymen destroyed one line they found a second fortified line at the back, which was stronger than the first. Besides this, the Armenians had organised a body of cavalry, so that they could send help in all directions. Not only Aikesdan was defended with success, but also the city proper and Shadakh. The Americans, seeing the spirit of the Armenians, declared that it would not be far wrong to say that this beat Marathon.
The Turkish soldiers were good shots, especially the artillerymen, who could direct their shrapnel by accurate sighting upon the desired point. Who could imagine that their commanders were civilised and Christian Germans! This fact became known to the Armenians after the fall of Van.
On the 9th and 10th May we saw the white sails of boats on the Lake of Van. Without heeding the flying bullets, the people flocked on to high ground to watch them. We did not know whether they were some of the Turkish population or officers who were escaping. They continued the shooting until next morning. After the 10th May the fighting became more intense, both during the daytime and at night, and on the 15th and 16th May the guns were directed upon the American Institutions, where all the people were. Although during the whole period of fighting they had fired upon the American compound, the Hospital, the Church and Dr. Ussher's home, and wounded thirteen people, it was only during the last two days that the bombardment was confined to the compound alone. It was then that a bomb struck Dr. Raynold's house and killed Mr. Terzibashian's three-and-a-half-years-old daughter.
On the evening of the 17th May the Armenians succeeded in destroying the upper and lower barracks of Toprak Kalé, which raised their spirits vastly ; but in the evening the joy of the Americans surpassed that of the Armenians. About midnight, in a strong attack, the Armenians seized and burned the largest Turkish barracks, Hadji Bekir's Kushla, which dominated the American compound. At midnight the town criers went through the town crying victory: "We have taken all the Turkish positions; they have run away: come out." On this report the Armenians, especially those who were in a starving condition, came out and attacked the Turkish quarters to rob and burn them. The revenge of centuries was being taken. The Armenian soldiers did not participate in this movement for twenty-four hours, but held their positions so that the enemy might not take them by surprise. The booty that the people took from the Turks consisted mostly of wheat, flour and bread.
I asked one of the villagers to show me her booty. She did so, and I was surprised to see that it consisted of clothing that the Turks had robbed from Armenian women and girls. They found in the house of Mouhib Effendi, a member of the Ottoman Parliament, a chalice and other sacred vessels from an Armenian Church. The Turks were in such a panic that some left their tables laid and took to flight. The hungry women of yesterday were carrying away booty without stopping, with a new strength. It was the story of the seventh chapter of the Fourth Book of Kings that was repeated word for word. The American compound was now deserted except for the boy scouts, who, with the help of one of our teachers and Neville Ussher, remained to look after the sick.
The whole city was in an uproar. Some went to look at the entrenchments;
others went to look at the burned Turkish quarters, and others to look at
the booty. There were others also who visited the fortress, which was captured
that same night, and over which a flag with a Cross on it was waving. No
Government was left, no authority. The soldiers had marked out their position
from Arark to Khatch Poghotz as a military centre. They took away all the
valuable vessels and property from the people. They were afraid that there
would be fighting, but fortunately nothing happened. In Aikesdan there were
still armed Turks in certain positions, who killed some Armenians, but they
were finally found and killed. It was very pitiful to see Armenian soldiers
leading Turkish women and children and unarmed men to the American compound
for safety, and saying I to them : " Do not cry ; nothing
will happen to you ; we are only looking for Djevdet, who destroyed
both your homes and ours." Nobody touched these Turkish women, some
of whom had from £30 to £95 (Turkish) on their persons. Some
of the Armenians went to look for their wounded in the Turkish hospitals,
and when they did not find them they were so infuriated that they killed
some of the Turkish wounded and burned the building. Mr. Yarrow asked me
to go and wait there until he came. I stayed there. The scene was dreadful.
For four days the Government had given them no bread and no care, so that
many of them had already died from neglect. Interspersed among the dead
there were also some still living, but the Armenians did not raise their
hands to touch them. Before the arrival of the Americans, many came and
helped me to put out the fire and attended to those that were alive. Mr.
Yarrow, seeing all this. said: "I am amazed at the self-control of
the Armenians, for though the Turks did not spare a single wounded Armenian,
the Armenians are helping us to save the Turks---a thing that I do not believe
even Europeans would do."
The scene in the prison was dreadful, as all the Armenian prisoners had been massacred. The wife of Mr. Proudian had completely lost her reason, and cried out: "Show me at least the bones of my dear one." The unveiling of these dreadful deeds of the Turks so hardened some of the Armenians that they followed the doctrine of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," to the great sorrow of the others.
22. BITLIS, MOUSH AND SASSOUN: RECORD OF AN INTERVIEW WITH ROUPEN, OF SASSOUN, BY MR. A. S. SAFRASTIAN, DATED TIFLIS, 6th NOVEMBER, 1915.
At the moment of writing, there is very little doubt that during the months of June and July last the Turks have almost completely wiped outabout 150,000 Armenians of Bitlis, Moush and Sassoun.
When a detailed account of the horrors which accompanied these massacres
is fully disclosed to the civilised world, it will stand out in all history
as the greatest masterpiece of brutality ever committed, even by the Turk.
A short description of these horrors was given to me by Roupen, one of the
leaders in Sassoun, who has miraculously escaped the Turkish lines after
long marches across Moush and Lake Van and has been here for the last few
days. As soon as the Turks went into the war, they entered into negotiations
with the Armenian leaders in Moush and Sassoun with a view to co-operating
for the common defence. The Turkish representatives, however, laid down
such conditions as a basis for agreement that the Armenians could scarcely
entertain them as serious. Until January things had gone on fairly smoothly,
and the Armenians were advised by their leaders to comply with all legitimate
demands made by the authorities. On the failure of negotiations, the Turks
adopted hard measures against the Armenians. They had already ruthlessly
requisitioned every commodity they possibly could lay hands on, and now
they demanded the surrender of their arms from the peasantry. The Armenians
said that they could not give up their arms while the Kurds were left armed
to the teeth and went about unmolested. Towards the end of January, a Turkish
gendarme provoked a quarrel in Tzeronk, a large Armenian village some 20
miles west of Moush, where some 70 people were killed and the village destroyed.
Soon afterwards, another quarrel was started by gendarmes in Koms (Goms),
a village on the Euphrates, where the Turks wanted to raise forced labour
for the transport of military supplies. As a previous batch of men employed
on similar work had never returned home, the peasants grew suspicious and
refused to go. Local passion ran high, and the Turks desired to arrest one
Gorioun, a native of considerable bravery, who had avenged himself upon
Mehmed Emin, a Kurdish brigand, who had ruined his home in the past. All
such conflicts of a local character were settled in one way or another by
negotiation between the authorities and the leaders of the Dashnaktzoutioun.
party. In the meantime, Kurdish irregulars and Moslem bands, who were just
returning from the battle of Kilidj Geduk, where they had been roughly handled
by the Russians, began to harry the Armenians all over the country to the
limit of their endurance. In answer to protests, the authorities explained
away the grievances and gave all assurances of good-will towards the Armenians,
who naturally did not believe in them.
The Massacres at Sairt and Bitlis.---Towards the end of May, Djevdet Bey, the military governor, was expelled from Van, and the town was captured by the native Armenians and then by the Russo-Armenian forces. Djevdet Bey fled southwards and, crossing the Bohtan, entered Sairt with some 8,000 soldiers whom he called "Butcher" battalions (Kassab Tabouri).
He massacred most of the Christians of Sairt,
though nothing is known of the details. On the best authority, however,
it is reported that he ordered his soldiers to burn in a public square the
Armenian Bishop Yeghishé Vartabed and the Chaldean Bishop Addai Sher.
Then Djevdet Bey, followed by the small army of Halil Bey, marched on Bitlis
towards the middle of June. Before his arrival, the Armenians and Kurds
of Bitlis had agreed upon a scheme for mutual protection in case of any
emergency, but Djevdet Bey had his own plans for exterminating the Armenians.
He first raised a ransom of £5,000 from them, and then hanged Hokhigian
and some 20 other Armenian leaders, most of whom were attending the wounded
in field hospitals. On the 25th June, the Turks surrounded the town of Bitlis
and cut its communications with the neighbouring Armenian villages; then
most of the able-bodied men were taken away from their families by domiciliary
visits. During the following few days, all the men under arrest were shot
outside the town and buried in deep trenches dug by the victims themselves.
The young women and children were distributed among the rabble, and the
remainder, the "useless" lot , were driven to the south and are
believed to have been drowned in the Tigris. Any attempts at resistance,
however brave, were easily quelled by the regular troops. The recalcitrants,
after firing their last cartridges, either took poison by whole families
or destroyed themselves in their homes, in order not to fall into the hands
of Turks. Some hundred Armenian families in the town, all of them artisans
or skilled labourers badly needed by the military authorities, were spared
during this massacre, but since then there has been no news of their fate.
It is in such "gentlemanly" fashion that the Turks disposed of about 15,000 Armenians at Bitlis ; and the Armenian peasantry of Rahva, Khoultig, and other populous villages of the surrounding district suffered the same fate.
The Massacres in Moush.---Long before this horror had been perpetrated
at Bitlis, the Turks and Kurds of Diyarbekir, followed by the most blood-thirsty
tribes of Bekran and Belek, had wiped out the Armenians of Slivan, Bisherig,
and of the vast plain extending from Diyarbekir to the foot of the Sassoun
block. Some thousands of refugees had escaped to Sassoun, as the only haven
of safety amid a sea of widespread terror. They told the people of Sassoun
and Moush of the enormities which had been committed upon themselves. The
line of conduct to be adopted by the Armenians was now obvious. The Turks
were resolved to destroy them, and therefore they had to make the best of
a hopeless situation by all means at their disposal. Roupen tells me that
they had no news whatever as to the progress of the war on the Caucasian
front, and that the Turks spread false news to mislead them. The general
peace was maintained in the Province of Bitlis until the beginning of June,
when things came to a climax. The outlying villages of Boulanik and Moush
had already been massacred in May. Now Sassoun was attacked in two main
directions. The Kurdish tribes of Belek, Bekran, and Shego, the notorious
Sheikh of Zilan and many others were armed by the Government and ordered
to surround Sassoun. The 15,000 Armenians of these mountains, re-inforced
by some other 15,000 from Moush and Diyarbekir, repelled many fierce attacks,
in which the Kurds lost heavily, both in men and arms; whereupon the Government
again entered into negotiations with the Armenian leaders, through the Bishop
of Moush, and offered them a general amnesty if they laid down their arms
and joined in the defence of the common fatherland. And, as a proof of their
genuineness, the authorities explained away the massacres of Slivan, Boulanik,
&c., as due to a deplorable misunderstanding. Oppressions suddenly ceased
everywhere, and perfect order prevailed in Moush for about three weeks in
June. A strict watch, however, was kept over the movements of the Armenians,
and they were forbidden to concentrate together. In the last week of June,
one Kiazim Bey arrived from Erzeroum with at least 10,000 troops and mountain
artillery to reinforce the garrison at Moush. The day after his arrival
strong patrols were posted on the hills overlooking the town of Moush, thus
cutting all communication between Moush and Sassoun. Kurdish bands of "fedais"
and gendarmes were commissioned to sever all intercourse between various
villages and the town of Moush, so that no one knew what was going on even
in the immediate neighbourhood.
Early in July, the authorities ordered the Armenians to surrender their
arms, and pay a large money ransom. The leading Armenians of the town and
the headmen of the villages were subjected to revolting tortures. Their
finger nails and then their toe nails were forcibly extracted ; their
teeth were knocked out, and in some cases their noses were whittled down,
the victims being thus done to death under shocking, lingering agonies.
The female relatives of the victims who came to the rescue were outraged
in public before the very eyes of their mutilated husbands and brothers.
The shrieks and death-cries of the victims filled the air, yet they did
not move the Turkish beast. The same process of disarmament was carried
out in the large Armenian villages of Khaskegh, Franknorshen, &c., and
on the slightest show of resistance men and women were done to death in
the manner described above. On the 10th July, large contingents of troops,
followed by bands of criminals released from the prisons, began to round
up the able-bodied men from all the villages. In the 100 villages of the
plain of Moush most of the villagers took up any arms they possessed and
offered a desperate resistance in various favourable positions. In the natural
order of things the ammunition soon gave out in most villages, and there
followed what is perhaps one of the greatest crimes in all history. Those
who had no arms and had done nothing against the authorities were herded
into various camps and bayoneted in cold blood.
In the town of Moush itself the Armenians, under the leadership of Gotoyan
and others, entrenched themselves in the churches and stone-built houses
and fought for four days in self-defence. The Turkish artillery, manned
by German officers, made short work of all the Armenian positions. Every
one of the Armenians, leaders as well as men, was killed fighting ;
and when the silence of death reigned over the ruins of churches and the
rest, the Moslem rabble made a descent upon the women and children and drove
them out of the town into large camps which had already been prepared for
the peasant women and children. The ghastly scenes which followed may indeed
sound incredible, yet these reports have been confirmed from Russian sources
beyond all doubt.
The shortest method for disposing of the women and children concentrated in the various camps was to burn them. Fire was set to large wooden sheds in Alidjan, Megrakom, Khaskegh, and other Armenian villages, and these absolutely helpless women and children were roasted to death. Many went mad and threw their children away ; some knelt down and prayed amid the flames in which their bodies were burning ; others shrieked and cried for help which came from nowhere. And the executioners, who seem to have been unmoved by this unparalleled savagery, grasped infants by one leg and hurled them into the fire, calling out to the burning mothers : "Here are your lions." Turkish prisoners who had apparently witnessed some of these scenes were horrified and maddened at remembering the sight. They told the Russians that the stench of the burning human flesh permeated the air for many days after.
Under present circumstances it is impossible to say how many Armenians,
out of a population of 60,000 in the plain of Moush, are left alive ;
the one fact which can be recorded at present is that now and then some
survivors escape through the mountains and reach the Russian lines to give
further details of the unparalleled crime perpetrated in Moush during July.
The Massacres in Sassoun.---While the "Butcher" battalions
of Djevdet Bey and the regulars of Kiazim Bey were engaged in Bitlis and
Moush, some cavalry were sent to Sassoun early in July to encourage the
Kurds who had been defeated by the Armenians at the beginning of June. The
Turkish cavalry invaded the lower valley of Sassoun and captured a few villages
after stout fighting. In the meantime the reorganised Kurdish tribes attempted
to close on Sassoun from the south, west, and north. During the last fortnight
of July almost incessant fighting went on, sometimes even during the night.
On the whole, the Armenians held their own on all fronts and expelled the
Kurds from their advanced positions. However, the people of Sassoun had
other anxieties to worry about. The population had doubled since their brothers
who had escaped from the plains had sought refuge in their mountains ;
the millet crop of the last season had been a failure ; all honey,
fruit, and other local produce a been consumed, and the people had been
feeding on unsalted roast mutton (they had not even any salt to make the
mutton more sustaining); finally, the ammunition was in no way sufficient
for the requirements of heavy fighting. But the worst had yet to come. Kiazim
Bey, after reducing the town and the plain of Moush, rushed his army to
Sassoun for a new effort to overwhelm these brave mountaineers. Fighting
was renewed on all fronts throughout the Sassoun district. Big guns made
carnage among the Armenian ranks. Roupen tells me that Gorioun, Dikran,
and 20 other of their best fighters were killed by a single shell, which
burst in their midst. Encouraged by the presence of guns, the cavalry and
Kurds pushed on with relentless energy.
The Armenians were compelled to abandon the outlying lines of their defence
and were retreating day by day into the heights of Antok, the central block
of the mountains, some 10,000 feet high. The non-combatant women and children
and their large flocks of cattle greatly hampered the free movements of
the defenders, whose number had already been reduced from 3,000 to about
half that figure. Terrible confusion prevailed during the Turkish attacks
as well as the Armenian counterattacks. Many of the Armenians smashed their
rifles after firing the last cartridge and grasped their revolvers and daggers.
The Turkish regulars and Kurds, amounting now to something like 30,000 altogether,
pushed higher and higher up the heights and surrounded the main Armenian
position at close quarters. Then followed one of those desperate and heroic
struggles for life which have always been the pride of mountaineers. Men,
women and children fought with knives, scythes, stones, and anything else
they could handle. They rolled blocks of stone down the steep slopes, killing
many of the enemy. In a frightful hand-to-hand combat, women were seen thrusting
their knives into the throats of Turks and thus accounting for many of them.
On the 5th August, the last day of the fighting, the blood-stained rocks
of Antok were captured by the Turks. The Armenian warriors of Sassoun, except
those who had worked round to the rear of the Turks to attack them on their
flanks, had died in battle. Several young women, who were in danger of falling
into the Turks' hands, threw themselves from the rocks, some of them with
their infants in their arms. The survivors have since been carrying on a
guerilla warfare, living only on unsalted mutton and grass. The approaching
winter may have disastrous consequences for the remnants of the Sassounli
Armenians, because they have nothing to eat and no means of defending themselves.
23. MOUSH: STATEMENT BY A GERMAN EYE-WITNESS OF OCCURRENCES AT MOUSH; COMMUNICATED BY THE AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR ARMENIAN AND SYRIAN RELIEF.
Towards the end of October (1914), when the Turkish war began, the Turkish
officials started to take everything they needed for the war from the Armenians.
Their goods, their money, all was confiscated. Later on, every Turk was
free to go to an Armenian shop and take out what he needed or thought he
would like to have. Only a tenth perhaps was really for the war, the rest
was pure robbery. It was necessary to have food, &c., carried to the
front, on the Caucasian frontier. For this purpose the Government sent out
about 300 old Armenian men, many cripples amongst them, and boys not more
than twelve years old, to carry the goods---a three weeks' journey from
Moush to the Russian frontier. As every individual Armenian was robbed of
everything he ever had, these poor people soon died of hunger and cold on
the way. They had no clothes at all, for even these were stolen on the way.
If out of these 300 Armenians thirty or forty returned, it was a marvel;
the rest were either beaten to death or died from the causes stated above.
The winter was most severe in Moush ; the gendarmes were sent to
levy high taxes, and as the Armenians had already given everything to the
Turks, and were therefore powerless to pay these enormous taxes, they were
beaten to death. The Armenians never defended themselves except when they
saw the gendarmes ill-treating their wives and children, and the result
in such cases was that the whole village was burnt down, merely because
a few Armenians had tried to protect their families.
Toward the middle of April we heard rumours that there were great disturbances
in Van. We have heard., statements both from Turks and from Armenians, and
as these reports agree in every respect, it is quite plain that there is
some truth in them. They state that the Ottoman Government sent orders that
all Armenians were to give up their arms, which the Armenians refused to
do on the ground that they required their arms in case of necessity. This
caused a regular massacre. All villages inhabited by Armenians were burnt
down. The Turks boasted of having now got rid of all the Armenians. I heard
it from the officers myself, how they revelled in the thought that the Armenians
had been got rid of.
Thus the winter passed, with things happening every day more terrible
than one can possibly describe. We then heard that massacres had started
in Bitlis. In Moush everything was being prepared for one, when the Russians
arrived at Liz, which is about 14 to 16 hours' journey from Moush. This
occupied the attention of the Turks, so that the massacre was put off for
the time being. Hardly had the Russians left Liz, however, when all the
districts inhabited by Armenians were pillaged and destroyed.
This was in the month of May. At the beginning of June,
we heard that the whole Armenian population of Bitlis had been got rid of.
It was at this time that we received news that the American Missionary,
Dr. Knapp, had been wounded in an Armenian house and that the Turkish Government
had sent him to Diyarbekir. The very first night in Diyarbekir he died,
and the Government explained his death as a result of having overeaten,
which of course nobody believed.
When there was no one left in Bitlis to massacre, their attention was
diverted to Moush. Cruelties had already been committed, but so far not
too publicly; now, however, they started to shoot people down without
any cause, and beat them to death simply for the pleasure of doing so. In
Moush itself, which is a big town, there are 25,000 Armenians ; in
the neighbourhood there are 300 villages, each containing about 500 houses.
In all these not a single male Armenian is now to be seen, and hardly a
woman either, except for a few here and there.
In the first week of July 20,000 soldiers arrived from Constantinople
by way of Harpout with munitions and eleven guns, and laid siege to Moush.
As a matter of fact, the town had already been beleaguered since the middle
of June. At this stage the Mutessarif gave orders that we should leave the
town and go to Harpout. We pleaded with him to let us stay, for we had in
our charge all the orphans and patients ; but he was angry and threatened
to remove us by force if we did not do as instructed. As we both fell sick,
however, we were allowed to remain at Moush. I received permission, in the
event of our leaving Moush, to take the Armenians of our orphanage with
us; but when we asked for assurances of their safety, his only reply was :
"You can take them with you, but being Armenians their heads may and
will be cut off on the way."
On the 10th July Moush was bombarded for several hours, on the pretext
that some Armenians had tried to escape. I went to see the Mutessarif and
asked him to protect our buildings ; his reply was "It serves
you right for staying instead of leaving as instructed. The guns are here
to make an end of Moush. Take refuge with the Turks." This, of course,
was impossible, as we could not leave our charges. Next day a new order
was promulgated for the expulsion of the Armenians, and three days' grace
was given them to make ready. They were told to register themselves at the
Government Building before they left. Their families could remain, but their
property and their money were to be confiscated. The Armenians were unable
to go, for they had no money to defray the journey, and they preferred to
die in their houses rather than be separated from their families and endure
a lingering death on the road.
As stated above, three days' grace was given to the Armenians, but two
hours had scarcely elapsed when the soldiers began breaking into the houses,
arresting the inmates and throwing them into prison. The guns began to fire
and thus the people were effectually prevented from registering themselves
at the Government Building. We all had to take refuge in the cellar for
fear of our orphanage catching fire. It was heart-rending to hear the cries
of the people and children who were being burnt to death in their houses.
The soldiers took great delight in hearing them, and when people who were
out in the street during the bombardment fell dead, the soldiers merely
laughed at them.
The survivors were sent to Ourfa (there were none left but sick women
and children) ; I went to the Mutessarif and begged him to have mercy
on the children at least, but in vain. He replied that the Armenian children
must perish with their nation. All our people were taken from our hospital
and orphanage ; they left us three female servants. Under these atrocious
circumstances, Moush was burnt to the ground. Every officer boasted of the
number he had personally massacred as his share in ridding Turkey of the
We left for Harpout. Harpout has become the cemetery of the Armenians ;
from all directions they have been brought to Harpout to be buried. There
they lie, and the dogs and the vultures devour their bodies. Now and then
some man throws some earth over the bodies. In Harpout and Mezré
the people have had to endure terrible tortures. They have had their eye-brows
plucked out, their breasts cut off, their nails torn off ; their torturers
hew off their feet or else hammer nails into them just as they do in shoeing
horses. This is all done at night time, and in order that the people may
not hear their screams and know of their agony, soldiers are stationed round
the prisons, beating drums and blowing whistles. It is needless to relate
that many died of these tortures. When they die, the soldiers cry "Now
let your Christ help you."
One old priest was tortured so cruelly to extract a confession that,
believing that the torture would cease and that he would be left alone if
he did it, he cried out in his desperation: "We are revolutionists."
He expected his tortures to cease, but on the contrary the soldiers cried :
"What further do we seek ? We have it here from his own lips."
And instead of picking their victims as they did before, the officials had
all the Armenians tortured without sparing a soul.
Early in July, 2,000 Armenian soldiers were ordered to leave for Aleppo
to build roads. The people of Harpout were terrified on hearing this, and
a panic started in the town. The Vali sent for the German missionary, Mr.
Ehemann, and begged him to quiet the people, repeating over and over again
that no harm whatever would befall these soldiers. Mr. Ehemann took the
Vali's word and quieted the people. But they had scarcely left when we heard
that they had all been murdered and thrown into a cave. Just a few managed
to escape, and we got the reports from them. It was useless to protest to
the Vali. The American Consul at Harpout protested several times, but the
Vali makes no account of him, and treats him in a most shameful manner.
A few days later another 2,000 Armenian soldiers were despatched via Diyarbekir,
and, in order to hinder them the more surely from escaping, they were left
to starve on the way, so that they had no strength left in them to flee.
The Kurds were given notice that the Armenians were on the way, and the
Kurdish women came with their butcher's knives to help the men. In Mezré
a public brothel was erected for the Turks, and all the beautiful Armenian
girls and women were placed there. At night the Turks were allowed free
entrance. The permission for the Protestant and Catholic Armenians to be
exempted from deportation only arrived after their deportation had taken
place. The Government wanted to force the few remaining Armenians to accept
the Mohammedan faith. A few did so in order to save their wives and children
from the terrible sufferings already witnessed in the case of others. The
people begged us to leave for Constantinople and obtain some security for
them. On our way to Constantinople we only encountered old women. No young
women or girls were to be seen.
Already by November  we had known that there would be a massacre.
The Mutessarif of Moush, who was a very intimate friend of Enver Pasha,
declared quite openly that they would massacre the Armenians at the first
opportune moment and exterminate the whole race. Before the Russians arrived
they intended first to butcher the Armenians, and then fight the Russians
afterwards. Towards the beginning of April, in the presence of a Major Lange
and several other high officials, including the American and German Consuls,
Ekran Bey quite openly declared the Government's intention of exterminating
the Armenian race. All these details plainly show that the massacre was
In a few villages destitute women come begging, naked and sick, for alms
and protection. We are not allowed to give them anything, we are not allowed
to take them in, in fact we are forbidden to do anything for them, and they
die outside. If only permission could be obtained from the authorities to
help them! If we cannot endure the sight of these poor people's sufferings,
what must it be like for the sufferers themselves ?
It is a story written in blood. Two old missionaries and a younger lady
(an American) were sent away from Mardin. They were treated just like prisoners,
dogged continually by the .gendarmes, and were brought in this fashion to
Sivas. For missionaries of that age a journey of this kind in the present
circumstances was obviously a terrible hardship.
24. MOUSH DISTRICT: NARRATIVE OF A DEPORTED WOMAN, RELATED BY HER TO MR. VARTKES OF MOUSH, RECORDED BY HIM ON THE 25th JULY, 1915, AND PUBLISHED SUBSEQUENTLY IN THE ARMENIAN JOURNAL "VAN-TOSP."
To-day I heard a terrible story. All the Armenians who were deported from Moush were either killed or drowned in the Mourad River. Among these were my mother and three sisters with their children. This news was brought to us by a woman who came here at midnight. We thought she was a ghost, as she seemed like one coming from the grave. She had saved her two-year-old boy.
She immediately asked for bread. We had not any, as we were living on
raw grain and meat, but we gave her what we had. After she had had enough,
we asked her all kinds of questions. She was from the village of Kheiban,
and was one of the deported. This is what she told us:
"The Turks collected all the women and children of the villages of Sordar, Pazou, Hassanova, Salekan and Gvars, and after keeping them for five days they brought them to Ziaret. Here the inhabitants of Meghd, Baghlou, Ourough, Ziaret and Kheiban joined them, and they were all taken towards the bridge over the Mourad River. On the way the families from the villages of Dom, Hergerd, Norag, Aladin, Goms, Khashkhaldoukh, Souloukh, Khoronk, Kartzor, Kizil Agatch, Komer, Shekhlan, Avazaghpur, Plel and Kurdmeidan joined the party, making altogether a company of 8,000 to 10,000 people.
All the old women and the weak who were unable to walk were killed.
There were about one hundred Kurdish guards over us, and our lives depended
on their pleasure. It was a very common thing for them to rape our girls
in our presence. Very often they violated eight or ten-year-old girls, and
as a consequence many would be unable to walk, and were shot.
Our company moved on slowly, leaving heaps of corpses behind. Most
of us were almost naked. When we passed by a village, all the Kurdish men
and women would come and rob us as they pleased. When a Kurd fancied a girl,
nothing would prevent him from taking her. The babies of those who were
carried away were killed in our presence.
They gave us bread once every other day, though many did not get
even that. When all our provisions were gone, we gathered wheat from the
fields and ate it. Many a mother lost her mind and dropped her baby by the wayside.
Some succeeded in running away, and hid themselves in the fields
among the wheat until it was dark. Those who were acquainted with the mountains
of that region would thus escape and go back to seek their dear ones. Some
went to Sassoun, hearing that it had not yet fallen, others were drowned
in the Mourad River. I did not attempt to run away, as I had witnessed with
my own eyes the assassination of my dear ones. I had a few piastres left,
and hoped to live a few days longer.
We heard on our way from the Kurds that Kurdish Chettis (bands
of robbers) had collected all the inhabitants of Kurdmeidan and Sheklilan,
about 500 women and children, and burnt them by the order of Rashid Effendi,
the head of the Chettis.
When we reached the Khozmo Pass, our guards changed their southerly
direction and turned west, in the direction of the Euphrates. When we reached
the boundary of the Ginj district our guards were changed, the new ones
being more brutal. By this time our number was diminished by half. When
we reached the boundary of Djabaghchour we passed through a narrow valley ;
here our guards ordered us to sit down by the river and take a rest. We
were very thankful for this respite and ran towards the river to get a drink
After half-an-hour we saw a crowd of Kurds coming towards us from
Djabaghchour. They surrounded us and ordered us to cross the river, and
many obeyed. The report of the guns drowned the sounds of wailing and crying.
In that panic I took my little boy on my back and jumped into the river.
I was a good swimmer and succeeded in reaching the opposite shore of the
Euphrates with my precious bundle unnoticed, and hid myself behind some
By nightfall no one remained alive from our party. The Kurds left
in the direction of Djabaghchour. At dusk I came out from my hiding place
to a field in the vicinity and found some wheat, which I ate; then I followed
the Euphrates in a northerly direction, and after great difficulty I reached
the plain of Moush. I decided to go to the mountains of Sourp Garabed, as
I had heard that there were many Armenians there. During the nights my boy
was a great comfort to me. I felt that a living being was with me and fear
lost its horror. I thank God I have seen the faces of Armenians again."
The poor woman ended her story, and our hearts were stricken with sorrow,
for we had loved ones among the unfortunate people of her convoy. Two days
later her boy died from lack of nourishment, and after five days she was
found by a party of patrolling Kurds and killed.
35. URMIA: EXTRACTS FROM THE ANNUAL REPORT (FOR THE YEAR 1915) PRESENTED BY THE MEDICAL DEPARTMENT AT URMIA TO THE BOARD OF FOREIGN MISSIONS OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN THE U.S.A.
A sad case was that of the mother of a girl of twelve who was being taken
away to a life of slavery. The mother protested and tried to save her child,
who was ruthlessly torn from her. As the daughter was being dragged away
the mother made so much trouble for her oppressors, and clung to them so
tenaciously, that they stabbed her twelve times before she fell, helpless
to save her little girl from her fate. This woman recovered from her wounds.
Some people were shot as they ran, and children that they were carrying
were killed or wounded with them. In some cases men were lined up so that
several could be shot with one bullet, in order not to waste ammunition on them.
At the height of the epidemic not less than two thousand were sick. The
mortality reached forty-eight daily, and the fact that four thousand died,
besides the one thousand who were killed, will help. to make vivid the terrible
conditions that prevailed in our crowded premises. All ranks have suffered---preachers,
teachers, physicians, etc., as well as the poor---for all had to live in
the same unhygienic surroundings.
One of the most terrible things that came to the notice of the Medical
Department was the treatment of Syrian women and girls by the Turks, Kurds
and local Mohammedans. After the massacre in the village of ------, almost
all the women and girls were outraged, and two little girls, aged eight
and ten, died in the hands of Moslem villains. A mother said that not a
woman or girl above twelve (and some younger) in the village of------ escaped
violation. This is the usual report from the villages. One man, who exercised
a great deal of authority in the northern part of the Urmia plain, openly
boasted of having ruined eleven Christian girls, two of them under seven
years of age, and he is now permitted to return to his home in peace and
no questions are asked. Several women from eighty to eighty-five years old
have suffered with the younger women. One woman who was prominent in the
work of the Protestant Church in another village was captured by eighteen
men and taken to a solitary place, where they had provided for themselves
food and drink. She was released the next day and permitted to drag herself
away. Later she came to the city to accuse her outragers, and practically
did not get a hearing from the Government.
There is little to relieve the blackness of this picture. The Government
gave some assistance in the finding and returning of Christian girls. A
few have been brought back by Kurds. In one case eleven girls and young
women, who had been taken away from Geogtapa, were sent to me by the chief
of the Zarza tribe of Kurds. Several companies have been sent also by the
Begzadi Kurds to Targawar. Since the return of the Russians to Urmia some
of the Kurds have tried to curry favour by returning prisoners that they
have held for months, but quite a number are still held by them, some of
them women who have been married to some of the principal servants of the
It would not be right to close this report of medical
work in Urmia without a word about the native physicians. One of them received
a martyr's crown early in January in the village of Khanishan. Four died
in the epidemics. One had been a worker for many years in the plain of Gawar,
two days' journey to the west of Urmia. One of them was a companion in the
attempt to find Karini Agha at the very beginning of the troubles here that
resulted in the rescue of the people of Geogtapa. One was the assistant
in the hospital. He had been in the hospital since his graduation in 1908,
and was a most faithful and efficient man. During the awful first days of
fear, murder and rapine, it was his hands that dressed and re-dressed most
of the wounded, with the help of medical students. He thought little of
himself and wore himself out until he could not eat, keeping on at his work
for three days after he began to be ill. His life was given in the noblest
self-sacrifice, and many people will remember him with deep affection. The
fourth was one of the refugees in our yard who, though he was not very active,
frequently prescribed for a number of patients. His wife, who is a graduate
in medicine in America, in spite of the death of her husband and two children,
kept bravely on with her work, trying to relieve some of the suffering.
She had charge of the maternity cases and examined many of the outraged
women and girls after they finally reached us.
The most diabolically cold-blooded of all the massacres was the one committed
above the village of Ismael Agha's Kala, when some sixty Syrians of Gawar
were butchered by the Kurds at the instigation of the Turks. These Christians
had been used by the Turks to pack telegraph wire from over the border,
and while they were in the city of Urmia they were kept in close confinement,
without food or drink. On their return, as they reached the valleys between
the Urmia and Baradost plains, they were all stabbed to death, as it was
supposed, but here again, as in two former massacres, a few wounded, bloody
victims succeeded in making their way to our hospital.
The testimony of the survivors of the massacre at Ismael
Agha's Kala is confirmed by the following extract from a letter, dated
8th November, 1915, from the Rev. E. T. Allen of Urmia:
Politically, things are in apparently good order. People are easily frightened
and are nervous, but we have good hopes. Yesterday I went to the Kala of
Ismael Agha and from there to Kasha, and some men went with me up the road
to the place where the Gawar men were murdered by the Turks. It was a gruesome
sight---perhaps the worst I have seen at all.
There were seventy-one or two bodies ; we could not tell exactly,
because of the conditions. It is about six months since the murder. Some
were in fairly good condition---dried, like a mummy. Others were torn to
pieces by the wild animals. Some had been daggered in several places, as
was evident from the cuts in the skin. The majority of them had been shot.
The ground about was littered with empty cartridge-cases. It was a long
way off from the Kala, and half-an-hour's walk from the main road into the
most rugged gorge I have seen for some time. I suppose the Turks thought
no word could get out from there---a secret, solitary, rocky gorge. How
those three wounded men succeeded in getting out and reaching the city is
more of a marvel than I thought it was at the time. The record of massacre
burials now stands as follows :--
At Tcharbash, forty in one grave, among them a bishop. At Gulpashan,
fifty-one in one grave, among them the most innocent persons in the country;
and now, above the Kala of Ismael Agha, seventy in one grave, among them
leading merchants of Gawar.
These one hundred and sixty-one persons, buried by me, came to their
death in the most cruel manner possible, at the hands of regular Turkish
troops in company with Kurds under their command.
36. URMIA, SALMAS AND HAKKIARI: STATEMENT BY MR. PAUL SHIMMON, PUBLISHED IN THE ARMENIAN JOURNAL "ARARAT" OF LONDON, NOVEMBER, 1915.
Seeing that Ararat is truly a searchlight on all the sufferings of Eastern
Christians, a comforter to the broken-hearted and a fighter for their rights,
I have felt it my duty and privilege to write just some bare facts of the
past and present position of the Syrians in Urmi (Urmia) and Salmas in Persia,
and in the Kurdistan mountains south of Van. What I will say of Urmi and
Salmas applies equally to the Armenians of the two places, in the latter
of which they predominate.
The Russian troops had been in occupation of Azerbaijan, north-western
Persia, for a number of years, and their presence meant safety, prosperity
and security of person and property both to Christians and Moslems alike.
Under the conditions then prevailing, the Kurds had been restrained entirely
from their occupation of plunder, and the Turks were deprived of prominence
in that part of Persia which they have coveted for years. The Persians also
have been restless, and their attitude towards the Christians was somewhat
doubtful. On the 2nd January, 1915, it was suddenly known that the Russian
army, consulate and all, were leaving Urmi---and not that alone, but it
was found later that they were withdrawing from all northern Persia. It
came like a thunderbolt, for it had been positively stated all along to
the Christian population that the Russian army would under no circumstances
withdraw from Urmi. Here, then, in the heart of winter, some 45,000 Christians,
from nine to ten days' journey from the nearest railway station to the Russian
border, found themselves in a very precarious position. No conveyances,
horses, &c., &c., could be had for love or money. Roughly speaking,
one-third of the people who happened to know of this withdrawal, through
whose villages the army was to pass, left for Russia. The great majority
simply left their homes and walked out. Some only heard of the withdrawal
during the night, and so could hardly make any provision for the journey.
A good number of people from Tergawar and Mergawar, and outlying districts,
who were already refugees in Urmi---having been plundered on two or three
occasions previously---left with the army. So there was a concourse of over
10,000 people, mostly women and children, walking in the bitter cold, scantily
provided, sore-footed, wearied, that had to make their way to the Russian
frontier over mountains and along miserable roads and through swamps. Their
cries and shrieks as they walked were heart-rending. The people of Salmas
had left two or three days earlier and under somewhat better conditions.
There was a swamp between Salmas and Khoi where people actually went knee-deep,
where oxen and buffaloes died of cold, and where there was no real resting
place and provisions could only be procured from a distance of some ten
miles. The agonies of the children were inexpressible. Some mothers had
two or three children to take care of, and they dragged one along while
they carried the other on their shoulders. Many died on the roadside, many
lost their parents, many were left unburied, many were picked up by the
Russian cossacks and were taken to the Russian Caucasus to, be there cared
for by Armenians and others. Such was their plight when they reached Russia,
and in some way or another were provided for in the Syrian and Armenian
villages in Erivan and in Tiflis, where they passed their time till the
spring, when they again wearied of their lives and returned to Urmi and
Salmas in the months of May and June.
About two-thirds of the people who stayed behind at Urmi had the cruellest
of fates. No sooner had the Russian forces withdrawn than the roads were
closely guarded, and no one was permitted to come in or go out of Urmi for
over four months. The Kurds poured in from every quarter, and the Persian
Moslems joined hands with them. They engulfed the Christian villages;
plunder, pillage, massacre and rape were the order of the day. Every village
paid its share. First they killed the men, then they took the women---those
who had not escaped---and carried them away for themselves or forced them
to become Moslems, and finally they plundered and burned the villages. In
one village 80 were killed, in another 50, in a third 30, and so the thing
went on in varying degrees among the 70 odd villages in Urmi. About one
thousand people were disposed of in this way. In the meantime all that were
able escaped to the city to the American mission quarters, whose premises
were soon filled to suffocation, and altogether some 20,000 people or more
found shelter in the American and French mission quarters, while some hid
themselves among Moslem friends and landlords. These refugees, in their
flight, were repeatedly robbed on the way by soldiers and officers sent
for their protection, and by civilians as well. Many a woman came terror-stricken,
shrieking, and bleeding, and almost naked; and many were forced to become
Moslems. Some 150 cases or more of these unfortunate women came under the
notice of the American missionaries, who tried to restore them to their
own folk. One woman had two sons, four and six years of age, who were thrown
into a brook to freeze, while the brute of a mullah set to work to force
their mother. She at last escaped and took away. the children alive, but
they died of exposure the next morning.
Thus in the course of a fortnight all the 45,000 Syrians and Armenians
were plundered---not one village escaped. There was no exception. The village
of Iriawa was in the keeping of an Armenian---a Turkish subject. He, with
twelve other Armenian soldiers, was shot, and the village plundered. Gulpashan
was the last to be attacked, when, on the 1st February, 51 of its elders
were taken during the night to the graveyard and there murdered most horribly
and their brains knocked out. The orgies committed on women and tender girls
can be left only to the imagination. I have known the village from childhood
and all its inhabitants.
The refugees in the French and American mission yards remained there
for over four and a half months, in daily terror and fear of their lives ;
the quarters were crowded to suffocation, and no man dared leave the premises.
Seeing that a few houses of Christians were left in the city which were
not plundered, the dozen or less of Turkish officials, who had control of
things, began to fleece the people. They forced them to pay a fine of 6,600
tomans (a toman is about one pound sterling),
on the pretext that the Christian stores, offices and shops in the city
would be saved from plunder. But no sooner was this sum extracted through
the kindly offices of the American missionaries than they began to put up
to auction and dispose of all the shops, offices and stores. Not satisfied
with what they had done, they obtained 5,500 tomans as blood money
for Mar Elia, the Syrian Bishop, whom they found in hiding on the roof of
a house, and threatened to kill him unless the money was paid. Then, again,
such prominent men as Shamasha Lazar, Shamasha Babu and Dr. Isaac Daniel
had to pay 3,000, 2,000 and 1,000 tomans respectively to save their
lives. Such was the perpetual terror in which the whole community lived.
Soon disease broke out, typhoid played havoc, and over 4,000 died of
the epidemic alone. There was scarcely any life left in the remnant of the
people when the Russians retook Urmi in May. They were worn out and so emaciated
that one could hardly recognise them. It was the first time for months that
they were able to crawl out of their filthy winter quarters and to inhale
fresh air. The Americans, who had fed these people all through the winter,
now gave the men and women spades and sickles to return to their villages,
and some flour to start life in their ruined homes. I have seen villages
turned to ashes, where not one window door or any woodwork was to be found.
Indeed, one day a woman came and said to me: "I have one room out of
seven left on the second storey, but what shall I do ? There is not
a single ladder in all the village that I can borrow so as to mount to it."
What they had left in their "homes," these people found on their
return to have been eaten by dogs and cats. They have not sown anything
this autumn, nor were they able to do any sowing or cultivating in the spring.
Ninety per cent. of them have absolutely nothing left, and they sleep on
the bare hard earthen floor, with no bedding or any other protection beyond
their ordinary rags. This is their second winter!
The majority of the Salmas Christians had left for Russia by the time
the Urmi people reached Salmas. But there were some left who had hidden
themselves among kind Moslems here and there. When the Turks took possession
of Salmas, they used every means to find out the whereabouts and number
of all the Christians that had remained behind, and one night during March
last they took some 723 Armenians and Syrians to the fields in Haftevan
and mangled and butchered them in a most brutal manner. Three days later
the Russians retook Salmas and buried these people in some trenches which
they dug for them. The same fate was awaiting the women, and perhaps worse,
but the advent of the Russians saved them.
The troubles of Mar Shimun's independent tribes of Tiari, Tkhuma, &c.,
in Kurdistan, south of Van, began last June. Mar Shimun's seat in the village
of Quodshanis was attacked by regular troops and Kurds, destroyed and plundered.
Most of the people escaped to Salmas. Mar Shimun at the time was in the
interior with the main body of his congregation. A regular Turkish force
with artillery and some 30,000 Kurds, &c., marched on the Christians.
The forty villages of Berwar, those nearest towards Mosul, were destroyed
first, and only some seventeen of them are known to have escaped. The women
of many of the others have been forced to become Moslems. For forty days
the people defended themselves against superior forces, and that only with
flintlocks and antiquated rifles. At last, unable to withstand the onslaught
of modern artillery, with which the Turks also bombarded the Church of Mar
Sawa, the people withdrew to the interior of the mountains with the Patriarch's
family in their centre ; and here they subsisted on herbs and some
sheep they had taken with them, while many were daily dying of starvation.
Mar Shimun came to Salmas---I had an interview with him there, and he has
sent me to speak for him and his---to effect the escape of his people, or
at least of as many of them as could be saved. All this happened in the
latter part of September, when, according to the telegram received here
from H.B.M. Consul Shipley at Tabriz, some 25,000 had already arrived, and
with them Mar Shimun, himself as destitute as the rest, while 10,000 more
were to follow. The condition of the remnant, for in all there are over
100,000, is very precarious, but let us hope not hopeless. Assistance can
be sent to them through Mar Shimun and through H.B.M. Consul Shipley.
The Archbishop of Canterbury's Mission and the Armenian (Lord Mayor's)
Relief Fund have sent £500 and £550 respectively to these people.
I understand that the Lord Mayor's Fund is telegraphing a further £500
for the relief of the Christians in Persia for which I for one feel infinitely
grateful, as it cannot but assuaged some of the terrible suffering that
Let us now survey the whole situation. As over 90 per cent. of the Christians
at Urmi are destitute, and the condition of some 10,000 to 15,000 Armenians
and Syrians in Salmas is not much better, we have at once some 80,000 people
and more who must be assisted, if they are not to starve during the coming
winter. I this we are not taking into account the remnant of Mar people
or any Armenians that might have found their way to Persia, where the Russians
are now in occupation, and where the condition of the Christians will be,
so far as personal safety goes, more hopeful. The turn events are taking
politically in Persia seems also favourable, but one must never be too confident
of the political situation there.
I am delighted to see such a magnificent spirit of response from all
corners of the world whence Armenians themselves are coming to the help
of their countrymen. We have to cheer each other up in our misfortunes in
every way we can, till God in His own way shall solve the problem. And with
such noble friends as we have in England, among whom are the Primate, Lord
Bryce, and Members of Parliament like Mr. Aneurin Williams and Mr. T. P
. O'Connor, and I am sure in America as well-people who would do anything
for us-let us be patient and prayerful, hoping for, recompense and release
from this tyranny that has had us in its grip ever since Mohammedan rule
began in our country.
37. HAKKIARI: FURTHER STATEMENT BY MR. PAUL SHIMMON, PUBLISHED IN THE "CHURCHMAN" NEWSPAPER, AND SUBSEQUENTLY ISSUED AS A PAMPHLET; COMMUNICATED BY MRS. D. S. MARGOLIOUTH, OF OXFORD.
The following is the story of how a Bishop, nay, an Archbishop, at the risk of his own life, saved 35,000 souls---one-third of his flock---from the pursuing Kurds and Turks, and from impending starvation on the heights of the Kurdistan Mountains. He was already in the zone of safety, where he could well have stayed; but he turned back, saying: "I am going back to die with my people." By so doing, he rescued a multitude of his people from almost certain massacre.
It will be remembered that the Assyrians (better known in Church history as the Nestorian or Syrian Christians) dwell on both sides of the Turco-Persian frontier. The bulk of them live in the very inaccessible mountains of Kurdistan, east of Mosul, which is in Mesopotamia, and south of Lake Van; while a goodly number live in the beautiful plains of Urmia and Salmas in northwestern Persia and in the adjacent country districts bordering on Turkey. Over the former district Mar Shimun, the Patriarch, is the supreme ecclesiastical and civil ruler.
Early last June the Turkish forces with irregular Kurds, under the leadership and direction of the Kaimakam, made an attack on the court of Mar Shimun in Quodshanis---a Turkish governor making an attack on peaceful subjects of the Turkish Empire for the simple reason that they were Christians. Quodshanis is an isolated place. The Patriarch and members of his court were in the interior with the main body of his church, so the people of the village could hardly be expected to make more than a bare resistance. For two days they fought from within the church, but soon their ammunition was exhausted, and the women and children were in a desperate position. At night they set out for the plains of Salmas in Persia, where I saw them in a most pitiable condition. The Patriarchal house, the English mission, and the larger part of the place was plundered and burned. Even the tombs of former Patriarchs were violated.
In the meanwhile a formidable army was being gathered against the independent dwellers in the valleys of Tkhuma, Tiari, Baz, &c. Both Turkish regulars and Kurds, it is said, to the extent of some 30,000, made a combined attack on the people who had kept their independence since Tamerlane and Ghengis Khan had driven them to the craggy mountains, where in some places they have to carry soil on their backs to make artificial fields. For the first time in the life of the people, artillery was brought up to bombard their ancient and venerable churches, while they themselves made a stout resistance with flintlocks and ammunition of their own make.
For forty days they carried on an unequal warfare against tremendous odds, until at last with their families they took refuge on the top of a high mountain in the Tal country. The Patriarchal family took shelter in the famous church of Mar Audishu, and the others who had been able to effect an escape surrounded them, making a big camp. The Turks and Kurds, after having destroyed the Christian villages in the valleys below, carrying away the crops and plundering everything, endeavoured to starve the fugitives out. Near the church mentioned above there is a small fountain gushing from a rock which was hardly enough to supply drinking water, and for washing and bathing they would often steal at nights to the valleys beneath. The people stayed here for nearly three months, never taking off their clothes and always on the lookout for an attack by night. The few sheep that they had taken with them on their flight were almost eaten up now---they had no salt at all, and soon hunger and sickness began to make their ravages. There was no necessity to deport this Christian population. Its mere starvation in the mountains was all that was needed to make an end of the oldest Apostolic Church in existence.
In the meantime Mar Shimun, the Patriarch, with a few brave men, had stolen out by night and made his way to the Russian army operating in Salmas, Persia. He was received with great distinction, but it was found out after many precious weeks of delay that it might not be possible to send any relief for the people in the interior who were not in the line of march. Later on, the Russians sent their army to Van, and then Mar Shimun with a few faithful followers and good rifles---he himself is an excellent shot---set out again for the interior to reach his flock and his brothers and sisters. They soon made ready to take the congregation through the valleys and defiles to the plains of Persia.
The last day of their stay was the saddest of all. On that day Ishaya, a brother of the Patriarch, died of fever. Mar Shimun, hearing of his illness, had come over the day before. The enemy was then very near, and they could hear the sound of the guns in Tkhuma. Just when the funeral of his brother was to take place, Surma and Romi, his sisters, and Esther, his sister-in-law, were compelled to leave the place, lest they should be caught by the enemy. Mar Shimun, two priests and a few laymen remained behind at this time of danger to bury Ishaya. The burial service was quickly said and the body hastily interred, and Mar Shimun hastened after the fleeing women and children. They were only just in time, for, a few hours after their departure, the Turks arrived and made straight for the church, having heard that the Patriarch's household was there.
I shall not dwell on the horrors of those caught and slain on the way
nor on the many beautiful villages ruined and the women taken captive, nor
on the thousands of others who have met the same fate. In one district of
forty villages, its Bishop said to me, only seventeen had been able to make
an escape, and he knew but very little of the fearful fate of the rest.
I want only to speak of the living who are anxious to die, but to whom death
does not come. They arrived in Persia at places already ruined; they camped
out in the plain of Salmas (4,000 feet above sea level) sleeping in the
fields with no clothes to cover them at night, clad in the rags which they
have worn for many months, without food or shelter. Some assistance has
gone to them from America and England. Some quilts were bought to be distributed,
one for each family of five persons, to serve as cover in the bitter cold.
Some families have as many as ten members, indeed one had twenty-eight.
These are the people who have been living on one dollar a month, and to
whom flour is served in quantity, barely sufficient to allow each person
one small loaf a day and nothing more. I dare say that even their Bishops
and other clergy are in not much better condition than their flock.
Assistance, however, can now be sent out to them and will reach them
immediately. Urmia and Salmas are now in the zone of safety, where there
are many Russian troops, and these have been very kind to the suffering
Christians. Money is being sent through the American Consul, the missionaries
and the Patriarch, and is at once distributed to the sufferers. The Rev.
Y. M. Nisan, who is still alive, although he has lost his wife and daughter,
is on the distributing committee. The defeat of the Turks at Erzeroum means
peace and safety of life for all Armenia and Persia. In the latter country
there are over 80,000 destitute, the majority of them Assyrians, and some
Armenians as well. Money is distributed to all without discrimination.
I have purposely avoided saying anything of the horrors that we have
suffered at Urmia and the agonies we have passed through, simply because
I have felt that the condition of these mountaineers is even more pitiable.
I hope Christian people will be moved at once to make an effort to save
them from the clutches of starvation. The gallant Patriarch has saved them
and brought them out of Turkey, where relief will get to them. I therefore
appeal to all my friends and to others who may be so disposed to help rescue
this ancient Church.
VILAYET OF ERZEROUM.
The Vilayet of Erzeroum lies due north of Bitlis and Van, and is likewise a border province. It consists principally of the upper valleys of the Kara-Su (Western Euphrates) and the Tchorok. The fortress-city of Erzeroum itself is situated in a plain which collects the head-waters of the former river ; Erzindjan, a place of almost equal importance, lies further west, about 120 miles down stream; while Baibourt, in the Tchorok valley, is the most important place on the high road from Erzeroum to Trebizond. The districts north of the Kara-Su are as civilised as the rest of Anatolia; but south of the river, in the great peninsula enclosed by the two arms of the Euphrates, lies the mountain-mass of Dersim, inhabited by wild, independent tribes of Kizil-Bashis and Kurds, who played an active part in the destruction of their Armenian neighbours.
In the Vilayet of Erzeroum the deportations began at the
end of May and during the first days of June. Reports from a particularly
trustworthy source state that, by the 19th May, more than 15,000 Armenians
had been deported from Erzeroum, and the neighbouring villages, and that,
by the 25th May, the districts of Erzindjan, Keghi and Baibourt had also
been "devastated by forced emigration." Our information concerning
Erzeroum itself was at first somewhat scanty, but since its capture by the
Russians it has been visited by representatives of various relief organisations
in the Caucasus, who have obtained circumstantial accounts of what happened
in the city and the surrounding villages. They report that, out of an Armenian
population estimated at 400,000 souls for the Vilayets of Erzeroum and Bitlis, not more than 8,000-10,000
have survived ---in other words, that 98 per cent. of the Armenians in these
vilayets have been either deported or massacred.
We are also particularly well informed with regard to Baibourt and Erzindjan, and the documents in this section may be noted as a clear case in which independent testimonies exactly bear one another out.
53. ERZEROUM: RECORD OF AN INTERVIEW BETWEEN THE REV. H. J. BUXTON AND THE REV. ROBERT STAPLETON, A MISSIONARY OF THE AMERICAN BOARD, RESIDENT AT ERZEROUM FROM BEFORE THE OUTBREAK OF WAR UNTIL AFTER THE CAPTURE OF THE CITY BY THE RUSSIANS.
Up to 1914 the population of Erzeroum was between 60,000 and 70,000, of whom 20,000 were Armenians.
In 1914 Tahsin Bey was Vali of Erzeroum (whom Mr. H. J. Buxton had met, as Vali of Van, in 1913).
On the outbreak of war with Turkey (November, 1914) the British Consul, Mr. Monahan, received his passport; the Russian Consul was ejected; the French Consul was absent. All their servants and interpreters were Armenians; these were ejected likewise, and were sent to Kaisaria as prisoners. The three Armenian servants of the Russian Military Attaché were hanged. The wife of one of these was sitting up, knitting socks and putting things together for her husband's departure, when news came to her, early in the morning, that he was hanging on the scaffold.
In the spring of 1915 Passelt Pasha was Military Commandant of Erzeroum, and he suggested that all Armenian soldiers should be disarmed, withdrawn from combatant service and put on road gangs (yol tabour). These were men who had been conscripted., and, owing to the friendly relations between Turks and Armenians in this district (for the past ten years), had joined readily.
Teachers in the schools were first of all put into hospitals to do the work of dressers and nurses among the wounded. They were men with a good education, and did their work with intelligence. Then came the order that they were to be put on to the road gang, and they were replaced by totally incompetent men, so the soldiers had very poor attention in the hospital.
All through this period, up to May, 1915, military service could be avoided by men of all races and parties upon payment. of an exemption tax of £40 (Turkish).
Even Turks themselves obtained exemption on these terms, and for a period (of, say, twelve months) the terms were faithfully observed; but, of course, eventually the need for soldiers made the authorities come down even upon exempted persons. In any case, this exemption only applied to military duties, and afforded no shelter to Armenians in the final crisis.
Stapleton managed to get one Armenian exempted by the payment of this tax.
19th May, 1915.
There was a massacre in the country round Khnyss. As the Russians advanced from the east a large number of Kurds fled in front of them, bent on vengeance, and carried out a raid-on the peasantry which was quite distinct from the organised massacres later on.
Some of Stapleton's teachers, boy and girl students, were at Khnyss on holiday, and perished in this massacre.
The inhabitants of the one hundred villages in the plain of Erzeroum were sent away by order of the Government at two hours' notice. The number of these must have been between 10,000 and 15,000. Of this number very few returned, and very few reached Erzindjan. A few took refuge with friendly Kurds (Kizilbashis), but all the rest must have been killed.
They were escorted by gendarmes, but the people responsible for the massacres would probably be chettis or Hamidia.
One of the Kurds was charged in court for murder, pillage and rapine, and he thereupon produced a paper and laid it before them, saying: "These are my orders for doing it."
It is not certain who gave these orders, but the presumption is that they originated with the Government at Constantinople.
About this time definite orders arrived by which Tahsin Bey was instructed that all Armenians should be killed. Tahsin refused to carry this out, and, indeed, all through this time he was reluctant to maltreat the Armenians, but was overruled by force majeure.
On the 9th Junehe issued an order that the whole civic population were to leave Erzeroum, and many Turks and Greeks actually did leave (the latter being hustled out).
The German Consul was now aware of what was coming, and wired protests to his Ambassador ; but he was told to remain quiet, as the Germans could not interfere with the internal affairs of Turkey.
This is what he said to Stapleton, and his goodwill is borne out by his
evident intention to help the Armenians. It is an established fact that,
in the days following, he used to send bread tied up in large sacks to the
refugees outside the city, conveying these large supplies in motor cars.
The first company of Armenian deportees left Erzeroum on the 16th June, having got leave to go to Diyarbekir by Kighi. These were forty families in all, mostly belonging to the prosperous business community.
First of all, after starting, all their money was taken from them, "for safety." After a short halt, when some alarm was expressed, they were reassured of the complete security of their journey, and shortly after resuming their journey (somewhere between Kighi and Palu) they were surrounded and a massacre took place. Only one man and forty women and children reached Harpout.
Evidence of this massacre comes from various sources: (1) letters to Stapleton from women survivors ; (2) evidence of Americans who were living in Harpout at the time of the arrival of the survivors, and cared for them ; (3) evidence of a Greek, who passed the scene of the massacre shortly after it took place and described it as sickening.
About five hundred Armenian families left Erzeroum, via Baibourt, for Erzindjan; they were allowed time for preparations---a concession granted throughout the deportations from the town itself. At Baibourt there was a halt, and the first party of about 10,000 people was joined by later contingents, bringing the number up to about 15,000. A guard of gendarmes (up to 400) was provided by the Vali, and these doubtless took their toll of the Armenians in various ways, licentiously and avariciously.
The Vali went to Erzindjan to see after their security, and it is known
that about 15,000 reached Erzindjan. Up to this point the roads were good
enough to allow transport by bullock carts (arabas), but after Erzindjan,
instead of being allowed to follow the carriage road via Sivas, they were
turned aside to the route via Kamakh, Egin and Arabkir, where there
were only footpaths. The arabas had, therefore, to be left behind, and no
less than 3,000 vehicles were brought back to Erzeroum by an Armenian in
the transport service, whom Stapleton met on his return.
At Kamakh, twelve hours from Erzindjan, it is reported that the. men
were separated and killed, their bodies being thrown into the river. Beyond
this place letters come from women only, though Stapleton's account leads
us to suppose that, from among thirty families of which he has news, ten
men survive. Letters from women to Stapleton do not, of course, give details
of what occurred ; they only indicate what happened by such phrases
as: "My husband and boy died on the road." The destinations reached
by these Armenians, as definitely known to Stapleton in January, 1916, were
Mosul, on the east; Rakka, on the south; Aleppo and Aintab, on the west.
The need in these places has been urgent. German Consuls in Aleppo and Mosul
are known to have assisted in distributing relief funds sent by Stapleton,
per the Agricultural Bank at Constantinople, to Mesopotamia---in all about
Stapleton had previously been able to distribute a, sum of about £700
(Turkish), received from America, to poor Armenians before their departure.
This he did in co-operation with the Armenian Bishop.
Certain Roman Catholic "lay brothers and sisters" (Armenians), claiming to be under Austrian protection, were permitted to remain until November, 1915, when they left Erzeroum in arabas. They were known to have reached Erzindjan, and probably Constantinople, in safety, where they were housed in the Austrian schools.
From twelve to twenty families of artisans were left to the last, as they were doing useful work for the Government. Also fifty single masons, who were building a club-house for the Turks, being compelled to use gravestones from the Armenians' cemetery.
These masons were sent to Erzindjan, where they were imprisoned for some days and then brought out and ordered to be shot. Four, however, escaped by shamming death, and one of them saw Stapleton on the 16th February and gave an account of what had happened.
The fate of the artisans is thought to have been similar, but we have no details, except that three families were able to return.
One of those to leave the town in the early days was a photographer. He would not wait. Ten hours out from Erzeroum he was surrounded by forty chettis, stripped naked and stoned to death. They mutilated his body. One child was brained. Of the other children, a girl was taken away and only escaped many months later when the Russians came. Very reluctantly she poured out her story to the Stapletons, from which it appeared that she had been handed round to ten officers after the murder of her husband and his mother, to be their sport.
Thirty-five families of Greeks remained in Erzeroum until near the end.
They were then hustled out when the Russian approach was imminent, the Turks
virtually saying to them: "We are suffering. Why should not you?"
These deportations went on in an almost continuous stream from the 16th June to the 28th July, when the Armenian Bishop left. He is supposed to have been put to death near Erzindjan.
The part which Stapleton took during these events may now be described.
In addition to what we have already said about his relief work, he and Mrs.
Stapleton sheltered eighteen Armenian girls. It was by the permission of
the Vali that these were allowed to stay with him, and on only one occasion
was his house actually threatened. This was just on the eve of the Russian
arrival, when he was warned by the German Consul that a plot had been made
to burn down his house and, in the subsequent rush of panic, to seize the
girls. Nothing could have stopped this but the Russian entry, which took
place on the very day for which it was planned. This plot, however, was
an isolated act, and, on the whole, Stapleton speaks highly of the general
conduct of the Turks in Erzeroum itself.
The Last Days.
On Sunday, the 13th February, the German Consul left. On Monday, the
14th February, the Persian Consul was forced to go with the Turks to Erzindjan.
They maintained that, as he was a representative accredited to the Government,
he must go with them when the Government moved its headquarters. He went
reluctantly, as he was anxious to look after his fellow-countrymen.
On Monday evening (the 14th February) Stapleton was sent for by the Vali,
and he went, expecting to be told to leave the town. The Vali said that
he and the Turks were leaving on the morrow but that Stapleton might remain.
Tahsin Bey requested him to ask the Russian Commander to spare the population
of the city, as, in general, they had had nothing to do with the deportations.
And that is a fact.
On the 15th, Stapleton was asked by a deputation of all ranks of Turks
in the town to go out (three hours' distance) and meet the Russian Commander.
He refused to go, but he delivered Tahsin's message the following day, when
the Russians entered the city.
On the 15th, Turkish troops fired the Armenian episcopal residence and
the market. They also burned schools and arsenals, and looted in the city.
Wednesday, the 16th February.
The first Russian to appear was a Cossack with a white apron. He was
accompanied by Russian and Armenian soldiers, who shouted: "We are
Armenians. Are there any here ?" Then the Cossack came into Stapleton's
house, and wrote his name in the book as "the first Russian to enter
Erzeroum." The house was soon filled, and Stapleton lent eight beds
to Russian officers, and also supplied food.
When the Grand Duke came, a few days later (the 20th), the Russians asked for another bed; but this was refused.
Mr. H. J. Buxton asked Stapleton: "Was there a good deal of looting
by the Russians ? " Stapleton said: "No, I should not say
a good deal of looting. They were very hungry, and the stores were all open;
but, for an invading army, they were quite mild. For the first twenty-four
hours they were very short of food."
Armenian Volunteers began to search the city for Armenians, and they
did not find very many. Four girls were held by Turks, and these, together
with the eighteen with Stapleton, made the full quota of twenty-two Armenians
in the town.
The appointment by the Russians of an "Old Turk" (a former
agent of Abd-ul-Hamid at Bukarest, who had subsequently been banished by
the Young Turks to Erzeroum) is now giving considerable satisfaction to
the Moslem population.
In August, 1915, the Turkish Government appointed and despatched a Commission
from Constantinople, ostensibly to protect the property of the deported
Armenians. During August this Commission took possession of, and sold, this
property, including valuables left with Dr. Case (Stapleton's colleague
at that period). Stapleton asked the police for their authority, and was
turned off his own premises by a high-handed secretary. However, he wired
to his Government, and got the official removed, and from that time he was
treated with respect and was able to exert considerable influence with the
Vali; in fact, he remonstrated with him on the brutal treatment of the women
at the hands of the zaptiehs and Kurds on the road from Erzeroum.
Stapleton is not a Consul, but a Missionary. To the foreigner a "Missionary"
always means a Government representative; and as Stapleton was the only
American in Erzeroum, he was, de facto, Consul. In many ways he was
able to do far more than if he had been officially a Consul, knowing the
ways of the country and exactly how far he could go, but yet free from official
54. ERZEROUM: REPORT, DATED 25th SEPTEMBER, 1915, DRAWN UP BY THE AMERICAN CONSUL-GENERAL AT TREBIZOND, AFTER HIS RETURN FROM A VISIT TO ERZEROUM; COMMUNICATED BY THE AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR ARMENIAN AND SYRIAN RELIEF.
I left Trebizond on the 12th August on horseback, accompanied by kavass
Ahmed and a katerdji with my travelling outfit, also two mounted gendarmes
furnished by the Governor-General. I reached Erzeroum about midnight on
the 17th August, and was allowed to enter the city gate only after communicating
with the Commandant.
I found the two American families well. The Rev. Robert S. Stapleton,
who is the director of the American Schools and Treasurer of the Mission
Station, is living with his wife and two daughters in the upper storey of
the Boys' School building. The lower part is used as a Red Crescent Hospital
for lightly wounded or convalescing soldiers, accommodating on an average
about 75 patients. Dr. Case and wife and two small children were living
in the upper part of the Hospital building, the lower part being used as
a Red Crescent Hospital for about 30 patients. The Girls' School building,
with the exception of two rooms belonging to the teachers, which are locked
up, is also used by the Red Crescent for lightly wounded soldiers, accommodating
on an average about 200. These three fine buildings are on the same street,
about 100 yards apart. The Red Crescent flag flies over the three buildings,
and on Fridays and holidays the Turkish flag is also raised over the Girls'
School building, which is entirely devoted to the Red Crescent work, with
the exception of the two rooms mentioned above. Over the other two buildings,
which are partly occupied by the Americans as residences, the American flag
is hoisted, in addition to the Red Crescent flag, on Sundays and holidays,
and there seems to be no difficulty raised by the authorities now in regard
to the flag question.
I called upon the Governor-General, Tahsin Bey, accompanied by the Rev.
Mr. Stapleton and Dr. Case, and the Bey received us very cordially. He informed
me that he had just received a report from the military authorities that
the Russians, upon evacuating Van, had destroyed every building in the city,
including the American buildings, in order that the Turkish army should
not find shelter for the winter, and had taken the Americans from Van with
them on their retirement towards Russia. This information I telegraphed
to the Embassy on the 18th August as follows :
"All American buildings reported destroyed by Russians upon their
withdrawal from Van, and Americans now in Russia."
He also informed me that all the Americans at Bitlis had gone to Diyarbekir.
The Vali said that, in carrying out the orders to expel the Armenians
from Erzeroum, he had used his best endeavours to protect them on the road,
and had given them fifteen days to dispose of their goods and make arrangements
to leave. They were not prohibited from selling or disposing of their property,
and some families went away with five or more ox-carts loaded with their
household goods and provisions. The Missionaries confirm this.
Over 900 bales of goods of various kinds were deposited by 150 Armenians
in Mr. Stapleton's house for safe keeping. There are also about 500 bales
in Dr. Case's house and stable. The value of the bales is estimated by Mr.
Stapleton at from £10,000 to £15,000 (Turkish). He has a good
American combination safe belonging to the Mission in his house, and two
safes of English make left by merchants, which he filled with paper and
silver roubles and jewellery deposited by Armenians, for safe keeping. He
gave no receipts and assumed no responsibility, however. The gold deposited
by Armenians amounted to £5,559 (Turkish), and of this amount £5,000
(Turkish) was sent to Mr. Peet through the Imperial Ottoman Bank in Erzeroum
by telegram. The roubles, however, the Bank refused to transfer, and so
they were left in his safes in the shape received, namely, tied up in handkerchiefs
or made up in small packages. Afterwards these packages were all opened,
and an itemized list was made of the contents of each package. The paper
roubles and jewellery were then packed into tin boxes and sealed with the
Mission seal and deposited in the Imperial Ottoman Bank in Mr. Stapleton's
name for safe keeping. . . .
Many policies of insurance in the New York Life Insurance Company were
found in these packages, upon which a separate report will be made. There
were also deeds to house and lands, promissory notes and other valuable
papers, which no doubt have now lost much of their value.
The Gregorian Armenian Cathedral and the Catholic Armenian Church at
Erzeroum were filled with goods of various kinds which had been entrusted
to the Imperial Ottoman Bank by the Armenians before they were deported.
These goods were entrusted to the Bank, and the keys are in the possession
of the Bank. . . .
The Vali of Erzeroum informed me that he had received instructions from
Constantinople to allow the Protestants and Catholics to remain where they
were for the present. One of Mr. Stapleton's valuable teachers, Mr. Yeghishé,
was taken some time ago for military service, and was working upon the roads
near Erzeroum. Mr. Stapleton needed this man as an interpreter, since he
himself knows very little Turkish. The Vali promised me he would give Mr.
Yeghishé a vesika or permit to remain in the city, if his military
exemption taxes were paid. I attended to this matter, and on my way to Trebizond
found Mr. Yeghishé at Ilidja, three hours from Erzeroum, and delivered
to him the vesika, which gave him freedom to return to Erzeroum and remain
I also asked for the return of another Protestant teacher who was thought
to be in Erzindjan, but this the Vali declined to allow, saying that the
order did not permit their return, but simply allowed them to remain where
they were. In case they had already been sent away he could not recall them.
Mr. Stapleton has twenty Armenians in his house now; four of them are
women and the balance girls. Dr. Case had six Armenians in his house when
he left Erzeroum. Four of these went to Mr. Stapleton, and one he takes
with him to Constantinople, and one he expects to leave at Marsovan for
training in the Hospital. The Vali granted a special permit for these two
girls to travel with Dr. Case, and also handed to him a letter of appreciation
for the work he had done in his hospital for Turkish officers.
Mr. Stapleton's relations with the Vali, Tahsin Bey, are good, and indeed
the latter, who was Mutessarif of Pera a few years ago, impressed me as
being a very reasonable man, who desired to do the right thing and entertain
good relations with the Americans. . . .
55. ERZEROUM: ABSTRACT OF A REPORT BY MR. B. H. KHOUNOUNTZ, REPRESENTATIVE OF THE "ALL-RUSSIAN URBAN UNION," ON A VISIT TO ERZEROUM AFTER THE RUSSIAN OCCUPATION; PUBLISHED IN THE ARMENIAN JOURNAL "HORIZON," OF TIFLIS, 25th FEBRUARY, 1916.
There are between 80 and 100 Armenians left in Erzeroum---according to
other reports 130---and about 25,000 Turks, who dare not come out of their
houses. The sanitary condition of the city is deplorable. Mr. Khounountz
had interviews with a number of Armenian and foreign eye-witnesses. He met
an Armenian officer who had escaped from the Turks, who told him of the
deportation and massacre of the Armenians. He said that the attitude of
the Turks towards the Armenians was more or less good at the beginning of
the war, but it was suddenly changed after the Turkish defeat at Sari-Kamysh,
as they laid the blame for this defeat upon the Armenians, though he could
not tell why.
After that, they separated the Armenian soldiers from the Turks as a
dangerous element, and removed them from the fighting line. They put them
on the roads to work as ordinary labourers.
At the same time terror reigned in the city. Mr. Pasdermadjian, a well-known
Armenian, was assassinated, and a number of prominent young men were hanged
or exiled. A number of Armenians were forced to go to the cemetery and destroy
the statue which was erected to the memory of martyred Russian soldiers
in 1829. They were also forced to open hospitals for the wounded Turkish
soldiers at their own expense.
On the 5 /18th April, by an order received from Constantinople, the Turks
held a big meeting in which the hodjas (religious heads) openly preached
massacre, casting the responsibility for the defeat upon the Armenians.
The Armenians appealed to them and implored for mercy, but in vain. The
Vali was rather inclined to spare the Armenians, but the order from Constantinople
had tied his hands.
The deportation of all the Armenians in the Vilayet of Erzeroum began
on the 4th June. It was carried out promptly, and took the Armenians by
surprise. Gendarmes were sent to the Armenian villages at night, who entered
the houses, separated all the men from their families and deported them.
The deportation of the men of Erzeroum---the city proper---was carried out
less cruelly, the Vali giving them 15 days' notice.
But as the refugees were escorted by brutal gendarmes and chettis (bands
of robbers) many of them were massacred in a most cruel manner, and very
few of them reached their destination, which was the district of Kamakh,
west of Erzindjan.
According to the officer, the plan of deportation was exactly the same as in other vilayets. None were spared, not even certain women teachers---Protestant and Roman Catholic---who were foreign subjects and had taught in foreign colleges.
Only 15 skilled labourers were left. with their families, as they were needed for war work. These were massacred before the. Turks left Erzeroum.
A SUMMARY OF ARMENIAN HISTORY UP TO AND INCLUDING THE YEAR 1915.
I. THE EUROPEAN WAR AND ARMENIA.
The War has brought us into a new relation with Armenia and the Armenian people. We knew them before as the name of an ancient civilisation, a stubborn rearguard of Christendom in the East, a scene of mission work and massacres and international rivalry; but only a few of us---missionaries, geographers, travellers and an occasional newspaper correspondent---were personally acquainted with the country and its inhabitants. To most people they remained a name, and when we read of their sufferings or traditions or achievements they made little more impression than the doings of the Hittites and Assyrians, who moved across the same Near Eastern amphitheatre several millenniums ago. We had no living contact, no natural relation, with Armenia in our personal or even in our political life.
Such a relation has suddenly been created between us by the War, and it is one of the strangest ironies of war that it fuses together and illuminates the very fabric it destroys. The civilisation in which we lived was like a labyrinth, so huge and intricate that none of the dwellers in it could altogether grasp its structure, while most of them were barely conscious that it had any structural design at all. But now that the War has caught it and it is all aflame, the unity and symmetry of the building are revealed to the common eye. As the glare lights it up from end to end, it stands out in its glory, in matchless outline and perspective ; for the first time (and possibly for the last) we see its parts simultaneously and in proper relation, and realise for one moment the marvel and mystery of this civilisation that is perishing---the subtle, immemorial, unrelaxing effort that raised it up and maintained it, and the impossibility of improvising any equivalent structure in its place. Then the fire masters its prey; the various parts of the labyrinth fall in one by one, the light goes out of them, and nothing is left but smoke and ashes. This is the catastrophe that we are witnessing now, and we do not yet know whether it will be possible to repair it. But if the future is not so dark as it appears, and what has perished can in some measure be restored, our best guide and inspiration in the task will be that momentary, tragic, unique vision snatched out of the catastrophe itself.
The Armenians are not protagonists in the War; they bear none of the guilt for its outbreak and can have little share in the responsibility of building up a better future. But they have been seared more cruelly than any of us by the flames, and, under this fiery ordeal, their individual character as a nation and their part in the community of the civilised world have been thrown into their true relief.
For the first time, England and the Armenians are genuinely in touch with one another. In this desperate struggle between freedom and reaction we are fighting on the same side, striving for the same end. Our lot in the struggle has not, indeed, been the same, for while England is able to act as well as to suffer, the Armenians have suffered with hardly the power to strike a blow. But this difference of external fortune only strengthens the inward moral bond; for we, who are strong, are fighting not merely for this or that political advantage, this or that territorial change, but for a principle. The Powers of the Entente have undertaken the championship of small nationalities that cannot champion themselves. We have solemnly acknowledged our obligation to fulfil our vow in the case of Belgium and Serbia, and now that the Armenians have been overtaken by a still worse fate than the Serbians and the Belgians, their cause, too, has been taken up into the general cause of the Allies. We cannot limit our field in doing battle for our ideal.
It is easier, of course, for the people of France, Great Britain and America to sympathise with Belgium than with a more unfamiliar nation in a distant zone of the War. It needs little imagination to realise acutely that the Belgians are "people like ourselves," suffering all that we should suffer if the same atrocities were committed upon us; and this realisation was made doubly easy by the speedy publication of minute, abundant, first-hand testimony. The Armenians have no such immediate access to our sympathies, and the initial unfamiliarity can only be overcome by a personal effort on the part of those who give ear to their case; but the evidence on which that case rests has been steadily accumulating, until now it is scarcely less complete or less authoritative than the evidence relating to Belgium. The object of the present volume has been to present the documents to English and American readers in as accurate and orderly a form as possible.
Armenia has not been without witness in her agony. Intense suffering means intense emotional experience, and this emotion has found relief in written records of the intolerable events which obsessed the witnesses' memories. Some of the writers are Armenians, a larger number are Americans and Europeans who were on the spot, and who were as poignantly affected as the victims themselves. There are a hundred and forty-nine of these documents, and many of them are of considerable length; but in their total effect they are something more than an exhaustive catalogue of the horrors they set out to decribe. The flames of war illuminate the structure of the building as well as the destruction of it, and the testimony extorted under this fiery ordeal gives an extraordinarily vivid impression of Armenian life---the life of plain and mountain, town and village, intelligenzia and bourgeoisie and peasantry---at the moment when it was overwhelmed by the European catastrophe.
In Armenia, though not in Europe, the flames have almost burnt themselves out, and, for the moment, we can see nothing beyond smoke and ashes. Life will assuredly spring up again when the ashes are cleared away, for attempts to exterminate nations by atrocity, though certain of producing almost infinite human suffering, have seldom succeeded in their ulterior aim. But in whatever shape the new Armenia arises, it will be something utterly different from the old. The Armenians have been a very typical element in that group of humanity which Europeans call the "Near East," but which might equally well be called the "Near West" from the Indian or the Chinese point of view. There has been something pathological about the history of this Near Eastern World. It has had an undue share of political misfortunes, and had lain for centuries in a kind of spiritual paralysis between East and West-belonging to neither, partaking paradoxically of both, and wholly unable to rally itself decidedly to one or the other, when it was involved with Europe in the European War. The shock of that crowning catastrophe seems to have brought the spiritual neutrality of the Near East to a violent end, and however dubious the future of Europe may be, it is almost certain that it will be shared henceforth by all that lies between the walls of Vienna and the walls of Aleppo and Tabriz. This final gravitation towards Europe may be a benefit to the Near East or another chapter in its misfortunes---that depends on the condition in which Europe emerges from the War; but, in either case, it will be a new departure in its history. It has been drawn at last into a stronger orbit, and will travel on its own paralytic, paradoxical course no more. This gives a historical interest to any record of Near Eastern life in the last moments of the Ancient Régime, and these Armenian documents supply a record of a very intimate and characteristic kind. The Near East has never been more true to itself than in its lurid dissolution; past and present are fused together in the flare.
IV. THE ARMENIAN PEOPLE AND THE OTTOMAN GOVERNMENT.
In the eleventh century A.D., a new power appeared in the East. The Arab Empire of the Caliphs had long been receiving an influx of Turks from Central Asia as slaves and professional soldiers, and the Turkish bodyguard had assumed control of politics at Baghdad. But this individual infiltration was no succeeded by the migration of whole tribes, and the tribes were organised into a political power by the clan of Seljuk. The new Turkish dynasty constituted itself the temporal representative of the Abbasid Caliphate, and the dominion of Mohammedan Asia was suddenly transferred from the devitalised Arabs to a vigorous barbaric horde of nomadic Turks.
These Turkish reinforcements brutalised and at the same time stimulated the Islamic world, and the result was a new impetus of conquest towards the borderlands. The brunt of this movement fell upon the unprepared and disunited Armenian principalities. In the first quarter of the eleventh century the Seljuks began their incursions on to the Armenian Plateau. The Armenian princes turned for protection to the East Roman Empire, accepted its suzerainty, or even surrendered their territory directly into its hands. But the Imperial Government brought little comfort to the Armenian people. Centred at Constantinople and cut off from the Latin West, it had lost its Roman universality and become transformed into a Greek national state, while the established Orthodox Church had developed the specifically Near Eastern character of a nationalist ecclesiastical organisation. The Armenians found that incorporation in the Empire exposed them to temporal and spiritual Hellenisation, without protecting them against the common enemy on the east. The Seljuk invasions increased in intensity, and culminated, in 1071 A.D., in the decisive battle of Melazkerd, in which the Imperial Army was destroyed and the Emperor Romanos II. taken prisoner on the field. Melazkerd placed the whole of Armenia at the Seljuk's mercy---and not only Armenia, but the Anatolian provinces of the Empire that lay between Armenia and Europe. The Seljuks carried Islam into the heart of the Near East.
The next four-and-a-half centuries were the most disastrous period in the whole political history of Armenia. It is true that a vestige of independence was preserved, for Roupen the Bagratid conducted a portion of his people south-westward into the mountains of Cilicia, where they were out of the main current of Turkish invasion, and founded a new principality which survived nearly three hundred years (1080-1375). There is a certain romance about this Kingdom of Lesser Armenia. It threw in its lot with the Crusaders, and gave the Armenian nation its first direct contact with modern Western Europe. But the mass of the race remained in Armenia proper, and during these centuries the Armenian tableland suffered almost ceaseless devastation.
The Seljuk migration was only the first wave in a prolonged outbreak of Central Asiatic disturbance, and the Seljuks were civilised in comparison with the tribes that followed on their heels. Early in the thirteenth century came Karluks and Kharizmians, fleeing across Western Asia before the advance of the Mongols; and in 1235 came the first great raid of the Mongols themselves---savages who destroyed civilisation wherever they found it, and were impartial enemies of Christendom and Islam. All these waves of invasion took the same channel. They swept across the broad plateau of Persia, poured up the valleys of the Aras and the Tigris, burst in their full force upon the Armenian highlands and broke over them into Anatolia beyond. Armenia bore the brunt of them all, and the country was ravaged and the population reduced quite out of proportion to the sufferings of the neighbouring regions. The division of the Mongol conquests among the family of Djengis Khan established a Mongol dynasty in Western Asia which seated itself in Azerbaijan, accepted Islam and took over the tradition of the Seljuks, the Abbasids and the Sassanids. It was the old Asiatic Empire under a new name, but it had now incorporated Armenia and extended north-westwards to the Kizil Irmak (Halys). For the first time since Tigranes, the whole of Armenia was reabsorbed again in the East, and the situation grew still worse when the Empire of these "Ilkhans" fell to pieces and was succeeded in the fifteenth century by the petty lordship of Ak Koyunli, Kara Koyanli and other nomadic Turkish clans.
The progressive anarchy of four centuries was finally stilled by the rise of the Osmanli power. The seed of the Osmanlis was one of those Turkish clans which fled across Western Asia before the Mongols. They settled in the dominions of the Seljuk Sultans, who had established themselves at Konia, in Central Anatolia, and who allowed the refugees to carve out an obscure appanage on the marches of the Greek Empire, in the Asiatic hinterland of Constantinople. The son and successor of the founder was here converted from Paganism to Islam, towards the end of the thirteenth century A.D., and the name of Osman, which he adopted at his conversion, has been borne ever since by the subjects of his House.
The Osmanli State is the greatest and most characteristic Near Eastern Empire there has ever been. In its present decline it has become nothing but a blight to all the countries and peoples that remain under its sway; but at the outset it manifested a faculty for strong government which satisfied the supreme need of the distracted Near Eastern world. This was the secret of its amazing power of assimilation, and this quality in turn increased its power of organisation, for it enabled the Osmanlis to monopolise all the vestiges of political genius that survived in the Near East. The original Turkish germ was quickly absorbed in the mass of Osmanlicised native Greeks. The first expansion of the State was westward, across the Dardanelles, and before the close of the fourteenth century the whole of South-Eastern Europe had become Osmanli territory, as far as the Danube and the Hungarian frontier. The seal was set on these European conquests when Sultan Mohammed II. entered Constantinople in 1453, and then the current of expansion veered towards the east. Mohammed himself absorbed the rival Turkish principalities in Anatolia, and annexed the Greek "Empire" of Trebizond. In the second decade of the sixteenth century, Sultan Selim I. followed this up with a sweeping series of campaigns, which carried him with hardly a pause from the Taurus barrier to the citadel of Cairo. Armenia was overrun in 1514 ; the petty Turkish chieftains were overthrown, the new Persian Empire was hurled back to the Caspian, and a frontier established between the Osmanli Sultans and the Shahs of Iran, which has endured, with a few fluctuations, until the present day.
In the sixteenth century the whole Near Eastern world, from the gates of Vienna to the gates of Aleppo and Tabriz, found itself united under a single masterful Government, and once more Armenia was linked securely with the West. From 1514 onwards the great majority of the Armenian nation was subject to the Osmanli State. It is true that the province of Erivan (on the middle course of the Aras) was recovered by the Persians in the seventeenth century, and held by them till its cession to Russia in 1834. But, with this exception, the whole of Armenia remained under Osmanli rule until the Russians took Kars, in the war of 1878. These intervening centuries of union and pacification were, on the whole, beneficial to Armenia; but with the year 1878 there began a new and sinister epoch in the relations between the Osmanli State and the Armenian nation.
When the Ottoman Government entered the European War in 1914 it had ruled
Armenia for just four hundred years, and still had for its subjects a majority
of the Armenian people. Anyone who inquires into the relations between the
Government and the governed during this period of Near Eastern history will
find the most contradictory opinions expressed. On the one hand he will
be told that the Armenians, like the rest of the Christians in Turkey, were
classed as "Rayah " (cattle)
by the dominant race, and that this one word sums up their irremediable
position ; that they were not treated as citizens because they were
not even treated as men. On the other hand, he will hear that the Ottoman
Empire has been more liberal to its subject nationalities than many states
in Western Europe ; that the Armenians have been perfectly free to
live their own life under a paternal government, and that the friction between
the Government and its subjects has been due to the native perversity and
instability of the Armenian character, or, worse still, to a revolutionary
poison instilled by some common enemy from without. Both these extreme views
are out of perspective, but each of them represents a part of the truth.
It is undoubtedly true (to take the Turkish case first) that the Armenians
have derived certain benefits from the Ottoman dispensation. The caste division
between Moslem and Rayah, for instance, may stamp the Ottoman "State
Idea" as mediaeval and incapable of progress ; but this has injured
the state as a whole more appreciably than the penalised section of it,
for extreme penalisation works both ways. The Government ruled out the Christians
so completely from the dominant Moslem commonwealth that it suffered and
even encouraged them to form communities of their own. The "Rayah"
became "Millets"---not yoke-oxen, but unshackled herds.
These Christian Millets were instituted by Sultan Mohammed II, after
he had conquered Constantinople in 1453 and set himself to reorganise the
Ottoman State as the conscious heir of the East Roman Empire. They are national
corporations with written charters, often of an elaborate kind. Each of
them is presided over by a Patriarch, who holds office at the discretion
of the Government, but is elected by the community and is the recognised
intermediary between the two, combining in his own person the headship of
a voluntary "Rayah" association and the status of an Ottoman official.
The special function thus assigned to the Patriarchates gives the Millets,
as an institution, an ecclesiastical character;
but in the Near East a church is merely the foremost aspect of a nationality,
and the authority of the Patriarchates extends to the control of schools,
and even to the administration of certain branches of civil law. The Millets,
in fact, are practically autonomous bodies in all that concerns religion,
culture and social life ; but it is a maimed autonomy, for it is jealously
debarred from any political expression. The establishment of the Millets
is a recognition, and a palliation, of the pathological anomaly of the Near
East---the political disintegration of Near Eastern peoples and the tenacity
with which they have clung, in spite of it, to their corporate spiritual
The organisation of the Millets was not a gain to all the Christian nations
that had been subjected by the Ottoman power. Certain orthodox populations,
like the Bulgars and the Serbs, actually lost an ecclesiastical autonomy
which they had enjoyed before, and were merged in the Millet of the Greeks,
under the Orthodox Patriarch at Constantinople. The Armenians, on the other
hand, improved their position. As so-called schismatics, they had hitherto
existed on sufferance under Orthodox and Catholic governments, but the Osmanlis
viewed all varieties of Christian with an impartial eye. Mohammed II. summoned
the Gregorian Bishop of the Armenian colony at Broussa, and raised him to
the rank of an Armenian Patriarch at Constantinople. The Ottoman conquest
thus left the Gregorian Armenians their religious individuality and put
them on a legal equality with their neighbours of the Orthodox Faith, and
the same privileges were extended in time to the Armenians in communion
with other churches. The Gregorian Millet was chartered in 1462, the Millet
of Armenian Catholics in 1830, and the Millet of Armenian Protestants in
the 'forties of the nineteenth century, as a result of the foundation of the American Missions.
The Armenians of the Dispersion, therefore, profited, in that respect,
by Ottoman rule, and even in the Armenian homeland the account stood, on
the whole, in the Ottoman Government's favour. The Osmanlis are often blamed
for having given the Kurds a footing in this region, as a political move
in their struggle with Persia; but the Kurds were not, originally, such
a scourge to the Armenians as the Seljuks, Mongols, or Kara Koyunli, who
had harried the land before, or as the Persians themselves, whom the Osmanlis
and the Kurds ejected from the country. The three centuries of Kurdish feudalism
under Ottoman suzerainty that followed Sultan Selim's campaign of 1514 were
a less unhappy period for the Armenians than the three centuries and more
of anarchy that had preceded them. They were a time of torpor before recuperation,
and it was the Ottoman Government again that, by a change in its Kurdish
policy, enabled this recuperation to set in. In the early part of the nineteenth
century a vigorous anti-feudal, centralising movement was initiated by Sultan
Mahmoud, a reformer who has become notorious for his unsuccessful handling
of the Greek and Serbian problems without receiving the proper credit for
his successes further east. He turned his attention to the Kurdish chieftains
in 1834, and by the middle of the century his efforts had practically broken
their power. Petty feudalism was replaced by a bureaucracy centred in Constantinople.
The new officialdom was not ideal; it had new vices of its own ; but
it was impartial, by comparison, towards the two races whom it had to govern,
for the class prejudice of the Moslem against the well-behaved Rayah was
balanced by the exasperation of the professional administrator with the
unconscionable Kurd. In any case, this remodelling of the Ottoman State
in the early decades of the nineteenth century introduced a new epoch in
the history of the Armenian people. Coinciding, as it did, with the establishment
of the American Missions and the chartering of the Catholic and Protestant
Millets, it opened to the Armenians opportunities of which they availed
themselves to the full. An intellectual and economic renaissance of Armenian
life began, parallel in many respects to the Greek renaissance a century before.
This comparison brings us back to the question: Was the Armenian revival
of the nineteenth century an inevitable menace to the sovereignty and integrity
of the Ottoman State ? Is the disastrous breach between Armenian and
Turk, which has actually occurred, simply the fruit of wrong-headed Armenian
ambitions ? That is the Turkish contention; but here the Turkish case
breaks down, and we shall find the truth on the Armenian side.
The parallel with the Greek renaissance is misleading, if it implies
a parallel with the Greek revolution. The Greek movement towards political
separatism was, in a sense, the outcome of the general spiritual movement
that preceded it; but it was hardly an essential consequence, and certainly
not a fortunate one. The Greek War of Independence liberated one fraction
of the Greek race at the price of exterminating most of the others and sacrificing
the favoured position which the Greek element had previously enjoyed throughout
the Ottoman Empire. It was not an encouraging precedent for the Armenians,
and the objections to following it in their own case were more formidable
still. As we have seen, no portion of Ottoman territory was exclusively
inhabited by them, and they were nowhere even in an absolute majority, except
in certain parts of the Province of Van, so that they had no natural rallying
point for a national revolt, such as the Greeks had in the Islands and the
Morea. They were scattered from one end to another of the Ottoman Empire;
the whole Empire was their heritage, and it was a heritage that they must
necessarily share with the Turks, who were in a numerical majority and held the reins of political power.
The alternative to an Ottoman State was not an Armenian State, but a partition among the Powers, which would have ended
the ambitions of Turk and Armenian alike. The Powers concerned were quite
ready for a partition, if only they could agree upon a division of the spoils.
This common inheritance of the Armenians and the Turks was potentially one
of the richest countries in the Old World, and one of the few that had not
yet been economically developed. Its native inhabitants, still scanty, backward
and divided against themselves, were not yet capable of defending their
title against spoilers from without ; they only maintained it at present
by a fortuitous combination in the balance of power, which might change
at any moment. The problem for the Armenians was not how to overthrow the
Ottoman Empire but how to preserve it, and their interest in its preservation
was even greater than that of their Turkish neighbours and co-heirs. Our
geographical survey has shown that talent and temperament had brought most
of the industry, commerce, finance and skilled intellectual work of Turkey
into the Armenians' hands. The Greeks may still have competed with them
on the Ægean fringe, and the Sephardi Jews in the Balkans, but they
had the whole interior of the Empire to themselves, with no competition
to fear from the agricultural Turks or the pastoral Kurds. And if the Empire
were preserved by timely reforms from within, the position of the Armenians
would become still more favourable, for they were the only native element
capable of raising the Empire economically, intellectually and morally to
a European standard, by which alone its existence could permanently be secured.
The main effort must be theirs, and they would reap the richest reward.
Thus, from the Armenian point of view, a national entente with the Turks
was an object of vital importance, to be pursued for its ultimate results
in spite of present difficulties and drawbacks. About the middle of the
nineteenth century there seemed every likelihood of its being attained.
The labours of Sultan Mahmoud and the influence of Great Britain and France
had begun to inoculate the Turkish ruling class with liberal ideas. An admirable
"Law of Nationalities" was promulgated, and there was a project
for a parliamentary constitution. It looked, to an optimist, as if the old
mediaeval caste-division of Moslem and Rayah might die away and allow Armenian,
Turk and Kurd to find their true relation to one another---not as irreconcilable
sects or races, but as different social elements in the same community,
whose mutual interest was to co-operate for a common end.
This was the logical policy for the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire to
pursue, and the logic of it was so clear that they have clung to it through
difficulties and drawbacks sufficient to banish logic altogether ---"
difficulties" which amounted to a bankruptcy of political sense in
the Imperial Government, and "drawbacks" which culminated in official
massacres of the Armenian population. There were two causes of this sinister
turn of events: the external crisis through which the Empire passed in the
years 1875-8, and the impression this crisis made upon Sultan Abd-ul-Hamid,
who came to the throne in 1876, when it was entering upon its gravest phase.
In these years the Empire had been brought to the verge of ruin by the
revolt of a subject Christian population, the Bosniak Serbs, which spread
to the other subject races in the Balkan provinces, and by a momentary breakdown
in the diplomatic mechanism of the European balance of power, which enabled
Russia to throw her military force into the scales on the Balkan rebels'
behalf. The ruin was arrested and partially repaired, when Turkey lay prostrate
under Russia's heel, by a reassertion of the balance of power, which deprived
Russia of most of her gains and half the Balkan Christians of their new-won
liberties. Abd-ul-Hamid was clever enough to learn from these experiences,
but not, unfortunately, to learn aright, and he devoted all his astuteness
to carrying out a policy far more injurious to the Empire than the troubles
it was meant to avert. He seems to have inferred from the war with Russia
that Turkey was not and never would be strong enough to hold its own against
a first-class power ; it was not her internal strength that had saved
her, but the external readjustment of forces. Therefore, any attempt to
strengthen the Empire from within, by reconciling its racial elements and
developing its natural resources, was Utopian and irrelevant to the problem.
The only object of importance was to insure against an attack by any single
Power by keeping all the Great Powers in a state of jealous equilibrium.
Now the breakdown of this equilibrium, in 1877, which had been so disastrous
for Turkey, had been directly caused by an antecedent disturbance of equilibrium
within the Empire itself. A subject Christian nationality had tried to break
away violently from the Ottoman body-politic. Here was the root of the whole
trouble, to Abd-ul-Hamid's mind, and the primary object of his policy must
be to prevent such a thing from happening again. The subject nationalities
of the Empire were not for him unrealised assets; they were potential destroyers
of the State, more formidable even than the foreign Powers. Their potentialities
must be neutralised, and the surest course, with them as with the Powers,
was to play them off against one another. In fine, the policy of Abd-ul-Hamid
was the exact antithesis of the instinctive Armenian policy which we have
indicated above; it was not to strengthen the Empire by bringing the nationalities
into harmony, but to weaken the nationalities, at whatever cost to the Empire,
by setting them to cut each other's throats. Abd-ul-Hamid applied this policy
for forty years. The Macedonians and the Armenians were his special victims,
but only the Armenians concern us here.
It was inevitable that the Armenians should be singled out by Abd-ul-Hamid for repression. When Turkey sued for peace in 1878, the Russian troops were
in occupation of the greater part of the Armenian plateau, and the Russian plenipotentiaries inserted an Article (No. 16) in the Treaty of San Stefano
making the evacuation of these provinces conditional upon the previous introduction of reforms in their administration by the Ottoman Government. A concrete
scheme for the reorganisation of the six vilayets in question had already been drawn up by a delegation of their Armenian inhabitants.
It provided for the creation of an Armenian Governor-General, empowered to appoint and remove the officials subordinate to him; a mixed gendarmerie
of Armenians and the sedentary elements in the Moslem population, to the exclusion of the nomadic Kurds; a general assembly, consisting of Moslem
and Christian deputies in equal numbers; and equal rights for every creed. The Ottoman Government had approved and even encouraged this project of
provincial autonomy when it feared that the alternative was the cession of the provinces to Russia. As soon as it had made certain of the Russian
evacuation, its approval turned to indifference; and when the European Congress met at Berlin to revise the San Stefano Treaty, the Ottoman emissaries exerted
themselves to quash the project altogether. In this they were practically successful, for the Treaty drawn up at Berlin by the Congress merely engaged
the Ottoman Government, in general terms, to introduce "ameliorations" in the " provinces inhabited by Armenians," without demanding any guarantee at all. The Russian troops were withdrawn and the ameliorations were a dead letter.
The Ottoman Government was reminded of them, in 1880, by a collective Note from the six Powers. But it left the Note unanswered, and after the diplomatic
démarches had dragged on for two years the question was shelved, on Bismarck's suggestion, because no Power except Great Britain would press it.
The seed of the "Armenian Reforms" had thus fallen upon stony
ground, except in the mind of Abd-ul-Hamid, where it lodged and rankled
till it bore the fruit of the "Armenian Massacres." The project
had not really been a menace to Ottoman sovereignty and integrity. It was
merely a proposal to apply in, six vilayets that elementary measure of "amelioration"
which was urgently needed by the Empire as a whole, and without, which it
could never begin to develop its internal strength. But, to Abd-ul-Hamid
it was unforgivable, for to him every concession to a subject Christian
nationality was suspect. He had seen the Bulgars given ecclesiastical autonomy
by the Ottoman Government in 1870 and then raised by Russia, within eight
years, into a semi-independent political principality. Armenian autonomy
had been averted for the moment, but the parallel might still hold good,
for Russia's influence over the Armenians had been increasing.
Russia had conquered the Armenian provinces of Persia in 1828, and this had brought within her frontier the
Monastery of Etchmiadzin, in the Khanate of Erivan, which was the seat of
the Katholikos of All the Armenians. The power of this Katholikos was at
that time very much in abeyance. He was an ecclesiastical relic of, the
ancient united Armenian Kingdom of Tigranes and Tiridates, which had been
out of existence for fourteen hundred years. There was another Katholikos
at Sis, a relic of the mediaeval kingdom of Cilicia, who did not acknowledge
his supremacy, and he was thrown into the shade altogether by the Armenian
Patriarch at Constantinople, who was the official head of the Armenian Millet
in the Ottoman Empire---at that time an overwhelming majority of the Armenian
But Russian diplomacy succeeded in reviving the Katholikos of Etchmiadzin's
authority. In the 'forties of the nineteenth century, when Russian influence
at Constantinople was at its height and Russian protection seemed the only
recourse for Turkey against the ambition of Mehemet Ali, the ecclesiastical
supremacy of Etchmiadzin over Constantinople and Sis was definitely established,
and the Katholikos of Etchmiadzin, a resident in Russian territory, became
once more the actual as well as the titular head of the whole Gregorian Church. Russia had thus acquired an influence over the Armenians as a nation,
and individual Armenians were acquiring a reciprocal influence in Russia. They had risen to eminence, not only in commerce, but in the public service
and in the army. They had distinguished themselves particularly in the war of 1877. Loris Melikov, Lazarev and Tergoukasev, three of, the most successful
generals on the Russian side, were of Armenian nationality. Melikov had taken the fortress of Kars, and the Treaty of Berlin left his conquest in
Russia's possession with a zone of territory that rounded off the districts ceded by Persia fifty years before. The Russian frontier was thus pushed
forward on to the Armenian plateau, and now included an important Armenian population---important enough to make its mark on the general life of the
Russian Empire and to serve as a national rallying-point for the Armenians who still remained on the Ottoman side of the line.
Such considerations outweighed all others in Abd-ul-Hamid's mind. His
Armenian subjects must be deprived of their formidable vitality, and he
decided to crush them by resuscitating the Kurds. From 1878 onwards he encouraged
their lawlessness, and in 1891 he deliberately undid the work of his predecessor,
Mahmoud. The Kurdish chieftains were taken again into favour and decorated
with Ottoman military rank; their tribes were enrolled as squadrons of territorial
cavalry ; regimental badges and modern rifles were served out to them
from the Government stores, and their retaining fee was a free hand to use
their official status and their official weapons as they pleased against
their Armenian neighbours. At the same time the latter were systematically
disarmed ; the only retaliation open to them was the formation of secret
revolutionary societies, and this fitted in entirely with Abd-ul-Hamid's
plans, for it made a racial conflict inevitable. The disturbances began
in 1893 with the posting up of revolutionary placards in Yozgad and Marsovan.
This was soon followed by an open breach between Moslem and Christian in
the districts of Moush and Sassoun, and there was a rapid concentration
of troops---some of them Turkish regulars, but most of them Hamidié
Kurds. Sassoun was besieged for several months, and fell in 1894. The Sassounlis---men,
women and children---were savagely massacred by the Turks and Kurds, and
the attention of Great Britain was aroused. In the winter of 1894-5 Great
Britain persuaded France and Russia to join her in reminding the Ottoman
Government of its pledge to introduce provincial reforms, and in the spring
they presented a concrete programme for the administration of the Six Vilayets.
In its final form it was a perfunctory project, and the counter-project
which the Ottoman Government announced its intention of applying in its
stead was more illusory still. It was promulgated in 1895, but the first
of a new series of organised massacres had already taken place a few days
earlier, at Trebizond, and in the following months the slaughter was extended
to one after another of the principal towns of the Empire. These atrocities
were nearly all committed against peaceful, unarmed urban populations. The
only place that resisted was Zeitoun, which held out. for six months against
a Turkish army, and was finally amnestied by the mediation of the Powers.
The anti-Armenian outbreaks were instigated and controlled by the Central
Government, and were crowned, in August, 1896, by the great massacre at
Constantinople, where for two days the Armenians, at the Government's bidding,
were killed indiscriminately in the streets, until the death-roll amounted
to many thousands. Then Abd-ul-Hamid held his hand. He had been feeling
the pulse of public opinion, both abroad and at home, and he saw that he
had gone far enough. In all more than 100,000 men, women and children had perished, and for the moment he had
sufficiently crippled the Armenian element in his Empire.
Yet this Macchiavellian policy was ultimately as futile as it was wicked.
In the period after the massacres the Armenian population in Turkey was
certainly reduced, partly by the actual slaughter and partly by emigration
abroad. But this only weakened the Empire without permanently paralysing
the Armenian race. The emigrants struck new roots in the United States and
in the Russian Caucasus, acquired new resources, enlisted new sympathies ;
and Russia was the greatest gainer of all. The Armenians had little reason,
at the time, to look towards Russia with special sympathy or hope. In Russia,
as in Turkey, the war of 1877-8 had been followed by a political reaction,
which was aggravated by the assassination of the Tsar, Alexander II., in
1881 ; and the Armenians, as an energetic, intellectual, progressive
element in the Russian Empire, were classed by the police with the revolutionaries,
and came under their heavy hand. Yet once an Armenian was on the Russian
side of the frontier his life and property at least were safe. He could
be sure of reaping the fruits of his labour, and had not to fear sudden
death in the streets. During the quarter of a century that followed the
Treaty of Berlin, the Armenian population of the Russian provinces increased
remarkably in prosperity and numbers, and now, after the massacres, they
were reinforced by a constant stream of Ottoman refugees. The centre of
gravity of the Armenian race was shifting more and more from Ottoman to
Russian territory. Russia has profited by the crimes of her neighbours.
The Hamidian régime lasted from 1878 to 1908, and did all that any
policy could do to widen the breach between the Ottoman State and the Armenian
people. Yet the natural community of interest was so strong that even thirty
years of repression did not make the Armenians despair of Ottoman regeneration.
Nothing is more significant than the conduct of the Armenians in 1908,
when Abd-ul-Hamid was overthrown by the Young Turkish Revolution, and there
was a momentary possibility that the Empire might be reformed and preserved
by the initiative of the Turks themselves. At this crisis the real attitude
of the different nationalities in the Empire was revealed. The Kurds put
up a fight for Abd-ul-Hamid, because they rejoiced in the old dispensation.
The Macedonians---Greek, Bulgar and Serb---who had been the Armenians' principal
fellow-victims in the days of oppression, paid the Constitution lip-homage
and secretly prepared to strike. They were irreconcilable irredentists,
and saw in the reform of the Empire simply an obstacle to their secession
from it. They took counsel with their kinsmen in the independent national
States of Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece, and, four years later, the Balkan
League attacked Turkey and tore away her Macedonian provinces by force.
The Armenians, on the other hand, threw themselves wholeheartedly into
the service of the new régime. As soon as the Ottoman Constitution
was restored, the Armenian political parties abandoned their revolutionary
programme in favour of parliamentary action, and co-operated in Parliament
with the Young Turkish bloc so long as Young Turkish policy remained in
any degree liberal or democratic. The terrible Adana massacres, which occurred
less than a year after the Constitution had been proclaimed, might have
damped the Armenians' enthusiasm (though at first the proof that the Young
Turks were implicated in them was not so clear as it has since become).
Yet they showed their loyalty in 1912, when the Turks were fighting for
their existence. It was only under the new laws that the privilege and duty
of military service had been extended to the Christian as well as the Moslem
citizens of the Empire, and the disastrous Balkan Campaign was the first
opportunity that Armenian soldiers were given of doing battle for their
common heritage. But they bore themselves so well in this ordeal that they
were publicly commended by their Turkish commanders. Thus, in war and peace,
in the Army and in Parliament, the Armenians worked for the salvation of
the Ottoman Commonwealth, from the accession of the Young Turks in 1908
till their intervention in the European War in 1914. It is impossible to
reconcile with this fact the Turkish contention that in 1914 they suddenly
reversed their policy and began treacherously to plot for the Ottoman Empire's
V. THE DEPORTATIONS OF 1915: ANTECEDENTS.
There is no dispute as to what happened in 1915. The Armenian inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire were everywhere uprooted from their homes, and deported to the most remote and unhealthy districts that the Government could select for them. Some were murdered at the outset, some perished on the way, and some died after reaching their destination. The death-roll amounts to upwards of six hundred thousand; perhaps six hundred thousand more are still alive in their places of exile ; and the remaining six hundred thousand or so have either been converted forcibly to Islam, gone into hiding in the mountains, or escaped beyond the Ottoman frontier. The Ottoman Government cannot deny these facts, and they cannot justify them. No provocation or misdemeanour on the part of individual Armenians could justify such a crime against the whole race. But it might be explained and palliated if the Armenians, or some of them, were originally in the wrong; and therefore the Ottoman Government and its German apologists have concentrated their efforts on proving that this was the case. There are three main Turkish contentions, none of which will bear examination.
The first contention is that the Armenians took up arms and joined the Russians, as soon as the latter crossed the Ottoman frontier. The standard case its champions cite is the "Revolt of Van." The deportations, they maintain, were only ordered after this outbreak to forestall the danger of its repetition elsewhere. This contention is easily rebutted. In the first place, there was no Armenian revolt at Van. The Armenians merely defended the quarter of the city in which they lived, after it had been beleaguered and attacked by Turkish troops, and the outlying villages visited with massacre by Turkish patrols. The outbreak was on the Turkish side, and the responsibility lies with the Turkish governor, Djevdet Bey. The ferocious, uncontrollable character of this official was the true cause of the catastrophe. Anyone who reads the impartial American testimony on this point, in section II. of the present collection of documents, will see that this was so. And, in the second place, the deportations had already begun in Cilicia before the fighting at
Van broke out. The Turks fired the first shot at Van on the 20th April, 1915; the first Armenians were deported from Zeitoun on the 8th April, and there is a record of their arrival in Syria as early as the 19th. The case of Van, which the apologists have made so much of, simply falls to the ground, and they cannot rehabilitate themselves by adducing any previous revolt at Zeitoun. It is true that twenty-five fugitive conscripts defended themselves for a day in a monastery near Zeitoun against Turkish troops, and decamped into the mountains during the night. But this happened only one day before the deportation, and the deportation must have been decided upon far in advance, for it was preceded by a protracted inquisition for arms, and there were Moslem refugees from the Balkans concentrated on the spot, ready to occupy the Zeitounlis' houses the moment the rightful owners were carried off. During all these preliminary proceedings---most of which were violations of the charter of liberties held by Zeitoun from the Ottoman Government---the population as a whole (11,000 individuals as against the 25 who rebelled) very scrupulously kept the peace. This was the policy of the leaders, and they were obeyed by the people. Nothing happened at Zeitoun that can account for the Government's scheme of deportation.
There were several other instances in which the Armenians took up arms,
but none of them are relevant to the case. They were all subsequent in date
to these cardinal instances, and were simply attempts at self-defence by
people who had seen their neighbours massacred or deported, and were threatened
with the same fate themselves. The Armenians of Moush resisted when they
were attacked by Djevdet Bey, who had already tried to massacre the Armenians
of Van and had succeeded in massacring those of Sairt and Bitlis. The Armenians
of Sassoun resisted when the Kurds had destroyed their kinsmen in the plain
of Diyarbekir and were closing in upon themselves. This was in June, and
the Nestorian Christians of Hakkiari resisted tinder the same circumstances
and at the same date. Further west, a few villages took up arms in the Vilayet
of Sivas, after the rest of the Sivas Armenians had been deported;
and at Shabin Kara-Hissar the Armenians drove out their Turkish fellow-townsmen
and stood for several weeks at bay, when they heard how the exiles from
Trebizond and Kerasond had been murdered on the road. The defence of Djibal
Mousa in August (the only story in this volume with a happy ending) was
similarly inspired by the previous fate of Zeitoun. The resistance at Ourfa
in September was another act of despair, provoked by the terrible procession
of exiles from Harpout and the north-east, which had been filing for three
months through Ourfa before the Armenian colony there was also summoned
to take the road. These are all the instances of resistance that are reported,
and they were all a consequence of the deportations, and not their cause.
It may be added that, wherever resistance was offered, the Turks suppressed
it with inconceivable brutality, not merely retaliating upon the fighting
men, but, in most cases, massacring every Armenian man, woman and child
in cold blood after the fighting was over. These cases were not palliations
of the atrocities, but occasions of the worst excesses.
The second contention is that there was a general conspiracy of Armenians throughout the Empire to bring about an internal revolution at a moment when all the Ottoman military forces were engaged on the frontiers, and so deliver the country into the hands of the Allies. The prompt action of the Ottoman Government in disarming, imprisoning, executing and deporting the whole people---innocent and guilty alike is alleged to have crushed this movement before it had time to declare itself. This is an insidious line of argument, because it refuses to be tested by the evidence of what actually occurred. If the actual outbreaks were isolated, inspired by panic, confined to self-defence, and posterior in date to the Government's own preventive measures, all that, on this hypothesis, is not a proof of the Armenians' innocence, but only of the Government's energy and foresight. Yet when this indictment is examined, it, too, is found to rest on the most frivolous grounds.
The revolution, it is alleged, was to break out when the Allies landed
in Cilicia---but such a landing was never made; or it was arranged in conjunction
with the landing at the Dardanelles --- but the landing was made and the
outbreak never happened. Indeed, it is hard to see what the Armenians could
have done, for nearly all their able-bodied men between twenty and forty-five
years of age were mobilised at the beginning of the war, and the age limit
was soon extended in either direction to eighteen and fifty. The Turks make
sweeping allegations about secret stores of bombs and arms, which prove
to be false in every case where they can be checked. The Armenians certainly
possessed a moderate number of rifles and revolvers, because, for the past
six years, under the Young Turkish regime, they had been permitted
to carry arms for their personal security, a privilege that had always been
enjoyed, as a matter of course, by every Moslem in the Ottoman Empire. But
evidently there were not enough arms in their possession to go round, even
among the comparatively few men left behind after mobilisation; for
when, in the winter of 1914-5, the Ottoman authorities made a house-to-house
search for arms, and conducted their inquisition by atrocious physical tortures,
the Armenians bought arms from each other and from their Moslem neighbours,
in order to be able to deliver them up and suffer no worse punishment than
mere imprisonment. This practice is recorded independently by several trustworthy
witnesses from various localities.
The stories of bombs are more extravagant still. In the town of X., for instance, a bomb was unearthed in the Armenian cemetery, which was made the pretext for the most atrocious procedure against the Armenian inhabitants. Yet the bomb was rusty with age, and was believed to date from the days of Abd-ul-Hamid, when the Young Turks, as well as the Armenian political parties, were a secret revolutionary organisation and not averse to using bombs themselves. In the same town, a blacksmith in the employment of the American College was cruelly tortured for "constructing a bomb" ; but the "bomb" turned out to be a solid iron shot which he had been commissioned to make for the competition of "putting the weight" in the College athletic sports.
It was also alleged that Armenians resident on the coast had been in treacherous communication with the Allied fleets. The Armenian boatmen of Silivri, for instance, on the Sea of Marmora, were deported on the ground that they had furnished supplies to British submarines ; and before this, as early as April, 1915, half-a-dozen Armenians from Dört Yöl, a village on the Gulf of Alexandretta, were hanged at Adana on the charge of having signalled to the Franco-British cruiser squadron---a step which was followed up by the deportation of the whole population of Dört Yöl into the interior, to do navvy-work on the roads. This charge against Dört Yöl can be checked, for the witness of the hangings (a resident in Cilicia of neutral nationality and excellent standing) states, from his personal knowledge, that only one Armenian from Dört Yöl had had any communication with the Allied warships. This evidence is authoritative, and it has probability on its side ; for, if Dört Yöl was in regular communication with the Allied squadron, it is inconceivable that the Armenians of Djibal Mousa, a few miles further down the coast, should have taken 44 days to attract the same squadron's attention, when it was a question for them of life and death.
Thus the second contention breaks down, and we are left with the third, which lays little stress on justice or public safety and bases the case on revenge. The Armenian civil population in the Ottoman Empire, it is argued, owes its misfortunes to the Armenian volunteers in the Russian Army. "Our Armenians in Turkey," say the Turks in effect, "have certainly suffered terribly from the measures we have taken; they may even have suffered innocently ; but can you blame us ? Was it not human nature that we should revenge ourselves on the Armenians at home for the injury we had received from their compatriots fighting against us at the front in the Russian ranks---men who had actually volunteered to fight against us in the enemy's cause ?"
This is almost the favourite argument of the apologists, and yet it is
surely the most monstrous of any, for these Armenian volunteers owed no
allegiance to the Turks at all, but were ordinary Russian subjects. Through
territorial acquisitions and free immigration from across the frontier,
the Russian Government had, by 1914, acquired the sovereignty over little
less than half the Armenian race. Russia
was as much the lawful "fatherland" of this substantial minority
as Turkey was of the remainder. It is a misfortune for any nation to be
divided between two allegiances, especially when the states to which they
owe them elect to go to war; but it is at least an alleviation of
the difficulty, and one that does honour to both parties concerned, when
either fraction of the divided nationality finds itself in sympathy, even
under the test of war, with the particular state to which its allegiance
is legally due. The loyalty of the Russian Armenians to Russia cast no imputation upon the Ottoman Armenians,
and was no concern of the Turks. The latter will probably explain that they
had no objection to the Russian Armenians doing their duty, but resented
their doing more : "The conscripts naturally answered the summons,
but why did those who were exempt equip themselves so eagerly as volunteers ?
The Ottoman Armenians adopted a painfully different attitude. At the beginning
of the war, the Young Turkish Party sent representatives to the Congress
of the Armenian 'Dashnaktzoutioun' Party at Erzeroum, offered them concessions
to their nationality, and called upon them to organise volunteers and join
in the invasion of Russian territory.
Yet they decidedly refused---refused in this case when their kinsmen did
not wait to be asked in the other. This reveals the real sympathies and
aspirations of the Armenian people, not only the Armenians in Russia, but
those in our country as well."
There is, of course, a crushing answer to these tirades. If the Armenians
felt so differently towards the Turks and the Russians, then that was a
serious reflection on their treatment by the Turks, and the logical way
to change their feelings was to treat them better. Could the civilian Armenians
who remembered the massacre of their innocent kinsfolk at Adana a few years
before have been expected to volunteer in support of those who had commanded
these massacres ? Could their feelings have been other than they were ?
But so long as only their feelings were in question and their behaviour
remained correct, the Turks had no right to proceed with them in any but
a humane and constitutional manner. The argument can be driven home by a
parallel. There are Polish volunteer legions in the Austro-Hungarian Army.
What would the Turks' German apologists have said if the Russian Government
had appeased its resentment against these Austrian-Polish volunteers by
wiping out all the Russian-Polish civilians on their own side of the frontier ?
It is a significant fact that all these Turkish complaints are directed
against Russian Armenians in Russian service. There is no hint of treachery
or malingering on the part of those Ottoman Armenians who had been drafted,
many of them illegally, into the Turkish Army---no insinuation that their
record was not as satisfactory in 1914 as in 1912.
To the editor's knowledge, the German apologists have only been able to
fasten upon two "traitors" in the legal (though not in the moral)
sense of the word. There have been refugees, of course, like Mourad of Sivas,
who escaped into the Caucasus when the atrocities were in full course---men
who had just been compelled to fight for their lives, and had seen their
neighbours and kinsfolk massacred once more on all sides of them. Not even
the German apologists would dare to censure these men under these circumstances
for enrolling in the volunteers. But there are only two cases adduced of
Ottoman subjects who went over to the Russians before the atrocities began---a
certain Karakin Pasdermadjian, a deputy in the Ottoman Parliament, and another
Armenian named Suren, stated to have been a delegate at the "Dashnaktzoutioun"
Congress at Erzeroum. "In face of this," argues the German writer
from whose pamphlet these instances are taken,
" it was the Ottoman Government's duty to uphold public law and order.
In wartime, measures of this kind assume an especially weighty and pressing
character" ---and with this generality he implicitly condones the atrocities
of 1915. If this represents the official apologia of the Ottoman Government,
the only answer is a reductio ad absurdum. On the same principle,
when Sir Roger Casement landed from a German submarine on the Irish coast,
it would have been the British Government's duty to deport all the Roman
Catholic inhabitants of Ireland and maroon them, say, on the coast of Labrador
or in the central desert of Australia. The parallel is exact, and leaves
nothing more to be said, unless, indeed, what was said by Talaat Bey, the
Young Turkish Minister of the Interior, in a recent interview with a correspondent
of the Berliner Tageblatt. "The
sad events that have occurred in Armenia," he vouchsafed, "have
prevented my sleeping well at night. We have been reproached for making
no distinction between the innocent Armenians and the guilty; but that was
utterly impossible, in view of the fact that those who were innocent
to-day might be guilty to-morrow." There is no need of further
The various Turkish contentions thus fail, from first to last, to meet
the point. They all attempt to trace the atrocities of 1915 to events arising
out of the war ; but they not only cannot justify them on this ground,
they do not even suggest any adequate motive for their perpetration. It
is evident that the war was merely an opportunity and not a cause---in fact,
that the deportation scheme, and all that it involved, flowed inevitably
from the general policy of the Young Turkish Government. This inference
will be confirmed if we analyse the political tenets to which the Young
Turks were committed.
The Young Turkish movement began as a reaction against the policy of
Abd-ul-Hamid. Its founders repudiated his "neutralisation of forces" ;
they maintained that the Ottoman Empire must stand by its own strength,
and that this strength must be developed by a radical internal reconstruction.
From their asylum at Paris they preached the doctrines of the French Revolution---religious
toleration, abolition of caste-privileges, equality of all citizens before
the law, equality of obligation to perform military service, constitutional
government through a representative parliament. And when they came into
power, they made some attempt to put these doctrines into practice. In Turkey
for a brief space of the year 1908, as in France twelve decades before,
the vision of "Pure Reason" did bring peace and goodwill among
men. Nearly all the foreign observers who were in the country when "Huriet"
came, testify to this momentary, magic transfiguration of hatred into love;
and the Armenians, who had desired more than any of their neighbours to
see this day, might well believe that the Young Turks' ideal was identical
with their own. Yet there were vital differences beneath the surface. The
Young Turks realised that the Christian elements were an asset ; they
did not propose, at the outset, to destroy them, as Abd-ul-Hamid had done;
but they wanted still less to co-operate with them as separate partners
in the Ottoman State. The "Millets " were as abhorrent to them,
as an institution, as the autocracy of Abd-ul-Hamid. They set up against
the, principle of the "Millet" the programme of "Ottomanisation."
The Turkish leaven was to permeate the non-Turkish lump, until it had all
become of one uniform Turkish substance. In Parliament this programme took
such forms as a bill to make the Turkish language the universal and compulsory
medium of secondary education, and the Armenian deputies found themselves opposing it in concert with the Liberal
Party, which included the Arab bloc and stood for the toleration of national individualities.
The Young Turks, in fact, had imbibed both the good currents
and the bad in the modern political atmosphere of Western Europe---its democratic
doctrines but its chauvinism as well. Most political theorists debarred
from responsible practice give this same confused allegiance to incompatible
ideals, and all, when they come into power, are compelled by circumstances
to choose which master they will serve. In 1908, the choice of the Young
Turks was not predestined; the "Committee of Union and Progress"
might have set its face towards either of its divided goals ; but disillusionment
soon decided its orientation. The magic dawn of "Huriet" faded ;
the old, crushing burden of Ottoman Government descended upon shoulders
not expert, like Abd-ul-Hamid's, at balancing the weight; the Austro-Bulgarian
violation of the Treaty of Berlin and the subsequent territorial losses
of the Balkan War shook the Young Turkish Party's prestige, aggravated the
difficulty of their problem, and embittered their attitude towards its solution.
The current of chauvinism gained upon them more and more, and their intervention
in the European War demonstrated that its mastery was complete, for their
calculations in intervening were of a thoroughly Prussian character. A military
triumph was to restore them their prestige ; it was to recover ancient
territories of the Empire in Egypt, the Caucasus and the coveted Persian
province of Azerbaijan; it was to shake off the trammels of international
control, and solve the internal problem by cutting the Gordian Knot. But
the hopes of conquest and prestige were early shattered by the strategical
failures of the winter of 1914-5, which were almost as humiliating as those
of 1912, and then the Young Turks concentrated savagely upon "Ottomanisation"
Ottomanisation has become the Young Turks' obsession.
Their first act after declaring war was to repudiate the Capitulations ;
their latest stroke has been to declare the Turkish language the exclusive
medium of official business in the Empire, with only a year's delay---a
step which has caused consternation among their German allies. And in this
mood they turned to the Armenian question, which happened at the moment to have reached an important phase.
In 1912-3 the diplomatists of Europe had once more met in consultation
over the Ottoman Empire, and the Armenians had presented their case to the
Conference at London, as they had presented it at Berlin thirty-five years
before. When the Conference proved unable
to take cognizance of their petition, they applied to the individual governments
of the Powers. The Russian Government took the initiative and drafted a
new scheme for the administration of the Six Vilayets, which it submitted
to the Signatories of the Treaty of Berlin. The German Government opposed,
but was won over by the Russian diplomacy and by the representations of
the Armenian delegates, who repaired to Berlin in person. Then, when the
German opposition had been withdrawn, the Russian draft was revised by the
Ambassadors of the Powers at Constantinople, accepted, with modifications,
by the Young Turkish Government, and actually promulgated by them on the
8th February, 1914.
In its final shape, the scheme still embodied the main points of reform
which had been regarded as cardinal ever since 1878. There was to be a mixed
Gendarmerie, under a European chief, recruited from the Turks and Armenians,
but closed to the Kurds ; Moslem and Christian were to be equal before
the law; the Armenian language was to be a recognised medium in the courts
and public offices (a bitter clause for the Young Turkish nationalists) ;
there were to be no restrictions on the multiplication of Armenian schools.
Finally, the vilayets affected by the scheme
were to be divided into two groups, and each group was to be placed under
a European Inspector-General. The two Inspector-Generals were authorised
to appoint and dismiss all officials in their respective spheres, except
those "of superior rank." They were themselves to be appointed
by the Ottoman Government, on the recommendation of the Powers, for a term,
of ten years, and not to be removable within this period. The Government
duly proceeded to select two candidates for these Inspectorates, a Dutchman
and a Norwegian, but its treatment of these gentlemen soon showed that in
diplomacy, at any rate, the Young Turks had adopted the methods of Abd-ul
Hamid. A clause was inserted in the Inspectors' contract of engagement,
empowering the Government to denounce it at any moment upon payment of an
indemnity of one year's salary---a flat violation of the ten years' term
provided for under the scheme; and the list of "superior officials"
was inflated until the patronage of the Inspectors, which, next to their
irremovability, would have been their most effective power, was reduced
to an illusion. The unfortunate nominees were spared the farce of exercising
their maimed authority. They had barely reached their provinces when the
European War broke out, and the Government promptly denounced the contracts
and suspended the Scheme of Reforms, as the first step towards its own intervention
in the conflict.
Thus, at the close of 1914, the Armenians found themselves in the same
position as in 1883. The measures designed for their security had fallen
through, and left nothing behind but the resentment of the Government that
still held them at its mercy. The deportations of 1915 followed as inexorably
from the Balkan War and the Project of 1914 as the massacres of 1895-6 had
followed from the Russian War and the Project of 1878. Only in the execution
of their revenge the Young Turks revealed all the sinister features of their
dissimilarity to Abd-ul-Hamid. The Sultan, so far as he differed from the
familiar type of Oriental despot, had been an opportunist in the tradition
of Metternich---a politician of mature experience and delicate touch, unencumbered
by any constructive programme to disturb the artistry of his game of finesse.
He repressed the Armenians to a nicety after preparing for it eighteen years.
The Young Turks were adventurers who had caught the catchwords of another
generation and another school---the apes of Danton and Robespierre, and
doctrinaires to the core. For the old, anachronistic ascendency of Moslem
over Rayah, to the maintenance of which Abd-ul-Hamid had cynically devoted
his abilities, they substituted the idea of Turkish nationalism, which clothed
the same evil in a more clearly cut and infinitely more dynamic form. They
were fanatics with an unreasoned creed, builders with a plan that they meant
to carry through, and no half-measures would content them, no inhibitions
of prudence or humanity deter them from the attempt to realise the whole.
Hindrances only exasperated them to sweeping action, and a blind concentration
on their programme shielded them from doubts. "Our acts," Talaat
Bey is reported to have said, in the interview quoted above, "have
been dictated to us by a national and historical necessity. The idea of
guaranteeing the existence of Turkey must outweigh every other consideration."
The first of these sentiments is the pure-milk of the eighteenth century
idÈologues ; there is a Prussian adulteration in the second,
which smacks of more recent times. It is the voice of the youngest, crudest,
most ruthless national movement in Europe, and the acts which it excuses,
and which the documents in this volume describe, were the barbarous initiation
of the Near East into the European fraternity.
VI. THE DEPORTATIONS OF 1915: PROCEDURE.
The atrocities of 1915 are described in detail in the documents collected in this book, but it will be well to give in
conclusion a bare summary of events, partly to make the detail less confusing to the reader, and partly to bring out the essential unity of design which underlay the procedure against the Armenians at the various dates and in the various provinces of the Empire to which the documents relate. This fundamental uniformity of procedure is more sinister than the incidental aggravations of the crime by Kurds, peasants, gendarmes or local authorities. It is damning evidence that the procedure itself, which set
in motion all the other forces of evil, was conceived and organised by the Central Government at Constantinople.
The dismissal of the Inspectors-General and the abrogation of the reforms were followed immediately by the mobilisation of the Ottoman Army for eventual participation in the war, and with this the sufferings of the Armenians began. It has been mentioned already that the Young Turks had extended the duty of military service to their Christian fellow-citizens, and that the Armenian recruits had distinguished themselves in the Balkan War ; but naturally the measure was not retrospective, and Armenians who were already past the statutory age of training when it was introduced, were allowed to pay the "Rayah" poll-tax as before, under the formula of an exemption-tax in lieu of military service. In the autumn of 1914, however, there was a general levy of all males in the Empire from twenty years of age to forty-five, and soon from eighteen to fifty, in which the Armenians, whether they had paid their annual exemption-tax or not, were included with the rest. There were also drastic requisitions of private supplies, by which the Armenians, again, were the principal sufferers, since they were the chief merchants and store-keepers of the country. These were considerable hardships and injustices, but they were not necessarily in themselves the result of a malevolent design. Apart from what actually followed, they might have been simply the inevitable penalties of a country which had been embarked by its Government on a struggle for existence.
In October, when mobilisation was completed, the Government had, in fact, declared war on the Allies, and in December its grandiose military operations began.
Enver Pasha, with the main Ottoman forces, started an encircling movement against the Russian troops in Caucasia, along a front extending from Erzeroum to the Black Sea Coast; Halil Bey led a flying column across the frontier of Azerbaijan, and raised the Kurds; Djemal Pasha felt his way across the Sinai Peninsula towards the Suez Canal. For a week or two the invading armies met with success. They reached Ardahan, almost in the rear of Kars, they pushed the Russians back from their rail-head at Sari-Kamysh, and they occupied the capital of Azerbaijan, Tabriz. But then the campaign broke down in disaster. Two Turkish army corps were destroyed at Sari-Kamysh in the first week of January, 1915, and the rest were driven out of Russian territory by the end of the month; on the 30th January, the Russians even reoccupied Tabriz. Djemal's Egyptian expedition was a month in arrear, but its fortunes were the same. He reached the Canal at the beginning of February, after a creditable desert march, only to return by the way he came, after an abortive night attack. There was no more question of the offensive for the Turks, but only of defending their own straggling frontiers; and this breakdown was a bitter blow to Young Turkish official circles, for it shattered half the hopes that had lured them into the war. The unmeasured optimism of the winter gave place to equally violent depression, and under the influence of this new atmosphere the persecution of the Armenians entered a second and more positive phase.
A decree went forth that all Armenians should be disarmed. The Armenians in the Army were drafted out of the fighting ranks, re-formed into special labour battalions, and set to work at throwing up fortifications and constructing roads. The disarming of the civil population was left to the local authorities, and in every administrative centre a reign of terror began. The authorities demanded the production of a definite number of arms. Those who could not produce them were tortured, often in fiendish ways; those who procured them for surrender, by purchase from their Moslem neighbours or by other means, were imprisoned for conspiracy against the Government. Few of these were young men, for most of the young had been called up to serve; they were elderly men, men of substance and the leaders of the Armenian community, and it became apparent that the inquisition for arms was being used as a cloak to deprive the community of its natural heads. Similar measures had preceded the massacres of 1895-6, and a sense of foreboding spread through the Armenian people. "One night in the winter," writes a foreign witness of these events, "the Government sent officers round the city to all Armenian houses, knocking up the families and demanding that all weapons should be given up. This action was the death-knell to many hearts."
The appalling inference was in fact correct, for the second phase of
persecution passed over without a break into the third and final act, and
it is evident that the whole train had been laid by the Ministry at Constantinople
before the first arms were called in or the first Armenian thrown into prison.
This carries the detailed organisation of the scheme at least as far back
as February, 1915, and, indeed, the elaborate preparations that had already
been made by the 8th April, the date of the first deportation at Zeitoun,
presuppose at least as long a period. It is extremely important to emphasise
these chronological facts, because they refute the attempt of the apologists
to disconnect the last phase from the phases that preceded it, and to represent
it as an emergency measure dictated by the military events of the spring.
In reality, the situation had been growing tenser before the spring began.
In outlying villages, the inquisition for arms had been accompanied by open
violence. Men had been massacred, women violated and houses burnt down by
the gendarmerie patrols, and such outrages had been particularly frequent
in the Vilayet of Van, where the soldiers seem to have been exasperated
by their recent reverses and were certainly stimulated by the truculence
of the Governor Djevdet Bey, who had returned to his administrative duties
after his unsuccessful campaigning beyond the frontier. The crowning outrage
was the murder of four Armenian leaders from the City, when they were on
their way to an outlying district to keep the peace, at Djevdet's own request,
between the local Armenians and their Moslem neighbours. The Armenian inhabitants
of the City of Van took warning from the fate of the villagers and from
this last and most sinister crime, and prepared themselves, in case of need,
for self-defence. Their action was justified by Djevdet Bey himself, for
he had been drawing a cordon round the garden suburbs of Van, where the
majority of the Armenian population lived, and on the 20th April he unleashed
his troops upon them without provocation. The Armenians of Van found themselves
fighting for their lives against a murderous attack by what was supposed
to be the lawful Government of their country.
There had been the same sequence
of events at Zeitoun. The search for arms had been accompanied by a formidable
concentration of troops in the town, and the final phase had been opened,
not indeed by a butchery, but by the deportation of the first batch of the
inhabitants. This had occurred on the 8th April, twelve days before Djevdet
Bey's outbreak at Van, and both events were previous to the new turn in
the military situation. In fact, it was the distress of the Armenian civil
population at Van that decided the Russian initiative. A Russian column,
with a strong contingent of Russian-Armenian volunteers, forced its way
towards the city from the direction of Bayazid, and relieved the defenders
on the 19th May, after they had been besieged for a month. The strategy
of encirclement was now retorted upon the Turks themselves, for on the 24th
May another Russian column occupied Urmia, and drove the last of the Turco-Kurdish
invaders out of Azerbaijan. A British expeditionary force was simultaneously
pressing up the Tigris, and while events were taking this serious turn in
the east, the heart of the Empire was threatened by the attack on the Dardanelles.
By the end of May, 1915, the outlook was as desperate as in the bad days
of 1912, but it must be emphasised again that the final phase in the procedure
against the Armenians had already begun before these acute military dangers
emerged above the horizon. The military straits in which the Young Turks
found themselves in the spring of 1915 may have precipitated the execution
of their Armenian scheme, but have no bearing whatever upon its origination.
On the 8th April, then, the final phase began, and the process carried
out at Zeitoun was applied to one Armenian centre after another throughout
the Ottoman Empire. On a certain date, in whatever town or village it might
be (and the dates show a significant sequence), the public crier went through
the streets announcing that every male Armenian must present himself forthwith
at the Government Building. In some cases the warning was given by the soldiery
or gendarmerie slaughtering every male Armenian they encountered in the
streets, a reminiscence of the procedure in 1895-6 ; but usually a
summons to the Government Building was the preliminary stage. The men presented
themselves in their working clothes, leaving their shops and work-rooms
open, their ploughs in the field, their cattle on the mountain side. When
they arrived, they were thrown without explanation into prison, kept there
a day or two, and then marched out of the town in batches, roped man to
man, along some southerly or south-easterly road. They were starting, they
were told, on a long journey--- to Mosul or perhaps to Baghdad. It was a
dreadful prospect to men unequipped for travel, who had neither scrip nor
staff, food nor clothes nor bedding. They had bidden no farewell to their
families, they had not wound up their affairs. But they had not long to
ponder over their plight, for they were halted and massacred at the first
lonely place on the road. The same process was applied to those other Armenian
men (and they numbered hundreds or even thousands in the larger centres)
who had been imprisoned during the winter months on the charge of conspiracy
or concealment of arms, though in some instances these prisoners are said
to have been overlooked---an involuntary form of reprieve of which there
were also examples during the French Reign of Terror in 1793. This was the
civil authorities' part, but there was complete co-ordination between Talaat
Bey's Ministry of the Interior and Enver Pasha's Ministry of War, for simultaneously
the Armenian Labour Battalions, working behind the front, were surrounded
by detachments of their combatant Moslem fellow-soldiers and butchered in cold blood.
The military authorities also made themselves responsible for the civil
population of Bitlis, Moush and Sassoun, who were marked out for complete
and immediate extermination on account of their proximity to Van and the
advancing Russian forces. This task was carried out by military methods
with the help of the local Kurds---another reversion to the tactics of Abd-ul-Hamid---but
its application appears to have been limited to the aforementioned districts.
In the rest of the Empire, where the work was left in the hands of the civil
administration, the women and children were not disposed of by straightforward
massacre like the men. Their destiny under the Government scheme was not
massacre but slavery or deportation.
After the Armenian men had been summoned away to their death, there was
usually a few days interval in whatever town it might be, and then the crier
was heard again in the streets, bidding all Armenians who remained to prepare
themselves for deportation, while placards to the same effect were posted
on the walls. This applied, in actual
fact, to the women and children, and to a poor remnant of the men who, through
sickness, infirmity or age, had escaped the fate marked out for their sex.
A period of grace was in most cases accorded for the settlement of their
affairs and the preparation of their journey ; but here, again, there
were cases in which the victims were taken without warning from the loom,
the fountain or even from their beds, and the respite, where granted, was
in great measure illusory. The ordinary term given was a bare week, and
it was never more than a fortnight---a time utterly insufficient for all
that had to be done. There were instances, moreover, in which the Government
broke its promise, and carried away its victims before the stated day arrived.
For the women there was an alternative to deportation. They might escape
it by conversion to Islam; but conversion for an Armenian woman in 1915
meant something more physical than a change of theology. It could only be
ratified by immediate marriage with a Moslem man, and if the woman were
already a wife (or, rather, a widow, for by this time few Armenian husbands
remained alive), she must part with any children she had, and surrender
them to be brought up as true Moslems
in a "Government Orphanage"---a
fate of uncertain meaning, for no such institutions were known to be in
existence. If the convert could find no
Turk to take her, or shrank from the embraces of the bridegroom who offered
himself, then she and her children must be deported with the rest, however
fervently she had professed the creed of Islam. Deportation was the alternative
adopted by, or imposed upon, the great majority.
The sentence of deportation was a paralysing blow, yet those condemned
to it had to spend their week of grace in feverish activity, procuring themselves
clothing, provisions and ready money for the road. The local authorities
placed every possible obstacle in their way. There was an official fiction
that their banishment was only temporary, and they were therefore prohibited
from selling their real property or their stock. The Government set its
seal upon the vacated houses, lands and merchandise, "to keep them
safe against their owners' return ;" yet before these rightful
owners started on their march they often saw these very possessions, which
they had not been allowed to realise, made over by the authorities as a
free gift to Moslem immigrants, who had been concentrated in the neighbourhood,
in readiness to step into the Armenians' place.
And even such household or personal chattels as they were permitted to dispose
of were of little avail, for their Moslem neighbours took shameless advantage
of their necessity, and beat them down to an almost nominal price, so that
when the day of departure arrived they were often poorly equipped to meet it.
The Government charged itself with their transport, and indeed they were
not in a position to arrange for it themselves, for their ultimate destination
was seldom divulged. The exiles from each centre were broken up into several
convoys, which varied in size from two or three hundred to three or four
thousand members. A detachment of gendarmerie was assigned to every convoy,
to guard them on the way, and the civil authorities hired or requisitioned
a certain number of ox-carts (arabas), usually one to a family, which they
placed at their disposal ; and so the convoy started out. The mental
misery of exile was sufficiently acute, but it was soon ousted by more material
cares. A few days, or even a few hours, after the start, the carters would
refuse to drive them further, and the gendarmes, as fellow Moslems, would
connive at their mutinousness. So the carts turned back, and the exiles
had to go forward on foot. This was the beginning of their physical torments,
for they were not travelling over soft country or graded roads, but by mule-tracks
across some of the roughest country in the world. It was the hot season,
the wells and springs were sometimes many hours' journey apart, and the
gendarmes often amused themselves by forbidding their fainting victims to
drink. It would have been an arduous march for soldiers on active service,
but the members of these convoys were none of them fitted or trained for
physical hardship. They were the women and children, the old and the sick.
Some of the women had been delicately brought up and lived in comfort all
their lives ; some had to carry children in their arms too young to
walk ; others had been sent off with the convoy when they were far
gone with child, and gave birth on the road. None of these latter survived,
for they were forced to march on again after a few hours' respite ;
they died on the road, and the new-born babies perished with them. Many
others died of hunger and thirst, sunstroke, apoplexy or sheer exhaustion.
The hardships endured by the women who accompanied their husbands on Sir
John Moore's retreat to Corunna bear no comparison with the hardships these
Armenian women endured. The Government which condemned them to exile knew
what the journey would mean, and the servants of the Government who conducted
them did everything to aggravate their inevitable physical sufferings. Yet
this was the least part of their torture ; far worse were the atrocities
of violence wantonly inflicted upon them by fellow human beings.
From the moment they left the outskirts of the towns they were never
safe from outrage. The Moslem peasants mobbed and plundered them as they
passed through the cultivated lands, and the gendarmes connived at the peasants'
brutality, as they had connived at the desertion of the drivers with their
carts. When they arrived at a village they were exhibited like slaves in
a public place, often before the windows of the Government Building itself,
and every Moslem inhabitant was allowed to view them and take his choice
of them for his harem; the gendarmes themselves began to make free
with the rest, and compelled them to sleep with them at night.
There were still more horrible outrages when they came to the mountains, for here they
were met by bands of "chettis" and Kurds. The "chettis"
were brigands, recruited from the public prisons; they had been deliberately
released by the authorities on a consideration which may have been tacit
but which both parties clearly understood. As for the Kurds, they had not
changed since 1896, for they had always retained their arms, which Abd-ul-Hamid
had served out and the Young Turks could not or would not take away ;
and they had now been restored to official favour upon the proclamation
of the Holy War, so that their position was as secure again as it had been
before 1908. They knew well what they were allowed and what they were intended
to do. When these Kurds and chettis waylaid the convoys, the gendarmes always
fraternised with them and followed their lead, and it would be hard to say
which took the most active part in the ensuing massacre---for this was the
work which the brigands came to do.
The first to be butchered were the old
men and boys---all the males that were to be found in the convoy except
the infants in arms---but the women were massacred also. It depended on
the whim of the moment whether a Kurd cut a woman down or carried her away
into the hills. When they were carried away their babies were left on the
ground or dashed against the stones. But while the convoy dwindled, the
remnant had always to march on. The cruelty of the gendarmes towards the
victims grew greater as their physical sufferings grew more intense; the
gendarmes seemed impatient to make a hasty end of their task. Women who
lagged behind were bayoneted on the road, or pushed over precipices, or
over bridges. The passage of rivers, and especially of the Euphrates, was
always an occasion of wholesale murder. Women and children were driven into
the water, and were shot as they struggled, if they seemed likely to reach
the further bank. The lust and covetousness of their tormentors had no limit.
The last survivors often staggered into Aleppo naked ; every shred
of their clothing had been torn from them on the way. Witnesses who saw
their arrival remark that there was not one young or pretty face to be seen
among them, and there was assuredly none surviving that was truly old---except
in so far as it had been aged by suffering. The only chance to survive was
to be plain enough to escape their torturers' lust, and vigorous enough
to bear the fatigues of the road.
Those were the exiles that arrived on foot, but there were others, from
the metropolitan districts and the north-west, who were transported to Aleppo
by rail. These escaped the violence of the Kurds, but the sum of their suffering
can hardly have been less. They were packed in cattle-trucks, often filthy
and always overcrowded, and their journey was infinitely slow, for the line
was congested by their multitude and by the passage of troops. At every
stopping-place they were simply turned out into the open, without food or
shelter, to wait for days, or even weeks, till the line was clear and rolling-stock
available to carry them a further stage. The gendarmes in charge of them
seem to have been as brutal as those with the convoys on foot, and when
they came to the two breaks in the Baghdad Railway, where the route crosses
the ranges of the Taurus and Amanus Mountains, they too had to traverse
these, the most arduous stages of all, on foot. At Bozanti, the rail-head
west of Taurus, and again at Osmania, Mamouret, Islohia and Kotmo, stations
on either slope of the Amanus chain, vast and incredibly foul concentration
camps grew up, where the exiles were delayed for months, and died literally
by thousands of hunger, exposure, and epidemics. The portion of them that
finally reached Aleppo wore in as deplorable a condition as those that had
made the journey on foot from beginning to end.
Aleppo was the focus upon which all the convoys converged. In April,
it is true, half the Zeitounlis had been sent northwestward to Sultania,
in the Konia district, one of the most unhealthy spots in the Anatolian
Desert. But the authorities changed their mind, and despatched the exiles
at Sultania southeast again, to join their fellow-townsmen in the Desert
of Syria. Thenceforward, the south-eastern
desert was the destination of them all, and Aleppo, and in a secondary degree
Ourfa and Rasul-Ain, were the natural centres of distribution.
Some of the exiles were planted in the immediate neighbourhood of Aleppo
itself-at places like Moumbidj, Bab, Ma'ara, Idlib---but
these seem to have been comparatively few, and it is not certain whether
their quarters there were intended to be permanent. Many more were deported
southward from Aleppo along the Syrian Railway, and allowed to find a resting-place
in the districts of Hama, Homs and Damascus. A still larger number were
sent towards the east, and cantoned on the banks of the Euphrates, in the
desert section of its course. There were some at Rakka ; Der-el-Zor
was the largest depôt of all, and is mentioned in this connection
more frequently than any place after Aleppo itself ; some were sent
on to Mayadin, a day's journey further
down the river, and Moslem travellers reported meeting others within forty-eight
hours' journey of Baghdad. No first-hand
evidence has come in of their presence at or near Mosul, though they were
frequently informed on their journey that their destination was to be there.
The dispersal of the exiles was thus extremely wide, as the authors of
the scheme had intended that it should be, but certain features are common
to all the places to which they were sent. They were all inhabited by Moslem
populations alien to the Armenians in language and habits of life ;
they were all unhealthy ---either malarious or sultry or in some other respect
markedly unsuitable for the residence of people used to a temperate climate ;
and they were all remote from the exiles' original homes---the remotest
places, in fact, which the Government could find within the Ottoman frontiers,
since Christians were debarred from setting foot on the sacred deserts of
the Hidjaz, and a British expeditionary force was occupying the marshes
of Irak. The Ottoman Government had to content itself with the worst districts
at its disposal, and it did its utmost to heighten the climate's natural
effect by marooning the exiles there, after an exhausting journey, with
neither food, nor shelter, nor clothing, and with no able-bodied men among
them to supply these deficiencies by their labour and resource.
The transmission of the exiles to these distant destinations was naturally
slow---indeed, the slowness of the journey was one of the most effective
of its torments. The first convoy started from Zeitoun on the 8th April,
1915 ; fresh convoys followed it during the seven ensuing months from
the different Armenian centres in the Empire, and there is no record of
any stoppage until the 6th November. On that date an order from Constantinople
reached the local authorities, at any rate in the Cilician plain, directing them to refrain from further deportations ;
but this only applied to the remnant of the local Armenian residents, and
the masses of exiles from the north and north-west who were still painfully
struggling across the barriers of Taurus and Amanus, were driven on remorselessly
to their journey's end, which cannot have been reached by them (or by such
of them as survived) before the very close of the year. The congestion of
the routes was partly responsible for this delay; but the congestion would
have been still more pronounced if the scheme had not been carried out methodically,
region by region, in an order which betrays more than anything else the
directing hand of the Central Government. Cilicia was the first region to
be cleared, just as it had been the principal region to suffer in the massacres
of 1909. Strategically and economically, it was the most vital spot in Asiatic
Turkey, and its large and increasing Armenian population must always have
offended the sensibilities of the Young Turkish Nationalists. It was the
natural starting-point for the execution of the Ottomanisation Scheme, and
the deportations were in progress here fully six weeks before they were
applied to the remainder of the Empire. Zeitoun was cleared on the 8th April;
Geben, Furnus and Albustan within the next few days ; Dört Yöl
before the end of the month. At Hadjin, on the other hand, the clearance
did not begin till the 3rd June, and dragged on into September; while at
Adana, the city of the plain, there was only an abortive clearance in the
third week of May, and the serious deportations were postponed till the
first week in September.
The next region to be cleared was the zone bordering on Van and immediately
threatened by the Russian advance, from the Black Sea to the Persian frontier.
In the south-eastern districts of this zone---Bitlis, Moush, Sassoun and
Hakkiari---the clearance, as has been remarked already, was not effected
by deportation, but by wholesale massacre on the spot. Outlying villages
of the Boulanik, Moush and Sassoun areas were destroyed in the latter part
of May, and before the end of the same month Djevdet Bey retreated down
the Bohtan Valley from Van, and massacred the Armenians of Sairt. The Armenians
of Bitlis were next massacred by Djevdet, on the 25th June; and, in the
first week of July, 20,000 fresh troops arrived from Harpout and exterminated
the Armenians of Moush---first the villagers and then the people of the
town, which was bombarded by artillery on the 10th June. After making an
end of Moush these troops joined the Kurdish irregulars operating against
Sassoun, and on the 5th August, after bitter fighting, the surviving Sassounlis
---man, woman and child--- were annihilated in their last mountain stronghold.
At the end of July the Ottoman forces temporarily re-entered Van, and slaughtered
all the Armenian inhabitants who had not escaped in the wake of the Russian
retreat. In June and July the Nestorian (Syrian) communities of the district
of Hakkiari, in the upper basin of the Greater Zab, were also attacked by
the Kurds and destroyed, except for a remnant which crossed the watershed
into the Urmia basin and found safety within the Russian lines.
In the north-western districts of the frontier zone the semblance of
deportation was preserved, but the exiles---women and children as well as
men---were invariably massacred in cold blood after a few days on the road.
Before the end of May there was a massacre at Khnyss, and on the 6th June
the deportations began (with the same consummation) in the villages of the
Erzeroum plain. At Erzeroum itself the first deportation took place on the
16th June, and the last on the 28th July (or on the 3rd August, according
to other reports). The Armenian Bishop of the city was deported with this
last convoy, and never heard of again. At Baibourt, the surrounding villages
were similarly cleared before the town, and the townspeople were despatched
in three convoys, the last of which started on the 14th June. From the town
of Erzindjan four convoys started on successive days, from the 7th June
to the 10th. Practically none of the exiles from Erzindjan, Baibourt or
Erzeroum seem to have outlived the first stages of the journey.
At Harpout, the clearance began on the 1st June , and continued throughout
the month. On the 2nd, 3rd and 4th July the adjoining town of MezrÈ
was emptied as well. The convoys from these two places and the neighbouring
villages were terribly thinned by atrocities on the road.
At Trebizond the deportations were carried out from the 1st to the 6th
July, and seem to have been simultaneous in the various coast towns of the
Vilayet. Here, too, deportation was merely a cloak for immediate massacre.
The exiles were either drowned at sea or cut down at the first resting-place on the road.
In the Vilayet of Sivas, again, the villages were dealt with first, but
the city itself was not cleared till the 5th July. At X. the men were deported
on the 26th June, the women on the 5th July, and the last remnant, who had
found protection with the American Missionaries, were carried away on the
10th August. All the men, and many of the women, were massacred on the road.
The Armenian population in the provinces west of Sivas, and in the metropolitan
districts surrounding Constantinople, was removed by train along the Anatolian
Railway to Konia, and thence towards Aleppo along the several sections of
the Baghdad line. In all this region the scheme was put into execution distinctly
later. At Angora the deportations began towards the end of July, at Adapazar
about, the l1th August ; at Broussa there seems to have been no clearance
till the first weeks of September, but this is stated to have been one of
the last places touched. At Adrianople,
however, the Armenians were not deported till the middle of October ;
and at K., in the Sandjak of Kaisaria, not till the 12th/15th November.
The south-eastern outposts of the Armenian Dispersion were left to the
last, although their immediate neighbours in the Cilician highlands had
been taken at the very beginning. The villagers of Djibal Mousa were not
summoned till the 13th July; Aintab was not touched till the 1st August,
and then only cleared gradually during the course of the month. The summons
to Ourfa, which was answered, as at Djibal Mousa, by defiance, was not delivered
till the last week in September.
Glancing back over this survey, we can discern the Central Government's
general plan. The months of April and May were assigned to the clearance
of Cilicia; June and July were reserved for the east; the western centres
along the Railway were given their turn in August and September; and at
the same time the process was extended, for completeness' sake, to the outlying
Armenian communities in the extreme south-east. It was a deliberate, systematic
attempt to eradicate the Armenian population throughout the Ottoman Empire,
and it has certainly met with a very large measure of success ; but
it is not easy to present the results, even approximately, in a statistical
form. The only people in a position to keep an accurate account of the numbers
affected were the Ottoman authorities themselves ; but it is unlikely
that they have done so, and still more unlikely that they would ever divulge
such figures to the civilised world. We are compelled to base our estimates
on the statements of private persons, who were excluded from detailed investigation
by the jealous suspicion of the Government officials and were seldom able
to observe events in more than a limited section of the field. We must make
our computations by piecing together these isolated data from private sources,
and since Oriental arithmetic is notoriously inexact (and this is scarcely
less true of the Nearer than of the Further East), we shall only make use
of testimony from foreign witnesses of neutral nationality. Such witnesses
may be assumed to be comparatively free from unconscious exaggeration and
completely innocent of purposeful misrepresentation, and we can accept their
statements with considerable assurance.
The first step is to establish the number of Armenians living within
the Ottoman frontiers at the moment the deportations began. All the other
figures ultimately depend upon this, but it is harder than any to obtain,
for there are no independent foreign estimates of this on record, and the,
discrepancy between the native estimates is extreme.
The Armenian Patriarchate, after an enquiry conducted in 1912, placed the
number as high as 2,100,000; the
Ottoman Government, in its latest official returns, puts it at 1,100,000
and no more. Both parties have an equal political interest in forcing their
figures, but the Armenians are likely to have had a greater respect for
exactitude, or at any rate a stronger sense of the futility of falsification.
The most "neutral" course under the circumstances is to halve
the difference, and to take the number provisionally as being 1,600,000,
with the qualification that the true figure certainly lies between this
and 2,000,000 and probably approaches more closely to the latter. The rest
of the necessary figures can fortunately be drawn from foreign neutral testimony,
in which such baffling discrepancies are rarer.
The second step is to estimate the number of those who have escaped deportation.
There are the refugees who have escaped it by crossing the frontier---182,000
into the Russian Caucasus and 4,200 into Egypt, according to detailed and
trustworthy returns. There are also two
important Armenian communities in Turkey where practically all but the leaders
have been left unmolested---those of Smyrna and Constantinople. At Constantinople
about 150,000 Armenians must still remain. Then there are the Catholic and
Protestant Millets, which were nominally exempted from deportation, and
the exempted converts to Islam. It is impossible to estimate the numbers
in these categories with any plausibility, for the conduct of the authorities
in respect of them was quite erratic. Many of the converts to Islam, as well as Armenians of the other denominations,
were given the same treatment as the Gregorians, and the actual percentage
of conversions is unascertainable, for they were encouraged in some places
and discouraged in others. We must also allow for those who managed to elude
the Government's net. As a general rule, this category is more numerous
in reality than it appears to be, and this is especially so in the Near East.
But in the present case the Young Turks seem to have put a Prussian
thoroughness into the execution of their scheme, and the margin of ineffectiveness
was evidently narrow. In the towns, such as Zeitoun, Hadjin, Sivas, X.,
and Erzeroum, where we have sufficient testimony to cross-check the estimates
presented, the clearance, by deportation or massacre, seems to have been
practically complete. At Erzeroum, for instance, there were 20,000 Armenians
before the clearance began, and when it was over there were not more than
100 left. Concealment on any considerable
scale can only have been practised in the villages, yet the number of those
who have emerged from hiding since the Russian occupation is extraordinarily
small. According to the investigations of the Patriarchate, there were 580,000
Armenians in 1912 in the Vilayets of Erzeroum, Bitlis and Van, which are
now within the Russian lines. The American
Relief Committee has recently been informed by its agents on the spot that
there are now only 12,100 left alive there.
Whatever arbitrary margin of reduction the absence of confirmatory statistics
may make it necessary to subtract from the former figure, the proportion
borne to it by the 12,100 survivors remains infinitesimal. Putting the communities
at Constantinople and Smyrna and the refugees together at about 350,000,
we shall certainly not be reckoning too low if we allow a quarter of a million
for the Protestants, Catholics, converts and others who were spared, and
estimate the total number of Armenians in Turkey who escaped deportation at not more than 600,000.
This leaves at least 1,000,000 to be accounted for by deportation and massacre, and probably 1,200,000 or more.
The third step is to estimate what proportion of these million Armenians
has perished and what proportion survived, and here again our material is
scanty and generalisation unsafe, the procedure of the authorities being
erratic in this respect also. In certain vilayets, like Van and Bitlis,
there was no deportation at all, but massacre outright ; in others,
like Erzeroum and Trebizond, and again at Angora, deportation and massacre
were equivalent, the convoys being butchered systematically at an early
stage on the road. In Cilicia, on the other hand, the men as well as the
women seem to have been genuinely deported, and the convoys seem only to
have been reduced by sickness and exhaustion. Yet even where there was no
wholesale massacre on the journey, a convoy might practically be exterminated
by degrees. A large combined convoy, for instance, of exiles from Mamouret-ul-Aziz
and Sivas, set out from Malatia 18,000 strong and numbered 301 at Viran
Shehr, 150 at Aleppo. In this case, however,
the wastage appears to have been exceptional. We have one similar instance
of a convoy from Harpout which was reduced on the way to Aleppo from 5,000
to 213, a loss of 96 per cent;
but in general the wastage seems to fluctuate, with a wide oscillation,
on either side of 50 per cent.; 600 out of 2,500 (24 per cent.) reached
Aleppo from a village in the Harpout district;
60 per cent. arrived there out of the first convoy from the village of E.
(near H.), and 46 per cent. out of the second; 25 per cent. arrived out
of a convoy from the village of D. in the same neighbourhood.
We shall certainly be well within the mark if we estimate that at least
half those condemned to massacre or deportation have actually perished.
We can cheek this estimate to some extent by the record of arrivals at
certain important centres of traffic on the exile routes, or at the final
destinations of the convoys. On the 16th August, 1915, for instance, an
exceedingly competent neutral resident at Constantinople stated that, to
his knowledge, there were then 50,000 exiles scattered along the route from
Bozanti (the first break in the Baghdad line) to Aleppo ; on the 5th
November, another witness, who had just
traversed this route, wrote back from Aleppo that he had passed 150,000
exiles between there and Konia. Again, 13,155 exiles had reached or passed
through Aleppo by the 30th July, 1915, and 20,000 more arrived there between
that date and the 19th August. By the
3rd August 15,000 of these had been transmitted alive to Der-el-Zor, and
this was only the beginning of the arrivals in the Zor district. No exiles
reached Damascus before the 12th August, but between that date and the 3rd
October, 1915, 22,000 of them had come through.
These are isolated data, and prove little in themselves, but in its Bulletin
of the 5th April, 1916, the American Relief Committee has published a cable
recently received in the United States from a competent source, in which
the total number of Armenian exiles alive at that time in the regions of
Der-el-Zor, Damascus and Aleppo is estimated roughly at 500,000. This figure is possibly an exaggeration, but
it is not incompatible with our two previous conclusions, that the total
number of Armenians affected by the Young Turks' scheme was at least a million,
and that at least 50 per cent. of these have perished. To the alleged 500,000
survivors in the three regions mentioned we must add an uncertain but inconsiderable
margin for the exiles who may have been planted at Mosul or who may still,
in March, 1916, have been held up on the road; and this will raise the original
number affected to something approaching 1,200,000, which we considered,
on other grounds, to be nearer the real figure than the bare million which
We can sum up this statistical enquiry by saying that, as far as our
defective information carries us, about an equal number of Armenians in
Turkey seem to have escaped, to have perished, and to have survived deportation
in 1915; and we shall not be far wrong if, in round numbers, we estimate
each of these categories at 600,000.
The exact quantitative scale of the crime thus remains uncertain, but there is no uncertainty as to the responsibility
for its perpetration. This immense infliction of suffering and destruction
of life was not the work of religious fanaticism. Fanaticism played no more
part here than it has played in the fighting at Gallipoli or Kut, and the
"Holy War" which the Young Turks caused to be proclaimed in October,
1914, was merely a political move to embarrass the Moslem subjects of the
Entente Powers. There was no fanaticism, for instance, in the conduct of
the Kurds and chettis, who committed some of the most horrible acts of all,
nor can the responsibility be fixed upon them. They were simply marauders
and criminals who did after their kind, and the Government, which not only
condoned, but instigated, their actions, must bear the guilt. The peasantry,
again (own brothers though they were to the Ottoman soldiery whose apparent
humanity at Gallipoli and Kut has won their opponents' respect), behaved
with astonishing brutality to the Armenians who were delivered into their
hands; yet the responsibility does not lie with the Turkish peasantry. They
are sluggish, docile people, unready to take violent action on their own
initiative, but capable of perpetrating any enormity on the suggestion of
those they are accustomed to obey. The peasantry would never have attacked
the Armenians if their superiors had not given them the word. Nor are the
Moslem townspeople primarily to blame; their record is not invariably black,
and the evidence in this volume throws here and there a favourable light
upon their character. Where Moslem and Christian lived together in the same
town or village, led the same life, pursued the same vocation, there seems
often to have been a strong human bond between them. The respectable Moslem
townspeople seldom desired the extermination of their Armenian neighbours,
sometimes openly deplored it, and in several instances even set themselves
to hinder it from taking effect. We have evidence of this from various places---Adana, for instance,
and AF. in Cilicia, the villages of AJ. and AK.
in the AF. district, and the city of Angora. The authorities had indeed
to decree severe penalties against any Moslem as well as any alien or Greek
who might be convicted of sheltering their Armenian victims. The rabble
naturally looted Armenian property when the police connived, as the rabble
in European towns might do; the respectable majority of the Moslem townspeople
can be accused of apathy at worst ; the responsibility cannot rest
The guilt must, therefore, fall upon the officials of the Ottoman Government,
but it will not weigh equally upon all members of the official hierarchy.
The behaviour of the gendarmerie, for example, was utterly atrocious;
the subordinates were demoralised by the power for evil that was placed
in their hands; they were egged on by their chiefs, who gave vent
to a malevolence against the Armenians which they must have been harbouring
for years; a very large proportion of the total misery inflicted was
the gendarmerie's work; and yet the gendarmerie were not, or ought
not to have been, independent agents. The responsibility for their misconduct
must be referred to the local civil administrators, or to the Central Government, or to both.
The local administrators of provinces and sub-districts---Valis, Mutessarifs
and Kaimakams--- are certainly very deeply to blame. The latitude allowed
them by the Central Government was wide, as is shown by the variations they
practised, in different places, upon the common scheme. In this place the
Armenian men were massacred; in that they were deported unscathed; in that
other they were taken out to sea and drowned. Here the women were bullied
into conversion; here conversion was disallowed; here they were massacred
like the men. And in many other matters, such as the disposal of Armenian
property or the use of torture, remarkable differences of practice can be
observed, which are all ascribable to the good or bad will of the local
officials. A serious part of the responsibility falls upon them---upon fire
eaters like Djevdet Bey or cruel natures like the Governor of Ourfa; and yet their freedom of action was
comparatively restricted. Where they were evilly-intentioned towards the
Armenians they were able to go beyond the Central Government's instructions
(though even in matters like the exemption of Catholics and Protestants,
where their action was apparently most free, they and the Central Government were often merely in collusion);
but they might never mitigate their instructions by one degree. Humane and
honourable governors (and there were a certain number of these) were powerless
to protect the Armenians in their province. The Central Government had its
agents on the spot---the chairman of the local branch of the Committee of
Union and Progress, the local Chief of Gendarmerie, or even some subordinate official
on the Governor's own administrative staff. If these merciful governors
were merely remiss in executing the instructions, they were flouted and
overruled; if they refused to obey them, they were dismissed and replaced
by more pliant successors.
In one way or another, the Central Government
enforced and controlled the execution of the scheme, as it alone had originated
the conception of it; and the Young Turkish Ministers and their associates
at Constantinople are directly and personally responsible, from beginning
to end, for the gigantic crime that devastated the Near East in 1915.