Early in the spring of 1915 the following proclamation was sent to all the officials in the interior of Turkey:--
‘Our fellow countrymen the Armenians, who from one of the racial elements of the Ottoman Empire, having, under foreign instigation, for many years past, adopted false ideas of a nature to disturb the public order and brought about bloody happenings and attempted to destroy the peace and security of the Ottoman State, the safety and interest of their fellow countrymen as well as their own; and, moreover, as they have presumed to join themselves to their moral enemy, Russia, and to the enemies now at war with our State,
‘Be it known that our Government is compelled to adopt extraordinary measures both for the preservation of order and security of the country and for the welfare and the continuation of the existence of the Armenian people itself.
‘Therefore, as a measure to be applied until the conclusion of the war, the Armenians shall be sent away to places which have been prepared in the Vilayets of the interior; and a literal obedience to following orders is categorically enjoined on all Ottomans:
‘First. All Armenians, with the exception of the sick, shall leave their villages or quarters, under the escort of the gendarmerie, within five days from the date of this proclamation.
‘Second. Though they are free to carry with them on their journey such articles of movable property as they may desire, they are forbidden to sell their lands or their extra effects, or to leave the latter with other persons, as their exile temporary, and their landed property and the effects they are unable to take with them will be taken care of under supervision of the Government, and stored in protected buildings. Any one who sells or attempts to dispose of his movable effects or landed property in a manner contrary to this order, shall be tried by court-martial. Persons are free to sell to the Government only such articles as may answer the needs of the army.’
The third clause contains a promise of safe conduct.
The fourth threatened with severe punishment any one attempting to molest the Armenians on their way to the interior.
The fifth clause reads: ‘Since the Armenians are obliged to submit to the decision of the Government, if any of them attempt to resist the soldiers or gendarmes by force of arms, arms shall be used against them, and they shall be taken dead of alive. In like manner, those who, in opposition to the Government’s decision, refrain from leaving or seek to hide themselves, shall be sent before a court-martial; and if they are sheltered of given food and assistance, the persons who shelter or aid them shall be sent before the court-martial for execution.’
In these few sentences a responsible government sanctioned and set in motion one of the most terrible of recorded tragedies -- the Armenian deportation.
To the average person, these two words convey little but a vague sense of injustice done, of suffering endured. Such, after all are the chief associations connected with the name of the Ottoman Empire, which has enjoyed most if its world-prominence through wholesale barbarities. Massacres have been one of the common occurrences of Turkish history. The Turk came from the heart of Asia to the land he now occupies, massacring; by intermittent massacres he held down the vanquished peoples. The nineteenth of these black deeds: the period of the Greek Revolution, 1821-27, when Ibrahim Pasha boasted that he would reduce Greece to a desert, and almost fulfilled his boast; the Syrian massacre of 1860; the Serbian atrocities, and those of Bulgaria in 1875-76, when Mr. Gladstone declared that ‘the Turk must leave Europe, bag and baggage’; the long and terrible record of Armenian slaughter. Down through the reign of Abdul Hamid the bloodstained story goes, straight on to the inauguration of the Young Turk regime, which was ushered in by such slaughter of the Armenians as surpassed the Hamidian outrages; and at each visitation of fire and sword upon unoffending peoples the would has trilled with horror and sympathy, though it has been slow to realize that these things have come to pass chiefly through the protection afforded the Turks by the great European powers’ jealousy of one another. Time and again the story has been repeated, until (must it be confess?) Americans and Europeans have become weary of it, and have begun to regard the Armenians, with more to less resignation, as a race appointed to suffer.
No wonder, the, that at a time when all Europe is filled with blood and tears, and desolation stakes abroad among her nations, it is difficult to get people to lend an ear to the supreme ordeal of the Armenians, and to convince them that at this moment the Turks are writing unhindered what Professor Gibsons justly calls the ‘blackest page in modern history.’ It is difficult to convince them that the cruelties of Abdul Hamid were merciful by comparison with this final turn of the screw. The suffering cause by massacres was scattering; it smote only a fraction of the people, a thousand here, ten thousand there, while the bulk of the race survived. Such was the policy or wisdom of the Old Turk; he kept the cow alive that he might continually milk her. Not so with the Young Turk. Intelligent, cultured, irreligious, and unscrupulous, the old-fashioned method of dealing with the Armenians was too slow for him; he set problem once for all, and devised the scheme of deportation -- which, bluntly, is another way of saying the extermination of the Armenian race of the Ottoman Empire.*
[*I shall not attempt here to go behind the Turks in trying to find the moving power that devised and organized the deportation. I personally believe Germany to be the real instigator. Germany, they say, planned for a bona-fide transfer of the Armenians to places in the interior. If this be true, the Turk took the hint only too well; he deported his victims into eternity. Certainly it would seem to be paying too great a compliment to the intelligence of the Turk, who for centuries had been able to devise more efficient brutality than the old-style massacres. to give him credit for happening on the new scheme unaided.--THE AUTHOR.]
The full story of the deportation will never be written, for the reason that it deals so largely with suffering that is indescribable, heartlessness that is incredible. The central fact is, however, that under the pretext of war-measures the Armenians have been driven en masse from the shores of the Black Sea and Marmora southward as far as the Syrian Desert. People who were comfortably settled in their homes in region where their ancestors had lived for centuries, were forced, on short notice, to abandon their all and march under the whips of the gendarmerie into the desolate hinterland, without provisions or shelter. Women whose husbands had been serving in the Turkish army for months were herded along with children in their arms.
The happenings that I saw in Marsovan will give a specific instance of what was going on all over the country. Marsovan, which lies in the Vilayet of Sivas some sixty miles south of the Black Sea, had a population of about 30,000 souls -- half Turks, half Armenians. Of Greeks there were very few. On the last Thursday in April, 1915, twenty-five of the leading Armenians were arrested without warning -- among them the professor of Armenian in the American College and several graduates of the same institution. Next day they were dispatched under escort to Sivas, the capital. That was the end of them. Not one was seen alive again. Those who did not fall victims to the typhus that raged among the prisoners succumbed to tortures that were worse than medieval. The professor’s fate was particularly terrible. Credible reports had it that his eyes were gouged from their sockets, his nails torn out by the roots, and his hair and mustache plucked out slowly, hair by hair. The wretched man survived these ordeals, and was finally executed. No one knows what charges were brought against him as pretext for this maltreatment. Stories of similar tortures came in from all quarters. A dentist and a prominent merchant of Amasia, both friends of mine, good citizens and men who had been of service to the Turkish government, were first thrown into solitary confinement, the guards preventing them from sitting or lying down for days, and then subjected to the bastinado, or beating with rods on the soles of the feet -- a punishment too terrible for description. when unconsciousness mercifully came to them, they were revived and tended by their ruffian keepers, only to be put through the same process again. While they writhed under the rods, all kinds of questions were asked them, particularly concerning revolutionary plans, persons imaged to be involved, concealed arms, and so on.
The arrests continued through the months of May and June. It was one long reign of terror. No one knew whose turn would come next. Hundreds were carried off, usually at night, -- taken from their beds to the jail, and then, as we afterwards learned, to places of execution. The scenes outside the prison were beyond description. I could see them from my bedroom window, every day -- groups of women and children waiting outside the gates with little bundles of food for their relatives inside, although they knew how little chance there was its reaching their loved ones. Quietly they stood there, though the silence was often shattered by the cries of some woman who had just learned that her husband had been taken away. This was the way mothers heard of the departure of their sons, sisters of their brothers, little children of their fathers. These sights were too heartrending to watch, but it was worse still when the poor people came to my study, begging me to offer intercession that I knew was utterly useless.
At last, toward the end of June, all male Armenians over the age of twelve were arrested. The place where they were herded was a subterranean chamber under the town barracks. According to the description of friends who were temporarily released, the chamber was literally packed with prisoners, there was just standing-room for many; the air at the entrance, they said, struck the face like the blast of hot air from an oven, and foul as the breath of the Black Hole of Calcutta, for one corner, perforce, had to be used for the necessities of nature.
Finally, numbers of the men imprisoned here were taken out one night and driven off in the direction of Amasia or Zileh. They never reached their destinations, however. At a distance of some three or four hours from Marsovan they were led aside in groups of five or ten, with their hands tied behind them, and, after they had been made to kneel down, they were butchered with axes or daggers and thrown into ditches. This comes straight from the testimony of eye-witnesses -- Turks all, and some of them the gendarmes who had helped consummate the massacre. According to one official, 1215 men were disposed of on this way. Before their bodies were abandoned, they were stripped of all their outer garments, and whatever was found on the way of valuables or trinkets went to the executioners, many of whom, penniless before the killing began, came back with bulging, clinking pockets. The shoes of the Armenians and their clothes were recognized by the merchants as belonging to this or that victim.
The last Saturday in June, the Governor of the town called the surviving men over sixty and under eighteen years from the jail, and told them that the Sultan had pardoned their offences. Let them return home and pray for the Sultan! The rejoicing over this clemency was unbounded; but on the next day the town-crier went through the streets of Marsovan, proclaiming that all Armenians must leave the place within three days and start for Morsul and Der-Zor, more than 1000 miles to the south! The men released the day before were to accompany the women and children. This was the first intimation the people had as to the real fate that awaited them.
On the morning of the third day, before dawn, ox-carts began to pour into Marsovan from all the neighboring villages; the Armenians were forced by the gendarmes to get into them with such belongings as they could hastily snatch up, and so the exodus began. The great, lumbering wains, loaded with terrified victims, rumbled slowly through the streets, while those who had been left behind stood watching in silence, knowing that their turn would come. And come it did, sooner even than they expected; for in two or three days the oxcarts returned, empty, to receive fresh loads. They had gone a comparatively short distance into the interior, then the Armenians were commanded to get out and continue the southward journey on foot. The real ‘deportation’ had begun.
It should be kept in mind that the tragedy of Marsovan was being enacted, on a greater or lesser scale, in hundreds of other villages and towns, in all of which the eliminative processes had been working on the Armenians in the same general fashion. Before the wretched people were driven wholesale from their homes, the finest young girls and women were carried off to the Turkish harems. Their position, professedly, was to be that of servants, but their real status can easily be imagined. This ‘selection’ continued methodically all along the caravan routs which the refugees were following. Kurds, Turks, Arabs, attacked the defenseless victims and tool their pick of them unhindered. The rest were forced to go on under the whips of gendarmes and other officials worse than slave-drivers.
As fatigue and hunger made their inroads on the Armenians, the conditions became indescribable. Mothers, with small children in their arms, staggered along until their outraged bodies succumbed, and they fell fainting by the wayside. Many others plunged from cliffs or flung themselves into rivers, in order to escape what they knew was worse than death. More terrible still was the predicament of women nearing confinement. The gendarmes had no mercy on them. When their hour had come they were scarcely allowed to wait until labor was over before the drivers’ whips urged them to their feet, and on and on -- until hemorrhage put an end to their misery. The newborn children were in most instances dashed to pieces against rocks.*
[*For further information the reader is referred to the bulletins of the America Committee on Armenian and Syrian Relief, 70 Fifth Avenue New York City.-- THE AUTHOR.]
For the completer evolution of the ‘deportation’ system, we may again examine the case of Marsovan. This town is an important missionary center. Under the American Board, an extensive medical, evangelical, and educational work was carried on here. There was Anatolia College, with more than four hundred students; a girls’ boarding school of almost three hundred pupils; a hospital, a theological seminary, and an industrial institution. Forces for good were at work which spread their influence throughout the Ottoman Empire, and beyond -- into Russia, Greece, and Egypt. Ambassador Morgenthau had secured promises from Enver Pasha and Tallat Bey the college people should not be molested, but the governor of Marsovan declared that he had been notified of no such promise, and had received no orders save those to deport all Armenians. Once more the Turks had pulled wool over the diplomat’s eyes.
And so, on August 10, 1915, sixty-one ox-carts entered the college compound. The gendarmes forced the great gates open, and battered down every closed door. They entered even the homes of Americans, and took away every Armenian on the premises. Professors, teachers, students, nurses from hospital who had cared for Turkish soldiers for months, servants -- all had to go. According to the testimony of the wives of the professors, seen near Sivas, they were all kept together until they passed Zieh (the region whence Julius Cesar sent his famous ‘Veni, vidi, vici’), then they were separated. The men, bound with ropes, were driven in one direction, the women and young children in another. According to the testimony of the gendarmes, all the men were killed. No word has been received from them to this day. Their number included Professor V. H. Hagopian, a scholar trainer in the University of Constantinople, author of several books and legal adviser to the college; Professor A. G. Sivastian, who occupied the chair of mathematics and astronomy, -- an experienced teacher and true Christian gentlemen,-- and many other members of the faculty. None of these had any connection with revolutionary movements; all were loyal and useful citizens who would have been welcome in any country and would have added to its welfare. That, it seems, was their chief crime.
The day after the evacuation of the college came the turn of the Girls’ School. Early in the morning the gendarmes appeared and took all the pupils away. Before they were sent from the town each girl was put through a separate inquisition by a Turkish official, during which she was given the choice between adopting the faith of Islam and remaining in safety, and being deported. One the way similar propositions were made to them, to an accompaniment of threats. Fortunately the principal of the school, and American woman, begged permission to follow the girls and overtook some of them in Sivas, where she managed to get the Vali to consent to her bringing back forty-eight to Marsovan. The rest had been carried father on, and were beyond help.
While the deportation was in full swing, various committees of government officials went about taking inventories in the houses and shops of the exiles, and going through the form of sealing them up. Many an official, however, got a fat pocketbook and a full house on the course of his duties; in fact, the property of the Armenians vanished so fast that, when the inventory-taking was over, the sum total of what was found in the houses scarcely sufficed to pay the expenses of the committees! And yet the Armenian homes had been full of carpets, furniture, copper utensils, bedding, and so forth, all of which had to be left behind when the owners were driven forth to perish.
The terrible demoralization that prevailed in Marsovan from the time of the deportations decided me to leave the country; on the late summer, therefore, I set out for Constantinople, accompanied by Mr. J. Arozian, Professor of Chemistry in Anatolia College, -- an American citizen, -- and his wife, his daughter, and his aged mother. With us also went Mrs. Gullienthian, with her four daughters, who had come over from England to visit relatives (these two families held special permits from Enver Pasha to go the capital), and the Rev. K. Domirgian and his wife and daughter. The railroad to Constantinople starts at Angora, and the long ride from Marsovan to the terminus had to be made in carriages. While we were still two days’ journey from Angora, as we were climbing a steep hill near the village of Yaghly, we were stopped by a gendarme, fully armed, with an escort of eight or ten ruffians with axes in their hands. He asked us if there were any Armenians in our party, adding that all Armenians must return at once to the place whence they had started. I argued and pleaded with him, laying special stress on the passes from Enver Pasha, whose name, I thought, would work miracles; but the man cut me short with an oath, saying that he could neither read nor write; that he was put there to send back Armenians, and back they should go.
While we were arguing with him, up came a dozen or so men on horseback. They repeated the same order; ‘Armenians back!’ Our drivers, all Turks, came forward and pleaded for their customers; once more we showed the signature of Enver Pasha -- thus time to the headman, who immediately became very friendly, shook hands with me, and babe us go our way in peace. We learned later that these men were one of the chette’s bands, which had been armed by the government and set loose to hunt Armenians. Convicts from the prisons were similarly armed and released for the same purpose. I was also told by eye-witnesses that numbers of Armenians had been killed near the very spot where we had encountered the horsemen.
But my friends had only a temporary escape. It was our bad fortune to reach Angora at the time when deportation had just begun. The previous Vali and the chief of police of this city had been opposed to the measure, and had held it off until they were summarily replaced by successors who were only too willing to obey orders from Constantinople. They succeeded in a very short time in rounding up the twenty thousand Armenians, among them the professor and the pastor who had journeyed with me from Marsovan. The driver who took them in his carriage to a lake four hours’ ride to the south of Angora told me that they were shot before his eyes.
During my stay in Angora all the male Armenians were deported, chiefly toward the southern interior. Villagers and gendarmes reported that great numbers of them were killed a short distance outside the city. Every day I saw them hurrying through the streets in miserable droves, with the police brutally following them up. The Armenians of Angora were mostly Catholics. No massacres took place among them loyal to the Turks; they took no part in nationalistic movements. They did not even call themselves Armenians. The Young Turks, however, made no discrimination of creed: Gregorians, Protestants, and Catholics were all put on the same footing and ruthlessly deported. Gregorian’s and Catholic priests were often driven off in the same wagon and decapitated with the same axe. It is worth nothing that while I was still in Angora the leaders of the Turkish Union and Progress Committee sent word to the Catholic bishop of the city that if he and his people would embrace Islam, they would all be spared. The refusal was unanimous.
As I continued my journey to Constantinople, further details of the great tragedy presented themselves. At every railroad station large groups of men, women, and children of all ages were waiting, silent and dejected, for the arrival of the freight cars that were to transport them toward Konia and remoter places of the interior. At some of the stations the police, with clubs in their hands, were waving their arms to and fro, hitting women and children indiscriminately, under the pretext of ‘keeping order’ among the poor terror-stricken creatures. Trains passed by us packed with exiles as with animals for slaughter; and never shall I forget the expression of their eyes as they peered from the slats of the slow-moving cars that were carrying them relentlessly toward the desert. This was the fate that met the Armenians of Eski Shelil, Biledjjik, Adabazaar, Ismid, Bardegag, and the regions around Brussa and the shores of Marmora -- including the Greeks of the latter region.
It is impossible to give any definite statistics as to the number of Armenians who have perished in the deportations. Even the exact number of these people in Turkey before the beginning of the war is not known. It is generally assumed, however, that there were about two million Armenians; and of this number it is no exaggeration to say that one million have been killed by actual violence or by exposure, disease, and starvation. According to a dispatch to the Department of State at Washington in May, 1916, there were some five hundred thousand scattered through Syria and Mesopotamia; And three hundred thousand more are believed to be distributed in various parts of Asia Minor. Practically all of these are exposed to constant danger of further deportation and siftings from point to point -- and every such shift means the disappearance of thousand. Those in the Syrian Desert were found ‘eating grass, herbs and locusts. In desperate cases, the carcasses of dead animals and human bodies are reported to have been eaten.’
If these conditions continue, the result is plain. The Turks will succeed in exterminating the Armenian race by the action of ‘natural cases,’ -- sickness, hunger, exhaustion. They will continue to drive them from place to place in the desert until are gone.
No one can hear the terrible tale of the Armenian deportation without asking what the underlying reasons for it all might be. Even beats of prey, it will be said, do not kill for the mere lust of killing; what is the object to be attained? What results do the Turks hope to get in return for the energy they have expended in prosecuting this extermination?
1. According to the Turkish Government, the plan was necessitated by the exigencies of war. ‘Turkey,’ they said, ‘was engaged overwhelming odds, fighting for her very life. The Armenians were plotting with the enemy and preparing internal disturbances; therefore they had to be removed to a place where they could be rendered harmless.’
This charge of plotting is groundless. The only instance in which the Armenians made armed resistance to the Turks are at Van -- and then only when they had been attacked and saw that they were doomed to extermination. It is true that, when the sale of arms was generally permitted after the revolution of 1908, many Armenians took advantage of the occasion to secure weapons of defense. The source of these arms was controlled by the government, however, coming as they did direct from Germany; and when, after the declaration of war, the Armenians were commanded to give them up, they voluntarily obeyed, those persons who were at first inclined to conceal their weapons finally yielding to the persuasion of their priests or pastors.
Some slight excuse for the action of the Turks might seem to be found in the existence of the organized Armenian ‘Hinchakist’ and ‘Tashuagist’ societies which, under the reign of Abdul Hamid, were perforce kept secret. But after the revolution of 1908, these societies openly proclaimed themselves, and won the approval of the Young Turks, who declared that ‘the Armenian revolutionists were among the pioneers of Ottoman liberty.’ Their program was broadly socialistic and educational, aiming at the instruction of the people and their elevation to those ideals which the Young Turks themselves had espoused with such high-sounding phrases. When the test came, it was shown how empty these phrases really were.
2. Race-jealousy is a factor to be reckoned with. The Turks are really aliens in the country they rule: they came as conquerors, and have maintained their supremacy by force. The Armenians, when they were subjugated by the Turks, were an ancient and civilized people, with an organized society which the Turks, in long centuries, have never been able to approximate: an enterprising race, thrifty, energetic, and capable of progress and culture along all lines. In spite of savage repression, they became the leading merchants, traders, lawyers, doctors of the country, especially in the interior. Even in the reign of Abdul Hamid the Minister of Finance was usually an Armenian. They amassed great wealth and property, and the Turkish peasant was usually dependent on them.
Now the real program of the Young Turk party is ‘Turkey for the Turks.’ Under the name of ‘Ottomanization,’ they were determined to assimilate or eliminate all the non-Turkish elements in the Empire, and uplift their own race at the expense of the non-Moslem peoples of the country. They were drunk with the idea of nationalism. They condemned the statesmanlike policy of Mohammed II, conqueror of Constantinople, in organizing and establishing the Greek Patriarch, with its special privileges and immunities, and bewailed the fact that the Old Turks had allowed the Greek, Armenian, Bulgarian, Serbian, and Jewish elements of the Empire to keep intact their religious, linguistic, and racial peculiarities for so many centuries. They were determined to be supreme in the land they conquered, absolute masters over the subject peoples.
3. All attempts to reform Turkey have been shattered against Mohammedanism. The very first article of the Turkish Constitution declares: ‘The religion of the Ottoman Empire is Islam.’ The Young Turks are mostly indifferent to matters of faith, if not actually irreligious, but they know the power of Islam over the people, -- its value has often been proved in assimilating the non-Turkish elements of the Empire, -- and in the present case they effectually roused the inherently intolerant spirit of Islam against the ‘rebellious’ Armenians.
Religious fanaticism was especially appealed to when the Russians withdrew from Van and Gallipoli campaign collapsed, and the idea of the Jehad or Sacred War gained in popularity. That the cause of the Armenian atrocities was not wholly religious, however, is shown by the extremely limited categories of persons to whom the choice between deportation or acceptance of Islam was offered.
4. As a fourth factor one must mention the conflicting interests and the intrigues of European diplomacy. The Christians of Turkey have suffered untold misery because Europe cannot agree. Turkey owes her existence today to the backing England gave her in the nineteenth century. Had it not been for the Crimean War, Russia would have swallowed up the greater part, if not the whole, of Turkey, and the world would never have heard of the Hamidian massacres. In 1878, when the Russian forces advanced to the very gates of Constantinople and the Sultan was glad to sign the treaty of San Stefano (with its Article 16, providing for necessary reforms in Armenia), It was England that stepped forward, vetoed the treaty, and arranged for the Berlin Conference, which resulted in the Treaty of Berlin, its sixty-first article stipulating even greater relief for Armenia.* [*Art. 61 of the Treaty of Berlin. (July 13, 1878). ‘The Sublime Porte undertakes to carry out without further delay the improvements and reforms demanded by local requirements in the provinces inhabited by Armenians, and to guarantee their security against the Circassians and Kurds. It will periodically make known the steps taken to this effect to the Powers, who will superintend their application.’--THE AUTHOR.] That article was the starting-point of the Armenian troubles. Turkey promised; six great powers guaranteed the reforms -- with the result that the Armenians are now in danger of extermination.
TO the credit of England be it said, she used her influence with Turkey for the betterment of the fate of the Christians; but as a matter of fact, it was her backing that kept Turkey alive. British interests demanded the Territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire --and what an integrity it was! After repeated clippings on all sides -- Bosnia, and Herzegovina going to Austria, the Caucasus to Russia, Cyprus and Egypt to England, traceably to Greece, Eastern Romania to Bulgaria -- the ‘territorial integrity’ of Turkey remained intact, for so it had been decreed by the Concert of Europe!
But when the interests of England changed; when it suited her plans better to see the Russian Bear on the shores of the Bosphorus than the German Eagle, the Conference of Reval was held, and Turkey’s disintegration determined on. But it was too late. A new defender had risen up, with more ardor and zeal that the Turk had ever known before. Kaiser and Sultan had clasped hands, and under the electrifying influence of this new rapprochement the Young Turks startled the world. In six month they succeeded in doing what the Old Turks were unable to accomplish in six centuries. The extermination of the Armenians is well under way. Thousands of Nestorians and Syrians have vanished from the face of the earth. More than 300,000 Greeks have been deported from the Ottoman Empire, and many more sent to the interior. The fate that awaits the surviving Christians and Jews -- in fact, of all the non-Turkish elements -- depends on the term of the fratricidal war and its fortunes. The Young Turks are watchfully waiting to carry out their program: ‘Turkey for the Turks.’
|[ Genocide Articles | Genocide | Armenia ]||© Raffi Kojian|