AND THE WAR
AN ARMENIAN'S POINT OF VIEW
WITH AN APPEAL TO BRITAIN AND
THE COMING PEACE CONFERENCE
A. P. HACOBIAN.
ARMENIA AS A WAR ISSUE-GREATEST SUFFERER FROM TURKO-PRUSSIAN "FRIGHTFULNESS"---EFFECT ON AMERICAN OPINION
THE first official advance for peace made by Germany and her Allies, although couched in defiant and menacing terms, was nevertheless an unmistakable signal of distress, and has brought the world within measurable distance of that just and durable peace which the Allies have set out to achieve. The prospect of approaching peace has set on foot a general reiteration of the issues at stake, and consideration of the terms and problems of peace. Public attention in this country will naturally be occupied, in the first place, with the momentous issues and interests of the United Kingdom, the British Empire and her Allies raised by the war and to be settled and secured by the impending peace. It will therefore, I hope, not be considered amiss or premature for a member of one of those small and oppressed peoples engulfed in the vortex of the war who look to Great Britain and her Allies for deliverance, reparation and the security of their future liberty, to put before the British public his views, as well as facts and arguments that may be of some service in enabling it to form a just estimate of the claims and merits of one of the smaller problems which run the risk of not receiving a full hearing at the Peace Conference, in the presence of a multitude of larger and more important questions.
The item in the Allied peace terms stated in their reply to President Wilson's note, "the setting free of the populations subject to the bloody tyranny of the Turks," is the bearer to Armenians of a message of comfort and hope. It heralds the dawn of a new day that will mark the end of the long and hideous nightmare of Turkish tyranny.
If President Wilson, the American people, or other neutrals were in search of evidence that would prove to them conclusively which of the two groups of belligerents is sincere in its professions of regard for "the rights and privileges of weak peoples and small states"; if Belgium had not been violated and ravaged; if the Lusitania and so many hospital ships, liners and merchantmen had not been sunk without any care as to the fate of the wounded, the children and women, the non-combatant men and crews; if Zeppelins had not spread death and destruction among women and children in their homes in the night; if all these and so many other outrages had not been committed, and there had been, in the whole course of the war, no other act of the Quadruple Alliance in any degree contrary to the laws and usages of civilized warfare and dictates of humanity, the single word ARMENIA would provide that proof---a crushing, monumental proof---as to who is and who is not sincere in the professions of regard for right, justice and humanity. The spirit of desolated Armenia stands at the head of the phantom spirits of outraged humanity, which must rise and shatter to atoms every mask of benevolence, righteousness and injured innocence that the protagonists of "frightfulness" may assume for the deception of their own peoples and neutrals.
But in the United States at least there is no need for any fresh proof or explanation of the issue at this stage, and the martyrdom of Armenia has contributed largely to that state of American opinion. I have little doubt that President Wilson's Peace Note and speech to the Senate are the first steps towards America casting her whole weight into the scale, aiming at the realization of a just and lasting peace.
The intense interest evinced by the people and Government of the United States in the fate of Armenia and the Armenians is abundantly shown not only by the generous gifts of money for the relief of the survivors and the noble personal services by devoted missionaries and relief agents, some of whom lost their lives in their work, of mercy; but also by diplomatic action on behalf of the Armenians in Constantinople (where Mr. Morgenthau, to his great honour, struggled valiantly to stay the hand of the ruthless oppressor), and by the prominence given to any and every scrap of news concerning the holocaust in Armenia. It is no exaggeration to say that, military operations apart, no incident of the war, not excepting the violation and martyrdom of Belgium, has been given more space and prominence in the American Press than anything connected with the martyrdom of Armenia and Syria and the relief of the refugees and exiles.
In his reply to the Armenian deputation who on December 14, 1916, presented to him an illuminated parchment from the Catholicos expressing His Holiness's gratitude and thanks to the American nation, President Wilson said, inter alia--
"We have tried to do what was possible to save your people from the ravages of war. My great regret is, that we have been able to accomplish so little. There have been many suffering peoples as the result of that terrible struggle, and the lot of none has touched the American heart more than the suffering of the Armenians." 1
Nothing in the war has brought home to the people of the United States the moral issues of the war more strongly and vividly than the unprecedented barbarities committed by the Turks in their diabolical attempt to wipe out the Armenian race. No event of the war has been more damaging to the Central Powers in the eyes of the United States. Here they have seen the ruthless spirit of the twin enemies of humanity and liberty---the Turkish yatagan supported by the Prussian jack-boot---in its hideous nakedness at work in the depths of Asia, unrestrained and unperceived, as they thought, by the light of civilization.
This gospel of the jack-boot and the yatagan will be best illustrated by putting side by side two quotations, one from the Tanine, the official organ of the Committee of Union and Progress in Constantinople, and the other from a statement made by Count Reventlow in October 1915. The Tanine "invited the Government to exterminate or forcibly convert to Islam all Armenian women in Turkey as the only means of saving the Ottoman Empire."2 Count Reventlow, the high priest of the gospel of Brute Force and Militarism, writing in the Tageszeitung in defence and approval of Turkey's appalling crime, said that it was the Ottoman Government's obvious right and duty to take the strongest repressive measures against "the bloodthirsty Armenians"---the measures advocated by the Tanine, which were carried out by Count Reventlow's worthy allies on the Bosphorus with a completeness and ferocity that must have greatly pleased him.
The German Government and German apologists have made a great parade of the use of Indian and African troops in Europe by the Allies. By all reports, these troops have fought as clean a fight as any troops in the war. I think that in the judgment of future historians no incident of this war, whose history is so heavily shadowed on one side with outrages and violations of the laws of civilized warfare, will meet with so strong a condemnation as Germany's alliance with the Young Turks, the declaration of a "holy war" at her behest, and its dire consequences for the already sorely tried Christian subjects of the Turks. (It should be remembered that Germany and Austria are signatories to the Treaty of Berlin, Art. 61 of which was to have brought about "the improvements and reforms demanded by local requirements in the provinces inhabited by the Armenians," and to have "guaranteed their security against the Kurds and Circassians." This point cannot be too strongly emphasized.) She could have foreseen these consequences; and if she did not foresee them, she .could have stopped them when they made themselves apparent. Turkey's entry into the war placed her Christian subjects in a position of great peril, as it has been her custom to wreak upon them her vengeance for defeats; while a state of war freed her from the moral restraint of Europe. It was hoped that German and Austrian influence would check this tendency. How cruelly events have shattered that hope! They have proved that it was too much to expect humanity and the ordinary feelings of chivalry and compassion for the honour and suffering of women and children from the State policies of these great Christian Governments and the majority of their agents in Turkey. I do not believe that this ungodly and inhuman policy has received general approbation either in Germany or Austria-Hungary. This is evident from the quotations from German missionary journals in the Blue-book on the "Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire."3 It is also proved by the protests addressed to the Imperial Chancellor by several Catholic and Protestant organizations.
ARMENIA AND REPARATION---ARMENIA'S MARTYRDOM---CONDEMNATION AND DEMAND FOR REPARATION INADEQUATELY EXPRESSED
THE Governments of the Allies have unanimously declared that peace is only possible on the principles of adequate reparation for the past, adequate security for the future, and recognition of the principle of nationalities and of the free existence of small states.
"Reparation" means no doubt in the first place reparation for the wanton and ruthless destruction of unoffending and defenceless civilian lives and property.
It is characteristic of the British sense of justice and fair play that Belgium, France and Serbia should be given the first place in their demand for reparation, for, of course, there are the British victims of "frightfulness," Zeppelin and submarine victims and the victims of judicial murders to be atoned for and recompensed.
This unanimous demand for reparation to the smaller nations for all they have suffered as a result of the brutal and unscrupulous aggression of their more powerful neighbours, and their security and free development, augurs well for the future. It is an earnest given by the Entente Powers to the world, of the sincerity of their declarations regarding the unselfish, just and worthy objects which they entered the war to attain.
I must be excused, however, if I confess to feeling not a little perplexity at the fact that, in discussing the peace terms, the great organs of British public opinion, with some notable exceptions 4, have made little or no reference to Armenia in the demand for penalties, reparation and redemption. This fact must have impressed Mr. Arthur Henderson, who, in his reference to Armenia quoted more fully elsewhere, remarked that ". . . Armenian atrocities were not much talked about here . . . etc." My anxiety will be understood when I point out that for us it is not a question of a little more or less territory, a little larger or smaller indemnity. For us more than for any other race involved in the war it is a question of "to be or not to be" in a real and fateful sense: the rebirth of Armenian nationality from the profusion of its lost blood and heaps of smouldering ashes, or the end of that long-cherished and bled-for aspiration, and the consummation of the "policy" of Abdul Hamid and the Young Turks.
The first general discussion of the terms of peace has coincided with the publication, as a Blue-book, of Lord Bryce's comprehensive documentary evidence on the attempt of the Turks to murder the Armenian nation in cold blood. I gratefully acknowledge the fact that many newspapers wrote sympathetic editorial articles or reviews on the Blue-book, emphasizing, with incontestable force, that this conclusive evidence of the abominable crimes committed by the Turks in Armenia without any protest from official Germany, is a crushing reply to the German Chancellor's protestations of solicitude for humanity.
But, opportune as has been the immediate effect of this fresh evidence of Lord Bryce's noble and untiring labours in the cause of humanity, as a tragic and terrible exposure of the irony of the Central Powers' professions of pity for suffering humanity, that is surely not the only or the principal moral to be drawn from these haunting pages. They constitute a terrible and lasting reproach to the European diplomacy of our time. They unfold to the horrified gaze of mankind a vast column of human smoke and human anguish rising to the heavens as the incense of the most fearful yet most glorious mass-martyrdom the world has ever seen, but casting a shadow of lasting shame upon Christendom and civilization. The unparalleled outburst of barbarity they reveal did not come as a surprise. Europe had heard its premonitory rumblings these last forty years. As far back as 1880 the representatives of the Great Powers in their famous and futile Identic Note to the Sublime Porte, said. "So desperate was the misgovernment of the country that it would lead in all probability to the destruction of the Christian population of vast districts." The massacres of 1895-1896 and 1909 cost the lives of 250,000 to 300,000 Armenians. But most of the European statesmen of the day persistently refused to believe that "the gentle Turk" was capable of such bursts of unspeakable barbarism; while Bismarck declared openly that the whole Eastern Question was not worth "the bones of a Pomeranian grenadier." His successors have followed and improved upon his ruthless, unchristian policy, and Europe sees the result.
With due respect to the small minority of humane Turks, who, I dare say, are themselves shocked at what their rulers, their soldiery and populace have proved themselves capable of, the Turk as a race has added yet another and vaster monument than ever before to the long series of similar monuments that fill the pages of his blood-stained history, in proof of the unchangeable brutality of his nature. You cannot reason or argue with him. Nor can you expect justice or ordinary human feelings from such a nature.
The only sane and honest way to deal with him is to make him innocuous. It is official Europe that is to blame for leaving him so long at large and his prey at his mercy. It is European diplomacy of the past forty years that is responsible for looking on while the relentless mutilation was going on limb by limb; until Moloch saw his chance in the war and all but devoured his hapless victim, with the tacit acquiescence of the Governments of two great Christian empires, and the applause of Count Reventlow and his disciples.
How is it to be explained that this deliberately planned destruction of more than half a million human beings by all the tortures of the Dark Ages, and the deportation and enslavement worse than death of more than half a million, have not aroused the righteous wrath of the great British writers and thinkers of the day to nearly the same extent as the martyrdom of Belgium? How is it that great writers and poets have not felt the call of expressing to the world in the language of genius the stupefying horror as well as the moral grandeur of this vast, unparalleled tragedy?5 Great Britain has always been, and is to-day more than ever, the champion and "the hope of the oppressed and the despair of the oppressor." That sympathy, horror and indignation exist in this country in the fullest measure there is not the slightest doubt. One sees proofs and indications of their existence at every turn. But why, in Heaven's name, is it not proclaimed to the world that the culprits may know and tremble and stay their hand? Bishops have been burnt to death, hundreds of churches desecrated, and ministers of Christ tortured and murdered; hundreds of thousands of Christian women and children done to death in circumstances of unspeakable barbarity and bestiality. Why are the Churches of Great Britain and all Christendom not raising a cry of indignation that will reverberate throughout the world and strike the fear of God into the hearts of these assassins and all powers of darkness? Why is not a word said as a tribute, so richly deserved, to the heroic and indomitable spirit of the men and women and even children who chose torture and death rather than deny their Christ, sacrifice their honour or renounce their nationality?6 Here is assuredly the most inspiring example of all times of the triumph of the spirit of Christ and the fidelity in death to conscience, personal honour and independence, over savage fury and brutal lust at the highest pitch ever attained in them by fiends in human form; a triumph and an example more inspiring, and with a deeper and more lasting significance for humanity and Christianity, perhaps, than this great and terrible war itself; and the Churches and spokesmen and writers of great Christian countries, belligerent and neutral, pass over that aspect of the Great Tragedy almost in complete silence!
I do not ask tributes for the martyrs; let their praise be sung by the hosts of heaven. Nor is this a complaint; and it would be a presumption on my part to assume the rôle of critic or mentor to leaders of religion, thought and learning in great Christian countries. It is far indeed from my intention to assume such a role. But these are facts which I contemplate with inexpressible sorrow, almost despair---facts which perplex and puzzle me and which surpass my understanding. Perhaps my judgment is dimmed and embittered by my nation's sufferings. If that is so, is any one surprised that the Armenian soul should be bitter to-day, bitter with a bitterness, anguish and indignation such as the soul of man has never tasted before, or any people can possibly imagine?
Some papers speak of the sufferings of the Armenians being equal to those of the Belgians.
Armenians know, if any one does, what bondage and suffering under the tyrant's heel mean, and they yield to none in their profound sympathy and admiration for heroic Belgium, Serbia and the occupied parts of France. The martyrdom of 5000 unoffending Belgian civilians is a horrible enough episode, but surely there is some difference between 5000 and 600,000 victims, to say nothing of the 600,000 who were enslaved, forcibly converted to Islam, and driven in caravans of torture and death to the Mesopotamian deserts.7 What is the condition of these unfortunates, and how many have survived, must remain a dread secret of the desert until the end of the war.
Is it because the victims are Armenians, mere Armenians so used to massacre, so long abandoned by Europe to the lust and pleasure of "the Gentle Turk"? That may be so in the eyes of men. But there is God, and in His eyes the life and pain and torture and death of an Armenian child, woman, or man are the same, exactly the same, as those of any other child, woman, or man without exception.
"THE GENTLE AND CLEAN-FIGHTING TURK "8
THE Allies have declared in their reply to President Wilson that one of their aims is "the turning out of Europe of the Ottoman Empire, as decidedly foreign to Western civilization.".
This fact of the Turk being "decidedly foreign to Western civilization," affirmed on the authority and conviction of the Governments of four of the greatest and most advanced nations of Europe, needs no further proof. Nevertheless it seems desirable, in the interests of truth, to endeavour to dissipate the misconception that has been created by the extraordinary myth of "the clean-fighting Turk."
There has been a disposition in this country, natural and intelligible under the circumstances, to attribute the recent (let us hope the last) and most terrible of the Armenian massacres wholly or largely to German influence. That the German Government had it in its power to stop this gigantic crime if it had. so wished, there is no doubt. It seems likely also that the Turk applied to his brutal scheme the method and thoroughness he had learned from his German ally. But seriously to assert, as some writers and speakers have done, that German influence instigated the massacres, is to shut one's eyes to the Turk's record ever since he became known to history. One need only turn the pages of his history---a veritable chamber of horrors---to convince oneself that massacre, outrage, and devastation have always been congenial to the Turk.
Without for a moment wishing to absolve the German Government of its responsibility, before God and humanity, for not exerting its influence to save more than a million absolutely innocent human beings from death, slow torture, and slavery: the fact, nevertheless, remains that Hulagu, Sultan Selim, Bayazid. and Abdul Hamid were not under German influence, that there were no Germans at the sack of Constantinople or the massacres of Bagdad and Sivas, or, in more recent times, at the butcheries of Chios, Greece, Crete, Batak, Macedonia, Sassoon, Urfa, or Adana. The Turk, in fact, has nothing to learn from his Teutonic ally in "frightfulness"; he has a great deal to teach him. I readily admit that there are some Turks who are gentle and good men. Some of these have risked good positions and even their lives to protect Armenian women and children. But most unfortunately for us, for humanity and for the Turks themselves, such good Turks are few and far between.
It is true that orders for the extirpation of the Armenians were issued from Constantinople, but can any one imagine such revolting orders being carried out by "gentle and clean-fighting" troops and people? I shall be much surprised if any unprejudiced man or woman in any civilized country believes that any but the Turkish populace and soldiery would be capable of carrying out such orders. History at any rate has given us no such evidence.
I believe that, under a just and honest government and better influences, the Turkish peasant will, in course of time, lose his proneness to cruelty, for he has good qualities. But if this war is intended to see the end of tyranny, oppression, brutal religious and political persecution and the discontent and unrest that such conditions always produce., if it is to prevent the possibility of a repetition of the hell that the Turks have let loose in Armenia since they entered the war and so often before the war; then it is clear that never again must the Turk be allowed to possess the power over other races, which he has so abominably abused ever since he "hacked his way through" to the fair, fertile and once highly prosperous country which he has devastated and converted into a charnel-house.
The Armenians of Turkey had no separatist aspirations. They knew that was impracticable. Nothing would have suited them better than a reformed government in Turkey, that would give them security of life, honour and property, the free development of their national and religious institutions and an approach to equality with Moslems before the law. On the promulgation of the Constitution, all the Armenian revolutionary societies were transformed into peaceable and orderly political parties as by magic. They had great hopes of achieving these aims and the regeneration of the Ottoman Empire from within in co-operation with the Young Turks before the war, and they gave the Committee of Union and Progress (was there ever a more incongruous misnomer?) all the support they could, which was by no means negligible; but they had not long to wait to be completely and bitterly disillusioned. The Adana massacres gave their hopes the first blow. The Armenian leaders proved too earnest and sincere democrats for the Committee leaders who, with few exceptions, were actuated, as events proved, more by inordinate personal ambition than the "liberty" and "equality" which they so loudly proclaimed and which have proved such a hideous mockery. The chauvinistic wing soon gained complete ascendancy over the party, which resolved on the covert of forcible "Ottomanization" of all non-Turk races of the Empire (as is proved by the recent exposures of the Grand Sheriff of Mecca), and ended by joining the Germans in the war in the hope of conquering Egypt and the Caucasus.
It is a mistake to think that Germany forced Turkey into the war against her will by the presence of the Goeben and Breslau. Those who had any knowledge of Turkish affairs had no doubt of the existence of a military understanding between Germany and Turkey for some years before the war. The arrival of a military mission at Constantinople under Liman von Sanders left no doubt on that point.
On the outbreak of the European war, the Armenian Dashnakist Party met in congress at Erzerum to determine the attitude to be observed by the Party in relation to the war. Hearing of this, the Young Turks forthwith sent representatives to ascertain the attitude of the Party in the event of Turkey going to war against Russia. (See Blue-book, p. 80.) This took place some weeks before the arrival of the Goeben and Breslau at Constantinople. Nor was the war as unpopular with the Turkish masses at the outset as is thought by many. If that were so there would have been a revolt against the Young Turks, and Turkey would have been detached from the Central Powers long ago. It may be less popular now, because their dreams of conquest have been shattered and the whole country is suffering. No Turk, Young or Old, had any particular objection to the prospects of the conquest either of Egypt or the Caucasus, and many of them aimed at a Moslem Triple Alliance between Turkey, Persia and Afghanistan under German auspices, and even dreamt dreams of an empire that would ultimately embrace India and the whole of Northern Africa!9
The Young Turks have tried their hand at the government of the Ottoman Empire, and have failed more completely and proved infinitely more cruel and brutal than the Old Turks. Besides this, their betrayal of the Entente Powers and the vast and unprecedented crime which they have committed against humanity have left only one solution possible that holds out any promise of peace, justice and normal progress in the future. That one solution is, to draw up a new map of the Ottoman Empire on the basis of nationality and historical rights, reparation in proportion to services and sacrifices during the war, and the proved aptitude of the races concerned for progress and development on the lines of Western civilization.
There has long existed in Europe a school of politicians who have always asked: "If you eliminate Turkish rule over the Turks' subject races, what will you put in its place?" After what has happened in Armenia and Syria, he would be a bold man or a prejudiced man who would deny that any change will be an improvement.
The unfitness of the Turk to govern alien, and especially Christian peoples has been proved by such an overwhelming accumulation of historical evidence and rivers of innocent Christian blood, that to urge the contrary must appear like an attempt to obscure the sun by the palm of the hand.
If this war is to bring peace and progress to Asia Minor instead of chronic anarchy, bloodshed and devastation as in the past, there must be an end of Turkish domination over alien races in any shape or form. By all means give the Turk the chance of governing himself in the provinces inhabited purely by Turks.
During the Turkish retreat from Thrace in 1913, the evidence of newspaper correspondents was that the Turk was leaving Europe in the same state---moral, material and intellectual---as he entered it four centuries ago. The fact is, that centuries of contact with civilization has made no difference to the nature of the Turk. War brings to the surface the true nature of a people as nothing else can. The Turk has proved by his conduct in this war that he is as cruel and brutal as he was when he first swooped down as the scourge of God in Asia Minor one thousand years ago. By centuries of conquest and domination he has acquired an attractive free and easy outward manner which has stamped him a "gentleman" in the eyes of European travellers. But the same "gentleman" who will charm you with his manner will murder or enslave any number of women and children without the slightest twinge of conscience. Such is the Turkish "gentleman." The Turks are to-day proving their gratitude for a hundred years of British and French support by throwing the whole of their man-power and resources---largely built up by British and French capital---into the scale on the side of Germany. They have put at the disposal .of Germany and held for Germany the land routes by which alone she can hope to threaten the British and French colonial empires. They have done their best to do England and her Allies all the injury they can, and have given the enemies of England all the help they can. And still the Turk and even the Young Turk have friends and protectors in this country.10 This, to my mind, is the most astonishing phenomenon of the whole war. It must appear strange to thinking Moslems that there should be found, in great and mighty Christian countries, respected and prominent men who defend the Young Turks at the very moment when their protégés are persecuting and massacring their weak and defenceless co-religionists in countless thousands. I gravely doubt whether such an act is calculated to enhance the prestige of Christianity in the eyes of the Moslem world.
Have the apologists of the Turks ever put themselves this question: "If under German influence the Turks have been capable of attempting the cold-blooded murder of a whole nation, how is the fact to be explained, that under the same influence they were able to gain the reputation of 'clean fighters'?"
The irony of it all is, that in a war in which more than twenty different nations are engaged, the Turk and the Turk alone among the belligerents should have gained the epithet of "clean-fighter," though, note well, from one of his adversaries only. How is this fact to be explained? Is it seriously claimed that the Turk has proved himself, under the test of war, superior in morals and chivalry to all the nations of Europe?
Turkish mentality is not understood in Western Europe. The Turk has a fanatical bravery which, however, easily degenerates into brutality. The Russians, Rumanians and Serbs have fought the Turks for centuries. It would be interesting to have their opinion of his "clean-fighting" qualities. The fact is, the Turk knows he may need English help again some day. He knows that there has long existed in England a school of politicians which has believed that British interests in the Near East will be best served by supporting the Turk. He knows that England has millions of Mohammedan subjects who have still some sympathy for him on religious grounds, and whose susceptibilities Englishmen are naturally anxious to avoid hurting. He also knows that the British soldier is a chivalrous warrior who gives full credit to his adversary for any good qualities he may seem to possess. He understands the power of public opinion in England. He sees, in short, that there is in England a fertile and responsive psychological soil ready to nurture and fructify a hundred-fold the smallest show of "clean-fighting" he may make. Accordingly, the order goes forth to the Turkish soldier to be on his best behaviour whenever and wherever he is fighting British troops, and the Turkish soldier obeys with the blind obedience which is his chief characteristic.
That is the true explanation of the amazing fact that so many---though not all---British officers and soldiers have written or spoken of the Turk as a clean-fighter. It is well-known that some wounded Australians who had the misfortune of falling into the hands of the Turks were most brutally mutilated in the early part of the Dardanelles campaign. A wounded and gallant young New Zealander told me at a Hampstead hospital that the Turks "put three bullets into him," while he was being carried to the rear of the fighting line on a stretcher. (In case my remarks concerning the clean-fighting qualities of the Turk should be misconstrued or misrepresented as in any way implying a doubt as to the evidence of British officers and soldiers, I wish to say emphatically, what hardly needs affirmation, that I regard such evidence as absolutely above doubt or question.)
The Russians said in one of their official communiqués that a number of their wounded had been mutilated by the Turks.
Two Russian hospital ships have been deliberately torpedoed by submarines manned by Turks and flying the Turkish flag.
I do not of course suggest that there are no really clean-fighting men among the Turks. There must be many such. It should be borne in mind in this connection that, in the early stages of the war, the Turkish army contained a considerable sprinkling of Christians---Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, etc. But to label the Turks as such and as a whole as clean fighters and gentle folk is to admit the success of the most subtle propagandist make-believe of the war and the biggest hoax ever played off by Oriental cunning upon a chivalrous and unsuspecting adversary.
Armenians have known the Turk for centuries. They have known him as he is, not as he affects to be in the presence of a European, and they can claim credit for some knowledge of the subject. I venture to predict that there is severe disillusionment in store for those who still believe in the genuineness of Turkish "clean-fighting" and "chivalry," when the British prisoners in Turkey return. Strange indeed must be this Turkish conception of chivalry to sanction the enslavement and slaughter of women and children in hundreds of thousands, instead of protecting them and their honour as the ordinary code of chivalry demands.
A Reuter telegram from Cairo published in The Daily Chronicle of February 13, 1917, contained the following---
"It is learnt on reliable authority that the British, French, and Russian prisoners who are employed on the construction of the new line are treated most roughly by the Germans and Turks, and that a large number are falling ill from dysentery and filling the military hospitals at Aleppo. Those who have not been attacked by dysentery have fallen victims to other diseases, resulting from bad food, rough treatment, and overwork.
"One of the tricks adopted by the Germans and Turks, in order to throw dust in the eyes of the British regarding the treatment of prisoners, was the honour paid to General Townshend, who was returned his sword and accorded the best treatment possible. They brought him to Constantinople, and made him write a letter of thanks for the good treatment he and his men had received at the hands of the Turks.
"General Townshend did not know at the time he wrote this letter what misery and hardship were awaiting his unhappy troops."
I may here quote in support of my contention one of the foremost living European authorities on Near Eastern affairs, and one who certainly will not be suspected of anti-Turkish prejudices ---I mean Colonel Sir Mark Sykes, M.P. Addressing a meeting at Kew on January 17, 1917 (I quote from The Near East of January 19, 1917), Sir Mark said---
"The Turk, who in the last ten years had thrown back to the primitive Turanian Conqueror, was not content with dominating, but was now engaged in exterminating the Armenian, the Syrian Christian, and the Arabs, and was even now beginning to bully the Jews. The Turk had overthrown Islam as Prussia had overthrown Christianity. Prussia had replaced God by Thor and the Cross by his hammer. The Turk had replaced Mohammed by Oghuz and Allah by the 'White Wolf' of the primitive Turks. No belief was to be placed in that cloak of chivalry under which in exceptional cases the Turk tried to hide his abominable acts.11 He might treat General Townshend well; but how was he treating the thousands of Indians and Englishmen in his hands? If it were possible that the Teuton-Turanian federation of violence could win this war it would be twenty generations before mankind regained its liberty."
ANGLO-RUSSIAN FRIENDSHIP A VITAL NECESSITY FOR PEACE AND PROGRESS IN ASIA---MOSLEMS AND TURKISH RULE---ARMENIANS PROGRESSIVE AND DEMOCRATIC BY TEMPERAMENT
THE exaggerated panegyrics on the virtues of the Turk, while the Turk is at war with England and her Allies and Turkish emissaries are busy making all the mischief they can among loyal subjects of the British Empire, exploiting religion as a weapon of squalid intrigue, point to the existence of influences which have been at work ever since Turkey joined the war, to screen from public view and to palliate the enormity of Turkish perfidy in making common cause with England's enemies in the hour of England's difficulty. These same influences seem to regard with disfavour the growth of Anglo-Russian friendship and would apparently not be sorry to see some hitch or other occur that would weaken or endanger the permanence of that friendship.
This may be an unfounded assumption, and I hope it is. But if these pro-Turkish and anti-Russian influences exist in fact, and gain enough strength to exercise any influence on the course of events after the war, it will be a calamity for the smaller nations of the Near and Middle East, and in fact for all Asia. It will be a hindrance and a deterrent to the tranquillity and development that has been so long denied to these regions. Close and cordial friendship between England and Russia are almost as indispensable a condition of life and growth and progress to these backward countries as light and heat. It is scarcely for me to say that it is also necessary for the future peace of Asia and the world. The unnatural and unfounded mutual distrust that shadowed Anglo-Russian relations throughout almost the whole of the past century has been chiefly responsible for the woes and miseries of the peoples of the Near East, Moslems as well as Christians. It has kept back the clock of progress and civilization for at least fifty years. We have felt its effect in our daily lives and regard any prospect of its return with the utmost apprehension and regret. Pan-Turanian intrigues under the cloak of Pan-Islamism will not end with the war. They will be continued after the war by their protagonists, whose chief concern is, not the interests of the Mohammedan religion, but the unscrupulous exploitation of religious sentiment for personal ends, and the disturbance of the tranquillity and ordered government which in the present chaotic state of these countries are only possible under the strong and just arm of British, Russian, or French protection. Any weakening in Anglo-Russian friendship would give these intriguers their chance, of which they would not be slow to take the fullest advantage, with injurious consequences to the countries concerned and to the general interests of peace. The best elements of Islam, and especially the peasant populations which form the vast majority of the Moslem world, know and have proved by their loyalty that they have nothing to fear from Britain, Russia and France, who have always not only respected, but fostered their religious interests and given them, in addition, the inestimable blessings of freedom, justice, security and prosperity such as they could never expect to enjoy under any other régime.
It is idle to pretend that any subject race loves any form of domination for its own sake. But many races and countries in Asia and Africa are so situated that independence is beyond the bounds of practicability. Any change would result in an exchange of one domination for another. Some forms of domination are sincerely welcomed because, as against the evil of domination, they have not only conferred upon the peoples under their rule benefits and blessings which they themselves could not possibly have achieved, but have allowed them freedom of development on their national lines. Such in varying degrees is the nature of British, French, Russian, and, I may add, Dutch dominion over the alien races under their rule. What has Turkish domination been to its subject races? An unmitigated curse to Christian, Moslem and Jew alike, with this difference, that while the Moslem and Jew have been reduced by merciless taxation and robbery to extreme poverty, the Christian races have been bled almost to death. The Turks have deliberately fostered the criminal propensities of large sections of their people and encouraged their free indulgence to check the growth and progress of the moral and civilizing elements in their dominions. If some of the Moslems of India, Egypt or Tunis, whose sympathy with the Turks on religious grounds every one will understand and respect, would live under Turkish rule for a few months, I have no doubt they would be completely cured of their love for the Turk as such, hasten back to their homes and beg the British and the French to remain in their countries for ever. Similarly, if it were possible for the most rabid pro-Turks in this or any European country to live some time under the Turk, disguised as Armenians or Syrians, they would also be cured and more than cured of their admiration for the Turk; then only would they come to understand his real nature.
The following account of the experiences of some Indian pilgrims at Kerbela at the outbreak of war, which appeared in The Times of June 6, 1916, bears out my contention---
"The Bombay Government have published the story of an Indian Moslem pilgrim, Zakir Husain, who recently escaped from Kerbela (Baghdad Vilayet), whither he went on pilgrimage with his mother and sister in the summer of 1914.
"Zakir Husain states that after the outbreak of war all routes homewards were blocked, and the many Indian pilgrims at Kerbela were subjected to the utmost discomfort and cruelty. The Turkish authorities issued orders that the goods and women of Indians were the legal property of those who plundered them. Their houses were searched, their goods taken, and dozens of Indians were arrested and deported to the Aleppo side, while their families and children were left in Kerbela.
"Throughout these fourteen months," he continued, "we never got meals more than once a day. We could not get any work, and consequently we had to beg from door to door in order to get a few scraps of bread to eat, and the state of the women and children was worse even than that of the men. For a man to be an Indian was considered a sufficient reason by Turks to torture and imprison him. We protested that we were Moslems, but they never paid heed. They themselves are no Moslems, and do not act according to the precepts of Islam. According to what I heard, the Indians in Nejef, Kazimain, and Baghdad have also been treated in the same cruel way as we were; hundreds have been deported and their houses pillaged."
The following from The Times of December 26, 1916, is another illustration of the way Turks treat Moslems of another race who refuse to become the blind slaves of their political madness---
"Emir Faisal, commander of the Arabian forces in the vicinity of Medina, has telegraphed to Mecca stating that the Turks have hanged and crucified and employed every species of barbarity against the population of Medina."
Turn now from that picture to the following appeal made to Armenians by one of their principal Tiflis daily papers' Mschak (Labourer), of May 16, 1915--
"To-day the Moslem Benevolent Society is organizing a collection for building and maintaining a shelter for the. children of the (Moslem) refugees. War causes suffering to the population of the country without distinction of race or creed. Moslems as well as Christians have to face the effects of the war, therefore the scheme of the Moslem Benevolent Society to establish a shelter for the children of Moslem refugees is deserving of all sympathy and support. We are convinced that the Armenian community also, having in mind the universal idea of humanity, will take part in the collection and do their duty as a humane people and good neighbours."
These incidents, small in themselves, bring into strong relief the difference between the mentality and degree of civilization of the two races. The Armenian appeal on behalf of refugee Moslem children at a time when one half of their own race was in the throes of the most ferocious of the numerous attacks made upon its existence, is also incidentally a reply, more trenchant than the most eloquent argument in words, to those pro-Turks who have from time to time expressed fears for the rights of the Turks, Kurds, Tcherkesses, Kizilbashis, etc., in an autonomous Armenia. Such a fear is either due to ignorance of the characteristics of the races concerned, or to prejudice. It is inconceivable that any Armenian Government would tolerate, much less impose upon orderly and good citizens, an injustice which Armenians have themselves endured and struggled against for generations, and which is, for that reason, abhorrent to their very nature. A study of the Armenian Church organization will prove to the most sceptical that the Armenian temperament is essentially democratic. In the smallest village the candidate for priesthood must be elected by a vote of the inhabitants before he can be ordained by the bishop of the diocese. The Armenian deputies in the Russian State Duma as well as the late members of the Ottoman Parliament are and were supporters of the Progressives. Armenians who have risen to positions of influence in the service of foreign countries have invariably used their influence in the cause of progress. General Loris Melikoff as Minister of the Interior had actually prepared a scheme for the reform of the Government of Russia when his Imperial Master, the Czar Alexander II, died, and the scheme was shelved. Nubar Pasha, the famous Egyptian-Armenian statesman, for many years Prime Minister, was largely responsible for the abolition of the corvée in Egypt, and the introduction of many other reforms. The writer of Nubar Pasha's biography in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, referring to his substitution of Mixed Courts in place of the "Capitulations," says (Eleventh Ed., Vol. 19, p. 843), "That in spite of the jealousies of all the Powers, in spite of the opposition of the Porte, he should have succeeded, places him at once in the first rank of statesmen of his period." Prince Malcolm Khan, for some years Persian Minister in London, sowed the first seeds of constitutional government in Persia, for the defence of which another Armenian, Yeprem Khan, laid down his life while leading the constitutional struggle against Mohamed Ali Shah. The first constitution of the Ottoman Empire, known as the Midhat Constitution, was largely the work of Midhat Pasha's Armenian Under-Secretary, Odian Effendi. These are but a few outstanding instances. It must appear inconceivable to right-minded men that a race with such a past record, achieved under all sorts of handicaps, will either establish a régime of tyranny over other races or prove incapable of self-government after a transition period under European advisers, as is alleged by some.
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