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(8) 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(9). 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(10). 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.(11)
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.
2. DESPATCH, DATED 11th JUNE, 1915, FROM AN ESPECIALLY WELL INFORMED NEUTRAL SOURCE AT CONSTANTINOPLE; COMMUNICATED BY THE AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR ARMENIAN AND SYRIAN RELIEF.
A week before anything was done to Baibourt, the villages all round had been emptied of their Armenian inhabitants. The forced exodus from Baibourt took place on the 1st June.(12) All the villages, as well as three-fourths of the town, had already been evacuated. The third convoy included from 4,000 to 5,000 people. Within six or seven days from the start, all males down to below fifteen years of age had been murdered.
Persecutions, accompanied by horrible torture, have taken place in the Armenian village of Baghtchedjik or Bardizag (2,000 families), in Ovadjik (600 families), in Arslanbeg (600 families), in Döngöl (65 families), in Sabandja (1,000 families), in Ismid, etc. The inhabitants of Kurt-Belené (6,000 to 7,000 families) have been expelled.
In Arabkir the Armenian population has been converted to Islam, after 2,000 males had been killed.
3. EXTRACT FROM A LETTER(13), DATED ARABKIR, 25th JUNE/ 8th JULY, 1915, COMMUNICATED BY THE AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR ARMENIAN AND SYRIAN RELIEF.
The Armenian population has been converted to Islam; it was a means of escaping from the forced migration. Orthodox Turks are given the wives of absent husbands or their daughters. We have been told that, according to an order from the Padishah, everybody must embrace Islam.(14)
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,(15) 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.(16) 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.(17) At Klinyss(18) 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.(19) 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.(20) 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(21) 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(22). 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.(23) 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.
8. EXTRACTS FROM A LETTER, DATED ATHENS, 8th/21st JULY, 1915, FROM AN ARMENIAN FORMERLY RESIDENT IN TURKEY TO A PROMINENT ARMENIAN IN WESTERN EUROPE.
Events have been taking place in Turkey of which I imagine that you have no first-hand or reliable information, on account of the strict censorship and scarcity of travellers . . . . . And as I have been able to obtain reliable information, I have thought it my duty as an Armenian to submit it to your Excellency.
Mr. A., who was a missionary teacher at the town of B. in Cilicia for four years, and with whom I am acquainted personally (and I have good reason to believe in every word he says), arrived in this city only yesterday, coming from AE. in company with Miss B., the daughter of the Director of Mr. A.'s college, with whom I am also acquainted personally.
They just began to inform me by saying that the condition of the Armenians in Cilicia was awful. The town of Dört Yöl, after having been cleared of its Armenian population, has been peacefully occupied by Turkish families, and not by the military authorities. The whole of the Armenian inhabitants have been sent away---turned out of their homes---and are naturally suffering from hunger. The exposure is something that cannot be described. Before evacuation, some nine leading merchants were hanged, on the accusation that they were in communication with the British fleet and were spying for the Allied Forces.(24)
Zeitoun has met the same fate. There is not a single Armenian left in Zeitoun, and all the houses are occupied by Turkish people. My friends could not understand what exactly had happened to the Zeitounlis, but the fact is that special care has been taken by the Turkish authorities that too many of them should not be left together. Attempts have been made to make them Mohammedans, and it is known that the authorities attempted to distribute one, two, or three families to each Turkish village in the district of Marash.
They have attempted to do the same thing to Hadjin, but, somehow or other, only half the inhabitants have left, whose homes have naturally been occupied by the Turks.
The Turks of Tarsus and Adana are showing the same disposition as they did before the massacres of 1909.
Missionaries from Beirout state that the same persecution is being carried out against Christian Syrians.
Dr. C., for many years a missionary in Smyrna, and latterly in AD, was exiled to Angora. He states that there were thirty Armenians exiled with him from AD. on the simple charge that they had either themselves been Huntchakists or had friends belonging to the said Party. Extortion of money, robbery and insults are usual, and conditions in general are worse than at any period in the time of Hamid. Dr. C. has been in Turkey for 35 years and knows Turkish.
At Kaisaria they hanged eight Armenians. About the same time they hanged twenty-six at Constantinople, and this immediately after the note of the Powers threatening to hold Turkish officials responsible for massacres of Armenians. Imprisonment and exile are common things, and the Reverend Missionary finished by saying that "I ought to be glad I was out of it."
Dr. C., coming from Constantinople, gave me the further information that massacres had been going on round Bitlis for some time. And then, from correspondents at Bitlis, his informants had had news that whole villages were embracing Mohammedanism in order to escape tortures, because the object of the massacres was not simply to kill, but to torture.
A resident at Mardin had telegraphed by code to Constantinople informing his correspondent there that the same conditions existed at Mardin as during 1895.
The American Ambassador at Constantinople, after asking the Turkish Government to stop the massacres, went to the German Ambassador. But Herr Wangenheim said he could not interfere in any way with Turkey's internal affairs! ! !
All these informants do not hide their belief, based on what they have actually seen, that German policy is at the back of the movement for a clean Mohammedan "Turkey for the Turks."
I will give your Excellency another coincident piece of evidence. In May, 1914, I travelled with Dr. Niazim Bey, who is the spirit of the Union and Progress Party, when he was on the mission of establishing a boycott---nominally against the Greeks only, though it proved to be against the Armenians as well. The Doctor said that the work of the Turkish Government was very complicated, and he laid all the fault of it on the ancestors of the modern Turks, who, in spite of their being victorious and defying all Europe, nay all the world, had not been far-sighted enough to cleanse all the country they ruled of the Christian element, but had yielded to their chivalrous feelings and allowed the Christians to live. Had they done this bit of cleaning up at a time when nobody could protest, there would have been an easy task now for the heads of the Government in governing, and so on.
The Russian retreat has intoxicated the Turks. They think they have their chance now, and evidence shows that their almighty ally Germany encourages them in their effort at house cleaning. The note of the Allied Power is no deterrent, even if the Turkish officials were not sure of final victory, because they feel that, if they lose, Turkey is not the place to offer them a happy shelter, and, with the money they are making now, the officials responsible can hide themselves in a country where they cannot be found or cannot be extradited. And some of the bolder spirits, like Talaat and Enver, have openly said that they do not expect to live if defeated, even without the threat of the Allies to bring them to account.
The Armenians in Turkey have not been able to conceal their feelings, and when I myself was in Constantinople, prudent man though I am, I was unable to conceal my feelings myself, or at least so effectively as not to be perceived by the Turks.
As early as September last, the Turkish comic paper Karagoz had written one day that "If the Armenians were cheerful, there was certainly news of victory for the Allies ; if not, it had been the reverse." But if, in spite of the Armenians concealing their feelings, the Turks had definitely adopted the policy---as no doubt they had---of exterminating the Christians in Turkey, then we have at least the satisfaction that we have hurt them with the display of what we felt.
I believe that the Germans did not want to exterminate the Armenians unless the latter proved of military danger in the present game; but I imagine the Armenians have incurred the Germans' displeasure in this regard.
That Germany, or the Germans in Turkey, are for the above reason encouraging the Turks in their attempt at extermination, is proved by the fact that wholesale massacres and deportations have been specific to regions of which the inhabitants might be of especial help to an invading army. For instance, Dört Yöl and Zeitoun would be of excellent help had the Allies made a landing at Payas. Bitlis is next door to Van ; the Russian army is getting towards Bitlis, and naturally the Armenians of Bitlis would be of great value to them, as indeed the Armenians of Van have been already.
Take the case of Erzeroum, again a frontier town, which, besides individual, hangings, has been the scene of wholesale massacres ; while towns far away from the theatre of war, such as Angora, Broussa, Konia, Constantinople, etc., although not exempted from persecution, have still not been subjected to wholesale massacres and deportations.
9. LETTER, DATED 3rd /16th AUGUST, 1915, CONVEYED BEYOND THE OTTOMAN FRONTIER BY AN ARMENIAN REFUGEE FROM CILICIA IN THE SOLE OF HER SHOE.(25)
In haste and in secret I seize this opportunity of bringing to your ears the cry of agony which goes out from the survivors of the terrible crisis through which we are passing at this moment. They are exterminating our nation, mowing it down. Perhaps this will be the last cry from Armenia that you will hear; we have no longer any fear of death, we see it close at hand, this death of the whole people. We are waifs who cry for the lives of our brothers. These lines cannot describe our misery; it would need volumes of reports to do justice to that.
(1.) At the present moment there are at ----- more than 10,000 deported widows and children (among the latter one sees no boys above eleven years of age). They had been on the road for from three to five months ; they have been plundered several times over, and have marched along naked and starving; the Government gave them on one single occasion a morsel of bread---a few have had it twice. It is said that the number of these deported widows will reach 60,000 ; they are so exhausted that they cannot stand upright ; the majority have great sores on their feet, through having had to march barefoot.
(2). An enquiry has proved that, out of 1,000 people who started, scarcely 400 reached-----. Out of the 600 to be accounted for, 380 men and boys above eleven years of age, and 85 women, had been massacred or drowned, out of sight of the towns, by the gendarmes who conducted them; 120 young women and girls and 40 boys had been carried off, with the result that one does not see a single pretty face among the survivors.
(3.) Out of these survivors, 60 per cent. are sick ; they are here certain death to be sent in the immediate future to -----, where certain death awaits them ; one cannot describe the ferocious treatment to which they are exposed ; they had been on the road for from three to five months; they had been plundered two, three, five, seven times ; their underclothes even had been ransacked ; so far from being given anything to eat, they had even been prevented from drinking while they were passing a stream. Three-quarters of the young women and girls were abducted ; the remainder were forced to lie with the gendarmes who conducted them. Thousands died under these outrages, and the survivors have stories to tell of refinements of outrage so disgusting that they pollute one's ears.
(4.) The massacres have been most violent in the eastern provinces, and the population has been deported wholesale towards the Hauran Desert, Gereg and Mosul, where the victims are doomed to a death from natural causes more infallible than massacre. When one remembers that these people were leading a comfortable European life, one is forced to conclude that they will never be able to survive in an alien and inhospitable climate, even if the knife and the bullet do not previously do their work.
My friends , I have not time to tell you more; one may say with truth that not a single Armenian is left in Armenia; soon there will be none left in Cilicia either. The Armenian, robbed of his life, his goods, his honour, conveys to you his last cry for help---help to save the lives of the survivors ! Money to buy them bread! There is a rumour here that the Government will allow the women and the children under seventeen years of age to leave the country. How are they to do it ? Where are they to go ? What ship is to take them ? Who will provide the funds ? From moment to moment we are waiting for relief, to stave off the death of the Nation. Be quick, never mind how ; send us money, we have no means of communication !
Send, through the agency of the American Government, money, money, money ; the bearer of this letter deserves every reward; she will tell you all the details. Zohrab, Vartkes Daghavarian and their five companions have been murdered by the gendarmes at Sheitan-Deré, between Ourfa and Diyarbekir, where thousands of headless corpses make the passers-by shudder ; the Euphrates bears down its stream thousands of corpses of men and women; photographs of this have been taken by Europeans. Fifteen thousand Zeitounlis have been deported to Der-el-Zor, where they are suffering the worst atrocities. Thousands of babies at the breast have been thrown into rivers or abandoned by the wayside by their mothers. The urgent need is money! Make that clear to the Armenian colony in America. Money! Money!
One thousand six hundred Armenians have had their throats out in the prisons at Diyarbekir. The Arashnort was mutilated, drenched with alcohol, and burnt alive in the prison yard, in the middle of a carousing crowd of gendarmes, who even accompanied the scene with music. The massacres at Beniani, Adiaman and Selefka have been carried out diabolically there is not a single man left above the age of thirteen years; the girls have been outraged mercilessly ; we have seen their mutilated corpses tied together in batches of four, eight or ten, and cast into the Euphrates. The majority had been mutilated in an indescribable manner.
The above facts have been gathered from official sources and eye-witnesses.
The American Consul is able to arrange for the despatch of funds. We are unable to realise any of our property, either national or private, because it has all been confiscated by the Government. The Government has even confiscated the convents, the churches and the schools. Black famine reigns in this town; we have 15,000 deported Armenians here, who are being sent on in batches to Arabia. The whole of Armenia is being cleared out.
I sign this letter with my blood!
10. LETTER FROM MR. N., A FOREIGN RESIDENT AT CONSTANTINOPLE, DATED 27th AUGUST, 1915 ; COMMUNICATED BY THE AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR ARMENIAN AND SYRIAN RELIEF.
The Armenians of Bardizag have generally speaking been deported. A promise secured by Mr. Morgenthau that Protestants should be exempted from deportation has kept the people at Nicomedia (Isnik) for nearly a week. They are camped in the open near the Railway Station, exposed to the weather and to the insults of the populace, apparently to be deported a few days later on. Whether we shall succeed in saving the Protestants remains to be seen. Deportation has taken place generally throughout all the region contiguous to Nicomedia, Adapazar, Konia, Marsovan, Sivas, Harpout, Diyarbekir and to some parts of the American Central Mission. Many people have already lost their lives, and others, as for instance those in this city, have lost hope as to their final security. I shall enclose a few letters which will give an idea of the situation throughout the land.
Prof. QQ.(26) has just arrived from X. He has been four weeks on the journey, having been delayed considerably at S. He states that the Armenians have left, having been deported from X. and the vicinity. Mr. Morgenthau endeavoured to save the Mission entourage at X. from deportation; the promises securing this, however, were not fulfilled. Even the hundred girls and young women held in the College Compound could not be saved from this dreadful fate. To the bold stand made by the Mission people, on behalf of their pupils and teachers, the Kaimakam himself opposed his personal authority, threatening to hang anyone who attempted to prevent the carrying out of his orders for the deportation of the people. These orders, here as elsewhere, seemed to respect neither age nor condition. . . .
The movement against the Armenians has now well-nigh covered the entire country. Many prominent Armenians have lost their lives; hardly a family has escaped experiencing to some extent the severity of this blow. It looks as if the patronage from this community for the American schools has been quite cut off. Teachers and pupils alike have been sent into exile, or have suffered death or have been carried off to Turkish communities or harems. There is an ugly rumour that the turn of the Greeks will come next. Should Greece move, this will probably be realised. . . .
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.(27)
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.>
13. STATEMENT MADE BY A FOREIGN RESIDENT AT CONSTANTINOPLE TO A SWISS GENTLEMAN AT GENEVA; COMMUNICATED BY THE LATTER.
When I left Turkey early in March (1916), the Armenian situation was as follows :--
In general deportations had ceased, but local interference with Armenians continued. Quite often Armenians who had remained in the villages or cities between the Taurus Mountains and Constantinople have been sent from one locality to another within the province, or even to localities in other provinces.
Arrests of Armenians in the Capital continue with considerable frequency. Those arrested were usually sent to some interior province, often to be killed or to be left to die from ill-treatment or lack of food.
Extortion of money and supplies from Armenians, and discriminations against them in the distribution of bread and other food supplies, continue out of all proportion to these practices as applied to other Ottoman subjects.
The suffering of all Armenians, and especially of those in exile, is very great, and many are dying from lack of proper food and from disease. Anti-Armenian feeling among Moslems is increasing.
Early in January of this year, trustworthy reports from Aleppo gave 492,000 as the number of deported Armenians who were at that time in the regions of Mosul, Der-el-Zor, Aleppo and Damascus.(28) Most of these are women and children and old men, practically all of whom are in great need of food and other necessities of life. Without physicians and medicine, disease is reaping a rich harvest from these exiles.
The Turkish Minister of the Interior has stated that about 800,000 Armenians have been deported, and that about 300,000 of these people have been killed or have perished from other causes. Other estimates place the number of deported at 1,200,000, and the number who have perished from all causes at 500,000.
14. CABLEGRAM, DATED 4th MAY, 1916, TRANSMITTED THROUGH THE STATE DEPARTMENT AT WASHINGTON TO THE AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR ARMENIAN AND SYRIAN RELIEF, FROM THE COMMITTEE'S REPRESENTATIVES IN TURKEY.
Relief work here supports 1,350 orphans, who are only a portion of the destitute children now in the city. It has also furnished food to families in nine destitute centres, including Hama, Rakka, Killis and Damascus. £1,500 (Turkish) monthly are being used at Aleppo for orphans; £600 (Turkish) are being used for the poor of Aleppo; £2,245 (Turkish) are being used in the destitute centres. This is considered to be a minimum allocation, and ten times the amount would not meet the full needs. The work is being overseen by the German and American Consuls. So insufficient are the funds that many exiles in the destitute places have only grass to eat, and they are dying of starvation by hundreds. £1,000 (Turkish) are required each week for the Aleppo centre.
Ten thousand Armenians are threatened with deportation, and all are in a most needy condition. Attempted industrial assistance for Moslems and Christians was stopped by Government. Christians are not allowed to do any business, and the price of food is very high. Export from Agno to Marash has been forbidden, and many people are dying of starvation. £1,600 (Turkish) are needed here monthly.
Forty-five hundred Armenians remain here, two-thirds of whom are on relief lists. Four hundred refugee women and children in city and neighbourhood require £1,000 (Turkish) each month.
This being a station on the route taken by the exiles from the region north of Tarsus, the roads are always full of people in miserable condition. According to Government estimates, 92,000 exiles have passed through Tarsus, while, according to other reports, the number is much larger. Typhus is very prevalent. The needs here require £500 (Turkish) a month.
The situation here in general resembles that at Agno, with the special feature that many children need to be saved and fed. £500 (Turkish) monthly are needed.
In addition to the local Christian population remaining here, 25,000 destitute refugees, including women and children from coast cities, have been added. All need help. Monthly requirements amount to £600 (Turkish).
Two thousand orphans. £1,500 (Turkish) monthly required for the needs of this city and neighbouring places.
This place asks for £400 (Turkish) monthly.
Marsovan and Kaisaria.
£500 (Turkish) monthly are needed.
There has been much sickness here and there is a scarcity of food. £400 (Turkish) monthly are needed.
£200 (Turkish) monthly are being used here.
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.(29)
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 to Bitlis.
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 Bitlis.
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 us.
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 wonder that 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(30); 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.
16. VAN : LETTER DATED VAN, 7th JUNE, 1915, FROM MR. Y. K. RUSHDOUNI; PUBLISHED IN THE "MANCHESTER GUARDIAN," 2nd AUGUST, 1915.
The day after Germany's declaration of war on Russia, martial law was proclaimed in Van, and the Turkish Government set about the work of mobilisation. The Armenians responded to the call in a better mood than the Moslems, many of whom either ran away or did not present themselves for service. But from the very beginning the authorities adopted a harsh attitude towards the Armenians in the Vilayet. Under the pretence of requisitioning, they ruthlessly plundered and looted the Armenians. Business was brought to an absolute standstill, and the import and sale of wheat in the city was forbidden on the plea that it was needed to provision the armies---though ways and means were always found if the applicant was a Moslem. As for the Armenian soldiers in the Turkish army, they were neglected, half-starved, set to do all the menial work, and, worst of all, disarmed and left over to the mercies of their Moslem comrades, who managed to kill a few hundreds altogether in various parts. It became evident that the Government was bent on the systematic destruction of the Armenian population. A feeling of despondency seized hold of all.
When Turkey went into the war the distress of the people reached an even higher pitch, especially when the Government armed all the males of the Moslem population between the ages of 15 and 60 and gave up Christian villages to fire and sword at the slightest pretext. Pelou, the largest village of the Kavash district, was reduced to a heap of ruins. Twelve villages in the Gargar district, on the Persian frontier, Bashkala, and Sarai, with the Nestorian and Armenian villages round, were ruthlessly wiped out after the Russian retreat,(31) and of their population only a few old crippled women were left as survivors. News of this sort was constantly being brought to the town by refugees from distant places like Boghaz-Kessen, Hazaren, Nordoz, &c. This pouring in of the refugees aggravated the problem of living in the city of Van.
On the other hand, the three leaders of the former Revolutionary Party called Dashnagists, who since the proclamation of the Constitution had been changed into a political party and had come to an understanding with the Young Turks, exhorted the people to endure in silence. Better, they said, that some villages be burned and destroyed unavenged than give the slightest pretext to the Moslems for a general massacre. One of the first villages to defend itself was Bairak, whose inhabitants succeeded in keeping the soldiers and Kurdish mob from entering the village. The Turkish Government sent a peace commission composed of Armenians and Turks to quiet down matters there, which was done. At the same time a message was sent to the Governor-General, Djevdet Bey, a brother-in-law of Enver Pasha, then on the border, to come to Van. Djevdet Bey, on his arrival, demanded 4,000(32) soldiers from the Armenians. The Armenians were so anxious to keep the peace that they promised to accede to this demand under an altered form approved by the Government. But at this juncture trouble broke out between Armenians and Turks in the Shadakh region. Some say that this was started at the instigation of Djevdet Bey. This Governor had requested Ishkan, one of the three Dashnagist leaders, to go there as peace commissioner, accompanied by three other notable Armenians. On their way there, however, on Friday, the 16th April, all four were treacherously murdered.
The Armenians now felt that they could not trust the Governor, and, instead of giving him the 4,000 men, they told him they would give 400 and pay the exemption tax for the rest, in instalments.
In the meantime they asked the American missionaries, Dr. Ussher and Mr. Yarrow, and the Italian agent Signor Sbordone, to try to mollify the Governor. The attitude of the Governor was wavering. At times he would be moderate and swear that peace would be kept. At other times he was harsh and irreconcilable, declaring that he intended to put down "rebellion" at all costs. First he would punish Shadalkh, then he would attend to Van; if the rebels fired one shot it would be a signal for him to attack, and neither Turks nor Armenians would be left in the Vilayet.(33)
Things continued in this suspense till the 20th(34) April, when some Turkish soldiers tried to seize some village women on their way to the city. The women fled. Two Armenians came up and asked the Turks what they were doing. The Turkish soldiers fired on the Armenians and killed them. This served as a signal. The booming of cannons and rattle of rifles began from every side, and it was realised that the Armenian quarter was besieged. In the evening houses in the Armenian quarter could be seen burning in every direction. The Governor-General had sworn that not a single house should be left in Van, except the one where his father had lived as Governor-General. Under the command of Armenag Yegarian, of the Ramgavar Party, the Armenians, nearly 30,000 in number now, began to man and barricade houses and open trenches. Eighty such barricaded positions, called in Armenian "teerks," were held by the Armenians, and the enclosed area of about two square miles was gradually connected in between by deep trenches. To assure regularity, a Provisional Government was set up, and a military court was appointed to deal with military affairs. Everyone capable of doing something, male or female, young or old, was set to work. Women and girls were busy cooking, mending, sewing, making bedding for homeless refugees and soldiers, and nursing wounded people and motherless children. About 1,300 (35) young men were under arms day and night trying to hold the enemy at bay. Lads were employed as messengers between the "teerks." The rest of the men were used as workmen to dig trenches and build new walls and barricades, as the old ones crumbled before the cannon-fire. About 16,000 cannon-shots were fired at the handful of inhabitants in the old city under the Castle Rock.
After some days, refugees began to pour in from near and far.(36) The Government had not succeeded in besieging the eastern side of the Armenian quarter, and it was still possible to enter the city. On the 16th May no less than 12,000 bread-tickets were issued to refugees. At the same time, owing to privation and exposure, an epidemic of measles broke out among the children, and dysentery and pneumonia among the adults, and many who had escaped the sword of the Moslem fell victims to disease.
As the supply of ammunition was very meagre and the, intention of the Armenians was to prolong their defence till help might come from Armenian volunteers, they were very sparing in its use. They used pistols when they could, and employed all kinds of devices to draw the fire of the enemy and waste his ammunition. At the same time they began to devise means of making bullets and cartridges, and manufacturing smokeless gunpowder and bombs, and succeeded in turning out daily 4,000 (37) cartridges, and even in making three mortars for throwing bombs and bursting shells. In the meantime the Provisional Government issued strict orders for keeping the neutrality of foreign institutions and premises, forbidding armed men to pass through these parts or carry the wounded Armenian soldiers to the American Mission Hospital. A manifesto was also sent to the Turks to the effect that the quarrel was with one man, Djevdet, Bey, not with their Turkish neighbours. Governors come and go, but the two races must continue to live together. Gradually, however, the Armenians succeeded in ousting the Turks from their positions. On the 17th May, after nearly four weeks' resistance, it became obvious that the enemy was putting forward his last efforts.
At sunset a daring dash put to flight the remaining Turkish soldiers in the two northern barracks on Toprak-Kalé Hill and below. These two barracks were at once burnt. About midnight another attack put the southern great barracks in Armenian hands, and these, too, were set on fire. Towards morning the news spread that the Turks and soldiers had left the city. It was understood that the Government, on hearing of the approach of the Russian army and the Armenian volunteers, had ordered a systematic retreat some days before, and the last regiment, with the Governor, had evacuated the town on the night of the 18th May. Immediately hungry and starved people rushed toward the Turkish quarters to satisfy their feelings of justice by plundering and burning. Shortly after, news came that the Russian army, with Armenian volunteers, was in sight. The joy of the people was boundless ; tears of gladness and of emotion for what they had suffered during the past month, rolled down their cheeks as they made them welcome. The keys of the captured city and of the castle were immediately taken and laid at the feet of the Russian General, who gave orders to the Armenians to organise a Provisional Government for the affairs of the town.
II. Vilayet of Van, con't
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