The villages on the southern and eastern slopes of Jibal Mousa are included administratively in the Vilayet of Aleppo, and, like other Armenian settlements in that province, were only given notice of deportation at a comparatively late date---in their case, the 13th July. Geographically and historically, however, they are intimately connected with the Cilician highlanders. Jibal Mousa is a direct southern continuation of Amanus, and Yoghan Oulouk and the other Jibal Mousa villages are kindred communities to Dört Yöl and Zeitoun. They are the southernmost outpost of the Armenian race towards the Arabic world.
By the time the summons was served on them, the Jibal Mousa villagers had been watching for four months the deportation of their Cilician kinsmen, and had realised to the full what this deportation meant. They resolved to resist, and retired into the fastnesses of their mountain, which rises north-west of the villages and on its further flank falls steeply into the sea. The documents in this section record their successful defence and dramatic rescue by a French squadron---the single happy incident in the national tragedy of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
130. JIBAL MOUSA: THE DEFENCE OF THE MOUNTAIN AND THE RESCUE OF ITS DEFENDERS BY THE FRENCH FLEET ; ---NARRATIVE OF AN EYE-WITNESS, THE REV. DIKRAN ANDREASIAN, PASTOR OF THE ARMENIAN PROTESTANT CHURCH AT ZEITOUN.
This narrative was written down after the arrival of the refugees in Egypt, translated into English by the Rev. Stephen Trowbridge, Secretary of the American Red Cross at Cairo, communicated by the translator to the Editor of the Armenian journal "Ararat," of London, and published by him in his issue of November, 1915.
From the day that Turkey entered the war there had been much anxiety among the people of Zeitoun as to whether the Turks would treat the Armenians of those mountain districts with some new form of cruelty and oppression. Zeitoun is---we must now say was---a city of seven thousand inhabitants, entirely Armenian, and surrounded by many villages also Christian, in the heart of the Taurus Mountains.
I have been serving for one year as the pastor of the Armenian Protestant Church in Zeitoun, and the narrative which follows is one of personal experience.
Early in the spring of this year (1915) the Government began to assume a threatening attitude towards Zeitoun, summoning the elders and notables of the city and commencing an inquisition with the punishment of the bastinado. Absurd and impossible charges were made against the Armenians for the purpose of extorting money. Meanwhile some 6,000 regular troops were quartered in the barracks above the city. An attempt to take the Armenian monastery by storm cost the Turks some casualties and failed of its object. The young men who were within stoutly defended themselves, and not until attacked by field artillery was the monastery taken.
Fifty of the leading men in Zeitoun were therefore summoned to the barracks---"for a conference with the commander." They were at once imprisoned and their families were sent for. Everyone waited anxiously for these people to return, but after a while, it was learned that they had been sent away to an unknown destination. A few days later another and larger group of families were ordered to the barracks, and were forthwith driven off with threats and curses to a distant banishment. In this way three or four hundred families at a time were sent off on foot, with no proper supply of food, by devious routes through the mountains, some north-west towards Konia, some south-east towards the hot and unhealthy plains of Mesopotamia.
Day by day we saw the various quarters of the city stripped of their inhabitants, until at last only a single neighbourhood remained. In addition to my duties as pastor I happened to be in charge of the Mission Orphanage. The commanding officer sent for me one morning and told me to make ready at once for departure. "Your wife is also to go," he said, "and the children in the Orphanage." We made our preparations hurriedly, for we were allowed to take but little with us. As we were leaving I looked back with an aching heart and saw our beloved church empty and lonely. The last company of our seven thousand people was streaming down the valley into banishment! We had seen massacres, but we had never seen this before! A massacre at least ends quickly, but this prolonged anguish of soul is almost beyond endurance.
The first day's march exhausted all of us. In the dark, as we lay down upon the open ground, Turkish muleteers came and robbed us of the few donkeys and mules that we had. Next day, in forlorn condition, the children with swollen and blistered feet, we reached Marash. Through the earnest request of the American missionaries, an order was secured from the governor for my wife and myself to return to my home town of Yoghanolouk, near the sea, twelve miles west of Antioch. The governor granted this permit on the ground that my wife and I were not natives of Zeitoun. My heart was torn between the desire to share banishment with some fragment of my congregation and the desire to take my wife to a place of comparative safety in my father's home. But the order having once been issued, I had no alternative but to obey.
At Aintab we found the large Armenian community in the utmost anxiety, but at that time the order to leave had not arrived. Rumours reached us that the villages by the sea were being threatened, but we thought best to continue southward, difficult though the journey was at such a time.
The last part of our way lay through a historic valley, the fertile plain of Antioch. It was here that Chrysostom preached in the fervour of his early ministry before he was called to Byzantium. And it was to a secluded chapel on our own mountain side that he used to withdraw for prayer and communion with God. As a boy I had often looked with wonder and reverence at the massive stones of the ruins of St. Chrysostom's Chapel. It was in this very Antioch that Barnabas and Paul laboured with such spiritual energy. And here they set forth upon their momentous task of spreading the Christian faith. The Roman road by which they walked from Antioch to Seleucia can still be traced in the valley below my native town, and the stone piers from which Roman ships set sail at Seleucia are not entirely demolished by the storms and earthquakes of the centuries.
The city of Antioch, once so gallantly defended by the Crusaders, has long been under the rule of the Turks, and the minarets of Islam are ten times more numerous than the church belfries. In April, 1909, the Protestant and Gregorian congregations suffered one of the most cruel persecutions in history.
The people of my own home town, Yoghanolouk, are simple, industrious folk. For years past their chief occupation has been the sawing and polishing by hand of combs from hard wood and bone. Many of our men are also expert wood-carvers. In the neighbouring villages the chief occupations are the culture of silk worms for producing raw silk, and the weaving of silk by hand looms into handkerchiefs and scarves. Our people are very fond of their churches, and since the opening of schools by the American missionaries most of our children have learned to read. Every home is surrounded by mulberry trees, and many beautiful orchards cover the terraced slopes towards the south and west. Travellers who have been to Southern Italy tell us that the villages near Naples very much resemble ours. The broad, rough back of Mousa Dagh (i.e., Mount Moses), known in Arabic as Jibal-al-Ahmar, rises up eastward behind us. Every gorge and crag of our beloved mountain is known, to our boys and men.
I mention these facts about my village home so that you may feel something of the quiet happy life which was so rudely and so completely broken up by this last attempt of the Turks to exterminate our race.
Twelve days after I had reached home an official order from the Turkish Government at Antioch was served upon the six villages of Mousa Dagh to prepare for banishment within eight days. You can scarcely imagine the consternation and the indignation which this order caused. We sat up all night debating what it would be best to do. To resist the forces of the Turkish Government seemed almost hopeless, and yet the scattering of families into a distant wilderness, raided by fanatical and lawless Arab tribes, seemed such an appalling prospect that the inclination of both men and women was to refuse the summons and withstand the anger of the Government. All, however, were not of this mind. The Rev. Haroutune Nokhoudian, the pastor of the Protestant Church in Beitias, for example, came to the conviction that it would be folly to resist, and that the severity of banishment might possibly be modified in some way. He was in favour of yielding. Sixty families from his own village and a considerable number from the next village, agreeing with him, separated themselves from us and went down to Antioch under Turkish guards. They were shortly expelled in the direction of the lower Euphrates. (We have lost all track of them now and may never hear of them again.)
Our firm friends, the American missionaries, were cut off from us 120 miles to the north at Aintab. Communications with the outside world being practically severed, we were thrown upon our own resources, and we realised that our one hope was in the mercy of God. Fervently we prayed that He would strengthen us to do our duty.
Knowing that it would be impossible to defend our villages in the foot-hills, it was resolved to withdraw to the heights of Mousa Dagh, taking with us as large a supply of food and implements as it was possible to carry. All the flocks of sheep and goats were also driven up the mountain side, and every available weapon of defence was brought out and furbished up. We found that we had a hundred and twenty modern rifles and shot-guns, with perhaps three times that number of old flint-locks and horsepistols. That still left more than half our men without weapons.
It was very hard to leave our homes. My mother wept as if her heart would break. But we had hopes that possibly, while we were fighting off the Turks, the Dardanelles might be forced and deliverance come to the country.
By nightfall of the first day we had reached the upper crags of the mountain. As we were preparing to camp and to cook the evening meal, a pouring rain set in and continued all night. For this we were ill prepared. There had not been time to make huts of branches, nor had we any tents or waterproof clothing. Men, women and children, somewhat over five thousand in all, were soaked to the skin, and much of the bread we had brought with us was turned into a pulpy mass. We were especially solicitous to keep our powder and rifles dry. This the men managed to do very well.
At dawn next morning all hands went to work digging trenches at the most strategic points in the ascent of the mountain. Where there was no earth for trench-digging, rocks were rolled together, making strong barricades behind which groups of our sharp-shooters were stationed. The sun came out gloriously, and we were hard at it all day strengthening our position against the attack which we knew was certain to come.
Towards evening we held a mass meeting for the election of a Committee of Defence which should have supreme authority for our six communities. Some favoured an election by show of hands, but others argued that, as this was a matter of such vital importance, the regular Congregational method of choice by secret ballot should be followed, and they offered to get together enough bits of paper to carry out the ballot ! Our people have become very much attached to these democratic methods taught by the missionaries. Without much delay scraps of paper, more or less torn and wet, were gathered and the ballot was cast. A governing council thus being established, plans were at once made for defending each pass in the mountain and each approach to the camp. Scouts, messengers, and a central reserve group of sharp-shooters were chosen and were assigned their duties.
The summons from the Government had been served on the 13th July. The eight days' grace had now almost elapsed, and we were aware that the Turks must have discovered our movements. The whole Antioch plain is peopled with Turks and Arabs, and there is always a strong military garrison in the Antioch barracks.
On the 21st July the attack began The advance guard was two hundred regulars, and their captain insolently boasted that he would clear the mountain in one day. But the Turks suffered several casualties and were driven back to the base. When they advanced for a more general attack, they dragged up a field gun which, after some experimentation, secured the range and wrought havoc in our camp. One of our sharp-shooters, a lion-hearted young fellow, crept down through the brushwood and among the rocks until he was in very close range of the field gun, which was mounted on a flat rock. Having made himself an ambush of branches, he watched for a good opportunity. He was so near that he could hear the Turks talking to one another as they loaded the gun. Then as one gunner stepped out into view, the young man picked him off with the first shot. With five bullets he killed four gunners ! The captain thereupon threw up his hands in dismay, and, not being able to discern our sharp-shooter, ordered the gun to be dragged to a place of shelter. Thus were we saved from a disastrous gun-fire for that day and several days to come.
But the Turks were gathering forces for a massed attack. They had sent word through many Moslem villages, calling the people to arms. Army rifles and plentiful ammunition were handed out from the Antioch arsenal, until the mob of four thousand Moslems thirsting for massacre became a formidable foe. But the chief strength of the Turks was in the three thousand regular troops accustomed to discipline and inured to hardship.
Suddenly one morning our scouts brought word to headquarters that the enemy was appearing at every pass in the mountain. Here and there the Turks had already gained the cliffs and shoulders of the crest. Our reserve body of defenders was---very unwisely, as we afterwards realised---sent in small groups to these various points. No sooner had our forces been thus divided than a massed attack in great force commenced through one ravine. All the other advances had been feints and were not followed up. By the time our men discovered the situation and rallied from distant points, the Turks had shot down our scouts and had poured through an important pass. To our dismay we saw them already in full occupation of high ground, threatening our camp. Reinforcements kept pushing up the mountain, and as the afternoon drew on we saw that we were completely outnumbered. We saw also that the range of the Turks' rifles was far superior to that of our old-fashioned firearms. By sundown the enemy had advanced three companies through the dense underbush and forest to within four hundred yards of our huts. A deep damp ravine lay between, and the Turks decided to bivouac rather than to push on in the darkness.
Our leaders hurriedly took counsel together, whispering very quietly and not allowing any light in camp., Everyone knew that a crisis had been reached. Finally a venturesome plan was adopted : to creep round the Turkish positions in the dead of night and thus carry out an enveloping movement, closing in very suddenly with a fusillade and ending with a hand to hand encounter. If this plan should fail, we knew that everything was lost. Through the dark wet woods our men crept with extraordinary skill. It was here that our familiarity with those. crags and thickets made it possible to do what invaders could not attempt. The circle was practically completed when, with a flash and a crash on all sides, our men delivered their attack, rushing forward with desperate courage.
In a very few moments it was evident that bewilderment and alarm had thrown the Turkish camp into the utmost confusion. Troops were rushing hither and thither in the black night, stumbling over rocks and logs, officers shouting contradictory commands and struggling vainly to rally their men. Evidently the impression was given of a very substantial Armenian attack, because in less than half-an-hour the Turkish colonel gave the order to retreat, and before dawn the woods were practically clear of the troops. More than two hundred Turks had been killed and some booty taken-seven Mauser rifles, 2,500 rounds of ammunition and one mule. There was no sign of any renewal of fighting. But we knew that our foes were not defeated; they were only driven off.
During the next few days they roused the whole Mohammedan population for many miles around---a horde of perhaps 15,000. With this larger number they were able to surround and lay siege to Mousa Dagh on the landward side. Their plan was to starve us out. On the seaward side there was no harbour nor any communication with a seaport; the mountain sloped directly into the sea. We were fully occupied in the care of our wounded and the reparation of the damage done in camp. Special meetings were held to thank God for deliverance thus far, and to intercede with him for our families and little ones. Gregorians and Protestants were fused into one faith and fellowship by this baptism of suffering. It was at this time that my wife was confined and gave birth to her first child, a son. She suffered much in the flight down the seaward trail some days later, but I carried her and helped her as much as possible. Thank God, she is in good health now and so is our little son.
When we discovered that our mountain was in a state of siege, we began to estimate our food resources. During the first week on the heights we had exhausted the bread, olives and cheese that we had brought from home. Very few had been able to bring flour or other cereals, so for a month past we had been living on our flocks, using the goats' milk for the little children and the sick, and slaughtering a number of sheep and goats every day. This constant meat diet was not good for us, but on the other hand we were profoundly thankful that we were spared the suffering of starvation. We made a careful count of the flocks, and found that even with a reduced ration of meat our supply would last not more than two weeks longer. Under the pressure of this anxiety we began to think of plans for escape by sea.
Before the siege had entirely closed in, we had sent a runner to make the dangerous journey of eighty-five miles through Turkish villages to Aleppo, the capital of the province, with an appeal to the American Consul, Mr. Jackson, to send us help by sea if possible. But it is not at all likely that our runner ever reached Aleppo. It occurred to us that possibly a battleship of the Allies might be in Alexandretta harbour, thirty-five miles to the north. So one of our young men who was a strong swimmer volunteered to creep through the Turkish lines and take a message in English strapped inside his belt. He succeeded in reaching the hills overlooking the harbour, but saw that there was no battleship and returned. His plan had been to swim out to sea, circling round to reach the battleship, thus avoiding the Turkish sentries on the roads leading in to Alexandretta.
We then prepared triplicate copies of the following appeal and appointed three swimmers to be constantly on the watch for any passing ship, to strike through the surf and swim out at an angle so as to meet the vessel :--
"To any English, American, French, Italian or Russian admiral, captain or authority whom this petition may find; we appeal in the name of God and human brotherhood.
"We, the people of six Armenian villages, about 5,000 souls in all, have withdrawn to that part of Mousa Dagh called Damladjik, which is three hours journey north-west from Souedia along the sea-coast.
"We have taken refuge here from Turkish barbarism and torture, and most of all from the outraging of the honour of our women.
"Sir, you must have heard about the policy of annihilation which the Turks are applying to our nation. Under cover of dispersing the Armenians as if to avoid rebellion, our people are expelled from their houses and deprived of their gardens, their vineyards, and all their possessions.
"This brutal programme has already been applied to the city of Zeitoun and its thirty-two villages, to Albustan, Göksoun, Yarpouz, Gurin, Diyarbekir, Adana, Tarsus, Mersina, Dört Yöl, Hadjin, etc. And the same policy is being extended to all the one-and-a-half million Armenians in different parts of Turkey.
"The present writer was the Protestant pastor in Zeitoun a few months ago and was an eye-witness of many unspeakable cruelties. I saw families of eight or ten members driven along the highway, barefooted children six and seven years old by the side of aged grandparents, hungry and thirsty, their feet swollen from the toilsome journey. Along the road one heard mobs and curses and prayers. Under the pressure of great fear, some mothers gave birth to children in the bushes by the side of the road. Immediately afterward they were compelled by the Turkish guards to continue their journey till kind death arrived to give an end to their torture.
"The remainder of the people who were strong enough to bear the hardships of the march were driven on under the whips of gendarmes to the plains of the south. Some died of hunger. Others were robbed along the way. Others were stricken by malaria and had to be left by the roadside. And, as a last act of this dark and foul tragedy, the Arabs and Turks massacred all the males and distributed the widows and girls among their tribes.
"The Government some forty days ago informed us that our six villages must go into exile. Rather than submit to this we withdrew to this mountain. We have now little food left, and the troops are besieging us. We have had five fierce battles. God has given us the victory, but the next time we shall have to withstand a much larger force.
"Sir, we appeal to you in the name of Christ!
"Transport us, we pray you, to Cyprus or any other free land. Our people are not indolent; we will earn our own bread if we are employed.
"If this is too much to grant, transport at least our women, old people and children, equip us with sufficient arms, ammunition and food, and we will work with you with all our might against the Turkish forces. Please, Sir, do not wait until it is too late!
"Respectfully your servant, for all the Christians here,
But days passed and not even a sail was seen. The war had reduced the coastwise shipping to a minimum. Meanwhile, at my suggestion, our women had been making two immense flags, on one of which I printed in large, clear English, "CHRISTIANS IN DISTRESS: RESCUE." This was a white flag with black lettering. The other was also white with a large red cross at the centre. We fastened these flags to tall saplings and set a watch at the foot to scan the horizon from dawn to dark. Some days we had rain and on others heavy mists and fogs, which are rather prevalent along our bit of coast.
The Turks again attacked us by several approaches, and we had some severe fighting, but never at such close quarters as during the first general engagement. From one point of vantage we were able to roll boulders down the precipitous mountain side with disastrous effects to the enemy. Our powder and cartridges were running low, and the Turks evidently had some idea of the straits we were in, for they began shouting insolent summons to surrender. Those were anxious days and long nights! One Sunday morning, the fifty-third day of our defence, while I was occupied in preparing a brief sermon to encourage and strengthen our people, I was startled by hearing a man shouting at the top of his voice. He came racing through our encampment straight for my hut. "Pastor, pastor," he exclaimed, " a battleship is coming and has answered our waving !-Thank God! Our prayers are heard. When we wave the Red Cross flag the battleship answers by waving signal flags. They see us and are coming in nearer shore!
This proved to be the French Guichen, a four-funnel ship. While one of its boats was being lowered, some of our young men raced down to the shore and were soon swimming out to the stately vessel which seemed to have been sent to us from God! With beating hearts we hurried down to the beach, and soon an, invitation came from the Captain for a delegation to come on board and explain the situation. He sent a wireless to the Admiral of the fleet, and before very long the flag-ship Ste. Jeanne d'Arc appeared on the horizon followed by other French battleships. The Admiral spoke words of comfort and cheer to us, and gave an order that every soul of our community should be taken on board the ships. The embarkation took some time, of course, and an English cruiser was invited to take part in the transportation to Port Said, Egypt. We were taken on board four French cruisers and one English, and were very kindly cared for. In two days we arrived at Port Said, and are now settled in a permanent camp which has been provided for us by the British authorities.
We are especially grateful to Mr. William C. Hornblower for the excellent organisation of this camp, and to Col. and Mrs. P. G. Elgood and Miss Russell. for their untiring efforts on our behalf.
The Armenian Red Cross Society of Cairo, recently organised, of which the Gregorian Bishop is Honorary Chairman, Mr. Fermanian of the Kodak Company, Director, and Prof. Kayayan, Secretary, has sent us a staff of three doctors and three nurses.
An accurate census has been taken which shows that the survivors number :--
427 babies and children under four years of age,
508, girls from 4 to 14,
628 boys from 4 to 14,
1,441 women above 14 years of age,
1,054 men above 14.
4,058 total number of souls rescued.
After the Turks' first challenge, on the 13th July, we had eight days' parley and preparation; for fifty-three days we defended ourselves on Mousa Dagh ; and a two days' voyage brought us to Port Said on the 14th September.
We do not forget that our Saviour was brought in His infancy to Egypt for safety and shelter. And the brethren of Joseph could not have been more grateful than we are for the corn and wheat provided.
131. JIBAL MOUSA : REPORT, DATED EGYPT, 28th SEPTEMBER, 1915, ON THE ARMENIAN REFUGEES RESCUED AND TRANSPORTED TO PORT SAID BY THE CRUISERS OF THE FRENCH FLEET; DRAWN UP BY MGR. THORGOM, BISHOP OF THE GREGORIAN COMMUNITY IN EGYPT.
(l.) Number of the Refugees.
Approximately accurate statistics have been made out here, which show that the refugees number 4,200, including:
(2) Origin of the Refugees.
They all come from the villages of Selefka (Kaza of Leffia, Sandjak of Antakia, Vilayet of Aleppo), including:
families from the village of
" " " "
" " " "
Kheder Bey 228
" " " "
" " " "
" " " "
But these families do not represent the total number of families inhabiting each village, for
families in the village of
" " " "
" " " "
" " " "
" " " "
that is, 332 families in all, remained at home and were subsequently deported by the Turkish Government.
(3.) Circumstances of the Insurrection and Exodus. The Turkish Government, in pursuance of its policy of clearing Armenia of the Armenians, had ordered, after the fall of Van, the deportation of all Armenian families. This order reached Selefka on the 30th July;(167) a week's grace was given for its execution. The villagers met together and, in spite of the advice of several of their leading members and of their priests, decided to revolt and die like brave men, rather than undergo the fate of the people of Zeitoun, Hadjin and Dört-Yöl.
These 868 families retired on to the mountain called Mousa Dagh, taking with them their cattle and supplies for several months.
Before leaving their villages, the insurgents invited the people of Kessab to join them. Kessab is separated from Selefka by a little stream, which was guarded by Turkish gendarmes. They, were, therefore, unable to enter into direct communication with them, but they received a letter (we have seen this letter, and we have reason to believe that it was a fabrication of the Turkish Government's) in which the people of Kessab, who have a special reputation for bravery, purport to advise their neighbours of Selefka to submit to the Turkish authorities.
The period of grace expired on the 8th August, but they had already withdrawn into the mountains in the first days of August. On the 8th, the first collision took place between the Armenians and 200 regular troops ; it lasted six hours.
The Armenians had barely 600 fighting men, armed with 150 Martini rifles and 450 shot guns. Four fighting men directed operations, eight guarded the non-combatants, and forty picketed the paths. The non-combatants dug out shelter trenches for the people and children, or made munitions, while the women looked after the food.
On one occasion a woman was bringing up water to the firing line; her jar was riddled by an enemy bullet, upon which the woman coolly put down the jar, plugged the hole and went to get fresh water, all under the enemy's fire. I cite this incident because I have been told that the rest took courage from the coolness of this woman to resist courageously to the end.
The insurgents had not forgotten to bring with them the sacred vessels from their churches, so that the five priests who were with them celebrated mass, and a pastor preached every evening.
On the 12th August, the second collision occurred with the Turks, who had 2,000 troops with two guns; it lasted twelve hours. On the 16th and 17th there were two violent encounters with regular troops, reinforced by Kurdish and Arab bashibazouks, 4, 800 troops in all; during this encounter the Armenians captured from the enemy seven Mausers and 15,000 cartridges, as well as other munitions and equipment.
There followed an interval of twenty days ; on the twenty-first, a serious battle with 7,000 soldiers, including 4,000 regulars.
From the very first days of the insurrection, the Armenians had sent down to the seashore a party of twenty people, who were relieved every 24 hours. They had with them a letter addressed to the Allied Powers, in which they prayed for help. They had hoisted a big flag---a red cross on a white ground---to attract the attention of the Allied fleet.
The Allied fleet was blockading the Turkish Mediterranean ports, and a French flotilla was on duty there. The armoured cruiser Guichen saw the flag, and the commander, Captain Joseph Brisson, put out a boat. A brave old Armenian threw himself into the water, and clambered on board the cruiser. The commander, moved by the heroism of this old man and by the details which he communicated to him, sent a wireless message to the commander of the cruiser Jeanne d'Arc, at Port Said. The Jeanne d'Arc arrived within 24 hours. The same day, the Guichen bombarded the neighbourhood of the church at Keboussia, which the Turks were attacking in order to massacre the Armenians who had taken refuge in the building. Meanwhile, a further wireless message from the Admiral on board the Jeanne d'Arc brought the armoured cruiser Desaix to the spot within another 24 hours, with an Armenian dragoman on board. The Jeanne d'Arc went off to Cyprus, and despatched three other armoured cruisers from there. The united squadron began to bombard the Turkish positions, to enable the 4,200 Armenians to come down to the water's edge, where they were embarked on board the cruisers. The embarkation took a day and a half.
The fighting had begun on the 8th August and ended on the 10th September. The Armenians had 20 killed and 16 wounded; the enemy had about 300 killed and more than 600 wounded.
We had already learnt these facts while the insurgents were still on their voyage, but we did not know where it was intended to land them. Cyprus, Algeria and Tunis were all suggested; then we heard that the French and British Governments were in consultation on the subject. On the 14th September they arrived at Port Said. Sir Henry MacMahon, the High Commissioner, and General Maxwell gave immediate attention to the refugees. His Majesty the Sultan of Egypt sent a donation of £250.
The French Fleet entertained the refugees three days, and since then the British Government has taken charge of them. The first to be embarked on board the four cruisers were the old men, the women and the children ; the fighting men remained two days longer on land. They asked for munitions to keep up the struggle, but the Admiral, acting on instructions received from his Government, refused their request, and so they arrived in Egypt two days later.
(4.) The Situation of the Refugees at Port Said.
They are installed in the Lazaretto, consisting of five or six stone buildings, and in 500 tents pitched round it. Everything has been organised by the military authorities. The tents are pitched in ranks divided into groups ; each tent has its tent-commander, with a pennant and a number, and each group of tents has its group-commander, with a flag.
They have built them a large kitchen, conduits and baths. Two of the stone buildings are being used for office work, and the rest have been turned into hospitals.
The general state of health is good; there are about 80 sick, including the wounded.
The refugees have all the looks of a fighting race. They speak a dialect, but they are all orthodox members of the Armenian Church, except for an inconsiderable number of Catholics and Protestants.
At present the Government does not allow them to go outside the zone assigned to them.
The distribution of rations is punctually and methodically carried out.
(5.) Maintenance of the Refugees.
The Government has undertaken their maintenance, and it is believed that this arrangement will continue.
(a) Hospital.---Kept up by the Armenian Red Cross of Cairo. The Government, however, has also provided a head doctor and three assistants, two of them women. The Red Cross has contributed £120 for medical stores.
(b) Clothes.---The Armenian Red Cross of Cairo and Alexandria has made itself responsible for them.
(c) Education.---There are 1,000 children. The Government has placed a large tent at their disposal for use as a school. The General Armenian Union of Benevolence has undertaken the expense of their education.
(d) Workshops.---To give the refugees employment, work has been found for those who know how to make combs, wooden spoons, etc. The men will have money advanced to them as capital, and the women wool to knit stockings and socks, to give them an opportunity of setting to work and earning a living.
The approach of winter causes some anxiety, but we hope that the Government and the Armenian community in Egypt will take the necessary steps for securing them against the cold.
132. JIBAL MOUSA: ANOTHER REPORT ON THE REFUGEES AT PORT SAID, DRAWN UP BY MR. TOVMAS K. MUGGERDICHIAN, FORMERLY DRAGOMAN OF THE BRITISH CONSULATE AT DIYARBEKIR.
You must certainly have heard that, on the 14/27th September (1915), five armoured cruisers (four French and one English) brought to Port Said 4,200 Armenians from the six villages of the Selefka district, who have been given shelter in the Lazaretto, on the banks of the Suez Canal. I am happy to be able to tell you that the Anglo-Egyptian Government has kindly undertaken to house and feed these refugees until such time as they may be able to return to their country.
A little band of heroes from Selefka, hardly five to six hundred combatants, held out for fifty-five whole days against Captain Rifaat Bey and the force under his command---3,000 Nizam troops and more than 4,000 bashibazouks (Arabs and Turks), until the cruiser Guichen saw the flag in the form of a cross which these heroes had hoisted on the Mousa Mountain. This warship, with four others, went to their assistance and rescued them. These fine fellows had not more than 120 Gras rifles and about 400 flintlocks and shot guns. Sixty of them were good shots, and they picked off the Turkish artillerymen one by one, thus reducing their guns to silence---so much so that Rifaat Bey cried out: "These good Giaours sight through the needle's eye," and took to his heels. The Armenian fighting men of Selefka have had seventeen killed and twelve wounded, but they have killed fifty times as many of the enemy.
There are hardly 1,000 grown men among the refugees ; the rest are women, girls, children and infants. The boys and girls less than fourteen years of age, who are by way of going to school, number about 800 ; there are also three men teachers and three women, five priests and the Pastor of Zeitoun, the Reverend Dikran Andreasian. Babies have been born on the Jibal Mousa, on board the warships and at Port Said. All these refugees are in need of clothes, for they have been able to rescue nothing, except their wives and children and their arms.
The "Armenian Red Cross," recently formed at Cairo, set itself to look after the wounded and the sick as early as the third day after the arrival of the refugees at Port Said. By General Maxwell's orders, the Director of the Intelligence Office gave the Armenian Red Cross official authorisation to work at Port Said in the Refugees' Camp. At present we have about seventy sick; all the wounded are on the road to recovery. The whole Armenian colony in Egypt has shown an exemplary diligence in collecting clothes, shoes, soap, combs, etc., in the name of the Armenian Red Cross, and in forwarding them to the refugees.
I have interviewed His Excellency Yakoub Artin Pasha to urge that the Armenian General Union should undertake to supply clothes to the refugees, and should occupy itself especially with the question of their education, which constitutes one of their most urgent requirements. His Excellency promised me to make all the necessary arrangements.
I am glad to be able to tell you that the refugees are happy to be at Port Said. At the same time, it is said that about 400 good fighting men proposed, and even begged, that they should be sent back to Turkey to bring aid to their compatriots who have taken refuge in the mountains.
It is regrettable that in such Armenian centres as Zeitoun, Hadjin and Kessab(168) the Armenians surrendered to the tyrannical Turkish Government by the urgent orders of His Grace the Katholikos of Sis. All these Armenians have been deported into the desert situated between Aleppo, Der-el-Zor and Mosul. These deported people have endured unheard of tortures and sufferings in the course of their journey ; the women and girls have suffered savage outrages. It is said that the road is covered with unburied corpses of men, women and children; in fact, the refugees who have arrived at Port Said have seen these corpses with their own eyes, and it was the cumulative effect of all this that made the inhabitants of the six villages of Selefka, decide to retire into the mountains and defend themselves.
Since the month of May, I have had no direct news from Harpout or Diyarbekir, but the news which I have gathered from other quarters is very disquieting.
The first news received from Marash, Aintab and Killis was good, but the last news, which comes from a trustworthy source, is equally disquieting. It is said that there have been massacres at Marash, and that the survivors, together with the Armenian inhabitants of Aintab and Killis, have been deported bodily to the deserts to the south of the province of Aleppo. We hear likewise that the Armenian population of Mersina and Adana and the neighbouring villages has been deported.
THE TOWNS OF OURFA AND AC.
The Armenian colony in Ourfa is the southernmost outpost of Armenia east of the Euphrates, as the Jibal Mousa villages are of Armenian Cilicia. Here, too, for many months, the Armenians had before their eyes the fate of their compatriots from the north, for Ourfa is the half-way house on the road from Diyarbekir to Aleppo, and the remnants of many convoys from Mamouret-ul-Aziz, Erzeroum and beyond passed this way on their journey to the Arabian desert. Thus, when the order for deportation came in due course to Ourfa, towards the end of September, 1915, they took the same action that the villagers of Jibal Mousa had taken two months before. They fortified themselves in their quarter of the town and resisted the order by force, for they knew that it was simply the first stage in their methodical extermination.
Unhappily, the result of the struggle here was not the same as at Jibal Mousa, and, indeed, the Armenians at Ourfa were in a hopeless position from the first. They were far away from the sea, and even in the town itself they were only a minority of the population. A fully equipped expeditionary force of Turkish regulars was immediately sent against them, and they succumbed, after resisting desperately for a month.
The town of AC. was another important Armenian outpost on the south-eastern fringe, which cannot be mentioned by its real name without compromising the persons referred to in the documents relating to it. The Armenians at AC. did not resist, and the process of deportation here followed its normal course.
133. OURFA LETTER DATED OURFA, 14th JUNE, 1915, FROM MR. X. COMMUNICATED BY THE AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR ARMENIAN AND SYRIAN RELIEF.
I wish to inform you of conditions here. They are very bad, and daily getting worse. I suppose the U.'s told you of the horrible things taking place in Diyarbekir. Just such a reign of terror has begun in this city also. Daily the police are searching the houses of the Armenians for weapons, and, not finding any, they are taking the best and most honourable men and imprisoning them ; some of them they are exiling, and others they are torturing with red-hot irons to make them reveal the supposedly concealed weapons. Four weeks ago they exiled fifteen men and their families, sending them to the desert city of Rakka, three days' journey south of here.
The Gendarmerie Department seems to have full control of affairs, and the Mutessarif upholds them. They are now holding about a hundred of the best citizens of the city in prison, and to-day the, gendarmerie chief called the Armenian Bishop and told him that unless the Armenians deliver up their arms and denounce the revolutionists among them he has orders to exile the entire Armenian population of Ourfa , as they did the people of Zeitoun. We know how the latter were treated, for hundreds of them have been dragged through Ourfa on their way to the desert whither they have been exiled. These poor exiles were mostly women, children and old men, and they were clubbed and beaten and lashed along as though they had been wild animals. Their women and girls were daily criminally outraged, both by their guards and by the ruffians of every village through which they passed, as the former allowed the latter to enter the camp of the exiles at night, and even distributed the girls among the villagers for the night.
These poor victims of their oppressors' lust and hate might better have died by the bullet in their mountain home than be dragged about the country in this way. About two thousand of them have passed through Ourfa, all more dead than alive; many hundreds had died already from starvation and abuse along the roadside, and indeed nearly all are dying of starvation or thirst, or through being kidnapped by the Anaza Arabs in the desert where they have been taken. We know how they are being treated, because our Ourfa exiles are in the same place, and one young Armenian doctor, who was there making medical examinations of soldiers for the Government, has returned and told us(169).
Now this is the fate which is in store for the Ourfa Armenians also, unless someone delivers them. Having seen how the Zeitoun exiles have been treated, the Ourfa Armenians have said they will never submit to exile but will die in their homes instead, and who can blame them ? We greatly fear that the cruel persecuting attitude of the gendarmerie in seizing, beating, and torturing the people will drive some of them to such desperation that they will resist, and that will surely provoke a general massacre. Up to date the Armenian Bishop and Protestant pastors have been most earnest and successful in keeping the young men, especially, under restraint, and this has prevented any outburst thus far, but as the Government is daily taking the wisest and best leaders of the people and imprisoning them, there are few left to restrain the others. The officers of the Government told the Armenian Bishop plainly that unless they delivered up their arms the Armenians here would be destroyed, but the people fear to deliver up their arms, for they remember that in 1895 the Government made all the Christians deliver up their arms and, as soon as they had done so, the Moslems fen upon the Christians and killed six thousand of them in two days.
Now, if the Government would make the Moslems give up their weapons also, the Christians would cheerfully deliver up theirs, but the Government is not taking weapons from the Moslems. Ourfa is not a revolutionary centre and never has been. The people here have always been loyal to the Government and have never resisted, not even when they were butchered like sheep. Why the local Government persists in persecuting a population that has always had a good record for loyalty is very strange. There is no revolutionary organisation here ; there may be thirty or forty men of revolutionary beliefs, but there has been no propaganda and no organisation.
134. OURFA : EXTRACT FROM A LETTER(170) BY MR. TOVMAS K. MUGGERDICHIAN ; PUBLISHED IN THE ARMENIAN JOURNAL "GOTCHNAG," OF NEW YORK, 1st APRIL, 1916.
I had an interview with Mr. B. and Miss A. about the events in Turkey which they had witnessed before they escaped to Cairo.
Miss A. (an Englishwoman) was the principal of the orphanage at AC. for 18 years, and is acquainted with the Turkish language. She and Mr. B. passed through Aleppo, BF. and BJ., and have collected their information from trustworthy sources in these centres.
Two Armenians returned to Aleppo from Ourfa and reported that a Persian prince had arrived in Ourfa from Constantinople with the Ottoman deputy for Baghdad (probably Babanzadé Ismail Hakki Bey) and that they were the guests of Herr Jacob K¸nzler, a German-Swiss. Herr K¸nzIer went with them to Severeg and on his return told some friends, among whom were the two Armenians aforementioned, that there was no more deliverance for the Armenians. The deputy for Baghdad had said to him : "It was decided in the Ottoman Parliament that we should massacre all the Armenians. We will not leave a single Armenian alive, and thus we will correct the old Sultan's mistake." At the same time he regretted that Herr Eckhard had betrayed the Armenians and excited the Turks against them. Herr Eckhard---the ex-president of the German Orphanage at Ourfa, and now the head of the shop and rug factory---is a German artillery captain, who came to Ourfa after the massacres of 1895-1896 as a missionary and a spy. In the autumn of 1915 he encouraged the Turkish, Kurdish and Arab mobs to attack the Armenians, and was responsible for a three-fold repetition of the massacres. The first massacre took place on the 19th August, 1915, in which 250 Armenians were killed; the second took place on the 23rd September, and lasted for a week, in which about 300 persons were killed and the city looted; the third took place about the 1st October. First, all the Armenians were ordered to get ready to go to Der-el-Zor. When they objected, saying that they had lost everything and had nothing left to take with them, Fakhri Pasha ordered them to be massacred. The massacre lasted 10 days. The German artillerymen destroyed the Armenian quarters, the church and everything, thus putting an end to the Armenian population of Ourfa.
It was then that the Rev. Apelian, the druggist Apraham Attarian, Solomon Effendi Knadjian, A. Abouhayatian and Hagopian were imprisoned on the demand of Herr Eckhard. The Rev. Apelian, Attarian and Hagopian were hanged, and Knadjian and Abouhayatian were shot.
135. OURFA: INTERVIEW WITH MRS. J. VANCE YOUNG, AN EYEWITNESS OF THE EVENTS AT OURFA; PUBLISHED IN THE "EGYPTIAN GAZETTE," 28th SEPTEMBER /11th OCTOBER, AND REPRODUCED IN THE ARMENIAN JOURNAL "HOUSSAPER" OF CAIRO, 30th SEPTEMBER/13th OCTOBER, 1915.
Mrs. J. Vance Young is the wife of an English doctor at Beirout(171), and arrived in Egypt on board the American cruiser "Chester." She was among the last arrivals in this country from Alexandretta, and brought with her terrible details regarding the martyrdom of the Armenians at Ourfa. She was an eye-witness of the occurrences in this ill-famed town, which has been drenched so many times in Armenian blood.
An interview with Mrs. Young was published in the "Egyptian Gazette" of the 28th September, and we reproduce the following lines, which present the ghastly picture of the massacre :
"On the 19th August the fusillade began, about five o'clock in the evening. We heard it during supper-time, and it lasted far into the night.
"Next morning Dr. J. Vance Young ventured to make his way into the town to see if he could be of any service. He saw all the streets littered with corpses. He got the impression that there was not a single Armenian left in Ourfa.
"It appeared that the massacres had been organised in advance, for a systematic domiciliary visit was made to every Armenian house; the men were shot or otherwise assassinated, while the women were driven from their houses with their children, to be marched away to the desert and perish there of hunger.
"All along the road from Ourfa to the coast Mrs. Young saw hundreds of putrified corpses, and also a few miserable survivors. The latter looked more like wild beasts than human creatures. She described this spectacle as being literally sufficient to unhinge one's reason.
"Almost all the business men at Ourfa were Armenians. Now they have all been massacred, including the sole chemist capable of mixing drugs."
136. OURFA: POSTSCRIPT TO A MEMORANDUM (DOC. 141) BY A FOREIGN WITNESS FROM ALEPPO ; COMMUNICATED BY THE AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR ARMENIAN AND SYRIAN RELIEF.
Towards the end of September, the Armenians in Ourfa were ordered to leave the town and to be exiled as the Armenians in all the towns of this region have been. They refused to leave, however, and finally orders were given to expel them forcibly, and, if they offered any resistance, to take the necessary measures. They entrenched themselves strongly in their quarter, built barricades, made subterranean passages from one part of the quarter to another, and generally took every measure possible to defend themselves against attack. A force of about 6,000 soldiers, including artillery, under the command of Fakhri Pasha, commenced operations against them, and their quarter was bombarded during the first weeks of October. The Armenians were all supplied with rifles and ammunition, and had even managed to obtain mitrailleuses. They had apparently sufficient food to withstand a siege of some duration. We heard about the middle of October that seven officers and about 400 men had been killed on the Turkish side. By some means or other the Armenians managed to obtain possession of Mr. K. and seven belligerents who had been interned in Ourfa. These eight men were retained by them in their quarter as hostages. Mr. Jackson reported the detention of Mr. K. to the Embassy, which, of course, took the necessary steps in the matter, and about the 20th October a telegram was received in Aleppo from Mr. K. reporting that he was out of the Armenian quarter and safe. What happened to the seven belligerents could not be ascertained.
The position of the belligerents who are interned in Ourfa is naturally somewhat critical. It has caused considerable anxiety to the foreign consular officials in Aleppo, and they desire more urgently than ever that these belligerents should be removed to some place where they would be in greater safety.
137. AC. : STATEMENT BY MISS A., A FOREIGN RESIDENT AT AC., WRITTEN SUBSEQUENTLY TO HER DEPARTURE FROM TURKEY IN SEPTEMBER, 1915; COMMUNICATED BY THE REV. I. N. CAMP, OF CAIRO.
It was in March, 1915, that the first refugees began to pass through AC. After they had once begun to come, there was scarcely a day when one or more parties did not pass through. Some were large, and some consisted of only five or six hundred. With the exception of one party, they all had to stay out in an open field without any protection from the cold and rain, or later, when summer came, from the burning sun. The exception was a party from BM., who had paid £400 (Turkish) for the privilege of resting under some trees where there was water. This place was only five minutes' walk from the field where other parties were obliged to camp.
I myself one day saw an old woman beaten because, when opportunity came, she rushed off to get some water for a sick child. I do not want to give the impression that no one was allowed to get water, but I suppose the privilege was given according to the "bakshish" that had been paid. There were also some gendarmes who seemed to be thoroughly ashamed of their work, and who, so far as they dared, were merciful.
Each party had its own tale of horror. With few exceptions, they had been robbed; young wives and girls had been carried off ; many had been dishonoured ; many people had been brutally treated and had died on the road. One large party that had been on the march for four weeks were put into houses at Albustan, the occupants of which had been previously deported. They thought then that their journey was over, and held a praise meeting after being comfortably settled. But they were at the mercy of the Turks, and all their young women and girls were carried off. Then they were sent on the march again ; some of the girls were returned by the Turks, but most of them were kept.
The hard part for them was that they never got to the end of their journey. Just as soon as they thought they were at their destination and began to settle down and get a little work to do, they would at once be sent away from that place to another. We heard also that if money was given them they were obliged to move on. Any effort to give relief was looked upon as a defiance of the Government.
One Sunday afternoon a large party of refugees came to AC, just at sunset. We heard they were faint with hunger, but no one was allowed to give them any relief. We knew that there might be an opportunity to give some relief after dark, if any one ventured to go then. Feeling that I must do something, I took our matron and went to see what. we could do. As we drew near the camp, we met some Armenians who were on the watch for a chance to give out some bread. and who told us that it would evidently be impossible for us to give any food that night but that perhaps we could give some in the morning. The next morning, before dawn, we went again and found about four hundred Armenians of AC. alone the road. As they saw us passing, some called out : "It is no use for you to go ; no one is allowed near." However, we passed on, and when we got .to where the gendarme was, he very crossly ordered us away. .It was light by this time. Our matron appealed to him for a long time without avail. Finally, however, he said: "Well, give what you have quickly ; but this (pointing to me) must not go any further than here." While we were distributing the food, the gendarme got angry and ordered me away. Then three horsemen appeared on the scene. They scolded the man in charge because he had not already got the refugees started on their march, and told him he was too lenient with them. One of them leaped from his horse, and with a whip in each hand went towards the AC. Armenians, who at once fled. He came to me and gave me a lash or two with the whip. I asked him what harm I was doing. He came again and shook me, saying: "You are from BN." (I had to dress as an Armenian in order to get to the refugees at all.) One of the two other officers came deliberately towards me with the intention of riding me down, but the horse turned his head after only bruising my arm. The matron, an Armenian woman, on seeing it, said: "She has done nothing wrong. She is no BN-li. Your horse is more merciful than you." We turned to go, and to my surprise the horsemen began speaking German with one another. So far as I was able to tell, they were not Turks but German officers. When we got on to higher ground, we saw these three men ride on in the direction of BM. The refugees were sent in the opposite direction, and all the time they were preparing to start they were being beaten. Other gendarmes arrived, and from every direction came the screams of the people as the whips touched them.
One evening, Dr. E. and Mr. F. went for a walk just at dusk. They saw along the road what they at first took to be a bundle of rags, about which scavenger dogs were circling, but on going nearer they found it to be a dying woman. After she had been refreshed by some warm milk which Dr. E. brought, she said : "Would that you had not brought me this, for I had longed to die." She soon did die. She was a rather young woman, and it was found out soon after her death that she was from a very good family.
Occasionally Dr. E. could get permission for a sick woman to stay until she was better ; she would then be sent on with a later party. The first woman he helped in this way went on after a few weeks' rest with her new-born baby, but the second woman died(172). On another occasion, the head Armenian nurse at the hospital had been sent down with some necessaries to help a party. When she first got to the place, the gendarme refused to let her pass. She begged him, as he hoped for mercy from Allah himself, to allow her to go to the woman in particular need. Finally, he gave permission, but, having already given the order for the party to move on, he said that little time was left. When they were ready to depart, the gendarme began to beat the father of the baby, and even gave the mother of a few hours a lash with his whip. The nurse protested, and said that, if the poor woman must go on, an animal must be given her; so the gendarme went forward a few steps, knocked an old man off his donkey, and told the husband of the woman to put her on. We heard later that the woman died before she got to the opposite end of the city.
Every party would bring with them either old people who had been left on the road or children whose mothers had died and who had been left behind. Whenever we went to see refugees, the piteous appeals we heard to save young women and girls from the Turks were heart-rending. And we were powerless to help them! Again and again we were threatened with what would be done to anyone who dared to help any of the refugees. But in spite of these threats several of the AC. people took babies who were left without any relatives. It was beautiful to see the love shown to these babies, many of whom were not at all attractive. The sad part of it was that, when the turn of the people of AC. came to go, some were too poor to take these adopted children along with them ; but all did so who possibly could. One good man had adopted a sick baby and a lame girl. When he and his large family were deported, he came to ask me whether I could take or support his own three-months-old baby, in return for which he offered me two rings, all that he could spare.
As the refugees were driven from their mountain homes, the blind, lame, and invalids were at first left in BM. But after a time even they were driven forth. They left AC. one hot afternoon, about three hundred in number, under the care of a brave young widow, who had had charge of them all the time. There were only fourteen donkeys for the whole party.
When people left their homes, it was natural that they should want to take as much as possible along with them---mats, food, clothing, &c. Villagers who owned animals, especially muleteers, were the best off, because when others wanted animals the Turks asked such exorbitant prices that the poor people did not know what to do, especially if they had old people or young children in their families. So the owners of animals, not having to hire any of the Turks, were better off. The load-animal question became more and more difficult as the refugees got farther away from their homes, till some in desperation would leave their few possessions by the wayside. The gendarmes generally told them that their goods would be forwarded to them. But in the case of some goods that one party had left nine hours from AC., we know that a gendarme brought them on to the city and sold them by public auction.
Dr. L. asked whether he might go to the places where needy refugees were, and give them some help, if he could get any money from the United States. This request was most emphatically refused. He said: Why, they will die." The answer of the Turkish official was: "What do you suppose they are sent there for ? "
When the first parties came, the Government sometimes issued bread, but this policy did not last long. Sometimes the people of the city would be allowed to give bread, but this was rare. There were always people waiting for a chance to get near and give aid to the refugees. We were on the opposite side of the city, but our colleagues were nearer to the refugees. So the head of the institution gave permission for the food to be cooked there. Then it would be taken secretly by the students to the refugees. Usually only one guard was on duty at night, so the food was usually sent down at three or four in the morning, the best being given to the guard in order that he might allow it to pass in. Later on, the women of the city formed a committee and collected food from anyone able to give it. There was also a relief committee of four, who did a great deal towards alleviating the distress by giving bread and by furnishing native shoes to those who had none. Later, one of the lay members of this committee, the one who had been most active in the relief work, was the first among the people of AC., after the exemption of the Protestants to be deported. When he asked why he had to go, he was told that it was because he had fed the enemies of the Government.
If I remember correctly, it was either on the 30th or the 31st July that the first people from AC. were deported. First the richest families of the Gregorians, and, later, the richest Protestants, were sent away. Just as the Protestants were leaving, we heard a rumour that they would not have to go, but they were hurried straight through to Hama, and other places, without the long delays on the road that others had had. We thought it was done purposely. The first party that went were attacked before they got to their first night's stopping-place, and had to protect their wives and daughters all night long. We heard later from Dr. L., who was then in Aleppo, that he had seen many of them and been told their story : how they had to be on the alert all nightlong; how one or two were killed and some wounded, and how one had gone mad. Before we got this news, the brother of one of our teachers, who had been sent into the city by the officer whose servant he was, told us that while nearing the city the previous evening he had seen the Mutessarif's son and four or five companions, all well armed, riding quickly out of the city in the direction in which the refugees had gone. We all thought that he had perhaps been sent to recall them, and were quite expecting to see them all come back again. Later, we understood that it was this party who had attacked and robbed them.
Soon after the first party of Protestants were sent away, Dr. E. received telegrams from the U.S. Ambassador, from the Consul in Aleppo, and from Mr. N. of Constantinople, saying that there would be no deportation of Protestants. Dr. E. took the three telegrams to the Mutessarif, who was not pleased and said that he had received no such news. Still, for a short time all was quiet, and it being time for College to open, the matter was talked over. Before any decision was reached, a student, a Turk, went to Dr. E. and asked when it would open, as if he were anxious to be back. Dr. E. took this as a sign that the Turks were not only willing but anxious for the College to begin ; so, after conferring with the faculty, he told the enquiring Turk that they would open the following week. This, I think, was on Friday, and on Saturday all but two of the professors and teachers had notice that they must leave the city the following Monday morning. Dr. E. pleaded for time, but the Mutessarif was angry and asked him whether he did not know that he had power to send him away too if he wished to do so.
The professors were sent away the following Monday morning. A German lady, Mrs. C., formerly Miss D., who was the matron of the hospital at AC., was ordered to go along with her husband, an Armenian professor, into exile. When Dr. E. went to the Mutessarif about it, he answered: "Is she not his property, and is he not an Armenian ?" The German Consul. was not able to get permission for her to leave the country when her husband was anxious for her to get away. We heard later from Mrs. C. that they had only got just outside the city when a gendarme came round to each of them and said that, if they wanted to be guarded, they must give money. This they did. When they reached a little wayside station, they found many thousands of refugees waiting in an open field. On the fourth day of waiting, Mrs. C. saw some German officers on a train, and obtained from them a pass which enabled her to board the train for Aleppo. On the fifth day, she and her husband and baby were allowed to go by train to Aleppo, but his family had to wait and go on with the rest of the refugees. They, after many weeks of travel and after paying exorbitant sums of money, were sent to a fellahin village. Prof. C., according to the latest report, was teaching for nothing in a Moslem school in Aleppo.
Three of the pastors at AC. were imprisoned for months in dirty, dingy cells of the common prison. Three of the College professors had the same experience. Finally, permission was given for the gendarmes to take the pastors out long enough to preach, for it was feared they would otherwise go mad. The sermons they preached were said to be wonderful. These pastors were later released, but all the professors in the College were exiled except one, and another who had previously succeeded in getting away to Constantinople.
Soon after the crowds started, all kinds of sickness began and spread among the people, and later one of the two doctors left in AC. was sent to look after them. Sometimes they would wait for weeks, expecting to be taken by train to whatever place they were to be sent to. Then they would be told that each must hire an animal for himself. The hire would be put up so high that all their baggage would have to be left behind. The gendarmes told them that it would be forwarded to them, but a little later it was placed in a house from which some of the people had been deported, and sold at auction.
When the people were told that they must go, they at once tried to sell some of their goods, so that they might have a little money in hand. But it cannot be said that they really sold them, for one heard of good wool mattresses selling for one piastre ; the highest I heard of was for twenty piastres, while in ordinary times they would sell for a hundred. Large copper pans and basins were sold for a mere song, until one day two Jews appeared on the scene and began paying much better prices. But in three days these men were imprisoned, so that the Turks could once more get things for as little as they pleased. Even goods that were being given to the poor by those having to leave were confiscated by the Government. Some antiquities and books that were being taken to the College shared the same fate. Anyone walking with a parcel was liable to be held up, searched, and robbed.
After the professors had been sent away, the pastors of the Protestant churches and the two remaining professors who had not been deported were put into prison. First, their homes were searched and all papers and any written matter were taken to the Sarai. The secretaries of the Christian societies were enquired about, and when it was found that some of them had been deported it was thought that they might be brought back; but they had not been brought back at the time of my leaving. While waiting in BJ., I heard that those who had been imprisoned had been released.
About the time deportations began in AC., all the non-Moslem schools were taken possession of by the Government, except those belonging to the American Board. At the same time, the large Armenian church and one of the Protestant churches were seized, but before I left AC. they were restored to their owners.
After the professors had been taken away, it was reported that no more Protestants, except those found at fault, would be sent away. But every day they kept sending a family or two away on the slightest pretexts. One of the relief committee workers was the first to be sent away. A letter said to have been sent to them, but which they never saw, was actually the alleged cause of deportation. The censor said that no mention of high prices, poverty, sickness, need of money, or slackness of work must be mentioned in letters. So we prayed that any letters that might be sent to us should make no mention of relief money or of any other forbidden subject.
As soon as it was officially announced that the Protestants would not be deported, they held a thanksgiving service, at which the one in charge said: "Now that we are permitted to stay in our city, we must be very careful to give no occasion of complaint to the Government. If they ask for our sons as soldiers, we must give them up without murmuring; if for money. or goods, or clothing for the soldiers, let us give as if we appreciated the privilege of staying in our homes. Let us show them that we are loyal to the country. Let no one take into MS home a child or anyone else who has been told to go, whether they be of those passing through the city as refugees or from among our own friends and relatives in the town. Let us show the Government that we will do all that is asked of us."
The goods in the drapers' shops all belonged to the Armenians; but during the deportations the Turks took whatever they wanted and paid nothing, so the owners in some cases sold their goods for almost nothing, or gave them away, or closed their shops. Soon after deportation, it was impossible to buy a button, though some native material could be secured in native houses where they had looms.
When the first lot of people from AC. were sent away, they were told that they were only going for a short time, and that they need not trouble about their homes and belongings, for the Government would carefully seal them and take care of their property. They had not been out of the city long when soldiers were quartered in the larger houses, some of which were rented for a trifle, the rent being paid to the Government. The poorer houses were given to the poorer Turks. Every evening all the possible exits from the city were carefully guarded; if we went from one building to another, we were held up and asked where we were going and for what. If our servant was found outside, he would always be searched and sometimes struck at, and told not to be out so late again. In the early days we were not allowed out after sunset, and later we were told the same, even if the sun were shining. This was said not only to me, the subject of a belligerent country, but also to neutrals as well.
An old college student, whose home was at E., managed, through the kindness of a friendly Turk, to escape to AC. He told us that the men of his town were all killed. We had previously heard that the men of that town and of the next village had been taken for military service, and set to making a road to BL. As soon as the road was finished, the men were taken to the side of the road they had made and were killed---chiefly by the knife, for the officer in command had told the soldiers he commanded not to waste powder on the Armenians.
An Englishman who had been given permission to leave the country (we wondered whether he ever got out) told one of our ladies of the sights he had seen while waiting for the train. He had seen feet swollen all out of shape lifted up and beaten with the heavy end of a gendarme's gun, just because people had said they could not walk any faster.
The steward of the College at AC. was sent away because his brother-in-law had sent his dentist's instruments to him with a letter, asking him to sell them and send the money on to him later, when he could tell him---the steward---where they were being deported to. But neither the instruments nor the letter ever reached the steward. He was merely told that they had been sent and that, because of it, he and his family of small children must go into exile. This was after the Protestants were told that they might stay.
Whenever the Turks thought that they had won any victory, they were almost unbearable, as, for instance, when word came that they had taken the Suez Canal. They then rejoiced both by day and by night, and were most insolent to Christians. An English flag was dragged through the filth of the streets, spat and trampled upon, &c. The noise continued all night long. At these times of supposed victories, they showed what they would do if ever they were really victorious.
It was beautiful to see the faith of some of the villagers. One evening a large party came in and very soon began singing hymns and holding a prayer-meeting. The following morning, when asked about it, they said that their pastor had been taken from them and killed, and that his last word to them was : "Keep up the prayer-meeting." And with kindling eyes they said: "We have never once missed it, though we have been seven weeks on the march."
Another party told how they had prayed that, if it were God's will, they might be spared the horrors of deportation, and said: "There must be some good in it for our nation, or God would not permit it. The only thing that troubles us is: Will our husbands ever be able to find us ?" They little knew, poor women, that their husbands had already been killed, as we were told by others.
Just before the deportation began at AC., a high official, T. Pasha, came and called together the leading people, both Moslem and Christian. In a very kindly manner, he asked the Christians whether they were being kindly treated by the Moslems, &C., &C. He said that he had heard certain things, and that, if there was any truth in the statement that Armenians were being ill-treated, he himself would hang the Turk, were it his own brother, who should dare to treat a Christian unkindly; and he begged the Armenians to speak out without fear. He then went straight from AC. to BY, where he arranged for the deportation of all the BN. and BM. districts, Such plans were evidently intended to throw the Armenians off their guard.
In T. Pasha's party there were three German officers, but I could not say that German officers were supervising the deportations. The German Consul went through AC. to BM. and BN. before the deportation began. Though some people blamed him, for it, we did not think he had so much power.
A great many of the Armenian doctors were taken for the Army. When there was any sickness among the service corps, one of the three Armenian doctors left in AC. was sure to be sent to attend the sick. In this way we lost a dear friend, who in the early days had been an assistant to Dr. L. He was sent to a camp where the soldiers, nearly all of them Armenians, were working on a section of a branch of the Baghdad Railway; typhus had broken out among them. Very soon a telegram came, saying that the old doctor was ill. Though he was the oldest doctor in AC. and had more Moslem patients than any other doctor in the city, no mercy was shown to him. Did he not belong to the accursed Armenian race? And was not his death of typhus, in the camp to which he had been obliged to go, a fate good enough for any such as he ?
Early in March, 1915, the BM. Government took possession of Miss S.'s Orphanage and put Turks in charge of the girls and young women. Miss O., a Swiss lady in charge of a German Orphanage at BM., after all her charges(173) had been turned loose for deportation, as were the inmates of all the German orphanages early in the war, took under her care some of the old girls who were married and living in the districts in which the first deportations had taken place. After she had kept them for a short time, she was told by the German Consul that she must give them up. She thought that if she could get to someone in authority she could present the situation in its true light, so she went to Constantinople, but returned disappointed.
Early in the autumn we heard of a reign of terror at Ourfa, so that the very mention of the place seemed to alarm people. We heard that three men, one of them being H. Effendi, Miss J.'s faithful helper in charge of industrial work employing more than 2,000 persons, had been banished. Later, they were brought back to the city and tortured. Later still, in writing to his wife, Mr. K. said that H. Effendi's children were in the same case as some other children, whom we knew to be orphans ; so we inferred that he had certainly been killed(174). Still later, a driver told how he had been engaged to take three men to Diyarbekir for court-martial. They had gone but a short distance from Ourfa when the men were told to get out of the wagon. They were taken down a gully a short distance, and soon the driver heard shots. The four gendarmes came galloping' up to the wagon and told the driver to drive on. One of them looked into the wagon and asked where the prisoners were. When the driver asked if they had not called them out of the wagon , he was told that he had allowed them to escape and that he. himself must go before the court. So he had to drive back to Ourfa to the Sarai, where he was told to leave the things that belonged to the men he had started out with. Then he was allowed to go away free.
Q., Miss J.'s servant, had been killed, we heard, in a brutal way while he was going to Garmoush with some relief for a poor family. We also heard that there were two massacres at Ourfa, in the first of which only the men found in the streets were killed. The second time, homes were entered.
M., one of my orphan boys, had gone with Dr. P., and was working for him when he was told to leave the country. He was tortured to make him tell something incriminating about Dr. P. Later, when Dr. L. tried to get some news about the boy from the Diyarbekir refugees at Aleppo, their answer was: "Do not ask us about any male over twelve years old, for, as far as we know, they were every one of them killed."
The general impression was that Mr. K. was poisoned. We heard that he was in danger of a mental breakdown; but, on the evening previous to my leaving AC., Dr. E. was told by a Moslem muleteer who had come from Ourfa that Mr. K. had either died or been killed. I was told that I must acquaint the Consul with what Dr. E. had heard as soon as I reached Aleppo. On my telling the Consul, he showed me a telegram he had recently received from Mr. K. himself, which read: "Am safe and well in Government House." Later, in BJ., when we heard that he had poisoned himself, someone remarked that it would be easy for Mr. K. to be obliged to write and say that there was danger of a nervous breakdown, and then the way would be prepared for the news: "Poisoned himself." Someone else added: "Yes, just as was done when the prisoners were obliged to sign a letter, stating that they were all well, while at the very time there was an epidemic in their camp."
When we travelled ourselves from AC. to Aleppo, we saw a large camp of refugees, some distance from the road which we were on, but close to the small station of Kotmo, which connects with the Baghdad Railway. We had heard before leaving AC. that 37,000 were waiting for a train to take them on, but, judging from what we could see, there could not have been more than seven or eight thousand of them.
As we got near to Aleppo we passed a very long convoy of ox-wagons, mules, donkeys, and a few horses, carrying women, children, and some old men. Our driver got down and talked with a few. He was told that they were being sent from Adana and Mersina. They looked so much better off in every way than any refugees we had seen that they hardly seemed like refugees at all. There were many more men than usual among them.
Later, when we reached Aleppo, we were told that there were 20,000 refugees there, and that on some days the death-rate was as high as 400. A native doctor and his wife, wishing to give all their time to helping these poor people, had left their home and gone to the hotel in which we were staying. From them we got reports twice a day.
We heard of one party, who, when they left Harpout, numbered 5,000. Of this number, only 213 reached Aleppo. When they started, they were of all ages and both sexes. They went towards Aleppo down the Euphrates. When they came to cross the rivers that flow into the Euphrates, all the able-bodied men were drowned and their bodies left in the water. Farther on, all the survivors---now only old men, women and children---were entirely stripped of their clothing. Naked they waded through streams, slept in the chilly nights, and bore the heat of the sun. They were brought into Aleppo the last few miles in third-class railway carriages, herded together like so many animals. When the doors of the carriages were opened, they were jeered at by the populace for their nakedness. On their journey, they had come on a hot day in August to the banks of a river. There was a general rush to get water, but the gendarmes who were with them drew their revolvers and told them that anyone who got any water must pay a medjidia (about 3s. 2d.) for it. Some were able to give it, but the majority were not. After waiting there for some time, they were told that they must strip and get through the water as best they could. They had the right to the animals that carried their possessions, for they had paid for them for two days longer. They clasped hands and waded across, but waited in vain for the gendarmes to come across with their animals and provisions.(175) In this party were refined girls and young women from the best Armenian homes, who had been educated in the American colleges.
While waiting in BJ., the President of the College got a telegram from the U.S. Consul in Aleppo, asking him to send some doctors, as the death-rate was very high---as high as 400 a day, we heard. The President thought it best to ask Djemal Pasha before doing anything. When he did ask him, the answer came: "No, you must not send anyone. Let your Consul mind his own business!"
138. AC. : LETTERS FROM AN ARMENIAN INHABITANT(176), DESCRIBING THE DEPORTATION OF ARMENIANS FROM CILICIA ; COMMUNICATED BY THE AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR ARMENIAN AND SYRIAN RELIEF.
Letter dated 6 /19th April, 1915.
Every day two or three hundred people from Zeitoun are transferred to BM., under severe guard, and, after a short halt at night, are deported in unknown directions. The hotels and the two Armenian schools are full of these deported families from Zeitoun, Alabash and Furnus. The Government has decided to evacuate by force all the other Armenian regions. It is impossible to describe the misery which is resulting. Old men, invalids, and children four or five years old go in masses, barefooted.
Letter dated 17 /30th May, 1915.
Since the first days of April, convoys have been coming from Zeitoun and the neighbourhood and passing southward towards the steppes of Mesopotamia. Reckoning only those that have crossed our city, the number of the deported rises to 6,700 persons. Furnus, Geben, Alabash, and the whole region of Zeitoun have been evacuated. Bosniak mouhadjirs replace the Armenians thus exiled. The Turks are in a perfect delirium. It is impossible to describe the horrors suffered by the deported Armenians. Violation, conversion and the rape of women and girls are ordinary and daily facts. The Armenian population of Zeitoun has been annihilated, one or two villages excepted. We are informed that 150 Armenians from Dört Yöl and 1,350 from Hassan-Beyli have been deported to Aleppo.
VILAYET OF ALEPPO.
The Vilayet of Aleppo, is not Armenian soil. It is the border province of the Arabic language and the Semitic race, and the only considerable Armenian communities it contains are the villages of Jibal Mousa (which have been dealt with already) and an urban colony in the town of Aintab. In the city of Aleppo itself the Armenian element is altogether insignificant, and it was not as a centre of population, but as a junction of routes, that Aleppo played an important and terrible part in the Armenian deportations of 1915.
Aleppo is the natural meeting-place of all the roads and railways in Asiatic Turkey. It lies immediately south of the great Taurus barrier, which divides the Turco-Armenian provinces of the north-west from the Arabian provinces of the south-east ; and it also lies midway between the course of the Euphrates and the Mediterranean coast, at the point where the two approach most closely to one another.
On the north-west, the railway leading to Aleppo from Constantinople and Konia over the Taurus and Amanus ranges has practically been completed ; from the north a route comes down over the Cilician mountains through Marash and Aintab ; from the north-east, through Ourfa, a carriage road converges on Aleppo from Diyarbekir, while southward and eastward the routes radiate out from Aleppo again---the Baghdad Railway, which proceeds due eastward across the Euphrates, and is already complete in this section as far as Ras-ul-Ain ; the carriage road south-eastward down the Euphrates to Der-el-Zor ; and, finally, the Syrian Railway, which runs due south from Aleppo to Damascus, Beirout and Medina.
All these routes were traversed by the convoys of Armenian exiles, and from the very beginning of the deportations they were continually arriving at Aleppo and leaving again, after a longer or shorter delay in the congested city, for their final destinations beyond.
Batches of Zeitounlis were already passing through Aleppo by the beginning of May, 1915, and the current of exiles from Cilicia went on flowing in a comparatively thin but steady stream during the next three months. At the beginning of August the volume was suddenly increased by the arrival of the first convoys, or remnants of convoys, from the north-east. These first arrivals were from Diyarbekir, and even they had been forty-five days on the road. They were followed in due course by all who survived the far longer journey from the Vilayets of Mamouret-ul-Aziz and Erzeroum. Meanwhile, an even greater mass of exiles had been converging on Aleppo along the Anatolian Railway from all the Armenian districts which its branches tap ; but this stream was dammed up indefinitely by the mountain barriers where the railway was still incomplete, and even in December the convoys were still bivouacked on the slopes of Amanus. What was their subsequent fate---whether they died where they lay at Osmania and Islohia, or got through to Aleppo in any considerable numbers---there is little evidence to show. It is only known that 500,000 exiles altogether, out of those who converged upon Aleppo in 1915 from all the quarters above mentioned, were supposed to be still alive, in the spring of 1916, in the region between Aleppo, Damascus and Der-el-Zor.
139. ALEPPO : SERIES OF REPORTS FROM A FOREIGN RESIDENT AT ALEPPO ; COMMUNICATED BY THE AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR ARMENIAN AND SYRIAN RELIEF.
(a.) Report dated 12th May, 1915.
Between 4,300 and 4,500 families, that is, about 28,000 persons, are being removed by order of the Government from the districts of Zeitoun and Marash to distant places where they are unknown. Thousands have already been sent to the north-west into the provinces of Konia, Kaisaria, Kastamouni, &c., while others have been taken south-eastwards as far as Der-el-Zor, and report says to the vicinity of Baghdad. A traveller coming from Constantinople said that he met about 4,500 unfortunates on their way to Konia. The Armenians themselves say that they would by far have preferred a massacre.
(b.) Report dated 3rd August, 1915.
The idea of direct attack and massacre that was carried out in former times has been altered somewhat, in that the men and boys have been deported from their homes in great numbers and disappeared en route, and later on the women and children have been made to follow. For some time stories have been prevalent from travellers arriving from the interior of the killing of the males ; of great numbers of bodies along the roadside or floating in the Euphrates River ; of the delivery to the Kurds by the gendarmes accompanying the convoys of women and children and of all the younger members of the convoys ; of unthinkable outrages committed by gendarmes and Kurds, and even of the killing of many of the victims.
At first these stories were not given much credence, but as many of the refugees are now arriving in Aleppo, no doubt any longer remains of the truth of the matter. On the 2nd August about 800 middle-aged and old women, and children under the age of ten years, arrived afoot from Diyarbekir, after forty-five days en route, in the most pitiable condition imaginable. They report the taking of all the young women and girls by the Kurds, the pillaging even of the last bit of money and other belongings, of starvation, of privation and hardship of every description. Their deplorable condition bears out their statements in every detail.
I am informed that 4,500 persons were sent from Sughurt(177) to Ras-ul-Ain, over 2,000 from Mezré to Diyarbekir, and that all the cities of Bitlis, Mardin, Mosul, Suverek(178), Malatia, Besné, &c., have been depopulated of Armenians, the men and boys and many of the women killed, and the balance scattered throughout the country. If this is true, of which there is little doubt, even the latter must naturally die of fatigue, hunger and disease. The Governor of Der-el-Zor, on the Euphrates River, who is now in Aleppo, says that there are 15,000 Armenian refugees in that city. Children are frequently sold to prevent starvation, as the Government furnishes practically no subsistence. The following statistics show the number of families and persons arriving in Aleppo, places whence deported, and number sent further on, lip to and including the 30th July:
|WHERE FROM.||FAMILIES||PERSONS||SENT AWAY.|
|Tcheuk-Merzemen (Dört Yöl)||400||2,109||734|
2,100 persons more arrived since the above figures were compiled.
Now all Armenians have been ordered to be deported from the cities of Aintab, Mardin, Bitlis, Antioch, Alexandretta, Kessab, and all the smaller towns in the Aleppo Province, estimated at 60,000 persons in all. It is natural to suppose that they will suffer the fate of those that have gone before, which is appalling to contemplate. The result is that, as 90 per cent. of the commerce of the interior is in the hands of the Armenians, the country is facing ruin. The great bulk of business being done on credit, hundreds of prominent business men other than Armenians face bankruptcy. There will not be left in the places evacuated a single tanner, moulder, blacksmith, tailor, carpenter, clay worker, weaver, shoemaker, jeweller, pharmacist, doctor, lawyer, or any of the professional people or tradesmen, with very few exceptions, and the country will be left in a practically helpless state.
The important American religious and educational institutions in this region are losing their professors, teachers, helpers and students, and even the orphanages are to be emptied of the hundreds of children therein, which ruins the fruits of fifty years of untiring effort in this field. The Government officials in a mocking way ask what the Americans are going to do with these establishments now that the Armenians are being done away with.
The situation is becoming more critical daily, as there is no telling where this thing will end. The Germans are being blamed on every hand, for if they have not directly ordered this wholesale slaughter (for it is nothing less than the extermination of the Armenian race), they at least condone it.
(c.) Report dated 19th August, 1915.
The city of Aintab is being rapidly depopulated of Armenians, several thousands having already passed through Aleppo on their way to the south. The accompanying gendarmes do nothing to protect their charges against attack by the way. The Armenian community of Aintab is the wealthiest of the kind in this part of the Empire. Their household belongings were left behind to be taken by the first plunderer to arrive. Most of the merchants of the city being Armenians, their stocks are likewise disappearing. It is a gigantic plundering scheme, as well as a final blow to extinguish the race.
Since the 1st August the German Baghdad Railway has brought nine trains of these unfortunate people to Aleppo, each of fifteen truck-loads and each truck containing from thirty-five to forty persons. All these in addition to many thousands that came on foot.
Since the 1st August 20,000 have so far arrived in Aleppo.
The trains were mostly switched to the Damascus-Hama line, and run on south to disperse their contents among the Arabs and Druses, while a small proportion were permitted to remain in Aleppo for the time being. They all relate harrowing tales of hardships, abuse, robbery and atrocities committed en route, and, with the exception of those from Aintab, there were few if any men, girls over ten years or becoming young married women among them. Travellers from the interior have related to the writer that the beaten paths are lined with corpses of the victims.
Between Ourfa and Arab-Pounar, a distance of about twenty-five miles, there were seen more than 500 unburied corpses along the highway.
On the 17th instant an order arrived from the Minister of the Interior to permit the Armenian Protestants to remain where they were. On the 19th another order came that all Armenians without distinction should be deported.
From Mardin the Government deported great numbers of Syrians, Catholics, Chaldeans and Protestants, and it is feared that all Christians may later be included in the order, and possibly even the Jews. The cry is "Turkey for the Moslems!" Judicious persons, well informed on the question, place the total loss of life up to the 15th August at over 500,000. The territory affected includes the provinces of Van, Erzeroum, Bitlis, Diyarbekir, Mamouret-ul-Azlz, Angora and Sivas; in these the Armenians have already been practically exterminated. This leaves Aleppo and Adana to be completed, and here the movement is in rapid progress.
(d.) Report dated 8th February, 1916.
I transmit herewith a copy of a report received from reliable sources in reference to the number of Armenian immigrants in this vicinity, between here and Damascus and in the surrounding country, and down the Euphrates River as far as Der-el-Zor, showing a total of about 500,000 persons. In connection with the relief sent by Mr. N. for these people, it would seem proper to state that the sum of £500 (Turkish) weekly is entirely inadequate to aid even a small part thereof. In fact, as a person cannot live on less than two gold piastres per day, it will require the sum of £10,000 (Turkish) (about £9,000 sterling) a day to keep those alive who are in good health, to say nothing of the sick.
The following are the statistics of Armenian immigrants according to the best information, up to the 3rd February, 1916 :
|Damascus as far as Wan, more than||100,000|
|Hama and surrounding villages||12,000|
|Homs and surrounding villages||20,000|
|Aleppo and surrounding villages||7,000|
|Ma'ara and surrounding villages||4,000|
|Bab and surrounding villages||8,000|
|Mumbidj and surrounding villages||5,000|
|Ras-ul-Ain and surrounding villages||20,000|
|Rakka and surrounding villages||10,000|
|Der-el-Zor and surrounding villages, more than||300,000|
|Total . . .||486,000|
140. ALEPPO : MEMORANDUM(179), DATED ALEPPO, 18th JUNE/1st JULY, 1915; COMMUNICATED BY THE AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR ARMENIAN AND SYRIAN RELIEF.
The number of people from Zeitoun exiled to Konia is more than 6,000 ; they have been put in the Sandjak of Sultania or Kara-Pounar. More than 20,000 Armenians who have been forced to emigrate are being cast into the deserts amid nomadic tribes, leaving their houses, gardens and tilled lands to the Turkish mouhadjirs. Deprived of all that they possessed, the unfortunate people have not even any graves for their dead.
At Aleppo all the churches and schools are full of exiled Armenians. Rich and poor, teachers and pupils, all are brothers there, victims of the same blow. The inhabitants of the city do their utmost to alleviate the suffering. Those that are deported---women, old men, children---are obliged to cross the deserts on foot, under the burning sun, often deprived of food and water. The most modest complaint is stifled by the most barbarous threats. Overpowered by fatigue, exhausted by hunger, mothers in despair leave on the way their infant children, often only six months old, and continue their journey . . . . . Even in this deplorable state, rapes and violent acts are everyday occurrences. . . . . . The Armenians deported from Hadjin could not be recognised as a result of their twelve days' journey.
141. ALEPPO MEMORANDUM(180) BY A FOREIGN WITNESS(181) FROM ALEPPO COMMUNICATED BY THE AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR ARMENIAN AND SYRIAN RELIEF.
Speaking generally on the question of the expulsion of the Armenians from their native places, you are perhaps not aware that they have all been exiled from the towns in Northern Armenia and Anatolia, such as Harpout, Diyarbekir, Bitlis, Moush, Marash, Zeitoun, Sivas, Erzeroum, etc. They are all being sent south and are gradually moved on from one place to another until they reach the borders of the Syrian Desert. They are met with as far south as Mayadin, an Arab village one day south of Der-el-Zor or seven days' carriage journey south of Aleppo. Practically all the towns in Syria (Aleppo, Damascus, etc.) are full of these exiles, whose condition is most pitiable, as may be imagined, when one considers that some of them have been four or even six months on the road from their native places, passing through country which is practically barren and devoid of any means of obtaining proper sustenance. The Armenians are allowed to accumulate in a town until the numbers become so large that it is necessary to move them on to some other town further south, and the population commences to protest against their presence. One sees them in Aleppo on pieces of waste ground, in old buildings, courtyards and alleyways, and their condition is simply indescribable. They are totally without food and are dying of starvation. If one looks into these places where they are living one simply sees a huddled mass of dying and dead, all mixed up with discarded, ragged clothing, refuse and human excrement, and it is impossible to pick out any one portion and describe it as being a living person. A number of open carts used to parade the streets, looking out for corpses, and it was a common sight to see one of these carts pass containing anything up to ten or twelve human bodies, all terribly emaciated. These carts have since been provided with a lid and painted black, and one constantly sees bodies, mostly of women and children, being dragged out of courtyards and alleyways and thrown into them as one would throw a sack of coal. It is impossible to gauge the number of deaths per diem, but in the Armenian Cemetery trenches are dug and the bodies are simply brought there and thrown in indiscriminately. A number of priests remain at the cemetery all day, and perform some kind of funeral rite as the so-called interment is made. Every now and again an order is given for the town to be cleaned up, and the gendarmes and municipal guards go round and drive out the Armenians from their places of refuge, hustle them down to the railway station, pack them into the trucks like cattle and forward them to Damascus and different towns in the Hidjaz. Occasionally a large convoy is collected and put on the road to Der-el-Zor. Unnecessary brutality is shown in the expulsion of these people, the majority of whom are simply living skeletons, and one sees emaciated and hunger-stricken women and children beaten with whips like dogs in order to make them move.
If one walks round certain quarters of Aleppo at night, one sees an indescribable "something" lying on the ground ; one hears a groan, and knows that it is one of these human wrecks who, the following morning, will be thrown into a cart and taken to the cemetery. Many of these people refuse to accept any help whatever, and say that they prefer to die and end their suffering rather than prolong it, since the future gives no hope of any alleviation. The stories they tell are beyond description. When they were expelled from any of the towns in Northern Asia Minor, all the men between the ages of. fifteen and sixty were shot down before the eyes of the women and children, either before starting or some little way on the road. Some idea of the decimation of their numbers may be obtained when one learns that out of a convoy of 2,500, which left a village in the vicinity of Harpout, only 600 arrived in Der-el-Zor. One learns from their own stories that many of the women drowned their children in the river en route, since there was no visible means of nourishing them; and practically every family has been depleted through the men being killed, the children dying en route and many of the girls having been carried off by roving bands of Kurdish and Arab robbers on the way. One boy of fourteen years old, from Diyarbekir, described how his father and mother were shot and two of his sisters dragged away en route, so that there remained to him only two little sisters out of the whole family. English-speaking girl students of the American College in H. told stories of the torture of various priests and professors in H., in order to make them divulge the location of supposed arms and ammunition. One girl, who was a nurse in the Military Hospital, swore that one of their professors was attended to by her after having had the hair torn from his face and his finger and toe-nails pulled out(182). One Armenian priest was said to have suffered the same torture, and finally to have been burned alive ; the veracity of this, however, seems impossible in the Twentieth Century. It is no uncommon thing for women and girls who have any claim to good looks to be violated by the different Kurds and Arabs whom they meet on the way, and against whom it is impossible for them to defend themselves. Practically all these convoys are composed of women and children, and men between the ages of fifteen and sixty are rarely met with. Many of these people have been considerably well off, and brought away with them large sums of money secreted on their persons. This, of course, became known to the gendarmes and robbers en route, and they were despoiled of practically everything---not only their money, but their jewellery, clothing, bedding and everything else. Outside practically every town from Mayadin, on the Euphrates, up to Konia, one sees a camp containing anything from 2,000 up to 20,000 of these refugees, and one can imagine that such a large crowd of people, being thrown on to a population which already finds it difficult to obtain employment and food, would cause the position to become intolerable ; they must naturally die of starvation, since food cannot be found for such extra numbers.
On all the main routes one finds a continual stream of refugees dragging themselves wearily along and going for ever southwards. Their ultimate destination is unknown to them, but apparently they have a dim hope of at last reaching some place where they will be able to live in comparative comfort and find nourishment. If they knew, however, what they would find and what would ultimately happen to them, they would no doubt prefer simply to sit down and wait for death without going any further.
One woman in Aleppo was raving mad, owing to having lost her child and being unable to ascertain his whereabouts.
Any attempts to help the refugees are immediately nipped in the bud by the authorities, and spies are continually watching the foreign consulates. Several Armenians who called at one of them were afterwards put in prison, and one woman was cruelly beaten by a gendarme, after being compelled to leave the consulate.
142. ALEPPO : MESSAGE DATED 17th FEBRUARY, 1916, FROM FRÄULEIN O.; PUBLISHED IN THE GERMAN JOURNAL "SONNENAUFGANG," APRIL, 1916.
I want to beg our friends at home not to grow weary of making intercession for the members of the Armenian nation who are in exile here, If there is no visible prospect of a change for the better, a few months more will see the end of them all. They are succumbing in thousands to famine, pestilence and the inclemency of the weather. The exiles at Hama, Homs and in the neighbourhood of Damascus are comparatively better off. They are left where they are, and can look about for means of subsistence. But further East, along the Euphrates, they are driven from place to place, plundered and maltreated. Many of our friends are dead.
XIX. Vilayet of Damascus and Sandjak of Der-el-Zor
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