VILAYET OF DAMASCUS AND SANDJAK OF DER-EL-ZOR.
Aleppo was not intended to be the final destination of the Armenian exiles. A certain number of the earlier arrivals were sent to the swampy, malarious districts a short distance to the south and southeast of the city, but by far the greater number were forwarded, at least several days' journey further afield.
Aleppo lies on the inner edge of a great desert amphitheatre, which is buttressed by the Lebanon, the Taurus and the mountains of Kurdistan, and slopes very gradually south-eastward towards the alluvial lowlands at the head of the Persian Gulf, while southward it passes insensibly into the high desert lands of the Arabian Peninsula. This region presents a sharp climatic contrast to the tablelands of Anatolia and Armenia, which are the native country of the Armenian race. Climatically and geographically, Armenia and Anatolia are an integral part of Europe, while Syria and Mesopotamia are the outer fringe of Arabia, and akin, like it, to the Sahara region of North Africa. The frontier between the two climates is formed by the southward escarpment of the Taurus, and the transition between them is abrupt.
The ostensible motive for deporting the Armenians to this country was to remove them from the neighbourhood of the frontiers and from the coast and to plant them among a compact Moslem population of alien (Arabic) speech, where they would find themselves in political isolation as well as in a decisive numerical minority. The actual result was to subject people accustomed to a temperate climate to a climate of a Saharan character, and this under the worst conceivable conditions for such a change of environment---when the victims were destitute of food, clothing and shelter, and physically exhausted by months of travelling on foot over the roughest of roads.
The two chief places selected by the Ottoman Government as destinations for the exiles were Damascus, which lies due south of Aleppo, and is close, like Aleppo itself, to the inner rim of the amphitheatre, and Der-el-Zor, which lies considerably further inwards---six days' journey by carriage from Aleppo down the course of the Euphrates, where the river cuts through the desert between the mountains of Armenia and the alluvium of the Gulf. Some batches had been sent a further day's journey still, to Mayadin (Doc. 141), while there are even rumours of their presence (Docs. 11 and 121) within forty-eight hours' journey of Baghdad.
The condition of these exiles after their arrival is made sufficiently plain in the documents included in this section. Doc. 145 shows that by the 12th July there were already large numbers of Cilicians bivouacked at Der-el-Zor, while it appears from Doc. 143 that they did not begin to arrive at Damascus until the 12th, August, 1915
143. DAMASCUS : REPORT FROM A FOREIGN RESIDENT AT DAMASCUS, DATED 20th SEPTEMBER, BUT CONTAINING INFORMATION UP TO THE 3rd OCTOBER, 1915 ; COMMUNICATED BY THE AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR ARMENIAN AND SYRIAN RELIEF.
Since the 12th August, 1915, convoys of Armenian exiles, consisting of from a few hundred to as many as two thousand individuals, have been marched through this city at varying intervals, averaging about two to three or more convoys per week.
On a sober estimate I should say that from 8,000 to 10,000 souls have already thus come through Damascus up to the present time. This has been going on since the 12th August, to my knowledge.
His Excellency the Governor-General of Syria informed me, upon my request, that these people are all Armenians who, because of uprisings and attempts to set up local revolutionary governments in the Vilayets of Van and Bitlis, are being exiled to the country round Damascus and will be distributed in groups of two, three and so on among the various more important towns and villages. His Excellency also informed me---upon my statement that, if the Government permitted, I believed that I could secure funds from the American Red Cross to aid these people, who undoubtedly would be very needy---that the Government would not sanction this, and that the Government was doing everything possible, furnishing food, tents, etc.
Numerous stories are current of hardship, want, suffering from hunger, forced marching when in no condition to walk, cruelty of guards, seizure of young women, giving away and selling of children that they might find homes, etc., etc., but I did not believe them, and even now I am sure that many of the worst stories that are circulating are much exaggerated. Still, there are some which I must credit.
One is that of a woman who, though six or seven months pregnant and naturally in no condition whatever to do the marches, was obliged to keep up with the procession until she dropped in her tracks and died. I have heard of several cases of young girls or boys being bought by people who wished to aid in some way and were importuned by parents to take their children as servants, that they might have homes. It was stated to me also that some soldier guards, in order to urge them on, whipped those who straggled on the march either from utter exhaustion or in quest of food or money from compassionate Christian inhabitants of the places through which they passed.
I have also heard of kindnesses extended by good Moslems who pitied these sufferers, and I overheard a common Moslem soldier---and it is known that such have hardly enough money for themselves---say that he had given two medjidias (183) to the Christian exiles.
Several times I went to the quarter through which the exiles were marched, to see them with my own eyes. Never, however, could I time my visit with their passage.
Kahdem, on the outskirts of the city, is a large piece of common ground where, after passing through Damascus, all the exiles are collected preparatory, it seems, to their being dispersed to the various towns where they are finally to stay.
Some days ago I visited this place to get some idea of conditions. It is a large open tract, practically devoid of grass and possessing but few trees. It was nearly covered with groups of ragged, road-stained, dejected, wholly dispirited individuals. There were only a very few tents or shelters of any kind, and these had the air of being mere improvisations. At the outer fringe of the people I was met by a policeman, who conducted me to the man in charge of the encampment. I saw practically nothing, and learned only what he told me. He was most courteous. According to him (and he said he kept count of it) there were that day something over 2,000 Armenians present on this field ; up to that time about 20,000 had passed through Damascus for exile from practically all the vilayets inhabited by Armenians, except the region of Van. He thought they had not arrived from Van yet because it was so distant. A total of 100,000 Armenians were to be distributed among the towns surrounding Damascus before this deportation scheme would be complete, he said. A hospital for those who were ill had been instituted, and was then occupied by about fifty persons, I was informed. He further told me that there were practically no deaths, and that the Government furnished food for them, i.e., for all the exiles. I left the Director of the Encampment's tent, and the only thing I saw while being conducted to the road was the wagon, outbound, that plies between camp and hospital. It appeared to be well filled. The Spanish Consul took the road to Kahdem the same day. He did not go as close as I, I believe.
One of the exiled Armenians who came to see me said he was a native of Kessab, near Aleppo. According to his statements, he had been on the march some ten days, and, upon being questioned, he told me that the suffering en route had been extreme for those who were not very strong. He said that along the road they had passed the bodies of those in the convoy ahead of theirs who had succumbed. This man declared that his wife and family were coming by train. He nearly broke down in the telling, and said he had no idea what would become of him and cared less.
On the 11th. September, 1915, the Spanish Consul and myself happened to be in the Christian quarter, when we came upon a procession of the Armenian exiles on their way to Kahdem. One becomes accustomed to poorly dressed, ragged people in the interior whose faces never seem to have expressed joy, but in the faces of this band of silently trudging automatons one saw written a great weariness, despair and hopeless suffering stoically borne. There were men, women and children, only some of whom took heed of us when we offered them what change we happened to have. The greater part seemed interested only in doggedly pursuing their march until the night's halt might allow them to rest. It was then a little after six o'clock.
Old and young people were the chief components of the procession. Here there passed a boy hardly over ten years of age, overburdened by a smaller child upon his back ; there a woman, with back bent by age, crawling painfully along by the aid of her staff; now a wee infant, crying for its mother lost on the march, on the heels of an old patriarch, dragging along his last possession, a little donkey ; then a woman, evidently heavy with child, smothering a moan of pain at each forced step. Young women and men of middle age were noticeable by their absence. From various reports I have heard, it would appear that many exiles have been arriving by train, and that the total number that has passed this way now reaches 22,000.
From a person who has passed that way, I learn that, so far as he could judge, all Armenians south of Ismid were being exiled, and from the same informant, whose word cannot be questioned, I hear that thousands of Armenians were passed by him on the road. They were in the most horrible condition. At Osmania there were some 8,000 exiles quartered. He tells me that for some miles out from this place a most foul odour was noticeable, like that rising from a dirty chicken-run. Upon approaching the low ground on which the exiles were concentrated, the odour became sickening and noisome flies swarmed about him. Passing through the encampment, he saw many people ill, and the bodies of others half-submerged in the water that had collected in pools on the low-lying ground. Some told him they were only waiting for death to free them. On the road from there to Aleppo he passed thousands of exiles on the march, and at a small town near Aleppo he found about 100,000 Armenians encamped. He says that the mortality among these was very great. They had no food nor money to buy any, as it appeared that many convoys had been plundered on the road of what little they possessed by successive armed bands. The party of which my informant was a member had several times been accosted by armed persons in uniform, who thought they were Armenians.
I have heard from a source not quite so authentic, but in which a great deal of confidence may be placed, that the country lying north and north-east of Marash is being entirely denuded of Armenians ; that at Homs there was a concentration camp of about 30,000, practically all without shelter ; that there had been a massacre at Diyarbekir ; that exiles from Kaisaria were allowed to sell their property (a small price only could be obtained in this forced sale) before being sent to Der-el-Zor. From this same source I was also informed that it was rumoured that many exiles had been drowned (by boats being overturned, and so on) in the Euphrates River, while making their crossing.
Just within the last few days---it is now the 3rd October---I was told by an eye-witness that a massacre took place on the 19th September at Ourfa, and that the Armenians were shot, stabbed, bayoneted or flayed by the population in general that day, but that afterwards the slaughter was still being continued by soldiers with bayonets and sharp sabres when this person left on the 22nd. It appears that the Armenian men were collected together, and that one by one they were led out to be slashed up and cut down by the long sabre-knives. In the first day's massacre three French and Russian civil prisoners were wounded by knife or flail ; but I gathered that they soon recovered and that that was all that happened to these prisoners. The person who came from Ourfa told me that en route many women, children and old men were passed, and that soldiers were seen to strike some of these when they stopped to get a drink of water. Soldiers were overheard to say: "Wait until we get you to the Euphrates, and see what happens to you there!" or words to that effect. This information was given me by a person who, as stated above, was actually present at the massacre and who heard the remark above mentioned.
I do not know whether I shall be able to get this through or not. In every instance the faith that might be placed in statements has been indicated as precisely as the writer is able to judge ; he can vouch absolutely, of course, only for the things seen or heard by himself as related above.
At Damascus everything appears to be very quiet. An egg was thrown into my carriage yesterday, the 2nd October, but that was by a small boy and indicated little. I do not believe that any trouble from the population is to be feared, unless incited. by authority, and of this I have no apprehension.
144. EXILES ON THE EUPHRATES : RECORD, DATED ERZEROUM, JUNE, 1915, BY M. HENRY BARBY, OF AN INTERVIEW WITH DR. H. TOROYAN, AN ARMENIAN PHYSICIAN FORMERLY IN THE SERVICE OF THE OTTOMAN ARMY ; PUBLISHED IN "LE JOURNAL," OF PARIS, 13th JULY, 1916.
Along the burning banks of the distant Euphrates, between sultry Mesopotamia and the Badiet-esh-Sham, the desolate desert of Syria, are encamped the several thousands of deported Armenians who have escaped the great massacre.
Their condition there is such that no words can express the horror of it. That is the unanimous testimony of the rare travellers who have succeeded in visiting the camps where the unhappy victims are dying off, between Aleppo and Baghdad. They are subjected to frightful sufferings---without shelter either against the deadly cold of last winter or against the terrific heat of the present summer, which grows more pitiless every day---and daily they are perishing in great numbers, though those struck down by death are the least to be pitied.
I am now in a position to cite unimpeachable testimony as to the facts of these unheard-of atrocities.
A Turkish army-physician, Dr. H. Toroyan---an Armenian by birth, as appears by his name---was commissioned by the Young Turkish Government to visit the exiles' camps. The horrors of which he was a helpless witness in the course of his mission, and the hideous scenes at which he was present, affected him so deeply that he determined to make his way out of Turkey, at the risk of his life, in order to reveal to the civilised world the barbarity and infamy of the guilty parties---that is, of the present rulers of Turkey and their accomplices.
Dr. Toroyan, in spite of the almost insurmountable difficulties with which he had to contend, succeeded in escaping and reaching Caucasia. There I met him and his first words with me were these :
"My unhappy countrymen deported to Mesopotamia have besought me to make an appeal on their behalf to the whole civilised world, to the Caucasian Armenians in particular, and above all to the Armenians in America, whose women and children are dying every day---decimated by suffering, hunger and disease and subjected to the devilish cruelty of the zaptiehs who are in charge of them in their place of exile."
He proceeded to show me the notes which he had taken day by day in the course of his tour of inspection down the Euphrates. It is a long series of awful pictures---stories of murders and tortures and revolting rapes. The bestial instincts of human nature are unleashed in the presence of tears and blood. The Turkish butchers amused themselves by massacring men "for pleasure" and hunting women like beasts of the field.
It was on the 25th November, 1915, that Dr. Toroyan left Djerablous and began to descend the Euphrates on a raft. At Djerablous he saw a convoy of Armenians from Syria and twenty-five Armenian families from Aintab, who were being driven along by gendarmes towards the military tribunal under blows of the lash. Other Armenian families were coming in from Kaisaria and Konia by railway. From the moment they left the train they became the victims of the most atrocious outrages. The Tchatchaus(184) carried off three hundred women and girls (the prettiest) in order to sell them as slaves. All these latter victims belonged to families from Diyarbekir, Mardin and Harpout.
But I will let Dr. Toroyan tell his own story :
"This camp," he continued, "was still congested when I left it with Armenians from Adana and Cilicia. Most of them were women and girls. Two of them, whom I knew well but only recognised with difficulty, to so lamentable a condition were they reduced, cast themselves at my feet :
"'Tell the gallant soldiers (of the Allies) to come quickly to Mesopotamia,' they cried to me between their sobs; 'we are worse than dead.' "
The doctor went down on his raft with the current as far as Meskené. There he landed and, escorted by two Turkish gendarmes, paid a visit to the Armenian camp.
"The poor people were in rags which barely covered their bodies," he said, "and had nothing to shelter them against the weather. Some of them, crouched on the ground, were trying to protect themselves beneath tattered umbrellas, but most of them had nothing at all. I asked my gendarmes what all the strange little mounds of earth were which I saw everywhere, with thousands of dogs prowling round about them.
"'Those are the graves of the infidels they answered calmly.
"'Strange, so many graves for such a little village.'
"'Oh, you do not understand. Those are the graves of these dogs---those who were brought here first, last August. They all died of thirst.'
"'Of thirst ? Was there no water left in the Euphrates?'
"'For whole weeks together we were forbidden to let them drink.'
"I arrived at last at the extremity of this vast field of graves. There were two old men there, crouched on the ground, sobbing. I questioned them : 'Where are you from ?' They made no answer. They were stupefied by suffering. Perhaps they had lost the power of speech. Further on, however, another exile, prostrate on the ground, in the midst of other victims belonging to the same family, did give me an answer. I learnt that the camp contained 5,000 Armenians from Mersina and other Cilician towns.
"But now my two gendarmes came up to me. They pointed to a girl : 'Effendi, let us take her and carry her with us to Baghdad . . . . '
"Without waiting for my answer they called the poor girl. She approached, shrieking with terror. She said several words to me in French. Before she was deported she had been a schoolmistress at Smyrna. She was dying of hunger. I tried to learn from her precise details about the martyrdom of the exiles, but she could answer nothing but : 'Bread ! Bread!' Then she fainted and fell down unconscious.
"'She is dead! the schoolmistress, too, has died of hunger! piteous voices cried around us. But the gendarmes were anxious to take advantage of their victim's unconsciousness to gain possession of her. Already they had seized her and were carrying her towards our raft. I stopped them. Then I poured several drops of brandy between the poor girl's lips and she came to herself again.
"A mother came to implore me. She offered her honour and her life if I would save her son, who was in agony, devoured by a fever. I gave her a little aspirine.
"And now they crowded round me in thousands---these poor emaciated beings with hollow cheeks and eyes, either dulled or unnaturally bright. From every side they flocked together with all the haste they could, and surrounded me with a tumult of despairing cries : 'Bread ! Medicine !'
"The gendarmes rushed at them. Into this pitiful crowd they struck at random with kicks and blows as hard as they could. I left the scene, desperate at my powerlessness to alleviate this infinite suffering.
"I saw two women, one of them old, the other very young and very pretty, carrying the corpse of another young woman ; I had scarcely passed them when cries of terror arose. The girl was struggling in the clutches of a brute who was trying to drag her away. The corpse had fallen to the ground, the girl, now half-unconscious, was writhing by the side of it, the old woman was sobbing and wringing her hands.
"I could not interfere. I had the strictest orders. Shaking with rage and indignation, I took refuge on my raft, which was moored to the river bank.
"In the middle of the night I was awakened by desperate shrieks. My two gendarmes, who had remained on shore, had seized some Armenian girls. It was their intention to violate them, and they were striking savagely at the exiles who were trying to interfere. The tumult, which I heard without seeing it, continued. At last the gendarmes returned, the boatman moored the raft and bent to his oars. We were starting. The great river boat glided slowly over the smooth water. Suddenly the gendarmes shouted and guffawed as if they were watching a fine farce : 'The girl! the girl we had to-night !' I looked, and saw floating on the surface a corpse which they had recognised and which I recognised too. It was the schoolmistress from Smyrna, the poor girl to whom I had spoken only a few hours before. It was she who, in the darkness, had been the victim of these two wild beasts."
145. DER-EL-ZOR: LETTER, DATED 12th JULY, 1915, FROM SCHWESTER L. MÖHRING, A GERMAN MISSIONARY, DESCRIBING HER JOURNEY FROM BAGHDAD TO THE PASSES OF AMANUS ; PUBLISHED IN THE GERMAN JOURNAL "SONNENAUFGANG," SEPTEMBER, 1915.
At Der-el-Zor, a large town in the desert about six days' journey from Aleppo, we found the big ban full to overflowing. All available rooms, roofs, and verandahs were occupied by Armenians. The majority were women and children, but there were also a certain number of men squatting on their quilts wherever they could find a spot of shade. As soon as I heard that they were Armenians, I started going round and talking to them. They were the people of Furnus (a village in the neighbourhood of Zeitoun and Marash) ; herded together here in these narrow quarters, they presented an extraordinarily melancholy appearance. When I enquired for children from our Orphanage at BM., they brought me a protégée of Sister O., Martha Karabashian. She gave me the following account of what had happened.
One day Turkish gendarmes had come to Furnus and arrested and carried off a large number of men, to turn them into soldiers. Neither they nor their families knew where they were being taken to. Those who remained were told that they would have to leave their houses within the space of four hours. They were allowed to take with them as much as they could carry ; they might also take their beasts. After the lapse of the specified time the poor people had to march out of their village under the escort of soldiers (zaptiehs), without knowing where they were going or whether they would ever see their village again. To begin with, as long as they were still among the mountains and had some provisions left, things went well enough. They had been promised money and bread, and were actually given some in the early stages---as far as I can remember, it was 30 paras (1 1/2 d.) per head per day. But very soon these rations ceased and there was nothing to be had but bulgur meal---50 drams (= 150 grammes) per head per day. In this fashion the Furnusli, after four weeks of extremely hard travelling via Marash and Aleppo, had arrived at Der-el-Zor. They had already been three weeks there in the han, and had no idea what was to happen to them. They had no more money left, and the provisions supplied by the Turks had also dwindled almost to nothing. It was days since they had had any bread. In the towns they had been barred in at night, and not allowed to speak to the inhabitants. Martha, for instance, had not been allowed at BM. to go to the Orphanage. She said to me sadly: "We had two houses and we had to leave everything ; now there are mouhadjirs(185) in them." There had been no massacres in Furnus and the zaptiehs, too, had treated the people well. They had suffered principally from lack of food and water on the march through the burning hot desert. These Yailadji or Mountaineers, as they called themselves, suffered twice as much from the heat as other people.
The zaptiehs escorting them told us then that, since the massacres, the Armenians had cherished such hatred against the Turks that the latter had always to go in fear of them. The intention now, they said, was to employ the Armenians in building roads, and in this way to move them on gradually to Baghdad. When asked the "wherefore" of this, the zaptiehs explained that the people had been in collusion with Russia. The Armenians themselves declared that they did not know the reason for their expulsion.
Next day, at the midday rest, we fell in with a whole convoy of Armenians. The poor people had made themselves primitive goat's hair tents after the manner of the Kurds, and were resting in them. But the majority lay on the burning sand without defence against the scorching sun. On account of the number of sick, the Turks had allowed them a day's rest. It is simply impossible to conceive anything more disconsolate than such a mass of people in the desert under the given circumstances. One could tell by their clothes that they had lived in considerable prosperity, and now misery was written on their faces. "Bread!" " Bread! " was the universal cry. They were the people of Geben, who had been driven out with their Pastor. The latter told me that every day there were five or six deaths among the children and the sick. This very day they had only just buried the mother of a girl about nine years old, who was now quite alone in the world. They besought me most urgently to take the child with me to our Orphanage. The Pastor gave precisely the same account of what had happened as the little girl at Der-el-Zor.
No one without personal experience of the desert can form anything approaching a conception of the misery and distress. The desert is mountainous, but almost entirely without shade.
For days together the route leads over rocks and is extremely difficult going. On the left hand, as one comes from Aleppo, there is always the Euphrates, which trails along like a streak of clay, yet not near enough for one to be able to draw water from it. The poor people must suffer intolerable pangs of thirst ; no wonder that so many sicken and die.
As it was the midday halt, we, too, unpacked our provisions and prepared to eat. That morning we had had bread and tea; our midday meal consisted once more of hard Arab bread, cheese and a tin of sardines. In addition we had a bottle of mineral water. It was not very sumptuous, and yet it was not an easy task to eat anything in face of that crowd of distressed and suffering humanity. We gave away as much as we possibly could, and each of my three companions silently pressed into my hand a medjidia (3s. 2d.) "for the poor people." A bag of bread from Baghdad, as hard as stone, was received with extraordinary gratitude.
"We shall soak it in water and then the children will eat it," said the delighted mothers.
Another scene comes back to me, which will give an idea of their destitution. One of my companions threw away an empty glass bottle. An old man threw himself upon it, begged to be allowed to take it for himself, and gave profuse thanks for the boon. Then he went down to the river, washed it out, and brought it back filled with the thick clayey water, carrying it carefully in his arms like a treasure, to thank us for it once more. Now he had at least drinking water for his journey.
Followed by many good wishes we at last continued on our way, with the impression of this misery still weighing upon us. In the evening, when we reached the village, we met yet another Armenian convoy of the same kind. This time it was the people of Zeitoun. There was the same destitution and the same complaint about the heat, the lack of bread and the persecutions of the Arabs. A little girl who had been brought up by Kaiserswerth Deaconesses in the Orphanage at Beirout, told us of her experiences in good German :---
"Why does God allow it ? Why must we suffer like this? Why did not they strike us dead at once ? " were her complaints; "In the daytime we have no water for the children and they cry of thirst. At night the Arabs come to steal our bedding and clothes. They have taken girls from us and committed outrages against women. If we cannot drag ourselves further on the march, we are beaten by the zaptiehs."
They also told us that other women had thrown themselves into the water to escape their shame, and that mothers with their new-born children had done the same, because they saw no other way out of their misery. Along the whole desert route there was a dearth of food---even for us who had money to pay for it---on account of the number of Turkish soldiers passing through and resting at every ban. In Zeitoun, too, no one had been killed ; the people could mention no instance of it.
The Armenian is bound up with his native soil; every change of climate is extremely upsetting to him, and there is nothing he misses so much as clear, cold water. For this reason alone residence in the desert is intolerable for him. A speedy death for the whole family at once seems a better fate to the mothers than to watch death by starvation slowly approaching themselves and their children.
On my arrival at Aleppo I was at once asked about the Armenians, and how they were doing for supplies. Their case had been taken up In every possible way, and representations had been made to the Government on their behalf. All that could be obtained was permission for the formation of an Armenian League of Help, which the Government at Constantinople as well as the Vali of Aleppo had sanctioned. The Armenian community at Aleppo at once proceeded to raise a relief fund among themselves, and have been supporting their poor, homeless brethren with money, food and clothing.
In the Amanus mountains, on our second day's journey after leaving Aleppo, we met with Armenians again. This time it was the people of Hadjin and the neighbourhood. They explained to us that they were going to Aleppo, but they knew nothing beyond that. They had only been nine days on the road, and did not ask for any assistance. Compared with those in the desert, they were faring sumptuously ; they had wagons with them carrying their household goods, horses with foals, oxen and cows, and even camels. The procession making its way up through the mountains seemed endless, and I could not help asking myself how long their prosperity would last.
They were still in the mountains on their native soil, and had no suspicion of the terrors of the desert. That was the last I saw of the Armenians, but such experiences are unforgettable, and I publish them here with the most earnest appeal for help. Many of the Armenians may be guilty and may only be suffering what they have brought upon themselves, but the poor women and children need our help.
DOCUMENTS RECEIVED WHILE GOING TO PRESS.
146. DESPATCH FROM MR. HENRY WOOD (DOC. I.) : FULLER VERSION, OBTAINED THROUGH THE COURTESY OF THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE AMERICAN "UNITED PRESS" IN LONDON.
For nearly three months now the 2,000,000 Armenians of Turkey have been undergoing at the hands of the Young Turk Government a renewal of the atrocities of Abd-ul-Hamid, that so far has fallen short only of actual massacre.
So critical is the situation that Ambassador Morgenthau, who, alone, is fighting to prevent wholesale slaughter, has felt obliged to ask the co-operation of the Ambassadors of Turkey's two Allies. Baron von Wangenheim, the German Ambassador, and Margrave Pallavicini, the Austrian representative at Constantinople, have responded at least to the degree of joining with Ambassador Morgenthau in endeavouring to convince the Turkish Government what a serious mistake it would be for Turkey to permit again a renewal of all the atrocities of the old Turkish régime.
They have been successful to the extent of securing definite promises from the leading members of the Young Turk Government that no orders will be given for massacres. As long as these promises are maintained, no fear is felt, as the danger of a spontaneous uprising of the Moslem population against the Christians is now considered a thing of the past. The critical moment for the Armenians, however, will come, it is feared, when the Turks may meet with serious reverses in the defence now being made of the Dardanelles, or when the Armenians themselves, who not only are in open revolt but are actually in possession of Van and several other important towns, may meet with fresh successes. It is this uprising of the Armenians who are seeking to establish an independent government that the Turks declare is alone responsible for the terrible measures now being taken against them.
In the meantime, the position of the Armenians and the system of deportation, dispersion and extermination that is being carried out against them beggars all description.
Although the present renewal of the Armenian atrocities has been under way for three months, it is only just now that reports creeping into Constantinople from the remotest points of the interior show that absolutely no portion of the Armenian population has been spared.
It now appears that the order for the present cruelties was issued in the early part of May, and was at once put into execution with all the extreme genius of the Turkish police system---the one department of government for which the Turks have ever shown the greatest aptitude both in organisation and administration. At that time scaled orders were sent to the police of the entire Empire. These were to be opened on a specified date that would ensure the orders being in the hands of every department at the moment they were to be opened. Once opened, they. provided for a simultaneous descent at practically the same moment on the Armenian population of the entire Empire.
At Broussa, in Asiatic Turkey, the city which it is expected the Turks will select for their capital in the event of Constantinople falling, I investigated personally the manner in which these orders were carried out. From eye-witnesses in other towns from the interior I found that the execution of them was everywhere identical.
At midnight, the police authorities swooped down on the homes of all Armenians whose names had been put on the proscribed list sent out from Constantinople. The men were at once placed under arrest, and then the houses were searched for papers which might implicate them either in the present revolutionary movement of the Armenians on the frontier or in plots against the Government which the Turks declare exist. In this search, carpets were torn from the floors, draperies stripped from the walls, and even the children turned out of their beds and cradles in order that the mattresses and coverings might be searched.
Following this search, the men were then carried away, and at once there began the carrying out of the system of deportation and dispersion which has been the cruellest feature of the present anti-Armenian wave. The younger men, for the most part, were at once drafted into the Army. On the authority of men whose names would be known in both America and Europe If I dared mention them, I am told that hundreds if not thousands of these were sent at once to the front ranks at the Dardanelles, where death in a very short space of time is almost a certainty. The older men were then deported into the interior, while the women and children, when not carried off in an opposite direction, were left to shift for themselves as best they could.
The terrible feature of this deportation up to date is that it has been carried out on such a basis as to render practically impossible in thousands and thousands of cases that these families can ever again be reunited. Not only wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, but even mothers and their little children have been dispersed in such a manner as to preclude practically all hope that they will ever see each other again.
Simultaneously. with these arrests of the population throughout the Empire, the police at Constantinople swooped down on the alleged leaders of an Armenian society that was declared to have for its object not only the wresting from the Turkish Empire of part of its territory for the establishment of an independent Armenia, but also the overthrow of the Turkish Government. These were tried by court martial, and on the 15th June nineteen of them were hanged in front of the Ministry of War at Constantinople. Among the number was one man who had been a cashier for the Singer Sewing Machine Company in one of its Turkish branches. As a result of vigorous protests which followed on the part of prominent people at Constantinople, the Turks at once promised that no more wholesale hangings should take place.
Of all the terrible vengeances so far meted out by the Turks in the present anti-Armenian crusade, none appear to have equalled that inflicted on the population of the city of Zeitoun. This was an Armenian town of 20,000 population which had never as a matter of fact been completely subjected by the Turks. Situated well up in almost inaccessible mountain fastnesses, it had even maintained a sort of independence.
With the participation of Turkey in the present war and the need of every possible man for military service, a detachment of Turkish soldiers was sent against the town, with orders to force the young Armenians to accept military service. The latter instead attacked the Turkish soldiers, killed some 300 of them and, with the additional arms thus secured, prepared for a determined resistance. An overwhelming Turkish force, however, was sent against the town; it fell, and then the Turks carried out in the extremest degree their newly devised system of deportation and dispersion.
Twenty thousand Turks from Thrace were taken to Zeitoun and established in the houses that for generations had belonged to the Armenian families. The latter were then scattered to the four winds of the Empire.
I talked with eye-witnesses who, coming to Constantinople from the interior, had seen this miserable population being dispersed and deported. They were being herded across the country by soldiers in groups ranging from 50 to several hundred. Old men who were unable to maintain the fast pace set by the mounted soldiers were beaten till they fell dead in their tracks. Children who were likewise too tender to stand the terrible strain dropped out by the wayside, while the mothers were driven relentlessly on with no hopes of ever again being able to find their little ones. Other mothers with babies in arms, unable to see the latter die under their very eyes, unable to give them the nourishment necessary to sustain life, and unable to bear the agony of leaving them by the wayside to an unknown fate, dropped them in wells as they passed, thus ending the sufferings of the little ones and having at least the consolation of knowing their fate.
The bulk of this miserable population from Zeitoun, that was able to withstand this herding across the desert interior of Asiatic Turkey, was planted largely in two places. One portion was established in a marshy region which, up to the present time, had never been habitable on account of the deadly malaria ; the other portion was sent down in the direction of the Persian Gulf, to a locality so deadly that the poor victims prayed to be sent to the malarial marshes instead. Their prayers were in vain.
As in the system of deportation carried out in all other portions of the Empire, scores if not hundreds of these families from Zeitoun were separated and transplanted in such a manner as practically to preclude all possibility of their ever being reunited again.
In defence of these terrible measures which have been taken, the Turks at Constantinople declare that no one but the Armenians themselves is to blame. They state that when the present attack began on the Dardanelles, the Armenians were notified that if they took advantage of the moment when the Turks were concentrating every energy for the maintenance of the Empire, to rise in rebellion, they would be dealt with without quarter. This warning, however, the Armenians failed to heed. They not only rose in rebellion, occupying a number of important towns, including Van, but extended important help to the Russians in the latter's campaign in the Caucasus. As all these Armenians are Ottoman subjects, they have to be dealt with according to the stringent Turkish laws on such subjects.
While the Turks freely admit that this revolt of the Armenians was and is confined to those living near the Russian border, the authorities at Constantinople declare that at the present moment, when the very existence of the Empire is at stake from the attacks of outside enemies, it is quite out of the question for them to search out among the 2,000,000 Armenians of the Turkish Empire the comparatively few guilty ones and punish them alone. They declare that they have no choice except to ensure their safety against all the Armenians. By punishing all, they are certain to strike down the guilty ones and to prevent any more uprisings among the others.
While this is the Turkish side of the situation, there is also another side which I shall give on the authority of men who have passed practically their entire lives in Turkey and whose names, if I dared mention them, would be recognised in both Europe and America as competent authority. According to these men, the decision has gone out from the Young Turk Party that the Armenian population of Turkey must be set back fifty years. This has been decided upon as necessary in order to ensure the supremacy of the Turkish race in the Ottoman Empire, which is one of the basic principles of the Young Turk Party. The situation, I am told, is absolutely analogous to that which preceded the Armenian massacres under Abd-ul-Hamid. So far, however, the Young Turks have confined themselves to the new system of deportation, dispersion and separation of families.
To the Armenian population in general that is affected at the present moment by the carrying out of these orders, I have found but one exception. This is the Armenian population of Constantinople, which numbers about 70,000. There Ambassador Morgenthau assumed a sort of unofficial protectorate and guarantee for the Armenians, with the result that up to the present moment less than 300 of them have been molested.
So terrible have been the sufferings of the Armenians during the past three months that at the moment I left Constantinople, in order to be able to write this story, there had begun a reversal of feeling towards them even amongst the Turks themselves. The latter declared that the orders, which had been issued solely as a necessary safeguard for the Empire against the Armenians, had been carried out by the local authorities, especially in the districts far from Constantinople, with a degree of severity that had never been intended. Talaat Bey, Minister of the Interior, had even begun to permit a few dozen of the men, whose loyalty to the Turkish Government was beyond question, to return to their homes.
The condition of the Armenian population at the present moment, however, is pitiful beyond words. Practically all the families have been deprived of their means of support by the deportation of the husbands, fathers and sons. The women and children who have been left behind to shift for themselves are practically helpless, as at the present moment, when the entire Empire is being drained of every resource for the carrying on of the war, neither work nor food is to be had. In thousands of cases, too, the deported families have been planted among strong Musulman communities, where the Christian Armenians are despised and opposed at every turn.
In the midst of all this misery help is only being extended from two quarters. Ambassador Morgenthau, at Constantinople, is working day and night to induce the Turkish Government to relent from the severity of its measures, and the American missionaries throughout the Empire have also dropped all thought of religious propaganda in order to attend to the material needs of the victims. Their combined efforts, however, constitute hardly a drop of help in the whole sea of misery.
The situation is rendered especially difficult by the fact that nothing can be done in an official way even by governments like the United States. The Armenians are subjects of the Ottoman Empire, and the latter has the full right to deal with them as it thinks necessary in the interests of the Empire as a whole.
147. URMIA, SALMAS, AND HAKKIARI : FULLER STATEMENT BY MR. PAUL SHIMMON, EDITED, AS A PAMPHLET, BY THE REV. F. N. HEAZELL, ORGANISING SECRETARY OF THE. ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY'S ASSYRIAN MISSION.
The scene of the Assyrian massacres is the plain of Urmi (or Urmia) on the west side of the lake of that name in N.W. Persia. The city of Urmi is situated on the western side of the lake ; further west are the mountains of Kurdistan, forming the frontier between Turkey and Persia. These mountains give shelter to the wild bands of Kurds (ever ready to descend on the plain of Urmi) who can easily retire to their inaccessible homes with their ill-gotten spoil. For some years past a Russian force has been stationed in the Urmi plain, with the object of keeping the Kurds under control. These troops were distributed between Khoi, Salmas, Urmi, and Soujboulak, at the extreme south of the lake. Urmi is an isolated spot, and, from a military point of view, ill-suited for defence against a strong attacking force. It is easily accessible to the Kurds from the west, while the two high passes on both north and south, and the lake on the east, seal up a besieged army in a very dangerous locality.
The plain of Urmi has a charm for all travellers ; in the spring and early summer it is a veritable paradise. Its running waters, its gardens, its vineyards, orchards, and melon fields, its tobacco plantations and rice fields, give a variety of colour and a beauty of scene seldom met with in the East.
The plain of Urmi is the home of some thirty-five thousand of the Assyrian (or East Syrian) Christians, part of whom dwell in the city, the rest being distributed among seventy villages scattered over the plain. These people are cultivators of the soil and keepers of vineyards. Away to the west, united to them by religion and language, live the mountaineer Syrians. First, we have many villages in the districts of Tergawar and Mergawar, both in Persia; then comes Nochea, the seat of the Metropolitan Bishop, Mar Khananishu. Still further west, over the frontier into Turkey, in the very heart of the mountains, dwells the Patriarch, Mar Shimun, at once a civil and ecclesiastical ruler, who is responsible to the Turkish Government for the independent tribes of Baz, Djîlu, Tkhuma, and Tiari, who are spread over the tract of country which stretches from Djoulamerk to Amadia and then down towards Mosul.
The proverbial "calm before the storm" was literally true in the case of the massacre of the Syrian Christians. In the Urmi plain, the presence of Russian troops for many years past brought security and prosperity. Raiding on the part of the Kurds was stopped, and highway robbery was no longer heard of. It did not mean that the Moslems were any more friendly disposed towards the Christians ; they feared them, that was all. The old hatred for the Christian race slumbered for a time, and dared not show itself, so long as the Russian troops were there to see that the peace was not disturbed.
Events began to take a different turn with the outbreak of war in Europe. The Kurds, always ready for a fight, began to plunder the rich districts of Tergawar and Mergawar ; the Christian inhabitants fled to Urmi, and were distributed among the villages of the plain. In October, 1914, the Kurds made a determined effort to capture the city. A violent assault was made by them, and for a time they withstood the fire of the Russian artillery. They sacked and burned the villages of Anhar and Alwach, and advanced within gunshot of the city. Reinforcements arrived, and with the help of Syrians, armed by the Russians, the Kurds and Turks were driven back. Then it was that the Russian officers found that the Syrians could do great service in scouting, and they employed trained Syrians to keep open the lines of communication.
Such was the condition of affairs before the declaration of war between the Allied Powers and Turkey. After the declaration of war the curtain was withdrawn and the drama was played, the like of which has not yet been seen, even in this most cruel war.
The Turks had become aggressive on the Russian frontier near the Caucasus. In December they massed troops at Sari-Kamysh, near Kars, and sought to cut the railway to Tiflis. This created a scare in the Caucasus which was serious enough to cause a withdrawal of the Russian forces from N.W. Persia. Orders reached Urmi on the 30th December for the withdrawal of the Russian troops, but these were not made known to the European missionaries and Syrians until three days later. The news came like a thunderclap. The Christian inhabitants were entirely unprepared; when they awoke to the fact of the danger they were in, they found that the roads were all blocked, the Russian protectors had left, means of transport were wanting, the Kurdish and Turkish armies were almost at the city gates; they were caught in a trap. A large number of the Syrians outside the city and many Armenians were able to get away; most of these were from the Nazlu district, others were refugees from the Turkish frontier, some ten thousand in all. Two English missionaries then left, also the Belgian officials of the Persian Government and some prominent Syrians of Urmi. All the rest remained behind.
The Russian army left on Saturday, the 2nd January, and on the next day the Persian Moslems plundered the village of Tcharbash, and Dilgusha, the two districts which contained the houses of the well-to-do Christian population. It was a painful sight to see the notable Moslems of the city taking part in this plunder. The whole city was out, "blessing each other's feast," as they termed it, and carrying off everything that came to hand. Houses were stripped of furniture, and even doors and windows carried away. There was also an attempt to plunder some of the houses within the city, but this was frustrated by the efforts of the French and American missionaries.
There is no doubt that the presence of the American missionaries, and of Mr. Nisan, who remained in the English Mission-house, prevented matters from taking a worse turn. The American flag, which was flying over the American and English houses, had some influence in restraining the brutal savagery of the mob.
In the villages, however, the reign of terror had begun. The Kurds had been informed of the Russian retirement, and were soon at work plundering and massacring the Christians in the Baranduz district (S. Urmi). Dizateka, Sâtloui, Aliabad, Shimshadjean, Babaroud, Darbaroud, Sardaroud, Teka, and Ardishai were already in their hands. Looting, plundering, massacre and rape were the order of the day. In one village, half Moslem and half Christian, the Syrians took shelter in the houses of their Moslem neighbours, and hid themselves under the heaps of snow in the yards. In Ardishai, Kasha Ablakhat, the Syrian priest, was escaping on horseback with his daughter ; he was killed and the girl carried off to Kurdistan, where she was married by force to a Kurd. Four months later came the sad news that she had died. During her illness she had as companion another Syrian girl, also a captive. This other girl relates that the Moslem women came and turned the sick woman's bed towards the south, the direction to which all Moslems look on their deathbed. The invalid begged her companion to turn her face to the east, that she might die a Christian.
In another village all the male population but three were killed, or died of typhoid fever.
One young man had just arrived from the United States after an absence of nine years ; he had come home to be married. The next morning, he, his mother, sister, and an uncle were all killed. Their property was carried off and 500 tomans in cash. Most of the people were killed in their flight; their bodies were not buried, for no one dared to go and perform this office. Many of the bodies were eaten by dogs.
There is one large village---Geogtapa---some five miles from the city of Urmi. To this place many people from the south of Urmi plain fled for safety, as they thought the inhabitants were well able to defend themselves. But on Monday night, the 4th January, a messenger from the Kurds came, saying that if the people surrendered and paid a large sum of money, their village would be spared. The villagers sent to Urmi to consult the village master, but long before the messengers returned the Kurds had commenced their attack on the place. The Christians put up a magnificent fight, but could not hold out long before over whelming numbers. The Kurds were also assisted by the Persian Moslems, who were eager to pay off old scores against their Christian neighbours. As the day wore on the situation grew desperate. The cries of women and children, who had gathered in the churches, were heart-rending. The smoke of the burning buildings from four sides overcame the defenders. Finally all took refuge in the two churches on the brow of the hill, which dominates the village. Late in the afternoon, by God's providence, a rescue was made. Dr. Packard, the American missionary, with three Syrian attendants, came with the American flag and made terms of capitulation. The men, women, and children were to be allowed to go out alive, and the village and all the firearms were surrendered. Late that night, Dr. Packard, with some two thousand people, reached Urmi, where with difficulty shelter was found for them in quarters already crowded, in which they passed four months of untold horrors and suffering.
In Geogtapa, one elderly woman was left behind because she could not move on account of infirmity; her husband and daughter decided to stay with her. The Kurds killed the two old people, and on the daughter refusing to become Moslem, she also was killed.
Another pathetic case was that of an old priest and his wife, who thought if they gave up everything to the Kurds their lives would be spared. These people were visited by five different parties of Kurds in succession. They helped themselves to the property of the house, and took all the money they could find. Then came another party and asked for money; they were told there was nothing left. Then the old man, with the Bible in his hands, was murdered in the presence of his wife. They decided to kill the woman also, but in some mysterious way she avoided them and hid herself. After six days of hiding she crawled out and got to a neighbouring village, where she found shelter with some Moslems, who sent her to the city.
The Baranduz river villages and Geogtapa are south of the city of Urmi, and so were the first to fall a prey to the Kurds as they advanced from the south. The villages of the Nazlu district, such as Âda, Superghan, Mushawa, Sherabad, and Karadjalu, some of the wealthiest, not being in the line of advance, should have escaped the horrors of the other villages ; but their turn came later, and their story of their woes is equally heartrending.
Ada, one of the largest villages, had been a place of refuge for many Syrians and Armenians late in the year 1914. Then when the Russian army passed that way many of the people followed them, to the number of sixty. The rest, however, all remained. Sunday, the 3rd January, passed off quietly, but the next day their troubles commenced. The Persian Moslems began to plunder the Syrian Christians. They broke open the houses, carried off the doors and windows, and emptied the buildings. No one was killed, however, although some shots were fired to intimidate the people. The Syrians exercised great restraint, as they feared a general massacre if they opposed the Moslems who came against them. The elders of the village, while this was going on, sent to the city to ask for protection. The messengers returned with a Turkish and Persian flag and a few soldiers, thinking this would be security for them; but they were deceived, for almost at once the Kurds attacked the village from all points. They stripped every man they found, took his money, and then killed him. As the others fled to the vineyards, they were followed by the Moslems, who killed them there. It is said that one Persian Moslem had killed twenty-five persons, and said: "I am not satisfied yet." Some eighty bodies lay about unburied; many who had been wounded were left to die of their wounds, as there was no one to tend them after they fell. The women and children, who had climbed to the roofs to avoid the fury of the Kurds, were afterwards brutally treated by their attackers, who behaved with the greatest barbarity. The churches were polluted, and the holy books destroyed. Many women were carried off and forced to become Moslems, and afterwards sold or married to their enemies.
A pathetic case is reported from Karadjalu. A woman, fleeing with her two children---her husband was abroad---met a Moslem mullah in her flight. He took the children, stripped them of their clothing, and threw them all into a stream, which was on the point of freezing. He then offered to marry the woman. On her refusal he left the woman on the road to her fate. She returned to the stream, and, taking her children from the water, carried them to a vineyard near by, where she placed them in a hollow place with some straw over them to try and warm them ; both children died in the morning. Later the sorrowing woman found her way to Urmi, and five months afterwards the Russians caught this inhuman brute and made him suffer for his crime.
The flight to Urmi.
The city of Urmi became a veritable city of refuge for the Syrians and Armenians from the villages of the whole plain. By far the larger number found shelter in the American Mission premises, and some more in the compound of the English Mission, where Mr. Nisan was living. We have read of the flight from Antwerp in the Times, but it is a fairy tale compared with what happened in Urmi. Women arrived at the city in a bleeding condition. Some had been stripped of part of their clothes on the way, and arrived in one tunic shivering in the bitter cold of January; some told us how they had been stopped by four different bands of robbers; many were carried off, made captives, and forced to become Moslems.
The French Mission also afforded another place of refuge, where the French Lazarists, with Monseigneur Sontag and the Sisters of Charity, live. The crowded state of all the houses in the city quickly bred disease, which, combined with semi-starvation, made life unbearable. The Americans throw open their College and Hospital outside the city, and these were soon overcrowded. The Archbishop of Canterbury's Mission premises and the American yard close by formed one great quadrangle, and over this block the American flag was flying. In normal times these buildings could accommodate five hundred people ; now there were some ten thousand crowded into this same area. After the first rush was over, the missionaries went to the villages, to search for this or that person who was missing. In this way many young women were restored to their families and delivered from Moslem captivity. But many of the less fortunate had to remain in the Moslem houses to which they had been carried. Many were ill and could not move ; others were enceintes, and were ashamed to return to their homes. A young Moslem was carrying his Syrian "wife" to another village when he met Dr. Packard on the road. The girl threw herself at his feet and asked to be freed from her captor. She was taken to Urmi, only to die after a few weeks of typhoid fever.
The problem of feeding so large a number of people was a great one, and only half a pound of bread a day could be provided. But the worst suffering was caused by the overcrowding. Every available space was filled-rooms, churches, corridors, cellars, and stables, all alike were crowded with human beings.
Under these conditions, combined with the bad water supply and the lack of sanitary arrangements in an oriental city, it is not surprising that typhoid fever soon broke out and carried off thousands of people. More than four thousand lost their lives from this disease, while a thousand were killed by the Kurds in the villages. An accurate statement, prepared by the European missionaries, shows that 20 per cent. of the Urmi Christians perished in four months.
At the beginning of this reign of terror which we have described, the Kurds of Mamash, Mangur, Zarza, in the south, poured into the city. The Herki and the Begzadi from the west poured in at the same time. The son of one prominent sheikh from Shamsdinan came from Nochea and established himself in Dilgusha, just outside the city gates. On the arrival of the Turkish army, a few days later, order was for a time restored, and the Kurds and Moslems restrained from the bigger acts of violence. But as soon as the Turkish officers got hold of the reins of government the lives of the Christians became unbearable. For a time a Djihad---a Holy War---was spoken of on all sides, and the Christians gave up all hopes of being allowed to live. The Turks made it quite clear that they had come to serve Turkey, and did not conceal their desire to get rid of all Christians. They also set to work to fill their own pockets ; 6,600 tomans were taken from the shop and store owners and other well-to-do people. They prepared a list of "suspected persons," who were to be put to death if not ransomed by the payment of a sum of money. In many cases the money was not forthcoming, and the prisoners were put to death.
It was in this way that Mar Dinkha, Bishop of Tergawar, met his death. Mar Elia, the Russian Bishop, was ransomed after a payment of 5,500 tomans had been made to the Turks.
The Tragedy of Gulpashan.
The case of the treatment of the village of Gulpashan is without parallel in the history of the Urmi massacres. It is the most wealthy and prosperous of all the villages of the plain, and its inhabitants are quiet and law-abiding people. When the sister village of Geogtapa was plundered and burnt, by an ominous fate Gulpashan was spared. Karani Agha, a Kurdish Chief, well spoken of as a man of high principle, had announced that the village was his property and that it was to be spared. For two months the people were left in peace. It was said to be due to a friendship which existed between the Christian village masters, one of whom was related to the German Consular Agent at Urmi, and the Moslems. A servant of the German Agent was there, and Turkish soldiers were placed to guard the village. On the 24th February, a band of Persian fedais, who had been unsuccessful in an attempt on Salmas, returned to Urmi and attacked the village. They feigned friendliness at first, until they had got the men of the place in their power. Then they tied them together with ropes and drove them to the cemetery, where they butchered them in a barbarous and cruel way. Then the men, still wild with blood, turned on the women, and, after treating them in an unseemly manner, put some of them to death. The American missionaries went afterwards and buried the dead, which they did in many other places also. This was the last of the massacres in the Urmi plain. The awful deeds that were perpetrated here were telegraphed to America, whereupon such strong representations were made by the United States Government that an order was given for their cessation.
The Massacre in Salmas.
In the plain of Salmas, to the west of Lake Urmi, there are many large and beautiful villages inhabited by Syrians and Armenians. For the most part these people had fled to Russia before the flight from Urmi took place; but their homes and fields shared the same fate as those in Urmi. The Turks found on their arrival there that a good number of Christians had hidden themselves in the houses of friendly Moslems. The Moslem Hadjis were ordered to prepare a letter, which every Christian must sign, stating that they had received kind consideration at the hands of their protectors. This was only a trick on the part of the Turks, for in this way they got to know the names and dwelling-places of about 725 Armenians and Syrians in Salmas. A few days later all these men, roped together in gangs, were marched to the fields at night between Haftevan and Khusrawa, and some were shot, while others were hacked to pieces, in one way and another, in the most horrible fashion. This happened in March, only three days before the return of the Russian troops. This timely arrival of help prevented the women of the place from sharing a like fate.
The Attack on the Syrians in the Turkish Mountains.
The rest of the awful story comes from the Turkish side, where the Patriarch and the larger number of the Syrians live in the mountains of Kurdistan. It was many months before news reached their brethren in Urmi as to what had been happening some hundred miles away. The Patriarch, Mar Shimun, was driven from his home in Quodshanis. He fled to Tiari with all the members of his household. The Patriarch's house was burnt, together with many other houses, including the house of the English Mission. Mar Shimun, writing to England a few days ago, tells us that for four months he has been a wanderer with his people, carrying on a war with the Turks and Kurds. They only gave up fighting when Turkish artillery was brought against them, which made it impossible for them to offer an effective resistance. Tiari and Tkhuma, both of which districts embrace many Christian villages, have been entirely destroyed. In August last 35,000 mountaineers fled to Salmas, Persia, but the larger part of the Syrians are still in the mountains wandering about from place to place, without food, and with no hope of anyone coming to their relief. The most pathetic part of the story is this. Surma, the Patriarch's sister, with Esther, her sister-in-law, and three small children, went down to Tchumbar in Tiari in June last for safety. With the approach of the Turkish army they soon had to flee to Dadoush, and from there to the great Church of Mar Audishu, in the Tâl country. They always had to travel on foot with just the clothes they could carry. " Oftentimes," Surma writes, "we were hungry, and the little children, who were with us, would fall asleep on the road, as we always had to travel at night." Surma spent three months in Mar Audishu, expecting to leave at any moment, when the enemy drew near. During that time there was food but almost no water, and none at all could be spared for washing or bathing. Occasionally they walked to a stream to bathe and wash their clothes.
The last day of their stay there was the saddest of all. On that day their brother Ishaya died of fever. Mar Shimun, hearing of his illness, had come over the day before. The enemy was then very near, and they could hear the sound of the guns in Tkhuma. Just when the funeral of their brother was to take place, Surma, Romi, and Esther with her children were compelled to leave the place, lest they should be caught by the enemy. Mar Shimun, two priests, and a few laymen remained behind at this time of danger to bury their brother. The burial service was quickly said and the body hastily interred, and Mar Shimun hastened after the fugitive women and children. They were only just in time, for, a few hours after their departure, the Turks arrived and made straight for the church, having heard that the Patriarch's household was there.
When writing to us on the 6th October, Mar Shimun says that he is in a village in Salmas, Persia, with his sisters and one or two, members of his family. At the present moment there are with him 35,000 Syrians camped out in the plain of Salmas (4,000 feet. above sea-level), sleeping in the fields with no clothes to cover them at night, clad in the rags which they have worn for many months, without food or shelter. The British Consul has telegraphed to England to say that unless these people are helped by charitable folk at home, two-thirds of them will die. No Christian nation has ever suffered for their religion as these people, and none has so great a claim on us as this unhappy Syrian remnant.
A List of the Ruined Nestorian Villages.
A. BARANDUZ DISTRICT:
2. Sardaroud (Armenian).
6. Alkian. 1
15. The Tazakands.
16. Diza of Baranduz.
B. URMI RIVER DISTRICT:
1. Geogtapa(186) (partly destroyed).
9. Mar Sargis.
10. Hasar and Kom.
12. Diza Agha Ali.(187)
14. Kizilashuk (chiefly Armenian).
15. Gerdabad (chiefly Armenian).
16. Mata d'Zaya and Karagöz.
C. NAZLU RIVER DISTRICT
1. Ismael Agha's Kala.
3. Kosi.(188) .
4. Nazi. p
D. TERGAWAR DISTRICT:
All villages, including
B. HAKKIARI DISTRICT (Ottoman territory) :
All Tkhoma, except Mazra'a.
148. FIRST EXODUS FROM URMIA : NARRATIVE OF MR. J. D. BARNARD, OF THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY'S ASSYRIAN MISSION; PUBLISHED IN THE "ASSYRIAN MISSION QUARTERLY PAPER," APRIL, 1915.
I have been asked to give a brief account of our journey home from Urmi. I will merely confine myself to the happenings on the road.
On the 3rd January we got upon our way, but we were in some doubt as to what course to pursue. The army, we were told, was taking the route northwards to Khoi, on the direct road to Russia. However, we did not like to quit the country altogether unless we were absolutely obliged, so we finally decided to make our way round the north of the Lake to Tabriz and there confer with our consul, if he were still present---reports varied on this point. An additional reason for the selection of this route was that M. Cordonnier was going in that direction, and his Customs officials who accompanied him were of incalculable assistance to us, as they knew the road, transacted all necessary business, and acted as an armed escort in case of an encounter with ugly customers by the way.
We had not gone far before we came up with a sight which we shall never forget to our dying day. As far as the eye could reach in either direction was a great river of fugitives, comprising very nearly the whole Christian population of the villages of the Urmi plain. They had had to flee at a moment's notice with such things as they could carry; a great number were absolutely without food; the nights were bitterly cold; and many old people and little children died by the way. Especially painful was the passage over the high pass leading into the plain of Salmas. It was covered with deep snow, which on the northern slope became ice, and the sight of these poor creatures slipping and stumbling down the steep descent, with the precious beasts of burden falling from fatigue and totally unable to rise again, was one that Belgium could hardly equal. Worst of all was the feeling that we were powerless to render any assistance. Many a mother cried for a lift for her little ones on our horses, but what could one do in the midst of thousands ?
On the second day we parted from this sad procession, they going on towards Khoi, and we, as I said above, taking the road eastward round the Lake. We met with all mannner of reports by the way; it was quite impossible to learn the truth of what had happened at Tabriz, and we never knew what the next bend in the road was to bring forth. At one halting-place we met with a striking instance of the ups and downs of an oriental career, being overtaken by an ex-official of some importance in the service of the Governor of Urmi, now humbly and shamelessly suing our companion, against whom he had so often worked, for a place in the douanes. As we rounded the end of the Lake we saw a great column of smoke rising up from Sherafkhané, the landing-stage for the boats on the eastern shore, and were informed that the supply of petroleum was being burnt to prevent its falling into the hands of the enemy, the boats having been previously sunk.
On reaching Sofian we found a considerable number of Russian troops in the village, and took courage. We tried to telephone through to Tabriz to enquire who was there, but without success, so left our tired animals to come on in the morning---we had been travelling most of the previous night---while we went on to Tabriz in a carriage which most opportunely happened to be obtainable. We arrived that evening, the fifth day of our wanderings, to find that all the English residents had left some days ago ; so we proceeded to the American consulate to ask advice. This was concise and definite: "The Russian troops may leave any minute---the Turks are only nine miles away---you had better get on as fast as you can." Again fortune favoured us, and we managed to procure a carriage which had just returned from conveying our consul, Mr. Shipley, to the frontier, only waiting a few hours to refresh ourselves, while things were made ready. . . .
149. ERZEROUM : LETTER, DATED 21st MARCH, 1916, FROM THE REV. ROBERT S. STAPLETON TO THE HON. P. WILLOUGHBY SMITH, U.S. CONSUL AT TIFLIS ; COMMUNICATED BY THE AMERICAN COMMITTEE FOR ARMENIAN AND SYRIAN RELIEF.
I have just posted a letter to you in reply to yours of the 29th February. This letter comes in the form of a request from the Armenians here. Let me give a few details of happenings here this last year and a half as a preface to the request.
When the mobilisation began here in August, 1914, the Armenians responded to it in goodly numbers and were placed in the ranks as well as in the hospitals as nurses and attendants. During the first half of last year they were taken from the ranks and hospitals and placed in the road-gangs. The doctors and druggists were still retained as such, but pushed to the rear. The artisans of this land were mostly from this race, and many were retained here for such work, as there was need, even after the others were deported last June.
As the Turkish Army is retreating these bands are being massacred in cold blood. Here is an item that was brought to me by the brother of one of our school-girls. He had been in the roadgang and then was put in with a crowd of workers who were preparing a club-house here. In January they were sent to Erzindjan and there lodged in prison. When the Commander and Governor from here arrived there the first order was to take these fifty Armenians out and shoot them. Four escaped by falling and lying under the dead till evening, and then by hard travelling came here. It is said that other gangs are being treated in a similar way.
Now the request is to ask you if you have means to bring these facts to the attention of Mr. Morgenthau, that he might intercede, in the name of humanity against this wholesale slaughter of these men who have been working for the Turkish Army. Not a few women and children are being rescued as this side advances, having been kept by the Kurds. We were able to keep about twenty girls, with two women and one of our men teachers, who is still with us as my interpreter.
The Armenians of Russia are spending a great deal of money and time in this rescue work, for which many have come here. They feel very deeply when they hear these reports from the other side of the fighting line. I sincerely hope that some pressure can be brought to bear to stop this cruelty.
A Summary of Armenian History
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