The Turkish Atrocities in Armenia
[The Outlook, September 29, 1915]
In recent issues we have several times briefly called attention to the sufferings of the Armenians under Turco-German rule. Viscount Bryce, formerly British Ambassador to the United States, has now made through the Associated Press a powerful plea that America should try to stop the Armenian slaughter. Lord Bryce is not one to misstate or exaggerate facts. Among other things, he says: "In Trebizond City, where the Armenians numbered over ten thousand, orders came from Constantinople to seize all Armenians. Troops hunted them, drove them to the shore, took them to sea, threw them overboard, and drowned them all—men, women, and children. This was seen and described by the Italian Consul."
Lord Bryce's statements are confirmed by reports which come direct to us. The following article is based upon first-hand and authentic information which has reached The Outlook through the most trust worthy source. Where names have been left blank it is because of fear that the individuals quoted might, if known, suffer Turkish retaliation. The suppressed names, however, are in our possession. As we go to press we have received from Washington the following telegram from one of the foremost American authorities on Armenian affairs, to whom we are indebted for the facts in this article: "After long investigation I am convinced that statement sent regarding Turkey's treatment of Christians contains but a fragment of the fact. You cannot overstate the gravity of the case. A race is rapidly undergoing deliberate, diabolical destruction'' —THE EDITORS.
America has more interest in Turkey than any other country, or possibly than all Europe together. This interest is not political, but humanitarian. In 1819 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions began work in the Ottoman Empire, and has now for nearly a century prosecuted that work with vigor and statesmanlike foresight and breadth. The first step was to produce the Bible in the vernaculars of the people. The missionaries have been wholly unsectarian. They introduced into the country the printing-press and a periodical literature, modern medicine and sanitation, the modern hospital, new industries and commercial enterprises, Western education, culminating in the well-organized colleges and graduate schools.
Not a few of these institutions, with the hearty approval and co-operation of the American Board, have become independent of the control of that missionary organization. Some of these institutions have an international reputation, and are doing a work that, is of lasting benefit to America as well as to Asia and Europe. Some of these institutions are: the Syrian Protestant College at Beirut, with its graduate schools; Robert College at Constantinople; and the Constantinople College for Girls, each one of these incorporated in the United States and possessing a plant worth more than a million dollars. Besides these institutions of international repute there are others, like the International College at Smyrna, Anatolia College at Marsovan, Teachers' College at Sivas, Euphrates College at Harput, Van College at Van, Aintab College at Aintab, Central Turkey College for Women at Marash, the American Collegiate Institute for Girls at Smyrna, St. Paul's College at Tarsus, and, in addition, three times that number of high schools and academies with their intermediate and preparatory schools dotting the country from Smyrna to Persia, and from the Black Sea to Arabia. We have made no mention of the modern hospitals that cover the same territory, and that bring untold blessing to all classes, regardless of race or religion.
The Armenians as a people have been the most responsive to the appeals of modern education. The majority of the 25,000 students in the schools north of Syria have been from this historic and virile race. Thousands have taken graduate courses in the United States. It can be said that America discovered the Armenian race and introduced it to the Western World. It is therefore eminently fitting that at this time of death struggle America should be the first to lift its voice in protest, and the most ready to offer its help to save this nation from annihilation.
There are some four hundred Americans now in Turkey connected with the various boards and institutions. With these are associated fully ten times that number of trained natives, mostly Armenians, Greeks, and Syrians, all engaged in conducting a work that aims at bringing to that country the blessings of a Christian civilization. These Americans are remaining at their posts, endeavoring in every way in their power to relieve and save their people. Those who have been compelled to come home have done so with the greatest reluctance.
Indications point to a concerted plan upon the part of the authorities in Turkey to eliminate all of the non-Moslem races. Upon the Armenians and the Greeks the blow is now falling, but there have been intimations that the Jews' turn will soon come. In many places the local Turkish authorities have emphatically protested. The Governor of –––––– was called to Constantinople to answer to the charge of not obeying orders in carrying out the drastic measures of the Central Government. Others have told the missionaries that the measures were most cruel and unnecessary and even disastrous to the country, but they were finally forced to obey. Lenient and unwilling governors were transferred, like the one at ––––––, in whose place was installed the Governor of ––––––, who had already carried out with vigor the order of massacre and extermination.
There are many indications that the Turks as a whole entertain no hostile feelings towards the Armenians and Greeks, and would not carry out these drastic measures of extermination were they not forced to do so. Some have declared that the measures are un-Mohammedan, and so contrary to the teachings of their religion.
So far as can be ascertained, the two Turkish officers Enver Pasha and Talaat Bey are the source of these measures. There are many who believe (and among these are the missionaries in large numbers, as well as others) that Enver Pasha is under the pay of the Kaiser, or, at least, was until very recently. Few, if any, believe that the plan of race extermination originated with the Mohammedans or that it is carried out willingly by them.
A German official in the interior of Turkey told an American who is now in the United States (the Rev. Mr. ––––––, from ––––––) that it was the plan of the Government in its attack upon the Armenians to eliminate them as a race, leaving nothing behind.
A governor of one of the large and important provinces in the interior told an American (the Rev. –––––– —. ––––––), now in this country, that his orders from Constantinople were to leave no male Armenian over ten years of age. These children could be easily placed in Moslem homes for their instruction. President –––––– —. –––––– of College, ––––––, spent two weeks in Constantinople the last of July, and reports that a Turkish officer told him that the German officers were giving regular instructions to the Turkish officers who were soon to proceed to the Dardanelles. The Turk said he was astounded at some of the instructions given them. "The Turks," said he, "have the reputation for being the most cruel and heartless of any race or religion. 'Cruel as a Turk' has become a proverb. But our German instructors certainly surpass in this respect anything the Turks have ever done or planned. And they are Christians
In the city of Diarbekir the American Board had a missionary and his wife, Dr. and Mrs. Floyd O. Smith, American citizens. Their nearest missionary neighbors were at Mardin, fifty miles south, and at Harput, ninety miles to the north. Dr. Smith attended many Armenians who had been cruelly tortured by the Turkish officials. Mrs. Smith, with her baby, went to Harput, where at that time things were more quiet, while Dr. Smith remained at his post.
The American Board learned, first through Constantinople, and later through the State Department at Washington, that Dr. Smith had been taken by order of court martial to Beirut, and that Mrs. Smith was also compelled to go from Harput to Beirut under military escort to join her husband. Permission for missionaries to go with her was refused.
The charges prepared against Dr. Smith by the Turkish authorities, as reported by the State Department, were that he and his wife had used a cipher in their personal correspondence, as proved by intercepted letters, that a witness had been produced who had declared that Dr. Smith was a subject of Turkey, and other grave charges. About the middle of July a cable from Dr. Smith reported that he and his family were at the island of Rhodes, evidently expelled from the country. Further particulars have not yet been received.
Three Armenian professors in one of the American colleges in Turkey, all of whom had studied abroad, were arrested in June and locked up in prison. No charges were preferred against them. Later they were cruelly tortured to make them confess to plots to overthrow the Government. After prolonged torture they were killed, with a large number—some one hundred and fifty—of Armenian men.
Generally, teachers in American schools have fared better than many others, although some of these have been treated as above or exiled.
The following quotations are from the many communications now being received in this country, written by missionaries and others who, for the most part, wrote after they had succeeded in getting outside the country. These statements of fact can be absolutely relied on.
A British resident, a missionary of the American Board, a Canadian, who has been thirty years in Turkey, writes as follows. He was interned for six weeks, and finally was given his choice of leaving the country or going farther into the interior. His name must be concealed:
You have probably learned something of the sad condition of the Armenians from the papers, but probably nothing gets through that in any adequate way portrays the desperate straits in which these poor people find themselves. You may have heard that Zeitun has ceased to exist as an Armenian town. The inhabitants have been scattered, the city occupied by Turks, and the very name changed. The same is true to a large extent of Hadjin, except, I believe, the name has not been altered. The Armenians of the regions of Erzrum, Bitlis, and Erzingen have, under torture, been converted to Islam. Mardin reports 1895 conditions (the year of the infamous massacre) as prevailing there. The tale is awful to the last degree.
More than a thousand families from Hadjin recently arrived in Aleppo in the last degree of misery, and yet the purpose is to send them much farther. Husbands are forcibly separated from wives and sent to places long distances apart. Children are similarly separated from parents.
The following is taken from the report of a United States consul sent to a correspondent of The Outlook over his signature, with permission to use, provided his name is not made public:
Between 4,300 and 4,500 families—about 28,000 persons—are being removed by order of the Government from the districts of Zeitun and Marash to distant places, where they are unknown, and in distinctly non-Christian communities. Thousands have already been sent to the northwest into the provinces of Konia, Cesarea, Castiamouni, etc., while others have been taken southeasterly as far as Diar-el-Zor, and reports say to the vicinity of Bagdad. The misery these people are suffering is terrible to imagine. To go into details would be useless waste of time, for all the sufferings that a great community would be subject to in such circumstances are being experienced.
A statement of conditions in Central Turkey by Miss –––––– ––––––, a missionary:
When we were in Aleppo, I saw some of the first one hundred families to be deported from Hadjin, and the rest of Hadjin were expected the day we left or within the next few days. The man who has been deporting in Diarbekir, and, worse, has been killing people by beating or scalding them to death—one person said, "He is killing them alive"—was transferred about the middle of June to Oorfa with the evident purpose of having him continue his work there. To go out into other fields, I might add that a private code telegram from Mardin received about June 24 said that massacres had begun there.
Where are they going? Some are being scattered, one and two families to a village, among Moslem villages, evidently with the idea of forcing them to become Moslems, others are being taken from their mountain homes and are being driven across the desert toward Bagdad. German officers who came into Aleppo one night on their way from Bagdad to Constantinople said that they first met this weary train two days out of Bagdad, and that the road the thousands they had met were marching along was marked or outlined by the bodies of their dead.
Who are these people? Women and children, tottering old men and babes—the men twenty-one to-thirty-five or forty years old have practically all gone to the war. So these women are at the mercy of those in charge of them. Some soldiers are as kind to them as circumstances permit, others farm the women out for the night to the men of the villages near which they camp, or march in themselves as a bull might into a herd of cows. This is not guesswork, but well-known fact. Some women kill themselves by jumping into the river to escape, but others, for the sake of their children, endure.
A statement of conditions in Sivas on July 13, 1915, made by the Rev. –––––– —. ––––––, missionary:
To begin with the all-important fact, which may have reached you by now, the Armenians of the interior are being deported in the direction of Mosul. At the time we left Sivas, two-thirds of them had gone from the city, including all our Protestants, our teachers and pupils, and all our side of the city. Those left were the orphan girls and teachers, and a few boarding girls, three nurses, and two orderlies in the hospital, Ardashes Eff and his family, and a few women servants. According to my best knowledge and opinion, with the exception of Armenian soldiers and prisoners (all of whose families have been sent) and a very few exceptions who for various reasons were necessary to the Government, all Armenians are gone from Sivas. According to what I consider good authority, I believe it to be true that the entire Armenian population from Erzrum to and including Gemereh near Cesarea, and from Samsun to and including Harput, has been deported. There is also a movement in the central field which has not become general, but will doubtless become so. More than one hundred thousand Greeks from the Marmora and Mediterranean coast have been deported.…
After we had seen thousands of people start out, and especially after ours had actually gone, we came to the conclusion that if anything could be done to stop this terrible crime, which impresses us as ten times worse than any massacre, it would be done in Constantinople. In Constantinople we found that no pressure from the Embassies had been able to do anything. We believe there is imminent danger of many of these people, whom we estimate for the Sivas, Erzrum, and Harput vilayets to be 600,000, starving to death on the road. They took food for a few days, but did not dare take much money with them, as, if they did so, it is doubtful whether they would be allowed to keep it.
Statement by Dr. ––––––. –––––– ––––––, of ––––––, for forty years a missionary in that region, written on the American war-vessel Monitor, and brought home by an American businessman of standing in August:
Although the orders for the deportation may have been humane, the manner of their execution has often been brutally harsh. One ward of a city, or a whole village, has been sent off at literally an hour's notice, without opportunity to-prepare food for the journey, animals for the weak or aged—to collect their flocks or herds, or even, in some cases, all the members of the family. Even when time permitted, they were obliged to sell off their property at a small fraction of its value, and in some cases were prevented from selling it at all. Conditions of travel, hard at best, have been made unendurable, and even fatal in many cases, by the brutality of the gendarme in charge. Most of the men having been conscripted, four-fifths of the whole number are women and children. The women are obliged to carry their babies, themselves often barefooted and hungry. In exhaustion and despair they have abandoned a good many of them by the wayside. Women have given birth to children upon the road. I know of three cases in which they were not allowed to remain behind long enough to complete the labor and died of hemorrhage.… Women and girls have been outraged. In one case the military officers, in turning over a group to the gendarmes, told them openly, before many people, that they were at liberty to do anything they chose with the women and girls.
Statement made by the Rev. –––––– ––––––, for forty years missionary in Turkey, just returned from near Constantinople:
At Cassarea, Sivas, Trebizond, Ordoo, and many other towns and cities, thousands have been persuaded by threats and by abominable tortures to embrace the Mohammedan faith. In many cases the wives and daughters of Christians have been immediately compelled to marry Turks.
All over the country leading Armenians have been shot or hanged. Leading merchants have been beggared and exiled. Thirty thousand Mohammedan criminals have been released from jail and formed into bands under strict military discipline. One of the duties of these bands is to pillage villages and to rob and assassinate exiles.
The Greek and Armenian Patriarchs have been refused audiences with the Ministers of the Turkish Government. Foreign Ambassadors, among them the United States Ambassador, have been rebuffed and told that what the Imperial Government wishes to do with its subjects is none of their business.
Turkish Ministers and other officials have repeatedly avowed the intention to smash the Christian nationalities, and thus forever put an end to the Armenian question.
Many more similar statements of the maltreatment of Armenians might be quoted, but these are sufficient to prove the point. They are all alike in their gruesome story of torture, killing, and deportation without preparation for the journey and under the protection of undisciplined brutes. The field covered, according to our latest reports, includes practically the entire country north of Syria.
Do the people of the United States propose to do anything about such a state of affairs?
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
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An Odyssey through the World War of 1914-1918
By J. Fred MacDonald