TURKEY AND THE ARMENIAN ATROCITIES
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Statistics of Massacre and Pillage — Where Does the Responsibility Rest ? — The Turks; Fear, Ferocity, Outrage — The Armenians; Ambition, Lack of Preparation, Unwisdom of Huntchagists — The European Powers; Jealousy, Ambition, Cowardice — The Sultan; Alliance with Reactionary Party, Difficult Position, Individual Care of Minutiae — Latest Development of Most Terrible Persecution.
ANY complete statement as to number of victims of the massacres is at present impossible, and indeed, will probably never be made. This partly for the same reasons that make an exact census impracticable, partly because of the general scattering of the people, resulting in the destruction of their homes. It must also be remembered that comparatively few people even in this country can be relied upon to make a correct estimate as to numbers, and inaccuracy in this respect is even more characteristic of the East. When to these general statements is added the terror that fell upon all, it will be readily apparent that exact figures are unattainable, even in regard to places where there were intelligent observers. But absolutely no account can be taken of the number killed in the villages remote from the cities. The following table has been made up from the best returns available, and in all probability represents the facts in regard to the places noted, which are all well known. The figures in regard
[page 553] STATISTICS OF MASSACRES.
to the interior cities include also the figures for the villages in the immediate vicinity, but not those for the remote sections. Some of them were quite large districts. Thus, Van city has not suffered, but the villages suffered terribly. Massacres were also reported from a large number of places, such as Tokat, Amasia, Gemerek, Adiaman, Argana, Severek, etc., but no reliable statistics, or even estimates, were furnished.
|Boulanik and Khnus||“||30,||“||700|
|Urfa||Oct.27 and Dec.||30,||“||6,000|
Taking this sum, 35,000, as a basis, those who are on the field and best qualified to judge make a general estimate of the entire loss of life at not less than 50,000, and this has
[page 554] A CONSERVATIVE ESTIMATE.
the endorsement of the English and French Ambassadors at Constantinople. This, however, is by no means all that is to be taken into account. There is the number of those who have been forced, sometimes on pain of death, sometimes on pain of outrage and suffering worse than death, to accept Mohammedanism. As to those, reports vary, but a conservative estimate puts the whole number at about 40,000. Reference must also be made to the destruction of houses and shops. With regard to these, estimates are more easily made and the sum total given of 12,600 burned and 47,000 plundered, is probably reasonably correct. There remains to be considered the number of destitute. This can only be estimated something as follows. If the number of killed was 40,000, inasmuch as they were almost entirely men who would each represent a family of at least five persons, this would give 200,000. Add to this those who were dependent Upon the murdered men for employment, those whose shops and houses were burned and those who were imprisoned, and the estimate of 350,000 to 500,000 it will be easily seen is not unreasonable. It is evident that statistics as to the number of women and girls outraged are absolutely unattainable. We may then, in the most conservative way, summarize the whole as follows:
|Number of persons killed (almost entirely men)||. . . . .||50,000|
|“ “ houses and shops burned.||. . . . .||12,600|
|“ “ “ “ “ plundered||. . . . .||47,000|
|“ “ persons forced to accept Mohammedanism.||. . . . .||40,000|
|“ “ persons destitute||. . . . .||400,000|
These figures are certainly within the truth, and it requires but little
effort to imagine what they mean.
The question is forced upon the mind, Where does the
[page 555] RESPONSIBILITY.
responsibility for all this loss of life and property, this terrible suffering, rest? The answer is by no means simple, though its general features will be easily recognized by those who have read the preceding chapters carefully. The present situation is the result of the mutual action of four chief factors, some of them having various subdivisions. The Turks, the Armenians, the European Powers and the Sultan. We will take up each one of these in turn and state as clearly as may be, in what is necessarily brief space, the relations sustained by them to the others and to the general result.
The Turks. The feeling among the Turks is very easily understood. For half a century they have seen the general situation of the Christians steadily improving, and their own situation, if not actually growing worse, at least not improving in equal degree. They have been taught by their priests to look upon the Christians as “dogs,” utterly unworthy of any regard. True, under force of circumstances, and in consequence of certain natural characteristics they have not always treated them as “dogs,” still the belief has been there, and only needed the occasion of some kind to call it into exercise. They could not see the slightest necessity of any reforms for those whom they looked upon as slaves, and the repeated statements issued by the Sultans, and the Constitutions and Charters, of equal rights and religious liberty, seemed to them treason to their religion and their empire. They also realized that the time of their advance had ceased. One after another their choicest provinces were taken from them, in Europe, Asia and Africa. The more intelligent among them began to think that there was some power in the world besides their Padishah, The names of
[page 556] TURKISH COMMUNITY AROUSED.
Bismarck, Gladstone, Gortschakoff, Andrassy, not to speak of the Emperors, were heard all over the land and occasioned much uneasiness. Turks returned to their country homes from Constantinople with stories of the grandeur of the foreign ambassadors and the honors paid them by Turkish dignitaries, even by the Sultan. There thus developed an increasing fear among the whole Moslem population for everything and everybody that was Christian. This was taken advantage of by shrewd Moslem priests and plotters, who carefully spread the report that the time might be near when Islam would have to defend itself, and talk of the Jehad, or Holy War, began to be heard. When the placards to which reference has been made were scattered broadcast throughout Asia Minor, the whole Turkish community was aroused. In an ignorant community news travels exceptionally fast and loses nothing as it goes. It was not long before everywhere, in the Turkish villages and even in the Turkish quarters of the cities, there was general fear of an uprising of the Christians, probably to be supported by the European Governments. It was absurd, for not one Christian in a hundred, scarcely one in a thousand, had a weapon, while comparatively few Turks were unarmed. It is also true that this condition existed only in a limited section of the country. The greater part of the Moslem population, Turkish, Kurdish, Circassian, etc., had absolutely no sense of fear. Still its existence in some places served the purpose of the leaders, a purpose that will be stated later on, and helped to swell the tide of anti-Christian feeling which was growing on every side. The outbreak in Sassun served two purposes. It whetted the appetite for plunder and also showed that that appetite could be gratified with no evil results to the plunderers. The fact
[page 557] OUTRAGEOUS CRUELTY.
that no one was punished and that the leaders were rewarded, was well known throughout the empire. Longing eyes were cast upon Christian shops and houses and upon Christian women, and threatening glances turned upon the owners of the former and the protectors of the latter. If they could be got rid of safely, property and sex could be appropriated without danger.
The massacre at Trebizond, following on that at Constantinople, lighted the torch, and for three months the Moslem fury, held in comparative check ever since the capture of Constantinople, had full scope. There had indeed been massacres, at Scio, in the Lebanon, in Kurdistan, but never was such free rein given to the most outrageous cruelty. It is well known that passions grow on what they feed on. Ingrained in the Turkish character, with some noble elements, exist also some of the vilest. Absolute freedom for the vile simply overwhelmed the noble. The fury of the early centuries of Moslem advance broke forth, with the added ferocity gathered by its period of restraint and the fear lest its last opportunity had come. It must be said that many Turks have protested against this whole matter, feeling it an outrage on humanity and a most impolitic thing, but their protest has been as nothing. They have succored a few individuals, but that is all. The great mass have joined heart and soul in murder, pillage and outrage. This motive has undoubtedly been mixed. Political fear, religious fanaticism, lust for booty, have all entered in varying proportions in different places.
The Armenians. It is frequently said that the Huntchagist movement is largely responsible for the atrocities, at least as furnishing the pretext for the charges of revolution made by
[page 558] TURKISH OPPRESSION.
the Turkish Government. How much of truth there is in this, it is very difficult to say. It is undoubted fact that in pertain sections, notably Central Asia Minor, that movement operated very strongly to arouse the bitterest feeling on the part of the Turks. On the other hand it is also undoubted fact, that in not one single instance can it be fairly said that the great massacres, as at Erzrum, Harput, Diarbekir, etc., had any excuse in the presence of Armenian revolution. Granted, however, that the Huntchagist movement did harm, and it certainly did, it must be remembered that it was an almost inevitable development. The Armenian nation was growing in intellectual and moral power. The heavy yoke of Turkish oppression was becoming more and more galling. The young men of the nation had before their eyes freed Bulgaria, freed Servia, freed Rumania, freed Greece. They had not read unmoved their early national history, and the stories of the revolutions of the close of the eighteenth and the middle of the nineteenth centuries. It was most natural that they should arise in determination to make a break for freedom, or at least for an improvement of their condition. Europe had made Bulgaria, why should it not make Armenia? This was fostered by Russian intrigue, just to what extent will only be known later, if at all, but certainly to some extent. It was foolish undoubtedly, for the circumstances were very different. Armenia as a territory had no existence. It was scarcely more than a historical name. Boundaries might be drawn, but to make the enclosed space an Armenia would require the importation of Armenians and the deportation of Kurds to an extent almost inconceivable. Moreover, the nation at large was not ready for the movement. It was not unified in purpose any more than it was concentrated
[page 559] RELATION OF THE GOVERNMENTS.
in location. The plans of the Huntchagists were absurd; their threats issued not merely against Turks, but against their own people and friends who would not work with them, were criminal. The great mass of the people, however, had no part nor lot in those plans or threats, and the charges of sedition are even more outrageous and criminal than their own worst acts. The question is often asked why the Armenians were singled out, and why the Greeks were left unmolested. The answer is: (1) that for the time being the Turks realized that the Armenian movement was the more dangerous; (2) that there was no danger of the Greeks joining them on account of the traditional, racial and ecclesiastical hatred between the two races, and their subjugation might be left to some other time; (3) that while the Greeks had a well recognized protector in the Czar and his powerful government, the Armenians relied upon England, which was always a negligeable quantity. The Greeks also have as a rule been far more politic in their dealings with the Turks, less apt to rouse antagonisms than the Armenians. The Armenians thus, while undoubtedly making mistakes, and serious ones, were almost the sole victims because they furnished the most available field for pillage.
The European Powers. The relation of the governments of Europe, in which are included England, Russia, France, Germany, Austria and Italy, to the subject of partition of the empire has been stated in a preceding chapter. It remains here simply to note their relation to the massacres. How far were they responsible for them ? Could they have prevented them, and if they could, why did they not? The contemporary observer of political history is very apt to greatly misapprehend a particular situation, especially if it be somewhat com-
[page 560] NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE.
plex. Time is a most important element in correct judgment on such matters. Certain things, however, are clear. The Powers might, if they had taken the right steps, have prevented the massacres, at least those of 1895. The Turkish Government, especially of late years, has always yielded to the inevitable. The course adopted has generally been as follows: A demand on the part of the Powers is followed by a general protest on the part of the Porte, which, however, promises to take the matter into careful consideration; then comes a counter-proposal which either absolutely neutralizes the demand or materially modifies it, according to what seems to the Cabinet practicable: this is rejected and the demand is reiterated; with many protestations it is received, considered, and a new counter-proposal presented, to be again rejected by the Ambassadors. How long this continues depends upon the circumstances; sometimes it covers months, rarely a few weeks. At last the demand of the Powers is presented as an ultimatum. To this comes a flat refusal. The Sultan appears upon the scene and declines to accept of any abridgment of his sovereign rights. The negotiations continue but on a slightly different basis. After there has been time to have the Sultan’s refusal reported over the empire, there is a change of ministry, the new regime is instructed to accept the demand and Europe has gained its point, at least in appearance, while over the empire the Sultan has the reputation of having thwarted the sovereigns of Europe.
To accomplish this, however, it is absolutely essential that there be united, unintermitted pressure on the part of the Powers interested. Any divergence between them of feeling or judgment will be quickly seen and used by the astute Turkish politicians, who are wonderfully skilful in fomenting
[page 561] CONSTANT AGITATION.
jealousies and in creating disturbance generally. The recent diplomatic history, so far at it relates to the massacres, may be briefly summarized as follows: The Treaty of Berlin and the Cyprus Convention placed England in the lead in diplomatic influence in Constantinople. That lead, however, was soon lost largely through the Egyptian question. Russia was busy with other matters, internal and Central Asian, but kept up a constant intrigue not merely in Constantinople, but throughout the empire, seeking to repair the damage done to the Treaty of San Stephano, especially to regain her hold upon Bulgaria. Austria was occupied with the Czechs and Magyars, and gave her outside attention chiefly to strengthening her hold upon Bosnia, but found time to see that Servia did not become Russianized. France kept a jealous eye upon Egypt and to that purpose watched also the English movements at Constantinople, offering little hindrance, but refusing positive help. Italy had her hands full with her national development, as also had Germany, each being chiefly anxious to keep the peace in general without giving prestige to any one of her rivals. Bismarck’s famous dictum, “The whole Bulgarian nation is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier,” expressed the general feeling of all Europe except England, and that England shared in it to some extent is evident from the fast-and-loose policy she pursued during the greater part of Abd-ul-Hamid’s reign.
The constant agitation of the Armenians, however, had its effect, and certain prominent Englishmen, notably Mr. James Bryce, exerted considerable influence upon the government to push the question of reforms. Mr. Gladstone also, who had retired from office, joined heartily in the movement, speaking and writing in favor of it. This pressure the
[page 562] TROUBLE IN SASSUN.
English Government transferred to Constantinople, and secured a general endorsement from Russia and France; Germany, Austria and Italy holding aloof from positive action, leaving matters to the other three Powers as the ones most immediately concerned. While the general discussion was going on, the trouble in Sassun broke out, and all Europe saw that there might easily be very serious results. Were there to be general revolution and massacre, intervention might be forced upon them, with a renewal of the former war, except that now it would scarcely be possible to localize the trouble. Military occupation might be necessary, and what would result from that no one could tell. War was the last thing any government wanted, therefore, for once, Russia and France joined heartily with England, and the other Powers gave moral support. The plan of reforms was prepared, and the usual procedure, described above, commenced. After a time, however, the zeal of Russia and France grew cool; difficulties were raised and modifications suggested. United action ceased and the quick eye of the Turk saw the opportunity, and he did his best to foster distrust of England. Meanwhile the situation was growing worse on every hand. Constantinople was in turmoil, which resulted in the massacre of September 30th. Then all united in strong pressure, and the scheme of reforms was signed, only to be attended by the massacre at Trebizond, followed by bloodshed and pillage all over the empire. The Ambassadors were apparently uncertain what to do. The Sultan, in abject terror — to all appearances — told them that he was powerless; that to give reforms to Christians meant the uprising of the Moslem people, and he was helpless. England indignantly repudiated his claim, it is said, raised the question of his deposition, and sent her
[page 563] THE KEY TO THE SITUATION.
fleet to the Dardanelles. Russia and France, however, would not support England, and Emperor William of Germany entered the lists in favor of the Sultan, claiming that he meant well; all he wanted was a little time. The result was absolute collapse of any modifying influence upon the Sultan, and the Turks were free to do as they liked.
A gentlemen well versed in Oriental matters has said that, in his judgment, England held the key to the situation in June, and, by forcing the Dardanelles with her fleet, could have prevented the massacres, and at the same time have avoided a European war; also, that even in October or November, had she acted positively and aggressively, Russia and France would have been forced to accept her action. Lord Salisbury, however, has stated that this was impossible; that Russia asserted positively that the entrance of the fleet would mean war.
It is evident that responsibility for the massacres rests largely upon the European Powers. Upon England for her delay in enforcing the stipulations of the Cyprus Convention — and perhaps for her cowardice at the close, in refusing to act alone, and run the risk of war. Upon Russia for her absolute refusal to support England, and probably for her encouragement of the intrigues among the Armenians to stir revolutionary sentiment, and with the Turkish Government to gain her end of dominant influence; upon France for her alliance with Russia in her course; upon Germany for the Emperor’s refusal to support the cause of justice and right. Austria and Italy can scarcely be blamed, as they were not in position to antagonize Russia, France and Germany; their sympathy was unquestionably with England. Why were all so unwilling to act? Primarily, because each feared damage
[page 564] PERSONALITY OF THE SULTAN.
to her own interests; secondly, because no one except England had the slightest interest in the Armenians. The worst stories of the massacres have never moved the heart of Europe. Even the support given at one time by France and Russia was not from desire to help the oppressed, but to watch England and see that she did not get too much advantage to herself. Humanity availed not a jot with either.
The Sultan. Probably over no one factor in this whole problem has there been so much discussion as over the responsibility of Sultan Abd-ul-Hamid II. On the one hand, those who have had personal intercourse with him, laud his mildness and benignity, and affirm that it is utterly impossible that he should have had any share in the immediate execution of such atrocious outrages. On the other hand, many who know the empire thoroughly, and understand how completely the personality of the Sultan, if he is a man of marked individuality, dominates every part of his government, even to the remote provinces, claim that it is simply impossible that the atrocities should have occurred without his knowledge, and that he must either have ordered them or have permitted them.
As has already been said, the Sultan has been in a very difficult position. When he ascended the throne, or to speak more correctly, was girded with the sword of Osman, he found himself surrounded by a number of forces. There was the old orthodox Moslem element, constituting by far the great majority of his Turkish subjects, utterly disapproving of the changes of the past three reigns, and calling for a return to traditional Moslem customs; there was the Young Turkey Party, not so large in numbers, but clamorous that the advance made should not merely be preserved, but increased; there
[page 565] A COURSE OF RESTRICTION.
was also the great outside Moslem world, jealous of the Tartar usurpation of the Caliphate, and ready to join hands in any effort that promised success for restoring the honor to the tribe of Koreish; there were the Armenians, calling for Europe to make them independent of Turkish rule; there was Europe watching to see that he helped one power no more than another, and anxious lest his internal troubles affect the adjoining empires. His various efforts have already been set forth in detail. Hence it is only necessary to say that, from the time of the dismissal of Haireddin Pasha, he apparently gave up all idea of progress and allied himself more and more with the reactionary party, identifying himself with the effort to restore the historic austerity and vigor of Islam. A systematic course of restriction of Christian privileges was commenced, with the result set forth in Chapter XIX, on the Condition of the Empire in 1894. There was thus very apparent an absolute reversal of the policy inaugurated by his grandfather, endorsed by his father, and allowed by his uncle. Instead of seeking out for use the best available men for the general welfare of the empire, he gave prominence to those who would emphasize the Moslem interest at the expense of everything else. The natural result was that favoritism and incompetence, bribery and extortion reigned. The industrial, commercial and financial condition of the empire rapidly deteriorated. Coincident with this was increased complaint on the part of everybody. Orthodox Moslems, the Young Turkey element, Armenians, Europeans, all were dissatisfied, all laid the blame at the doors of the government, and for them the government meant the Sultan. If this appears unjust, it must be said that, with the possible exception of Mahmud II, no Sultan has ever held such minute
[page 566] A GENERAL CRUSADE.
control over the internal administration of his government as has Abd-ul-Hamid II. Not merely the appointment of the most minor officials, but the granting of the most insignificant permits are subject to his approval. He is a man of marvelous industry and great ability, and nothing in his empire, and comparatively little outside of it, escapes his notice. It soon became evident that a crisis was approaching. The pressure from Europe for reforms and the pressure from Turkey against reforms were increasing. If he yielded to the former he endangered his Caliphate, if to the latter, his empire. Somewhere, or to some one, the suggestion was apparently made that the dilemma might be avoided if the reforms were granted, but rendered of no practical effect by reducing the proportion of Armenians to Turks and consequent representation in the government. Whether this was formulated before the Sassun massacre is doubtful. The experience in connection with that probably gave substance to the idea that Moslem fanaticism might be utilized in the form of a general crusade against the Armenians in defense of the Ottoman Empire and Mohammedanism. At any rate that is just what was done. The impulse was given under government direction and aid was furnished by government troops. Once started, the conflagration spread. At first it was probbably intended merely to cover the six provinces specially mentioned in the scheme of reforms. This, however, proved impracticable. The Turks and Kurds of Cesarea, Aintab, Marash, etc., were not disposed to stay quiet while those of Harput, Diarbekir, Erzrum and Bitlis were gorging themselves with Christian booty and enriching their harems with Christian women. They demanded their share and, willingly or unwillingly, the government yielded. In Mesopotamia it
[page 567] ADDITIONAL STATEMENTS.
succeeded in keeping the peace in good measure and so far outbreaks in Western Asia Minor have been avoided, but that was due probably chiefly to the different character of the Moslem populace or the preponderance of the Greeks, whom, being under the protection of the Czar, even the Turks dared not touch.
Whether the Sultan directly advised the massacres in the different cities, is immaterial. These facts stand out clear and unmistakable: The massacres occurred; it was the repeated statement of Turkish officials and citizens that they were ordered from Constantinople; there was absolutely no effort on the part of the government, except in some cases as noted above, to prevent them; they were stopped in every case when in the judgment of the officials they had gone far enough; the most ardent admirers of the Sultan have claimed for him the most minute supervision of his empire. The reader can draw his own conclusions.
As this closing chapter is written there come in additional statements of the suffering throughout the empire. Massacre has been followed by persistent persecution, less prominent, perhaps, but not less effective. Appeals have come from one section of the country to stir the interest of the Christian nations, but we can scarcely do better than to close with the following letter from one of the largest cities in the empire:
“As to the whole circle of Christian nations that are standing as idle spectators of these infernal orgies, I wonder if they have looked upon the Gorgon’s head, or do they not yet comprehend what is being done before their eyes ? Do they know that horrible and revolting as was the savagery of the recent massacres, they have been narrow in effect and tame in cruel barbarity compared with the deliberate, malicious and
[page 568] A STROKE OF BUSINESS.
unrelenting, crushing and grinding process to which the remnant of the Armenian people are being subjected? Do these Christian Powers comprehend that it is the settled purpose of this government to prevent these poor people from being properly clothed and fed, and so to make famine and pestilence their executioners in place of the assassins heretofore employed? It is a sharp stroke of business on the part of the Turk to suspend his work of butchery for a time, and allow his victims, by their unspeakable wretchedness, to draw a few thousand pounds from the charitable people of England and America, while he looks on complacently, sure of so much more plunder whenever it pleases him to finish his bloody work? In ______ 12,000 Christians, after having more than 800 of their shops and 450 of their houses looted, and more than $500,000 worth of property stolen or destroyed, have been kept for over three months in daily and agonizing terror for their lives, and utterly unable to do anything to earn a livelihood; 4,000 of their number are wholly dependent on charity for daily bread. In this condition government has repeatedly demanded of them large sums of money for special purposes, and these demands have been accompanied with foul abuse and the most ferocious threats. Dp the Christian Powers understand the purpose of the plan everywhere being carried out of removing first the principal men from each Christian community ? In ______ sixty-four of the most influential and wealthy Christians are now languishing in Turkish prisons, arrested on purely fictitious charges. The Protestant preacher of ______ has been condemned to ten years in a Turkish fortress simply for having in his possession a copy of Lord Salisbury’s speech at the opening of Parliament. Are the Christian Powers aware that, in these
[page 569] SPECIMENS OF FACTS.
prisons, deeds rivalling the worst barbarities of the dark ages are being enacted ? Overcrowded dungeons, unfit for men to stay in, the most violent and offensive insults, beatings and torture till the victim faints, are not uncommon; live coals put upon the naked bodies of men, sodomy forced upon an Armenian priest, are among the amusements in which Turkish jailers have been freely indulging. These are only specimens of classes of facts of which I have the most unimpeachable evidence; and what is more, these things are part of a plan which is being carried out in the end of this nineteenth century by a government in treaty with Christian nations, and under the most solemn pledges and obligations to secure special privileges to its Christian subjects.”
“ Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.”
Table of Contents
| The Cover, Frontispiece, Title Page, Copyright
Introduction | Preface | Turkey in Asia (map) | Table of Contents (as in the book)
List of Illustrations | 1. The Turkish Empire | 2. Population and Languages | 3. Religions
4. The Turks | 5. The Kurds | 6. The Armenians | 7. The Greeks | 8. Other Oriental Churches
9. Rise and Decline of Ottoman Power | 10. Turkey and Europe | 11. Russia and Turkey
12. Mahmud II | 13. Reform and Progress | 14. Treaties of Paris and Berlin
15. Condition of the Christians | 16. The Turkish Government | 17. Protestant Missions in Turkey
18. The Armenian Question | 19. General Situation in 1894 | 20. The Sassun Massacre
21. Politics and Massacre at Constantinople | 22. Massacres at Trebizond and Erzrum
23. Massacres in Harput District | 24. Aintab, Marash and Urfa | 25. Character of the Massacres
26. Religious Persecution | 27. Relief Work | 28. Partition of Turkey | 29. America and Turkey
30. General Survey | Alphabetical Index
Bliss, Rev. Edwin Munsell . Turkey and the Armenian Atrocities.
Edgewood Publishing Company , 1896
J. Rendel Harris
& B. Helen Harris, Letters
from the Scenes of the Recent Massacres in Armenia