THE TREATMENT OF ARMENIANS IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
XII. THE CITY OF ANGORA.
Angora is the capital of a vilayet, and the terminus of a branch line of the Anatolian Railway. It is the half-way house between Constantinople and Sivas, and the focus of traffic with all the provinces of the north-east. It is naturally an important centre of commerce as well as of administration, and there was a strong Armenian element in the population of the town.
Our information regarding the destruction of the Armenians at Angora is comparatively scanty—scantier, perhaps, than in the case of any other Armenian centre of equal importance in the Ottoman Empire. Yet the documents included in this section, together with incidental references in other pieces of testimony (e.g., Doc. 109), suffice to show that the Government's order was executed here in the same fashion as at Sivas and at X.
[page 382] ANGORA.
While the Armenians of Sivas and other Armenian provinces were being deported, there were repeated rumours that the deportation was to be confined to the seven vilayets in which special reforms were due to be carried out. As in the case of 1894-5, the promise of reforms was followed by massacres—and that almost throughout the whole Ottoman Empire.
The Vali of Angora, a really good man, refused to carry out the orders from Constantinople to deport the Armenians of Angora, so the Commander of the Military Forces of the Vilayet and the Chief of the Police agreed with the Vali and supported him. The leading Turks of Angora, including the religious leaders, were all of the same mind. They knew that the Christians of the place were all loyal and useful subjects of the Empire.
The Armenians here were chiefly Roman Catholics, and were all truly loyal to the Turkish Government. They had no sympathy with any national aspirations. They even refused to be called Armenians. They were simply called the " Catholic Nation," and the Government so regarded them. There were some 15,000 to 20,000 of them, and they were leaders in commerce and trade. They had more outward polish than other Armenians. They spoke Turkish, and wrote it in Armenian characters.
There were also some 300 to 400 other Armenian families who were members of the National or Gregorian Church, and had settled in Angora from various parts of Turkey.
The Armenians' houses and shops were searched during July, 1915, and neither arms nor incriminating documents were found. But the central authorities in Constantinople had decreed their extermination, and, as the Vali refused to obey them, both he and the Chief of the Police were dismissed. Their successors made themselves ready tools to carry out any orders given from above. They succeeded in deporting all the Armenians of Angora.
As in other places, a number of leading Armenians were first arrested, including some Catholics. This was towards the end of July, 1915. The Catholics were soon released ; those who remained in gaol were tortured terribly. Then all the Armenians of all creeds had to register their names, including women and children—without any omissions—at the police stations. For several days the police stations were packed with people. As soon as the list was completed the deportations began. This was the second week in August. Men were led to the prisons, and stripped of all valuables, watches, purses, rings, &c. They were told that these things would be taken care of by the Government and that they would find them all safe at the place of their destination. An eye-witness who had visited the Chief of the Police, saw his office choked up with piles of such articles taken from the Armenians.
[page 383] TRAVELLER (NOT AN ARMENIAN).
Then they were sent away, principally in three directions— some along the high-road that leads to Kaisaria and Yozgad, others in the Süngürlü direction, and others westward. Reports came from all directions that these exiles were all killed after proceeding some miles from the city. It was said that one party was shot, but in all the other cases the Turks practised economy, killing their victims with axes and daggers. Some of the perpetrators of these horrible crimes boasted of it openly in the cafés, giving details of their achievements and the number of their victims. One Albanian said he had killed fifty men. Villagers from Kilidjlar, on the way to Süngürlü , spoke to many people confidentially of how the ground in their neighbourhood was soaked with blood.
Those arrested and deported first were chiefly Gregorians, with a few Protestants among them. By the middle of August these had all been deported. They were all men ; the women were apparently safe. The Government in some instances began to give money for the support of the poor ; but the scenes at the office of the Chief of the Police and at the entrance of the gaol were heart-rending. There were women and children anxiously waiting to make enquiries about their dear ones—husbands, or sons, or fathers, or friends. The only answers they got were vague assurances that they were all safe. Some, they were told, were already proceeding to their destination, and others were soon to leave. This was simply a war-measure, a temporary arrangement ; as soon as the war was over, all would return home ; any of the women desiring to follow their husbands or relations would be sent to the same place as they.
After the departure of the Gregorians (including some Protestants as well) about the middle of August, it was rumoured that Protestants and Catholics would be exempted from deportation. The promise was observed in some instances, e.g., in Istanos, which is a village near Angora, within about twenty miles of the city. All the Armenians of Istanos were brought, chained, to Angora. Then, after the order for exemption, the Protestants were set at liberty to return home, whereas the Gregorians were all deported.
As for the Catholics, the leaders of the Union and Progress Party sent a special message to the Bishop and his Council stating that, if the whole Catholic community, headed by the Bishop and the priests, would accept Islam, they should all remain unmolested ; otherwise the order was to be carried out. This is an ascertained fact. But they all preferred to stand firm in their faith, and rejected the proposal of the Committee.
Consequently, on the last Friday in August, 1915, all the Catholics—that is, the men—were arrested. According to one earlier report, they were then butchered at a short distance from Angora ; but a later report says that, when the plans for this murder were ready, there suddenly came special envoys from the Govern-
[page 384] ANGORA. TRAVELLER (NOT AN ARMENIAN).
ment with instructions that the Catholics were to be deported safely. Consequently they were sent to Konia, and thence to the Adana district.
The latter story may be true, as it is a fact that the Papal Envoy in Constantinople and the Austrian Ambassador pressed the Turks hard in defence of the Catholics, and they are said to have secured promises of exemption for the Catholics from Enver and Talaat. But, however that may be, it is difficult to have any preference as between an immediate death and the slower process, for deportation is nothing but a slow process of execution.
The very day that the Catholic men were sent away, all the Armenian women in Angora were hurried off to the railway station. They were told to make haste and catch up their husbands. They were at liberty to take any valuables with them. As soon as the poor creatures reached the station, they were all packed by scores, like cattle, in the sheds and warehouses and barns there. The scenes in the town and at the station defy description. All the men were gone—no one knew where—and now the rest, the women and children, were left in anguish and sorrow, pain and despair, in the company of the Turkish soldiers.
Any of the women and children that accepted Islam were brought back to the town and given to prominent Turks. Those who refused were deported to Syria and Mesopotamia. Their fate must be similar to that of other sufferers from other regions. A few Protestant families were left unmolested in the town. The Protestant pastor was deported, and nothing is known of his fate.
Many children were circumcised and placed in so-called orphanages.
[page 385] ANGORA. NARRATIVE OF MISS A A.
It is strange that one can live constantly in Asia Minor and actually see very little of the crimes that are going on. As one travels across the country, he feels continually the dead silence of a situation which is surrounded by crime and from which he is continually shielded.
I have just come from X. to Constantinople, five days' journey by wagon. After waiting a week in Angora, I succeeded in getting one day further along the railway to Eski Shehr, where one must wait two days longer. And finally, on a belated train, with neither fight nor heating in the first-class carriage, I arrived late on the succeeding day in Constantinople.
I came alone with a Tatar servant. An English exile, who had been for many years in business in this country, joined my company and came part of the way towards his home. The English prisoners are treated very well in the country. This man, after being exiled for more than ten months, had been allowed his freedom. There are English prisoners to be found all through the country. I met several at Tchoroum. They are allowed to have a house and servants, and are treated politely, especially those of them who can speak Turkish. They go and come in the fields, and even can go hunting if they choose, and they are only restricted at night by a rule that they must be in their house by 8 o'clock. The American missionaries have supplied them with reading and are able to be distributing agents for the allowance of money made to them by the American Embassy. They are full of praise for the American Embassy, for its generosity and care.
Some of these men had been carried in the night from Angora eastward. When they started out from Angora, they could not understand why they were taken at night ; but when, in utter darkness, they passed the bridge over the river beyond Asi Yozgad, and for an hour were nearly suffocated with the odour that came to them from decaying flesh, they knew why they were not allowed to pass in the daylight. People say that the mountains round Asi Yozgad are a cemetery ; I could not see evidences that would prove this, except some suspicious heaps of earth and stone that seemed to me likely to have been raised over pits that had been dug.
In Angora I learned that the tanners and the butchers of the city had been called to Asi Yozgad, and the Armenians committed to them for murder. The tanner's knife is a circular affair, while the butcher's knife is a small axe, and they killed people by using the instruments which they knew best how to use.
These stories are too horrible for repetition.
The Ottoman Bank President showed bank-notes soaked
[page 386] ANGORA.
with blood and struck through with daggers with the blot round the hole, and some torn that had evidently been ripped from the clothing of people who had been killed—and these were placed on ordinary deposit in the bank by Turkish officers.
An interesting story was told of the Catholics of Angora. It had been rumoured, at the time people were deported from Angora, that the Catholics were to be allowed to be free. But the rumour was not corroborated, and the Government did not recognise it. So the Catholics were all gathered together at the station and sent off. Many of the men had been sent separately before, but this was a second large company. I think it also included women. They had reached this town, Asi Yozgad, and the people were there to kill them. The priests with them begged ten minutes for prayers and the presenting of the sacrament to them. The ten minutes were granted, and, as the whole company knelt and prayed, a horseman rode up suddenly, shaking a paper in front of him and crying : " Your freedom is given ! Your freedom is given ! You are not to be killed ! " The officers would not send them back, but they saved their lives and sent them south instead.
The favour that had been obtained through the Austrian and American Embassies in Constantinople for Catholics and Protestants to be exempted from deportation, is in some cases being faithfully observed, but in others not at all. I was in Sivas when the rich village of Perkenik was entirely and most ruthlessly deported. It was an entirely Catholic village of perhaps one thousand homes. They had beautiful horses and great flocks of sheep. The flocks and horses were sent into the city, and the people were literally driven out with whips. When a complaint was made to the officers that this should not be done, because they were Catholics and had been especially faithful to the Government at all times, the reply was given that politics had changed, and that Italy had entered the war since this order had come from Constantinople.
In Angora I found that many Catholic women and children had been left there, but all have become Mohammedans. The Protestant women and children were also still there, though the men have practically all been taken away. A few have been heard from at Osmania.
At Süngürlü, I visited the Protestant community after I arrived in the evening. Their story was a sad one. They had been threatened that they would be deported with the other Armenians of the city, but one of their number, who was in employment elsewhere but was at home for a time on a holiday, besought the Kaimakam for the Protestants. The Kaimakam said he had no orders, but that he would wire to Constantinople and see what the orders were. In the meantime they were all taken to "hans," and families were ruthlessly broken up. How-
[page 387] NARRATIVE OF MISS A A.
ever, the Protestant community managed to get together for a meeting, and, as a body, they put in a formal petition to the Government for their safety, saying that they knew it was the intention of the Constantinople Government that the Protestants should be saved. Finally the Kaimakam yielded to this request and returned them all to their homes ; the Gregorians were all sent away from the city, and from several reliable sources the story has come to me that none of them got further than Yozgad alive. These Protestants and the families of a few Armenian soldiers remained in Süngürlü for a few weeks, and then all at once they were taken up and carried to different villages. Again families were broken up, and they suffered great deprivations because the Turkish villagers were afraid to feed them. However, after two weeks' absence from the city, they were allowed to come back to their homes. One large family, of the influential ones, was chosen out and compelled to accept Islam. This family included the spokesman who had been instrumental in saving them.
[page 388] ANGORA. ARMENIAN WITNESS.
At the end of the month of July, all Armenian men from 15 to 70 years of age were arrested without exception, bound together in gangs of four, and despatched towards Kaisaria. Everything they possessed had first been stolen from them, except for 3 1/2 piastres that each man was allowed to keep. In the valley of Beyhan† Boghazi, six or seven hours' distance from the town, they were attacked by a wild horde of Turkish peasants, and, in pursuance of the order, were all massacred with clubs, hammers, axes, scythes, spades, saws—in a word, with every implement that causes a slow and painful death. Some shore off their heads, ears, noses, hands, feet with scythes ; others put out their eyes. Thus was exterminated the whole male Armenian population of Angora, including the " political prisoners " who had been brought thither from Ayash and Kingri‡, and our best poets, professors and journalists, as well as the manager of the Imperial Ottoman Bank in Angora, and all Armenian officials in the public service. The bodies of the victims were left in pieces in the valley, to be devoured by the wild beasts. The gendarmes boast about the part they played in these exploits.
Ten or fifteen days after these massacres, the Government arrested the men of the Armenian Catholic community at Angora. A convoy of 800 persons was sent off under the same circumstances as the others. Another convoy of 700 persons followed these, and so on—all bound together in gangs of four, and all deprived of food and clothing. The order had been given that these were not to be murdered en masse ; they were to be pushed ahead until they died of hunger and fatigue. Then began the deportation of their families. In two hours, all the women were collected together in the goods-shed at the station. They were left there for from three to five days without food and at the mercy of the gendarmes' outrages. Children of rich families begged for a piece of bread when they happened to see a passenger. Part of these women had to embrace Islam ; the rest, about 500 in number, were deported to Konia. The Armenian soldiers working on the railway have been forced, under threat of death, to embrace Islam. More than 1,500 soldiers have already been converted by force, and they are obliged to make their children and their other relations follow their example.
* Name of writer withheld.
† Beinam (?).
‡ Kiangri, Etchangeri.
Contents Cover Map
Title page Insert
Contents (as in the book)
Correspondence Preface Letters Memorandum
Chapter I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X XI XII XIII XIV
XV XVI XVII XVIII XIX XX
Summary Annexe Index of place Message
Viscount Bryce The Treatment of Armenians.London, 1916