THE TREATMENT OF ARMENIANS IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
XVI. JIBAL MOUSA.
The villages on the southern and eastern slopes of Jibal Mousa are included administratively in the Vilayet of Aleppo, and, like other Armenian settlements in that province, were only given notice of deportation at a comparatively late date—in their case, the 13th July. Geographically and historically, however, they are intimately connected with the Cilician highlanders. Jibal Mousa is a direct southern continuation of Amanus, and Yoghan Oulouk and the other Jibal Mousa villages are kindred communities to Dört Yol and Zeitoun. They are the southernmost outpost of the Armenian race towards the Arabic world.
By the time the summons was served on them, the Jibal Mousa villagers had been watching for four months the deportation of their Cilician kinsmen, and had realised to the full what this deportation meant. They resolved to resist, and retired into the fastnesses of their mountain, which rises north-west of the villages and on its further flank falls steeply into the sea. The documents in this section record their successful defence and dramatic rescue by a French squadron—the single happy incident in the national tragedy of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
[page 512] DEFENCE OF JIBAL MOUSA.
130. JIBAL MOUSA : THE DEFENCE OF THE MOUNTAIN AND THE RESCUE OF ITS DEFENDERS BY THE FRENCH FLEET; NARRATIVE OF AN EYE-WITNESS, THE REV. DIKRAN ANDREASIAN, PASTOR OF THE ARMENIAN PROTESTANT CHURCH AT ZEITOUN.
This narrative was written down after the arrival of the refugees in Egypt, translated into English by the Rev. Stephen Trowbridge, Secretary of the American Red Cross at Cairo, communicated by the translator to the Editor of the Armenian journal " Ararat," of London, and published by him in his issue of November, 1915.
From the day that Turkey entered the war there had been much anxiety among the people of Zeitoun as to whether the Turks would treat the Armenians of those mountain districts with some new form of cruelty and oppression. Zeitoun is—we must now say was-—a city of seven thousand inhabitants, entirely Armenian, and surrounded by many villages also Christian, in the heart of the Taurus Mountains.
I have been serving for one year as the pastor of the Armenian Protestant Church in Zeitoun, and the narrative which follows is one of personal experience.
Early in the spring of this year (1915) the Government began to assume a threatening attitude towards Zeitoun, summoning the elders and notables of the city and commencing an inquisition with the punishment of the bastinado. Absurd and impossible charges were made against the Armenians for the purpose of extorting money. Meanwhile some 6,000 regular troops were quartered in the barracks above the city. An attempt to take the Armenian monastery by storm cost the Turks some casualties and failed of its object. The young men who were within stoutly defended themselves, and not until attacked by field artillery was the monastery taken.
Fifty of the leading men in Zeitoun were therefore summoned to the barracks "for a conference with the commander." They were at once imprisoned and their families were sent for. Everyone waited anxiously for these people to return, but after a while it was learned that they had been sent away to an unknown destination. A few days later another and larger group of families were ordered to the barracks, and were forthwith driven off with threats and curses to a distant banishment. In this way three or four hundred families at a time were sent off on foot, with no proper supply of food, by devious routes through the mountains, some north-west towards Konia, some south-east towards the hot and unhealthy plains of Mesopotamia.
Day by day we saw the various quarters of the city stripped of their inhabitants, until at last only a single neighbourhood remained. In addition to my duties as pastor I happened to be in charge of the Mission Orphanage. The commanding officer sent
[page 513] PASTOR DIKRAN ANDREASIAN.
for me one morning and told me to make ready at once for departure. " Your wife is also to go," he said, " and the children in the Orphanage." We made our preparations hurriedly, for we were allowed to take but little with us. As we were leaving I looked back with an aching heart and saw our beloved church empty and lonely. The last company of our seven thousand people was streaming down the valley into banishment ! We had seen massacres, but we had never seen this before ! A massacre at least ends quickly, but this prolonged anguish of soul is almost beyond endurance.
The first day's march exhausted all of us. In the dark, as we lay down upon the open ground, Turkish muleteers came and robbed us of the few donkeys and mules that we had. Next day, in forlorn condition, the children with swollen and blistered feet, we reached Marash. Through the earnest request of the American missionaries, an order was secured from the governor for my wife and myself to return to my home town of Yoghanolouk, near the sea, twelve miles west of Antioch. The governor granted this permit on the ground that my wife and I were not natives of Zeitoun. My heart was torn between the desire to share banishment with some fragment of my congregation and the desire to take my wife to a place of comparative safety in my father's home. But the order having once been issued, I had no alternative but to obey.
At Aintab we found the large Armenian community in the utmost anxiety, but at that time the order to leave had not arrived. Rumours reached us that the villages by the sea were being threatened, but we thought best to continue southward, difficult though the journey was at such a time.
The last part of our way lay through a historic valley, the fertile plain of Antioch, It was here that Chrysostom preached in the fervour of his early ministry before he was called to Byzantium. And it was to a secluded chapel on our own mountain side that he used to withdraw for prayer and communion with God. As a boy I had often looked with wonder and reverence at the massive stones of the ruins of St. Chrysostom's Chapel. It was in this very Antioch that Barnabas and Paul laboured with such spiritual energy. And here they set forth upon their momentous task of spreading the Christian faith. The Roman road by which they walked from Antioch to Seleucia can still be traced in the valley below my native town, and the stone piers from which Roman ships set sail at Seleucia are not entirely demolished by the storms and earthquakes of the centuries.
The city of Antioch, once so gallantly defended by the Crusaders, has long been under the rule of the Turks, and the minarets of Islam are ten times more numerous than the church belfries. In April, 1909, the Protestant and Gregorian congregations suffered one of the most cruel persecutions in history.
[page 514] DEFENCE OF JIBAL MOUSA.
The people of my own home town, Yoghanolouk, are simple, industrious folk. For years past their chief occupation has been the sawing and polishing by hand of combs from hard wood and bone. Many of our men are also expert wood-carvers. In the neighbouring villages the chief occupations are the culture of silk worms for producing raw silk, and the weaving of silk by hand looms into handkerchiefs and scarves. Our people are very fond of their churches, and since the opening of schools by the American missionaries most of our children have learned to read. Every home is surrounded by mulberry trees, and many beautiful orchards cover the terraced slopes towards the south and west. Travellers who have been to Southern Italy tell us that the villages near Naples very much resemble ours. The broad, rough back of Mousa Dagh (i.e., Mount Moses), known in Arabic as Jibal-al-Ahmar, rises up eastward behind us. Every gorge and crag of our beloved mountain is known to our boys and men.
I mention these facts about my village home so that you may feel something of the quiet happy life which was so rudely and so completely broken up by this last attempt of the Turks to exterminate our race.
Twelve days after I had reached home an official order from the Turkish Government at Antioch was served upon the six villages of Mousa Dagh to prepare for banishment within eight days. You can scarcely imagine the consternation and the indignation which this order caused. We sat up all night debating what it would be best to do. To resist the forces of the Turkish Government seemed almost hopeless, and yet the scattering of families into a distant wilderness, raided by fanatical and lawless Arab tribes, seemed such an appalling prospect that the inclination of both men and women was to refuse the summons and withstand the anger of the Government. All, however, were not of this mind. The Rev. Haroutune Nokhoudian, the pastor of the Protestant Church in Beitias, for example, came to the conviction that it would be folly to resist, and that the severity of banishment might possibly be modified in some way. He was in favour of yielding. Sixty families from his own village and a considerable number from the next village, agreeing with him, separated themselves from us and went down to Antioch under Turkish guards. They were shortly expelled in the direction of the lower Euphrates. (We have lost all track of them now and may never hear of them again.)
Our firm friends, the American missionaries, were cut off from us 120 miles to the north at Aintab. Communications with the outside world being practically severed, we were thrown upon our own resources, and we realised that our one hope was in the mercy of God. Fervently we prayed that He would strengthen us to do our duty.
Knowing that it would be impossible to defend our villages in the foot-hills, it was resolved to withdraw to the heights of
[page 515] PASTOR DIKRAN ANDREASIAN.
Mousa Dagh, taking with us as large a supply of food and implements as it was possible to carry. All the flocks of sheep and goats were also driven up the mountain side, and every available weapon of defence was brought out and furbished up. We found that we had a hundred and twenty modern rifles and shot-guns, with perhaps three times that number of old flint-locks and horse-pistols. That still left more than half our men without weapons. It was very hard to leave our homes. My mother wept as if her heart would break. But we had hopes that possibly, while we were fighting off the Turks, the Dardanelles might be forced and deliverance come to the country.
By nightfall of the first day we had reached the upper crags of the mountain. As we were preparing to camp and to cook the evening meal, a pouring rain set in and continued all night. For this we were ill prepared. There had not been time to make huts of branches, nor had we any tents or waterproof clothing. Men, women and children, somewhat over five thousand in all, were soaked to the skin, and much of the bread we had brought with us was turned into a pulpy mass. We were especially solicitous to keep our powder and rifles dry. This the men managed to do very well.
At dawn next morning all hands went to work digging trenches at the most strategic points in the ascent of the mountain. Where there was no earth for trench-digging, rocks were rolled together, making strong barricades behind which groups of our sharp-shooters were stationed. The sun came out gloriously, and we were hard at it all day strengthening our position against the attack which we knew was certain to come.
Towards evening we held a mass meeting for the election of a Committee of Defence which should have supreme authority for our six communities. Some favoured an election by show of hands, but others argued that, as this was a matter of such vital importance, the regular Congregational method of choice by secret ballot should be followed, and they offered to get together enough bits of paper to carry out the ballot ! Our people have become very much attached to these democratic methods taught by the missionaries. Without much delay scraps of paper, more or less torn and wet, were gathered and the ballot was cast. A governing council thus being established, plans were at once made for defending each pass in the mountain and each approach to the camp. Scouts, messengers, and a central reserve group of sharp-shooters were chosen and were assigned their duties.
The summons from the Government had been served on the 13th July. The eight days' grace had now almost elapsed, and we were aware that the Turks must have discovered our movements. The whole Antioch plain is peopled with Turks and Arabs, and there is always a strong military garrison in the Antioch barracks.
On the 21st July the attack began. The advance guard was two hundred regulars, and their captain insolently boasted that he
[page 516] DEFENCE OF JIBAL MOUSA.
would clear the mountain in one day. But the Turks suffered several casualties and were driven back to the base. When they advanced for a more general attack, they dragged up a field gun which, after some experimentation, secured the range and wrought havoc in our camp. One of our sharp-shooters, a lion-hearted young fellow, crept down through the brushwood and among the rocks until he was in very close range of the field gun, which was mounted on a flat rock. Having made himself an ambush of branches, he watched for a good opportunity. He was so near that he could hear the Turks talking to one another as they loaded the gun. Then as one gunner stepped out into view, the young man picked him off with the first shot. With five bullets he killed four gunners ! The captain thereupon threw up his hands in dismay, and, not being able to discern our sharp-shooter, ordered the gun to be dragged to a place of shelter. Thus were we saved from a disastrous gun-fire for that day and several days to come.
But the Turks were gathering forces for a massed attack. They had sent word through many Moslem villages, calling the people to arms. Army rifles and plentiful ammunition were handed out from the Antioch arsenal, until the mob of four thousand Moslems thirsting for massacre became a formidable foe. But the chief strength of the Turks was in the three thousand regular troops accustomed to discipline and inured to hardship.
Suddenly one morning our scouts brought word to headquarters that the enemy was appearing at every pass in the mountain. Here and there the Turks had already gained the cliffs and shoulders of the crest. Our reserve body of defenders was—very unwisely, as we afterwards realised—sent in small groups to these various points. No sooner had our forces been thus divided than a massed attack in great force commenced through one ravine. All the other advances had been feints and were not followed up. By the time our men discovered the situation and rallied from distant points, the Turks had shot down our scouts and had poured through an important pass. To our dismay we saw them already in full occupation of high ground, threatening our camp. Reinforcements kept pushing up the mountain, and as the afternoon drew on we saw that we were completely outnumbered. We saw also that the range of the Turks' rifles was far superior to that of our old-fashioned firearms. By sundown the enemy had advanced three companies through the dense underbush and forest to within four hundred yards of our huts. A deep damp ravine lay between, and the Turks decided to bivouac rather than to push on in the darkness.
Our leaders hurriedly took counsel together, whispering very quietly and not allowing any light in camp. Everyone knew that a crisis had been reached. Finally a venturesome plan was adopted : to creep round the Turkish positions in the dead of night and thus carry out an enveloping movement, closing in
[page 517] PASTOR DIKRAN ANDREASIAN.
very suddenly with a fusillade and ending with a hand to hand encounter. If this plan should fail, we knew that everything was lost. Through the dark wet woods our men crept with extraordinary skill. It was here that our familiarity with those crags and thickets made it possible to do what invaders could not attempt. The circle was practically completed when, with a flash and a crash on all sides, our men delivered their attack, rushing forward with desperate courage.
In a very few moments it was evident that bewilderment and alarm had thrown the Turkish camp into the utmost confusion. Troops were rushing hither and thither in the black night, stumbling over rocks and logs, officers shouting contradictory commands and struggling vainly to rally their men. Evidently the impression was given of a very substantial Armenian attack, because in less than half-an-hour the Turkish colonel gave the order to retreat, and before dawn the woods were practically clear of the troops. More than two hundred Turks had been killed and some booty taken—seven Mauser rifles, 2,500 rounds of ammunition and one mule. There was no sign of any renewal of fighting. But we knew that our foes were not defeated ; they were only driven off.
During the next few days they roused the whole Mohammedan population for many miles around—a horde of perhaps 15,000. With this larger number they were able to surround and lay siege to Mousa Dagh on the landward side. Their plan was to starve us out. On the seaward side there was no harbour nor any communication with a seaport ; the mountain sloped directly into the sea. We were fully occupied in the care of our wounded and the reparation of the damage done in camp. Special meetings were held to thank God for deliverance thus far, and to intercede with him for our families and little ones. Gregorians and Protestants were fused into one faith and fellowship by this baptism of suffering. It was at this time that my wife was confined and gave birth to her first child, a son. She suffered much in the flight down the seaward trail some days later, but I carried her and helped her as much as possible. Thank God, she is in good health now and so is our little son.
When we discovered that our mountain was in a state of siege, we began to estimate our food resources. During the first week on the heights we had exhausted the bread, olives and cheese that we had brought from home. Very few had been able to bring flour or other cereals, so for a month past we had been living on our flocks, using the goats' milk for the little children and the sick, and slaughtering a number of sheep and goats every day. This constant meat diet was not good for us, but on the other hand we were profoundly thankful that we were spared the suffering of starvation. We made a careful count of the flocks, and found that even with a reduced ration of meat our supply would last not more than two weeks longer. Under the
[page 518] DEFENCE OF JIBAL MOUSA.
pressure of this anxiety we began to think of plans for escape by sea.
Before the siege had entirely closed in, we had sent a runner to make the dangerous journey of eighty-five miles through Turkish villages to Aleppo, the capital of the province, with an appeal to the American Consul, Mr. Jackson, to send us help by sea if possible. But it is not at all likely that our runner ever reached Aleppo. It occurred to us that possibly a battleship of the Allies might be in Alexandretta harbour, thirty-five miles to the north. So one of our young men who was a strong swimmer volunteered to creep through the Turkish lines and take a message in English strapped inside his belt. He succeeded in reaching the hills overlooking the harbour, but saw that there was no battleship and returned. His plan had been to swim out to sea, circling round to reach the battleship, thus avoiding the Turkish sentries on the roads leading in to Alexandretta.
We then prepared triplicate copies of the following appeal and appointed three swimmers to be constantly on the watch for any passing ship, to strike through the surf and swim out at an angle so as to meet the vessel :—
" To any English, American, French, Italian or Russian admiral, captain or authority whom this petition may find ; we appeal in the name of God and human brotherhood.
" We, the people of six Armenian villages, about 5,000 souls in all, have withdrawn to that part of Mousa Dagh called Damladjik, which is three hours journey north-west from Souedia along the sea-coast.
" We have taken refuge here from Turkish barbarism and torture, and most of all from the outraging of the honour of our women.
" Sir, you must have heard about the policy of annihilation which the Turks are applying to our nation. Under cover of dispersing the Armenians as if to avoid rebellion, our people are expelled from their houses and deprived of their gardens, their vineyards, and all their possessions.
" This brutal programme has already been applied to the city of Zeitoun and its thirty-two villages, to Albustan, Göksoun, Yarpouz, Gurin, Diyarbekir, Adana, Tarsus, Mersina, Dört Yöl, Hadjin, etc. And the same policy is being extended to all the one-and-a-half million Armenians in different parts of Turkey.
" The present writer was the Protestant pastor in Zeitoun a few months ago and was an eye-witness of many unspeakable cruelties. I saw families of eight or ten members driven along the highway, barefooted children six and seven years old by the side of aged grandparents, hungry and thirsty, their feet swollen from the toilsome journey. Along the road one heard sobs and curses and prayers. Under the pressure of great fear, some mothers gave birth to children
[page 519] PASTOR DIKRAN ANDREASIAN.
in the bushes by the side of the road. Immediately afterward they were compelled by the Turkish guards to continue their journey till kind death arrived to give an end to their torture.
" The remainder of the people who were strong enough to bear the hardships of the march were driven on under the whips of gendarmes to the plains of the south. Some died of hunger. Others were robbed along the way. Others were stricken by malaria and had to be left by the roadside. And, as a last act of this dark and foul tragedy, the Arabs and Turks massacred all the males and distributed the widows and girls among their tribes.
" The Government some forty days ago informed us that our six villages must go into exile. Rather than submit to this we withdrew to this mountain. We have now little food left, and the troops are besieging us. We have had five fierce battles. God has given us the victory, but the next time we shall have to withstand a much larger force.
" Sir, we appeal to you in the name of Christ !
" Transport us, we pray you, to Cyprus or any other free land. Our people are not indolent ; we will earn our own bread if we are employed.
" If this is too much to grant, transport at least our women, old people and children, equip us with sufficient arms, ammunition and food, and we will work with you with all our might against the Turkish forces. Please, Sir, do not wait until it is too late !
" Respectfully your servant, for all the Christians here,
But days passed and not even a sail was seen. The war had reduced the coastwise shipping to a minimum. Meanwhile, at my suggestion, our women had been making two immense flags, on one of which I printed in large, clear English, " CHRISTIANS IK DISTRESS : RESCUE." This was a white flag with black lettering. The other was also white with a large red cross at the centre. We fastened these flags to tall saplings and set a watch at the foot to scan the horizon from dawn to dark. Some days we had rain and on others heavy mists and fogs, which are rather prevalent along our bit of coast.
The Turks again attacked us by several approaches, and we had some severe fighting, but never at such close quarters as during the first general engagement. From one point of vantage we were able to roll boulders down the precipitous mountain side with disastrous effects to the enemy. Our powder and cartridges were running low, and the Turks evidently had some idea of the straits we were in, for they began shouting insolent summons to surrender. Those were anxious days and long nights ! One Sunday morning, the fifty-third day of our defence, while I was occupied in preparing a brief sermon to encourage and
[page 520] Defence of JibaI Mousa. Pastor Diktan Anareasian.
strengthen our people, I was startled by hearing a man shouting at the top of his voice. He came racing through our encampment straight for my hut. " Pastor, pastor," he exclaimed, " a battle-ship is coming and has answered our waving !—Thank God !— Our prayers are heard. When we wave the Red Cross flag the battleship answers by waving signal flags. They see us and are coming in nearer shore ! "
This proved to be the French Guichen, a four-funnel ship. While one of its boats was being lowered, some of our young men raced down to the shore and were soon swimming out to the stately vessel which seemed to have been sent to us from God ! With beating hearts we hurried down to the beach, and soon an invitation came from the Captain for a delegation to come on board and explain the situation. He sent a wireless to the Admiral of the fleet, and before very long the flag-ship Ste. Jeanne d'Arc appeared on the horizon followed by other French battleships. The Admiral spoke words of comfort and cheer to us, and gave an order that every soul of our community should be taken on board the ships. The embarkation took some time, of course, and an English cruiser was invited to take part in the transportation to Port Said, Egypt. We were taken on board four French cruisers and one English, and were very kindly cared for. In two days we arrived at Port Said, and are now settled in a permanent camp which has been provided for us by the British authorities.
We are especially grateful to Mr. William C. Hornblower for the excellent organisation of this camp, and to Col. and Mrs. P. G. Elgood and Miss Russell for their untiring efforts on our behalf,.
The Armenian Red Cross Society of Cairo, recently organised, of which the Gregorian Bishop is Honorary Chairman, Mr. Fermanian of the Kodak Company, Director, and Prof. Kayayan, Secretary, has sent us a staff of three doctors and three nurses.
An accurate census has been taken which shows that the survivors number :—
|427||babies and children under four years of age,|
|508||girls from 4 to 14,|
|628||boys from 4 to 14,|
|1,441||women above 14 years of age,|
|1,054||men above 14.|
|4,058||total number of souls rescued.|
After the Turks' first challenge, on the 13th July, we had eight days' parley and preparation; for fifty-three days we defended ourselves on Mousa Dagh ; and a two days' voyage brought us to Port Said on the 14th September.
We do not forget that our Saviour was brought in His infancy to Egypt for safety and shelter. And the brethren of Joseph could not have been more grateful than we are for the corn and wheat provided.
[page 521] JIBAL MOUSA REFUGEES. MGR. THORGOM'S REPORT.
131. JIBAL MOUSA : REPORT, DATED EGYPT, 28th SEPTEMBER, 1915, ON THE ARMENIAN REFUGEES RESCUED AND TRANSPORTED TO PORT SAID BY THE CRUISERS OF THE FRENCH FLEET ; DRAWN UP BY MGR. TH0RG0M, BISHOP OF THE GREGORIAN COMMUNITY IN EGYPT.
(1.) Number of the Refugees.
Approximately accurate statistics have been made out here, which show that the refugees number |4,200, including :—
(2.) Origin of the Refugees
They all come from the villages of Selefka (Kaza of Leffia, Sandjak of Antakia, Vilayet of Aleppo), including :—
|80||families from the village of||Makof|
|10||„ „ ,,||Keboussia|
|160||„ „ „||Kheder Bey|
|228||„ „ „||Yoghanolouk|
|220||„ „ „||Hadji-Habibli|
|170||„ „ „||Beitias|
But these families do not represent the total number of families inhabiting each village, for
|240||families in the village of||Keboussia|
|2||„ „ ,,||Yoghanolouk|
|80||„ „ „||Hadji-Habibli|
|10||„ „ „||Beitias|
|332||„ „ „|
that is, 332 families in all, remained at home and were subsequently deported by the Turkish Government.
(3.) Circumstances of the Insurrection and Exodus.
The Turkish Government, in pursuance of its policy of clearing Armenia of the Armenians, had ordered, after the fall of Van, the deportation of all Armenian families. This order reached
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Selefka on the 30th July ;* a week's grace was given for its execution. The villagers met together and, in spite of the advice of several of their leading members and of their priests, decided to revolt and die like brave men, rather than undergo the fate of the people of Zeitoun, Hadjin and Dört-Yöl.
These 868 families retired on to the mountain called Mousa Dagh, taking with them their cattle and supplies for several months.
Before leaving their villages, the insurgents invited the people of Kessab to join them. Kessab is separated from Selefka by a little stream, which was guarded by Turkish gendarmes. They were, therefore, unable to enter into direct communication with them, but they received a letter (we have seen this letter, and we have reason to believe that it was a fabrication of the Turkish Government's) in which the people of Kessab, who have a special reputation for bravery, purport to advise their neighbours of Selefka to submit to the Turkish authorities.
The period of grace expired on the 8th August, but they had already withdrawn into the mountains in the first days of August. On the 8th, the first collision took place between the Armenians and 200 regular troops ; it lasted six hours.
The Armenians had barely 600 fighting men, armed with 150 Martini rifles and 450 shot guns. Four fighting men directed operations, eight guarded the non-combatants, and forty picketed the paths. The non-combatants dug out shelter trenches for the people and children, or made munitions, while the women looked after the food.
On one occasion a woman was bringing up water to the firing line ; her jar was riddled by an enemy bullet, upon which the woman coolly put down the jar, plugged the hole and went to get fresh water, all under the enemy's fire. I cite this incident because I have been told that the rest took courage from the coolness of this woman to resist courageously to the end.
The insurgents had not forgotten to bring with them the sacred vessels from their churches, so that the five priests who were with them celebrated mass, and a pastor preached every evening.
* The dates given in this report do not tally with those in Mr. Andreasian's narrative, except that both accounts put the arrival of the refugees at Port Said on the 14th September. Mr. Andreasian puts the intervention of the Guichen on Sunday, the 12th September ; but as he also states that the voyage took two days, while the present report makes the embarkation take a day and a half, the date given here for the appearance of the Guichen upon the scene, namely, the 10th September, is probably correct. On the other hand, Mr. Andreasian speaks from firsthand knowledge when he places the official summons to deportation on the 13th July (instead of the 30th July), the first fighting on the 21st July (instead of the 8th August) and the total length of the siege at 53 days ; so that his statements on these points are likely to be more accurate.—EDITOR.
[page 523] MGR. THORGOM'S REPORT.
On the 12th August, the second collision occurred with the Turks, who had 2,000 troops with two guns ; it lasted twelve hours. On the 16th and 17th there were two violent encounters with regular troops, reinforced by Kurdish and Arab bashi-bazouks, 4,800 troops in all ; during this encounter the Armenians captured from the enemy seven Mausers and 15,000 cartridges, as well as other munitions and equipment.
There followed an interval of twenty days ; on the twenty-first, a serious battle with 7,000 soldiers, including 4,000 regulars.
From the very first days of the insurrection, the Armenians had sent down to the seashore a party of twenty people, who were relieved every 24 hours. They had with them a letter addressed to the Allied Powers, in which they prayed for help. They had hoisted a big flag—a red cross on a white ground—to attract the attention of the Allied fleet.
The Allied fleet was blockading the Turkish Mediterranean ports, and a French flotilla was on duty there. The armoured cruiser Guichen saw the flag, and the commander, Captain Joseph Brisson, put out a boat. A brave old Armenian threw himself into the water, and clambered on board the cruiser. The commander, moved by the heroism of this old man and by the details which he communicated to him, sent a wireless message to the commander of the cruiser Jeanne d'Arc, at Port Said. The Jeanne d'Arc arrived within 24 hours. The same day, the Guichen bombarded the neighbourhood of the church at Keboussia, which the Turks were attacking in order to massacre the Armenians who had taken refuge in the building. Meanwhile, a further wireless message from the Admiral on board the Jeanne d'Arc brought the armoured cruiser Desaix to the spot within another 24 hours, with an Armenian dragoman on board. The Jeanne d'Arc went off to Cyprus, and despatched three other armoured cruisers from there. The united squadron began to bombard the Turkish positions, to enable the 4,200 Armenians to come down to the water's edge, where they were embarked on board the cruisers. The embarkation took a day and a half.
The fighting had begun on the 8th August and ended on the 10th September. The Armenians had 20 killed and 16 wounded ; the enemy had about 300 killed and more than 600 wounded.
We had already learnt these facts while the insurgents were still on their voyage, but we did not know where it was intended to land them. Cyprus, Algeria and Tunis were all suggested ; then we heard that the French and British Governments were in consultation on the subject. On the 14th September they arrived at Port Said. Sir Henry MacMahon, the High Commissioner, and General Maxwell gave immediate attention to the refugees. His Majesty the Sultan of Egypt sent a donation of £250.
The French Fleet entertained the refugees three days, and since then the British Government has taken charge of them. The
[page 524] JIBAL MOUSA REFUGEES. MGR. THORGOM'S REPORT.
first to be embarked on board the four cruisers were the old men, the women and the children ; the fighting men remained two days longer on land. They asked for munitions to keep up the struggle, but the Admiral, acting on instructions received from his Government, refused their request, and so they arrived in Egypt two days later.
(4.) The Situation of the Refugees at Port Said.
They are installed in the Lazaretto, consisting of five or six stone buildings, and in 500 tents pitched round it. Everything has been organised by the military authorities. The tents are pitched in ranks divided into groups ; each tent has its tent-commander, with a pennant and a number, and each group of tents has its group-commander, with a flag.
They have built them a large kitchen, conduits and baths. Two of the stone buildings are being used for office work, and the rest have been turned into hospitals.
The general state of health is good ; there are about 80 sick, including the wounded.
The refugees have all the looks of a fighting race. They speak a dialect, but they are all orthodox members of the Armenian Church, except for an inconsiderable number of Catholics and Protestants.
At present the Government does not allow them to go outside the zone assigned to them.
The distribution of rations is punctually and methodically carried out.
(5.) Maintenance of the Refugees.
The Government has undertaken their maintenance, and it is believed that this arrangement will continue.
(a) Hospital.—Kept up by the Armenian Red Cross of Cairo. The Government, however, has also provided a head doctor and three assistants, two of them women. The Red Cross has contributed £120 for medical stores.
(b) Clothes.—The Armenian Red Cross of Cairo and Alexandria has made itself responsible for them.
(c) Education.—There are 1,000 children. The Government has placed a large tent at their disposal for use as a school. The General Armenian Union of Benevolence has undertaken the expense of their education.
(d) Workshops.—To give the refugees employment, work has been found for those who know how to make combs, wooden spoons, etc. The men will have money advanced to them as capital, and the women wool to knit stockings and socks, to give them an opportunity of setting to work and earning a living.
The approach of winter causes some anxiety, but we hope that the Government and the Armenian community in Egypt will take the necessary steps for securing them against the cold.
[page 525] JIBAL MOUSA REFUGEES. SECOND REPORT.
You must certainly have heard that, on the 14/27th September (1915), five armoured cruisers (four French and one English) brought to Port Said 4,200 Armenians from the six villages of the Selefka district, who have been given shelter in the Lazaretto, on the banks of the Suez Canal. I am happy to be able to tell you that the Anglo-Egyptian Government has kindly undertaken to house and feed these refugees until such time as they may be able to return to their country.
A little band of heroes from Selefka, hardly five to six hundred combatants, held out for fifty-five whole days against Captain Rifaat Bey and the force under his command—3,000 Nizam troops and more than 4,000 bashibazouks (Arabs and Turks), until the cruiser Guichen saw the flag in the form of a cross which these heroes had hoisted on the Mousa Mountain. This warship, with four others, went to their assistance and rescued them. These fine fellows had not more than 120 Gras rifles and about 400 flintlocks and shot guns. Sixty of them were good shots, and they picked off the Turkish artillerymen one by one, thus reducing their guns to silence—so much so that Rifaat Bey cried out : " These good Giaours sight through the needle's eye," and took to his heels. The Armenian fighting men of Selefka have had seventeen killed and twelve wounded, but they have killed fifty times as many of the enemy.
There are hardly 1,000 grown men among the refugees ; the rest are women, girls, children and infants. The boys and girls less than fourteen years of age, who are by way of going to school, number about 800 ; there are also three men teachers and three women, five priests and the Pastor of Zeitoun, the Reverend Dikran Andreasian. Babies have been born on the Jibal Mousa, on board the warships and at Port Said. All these refugees are in need of clothes, for they have been able to rescue nothing, except their wives and children and their arms.
The " Armenian Red Cross," recently formed at Cairo, set itself to look after the wounded and the sick as early as the third day after the arrival of the refugees at Port Said. By General Maxwell's orders, the Director of the Intelligence Office gave the Armenian Red Cross official authorisation to work at Port Said in the Refugees' Camp. At present we have about seventy sick ; all the wounded are on the road to recovery. The whole Armenian colony in Egypt has shown an exemplary diligence in collecting clothes, shoes, soap, combs, etc., in the name of the Armenian Red Cross, and in forwarding them to the refugees.
I have interviewed His Excellency Yakoub Artin Pasha to urge that the Armenian General Union should undertake to supply
[page 526] JIBAL MOUSA REFUGEES. SECOND REPORT.
clothes to the refugees, and should occupy itself especially with the question of their education, which constitutes one of their most urgent requirements. His Excellency promised me to make all the necessary arrangements.
I am glad to be able to tell you that the refugees are happy to be at Port Said. At the same time, it is said that about 400 good frighting men proposed, and even begged, that they should be sent back to Turkey to bring aid to their compatriots who have taken refuge in the mountains.
It is regrettable that in such Armenian centres as Zeitoun, Hadjin and Kessab* the Armenians surrendered to the tyrannical Turkish Government by the urgent orders of His Grace the Katholikos of Sis. All these Armenians have been deported into the desert situated between Aleppo, Der-el-Zor and Mosul. These deported people have endured unheard of tortures and sufferings in the course of their journey ; the women and girls have suffered savage outrages. It is said that the road is covered with unburied corpses of men, women and children ; in fact, the refugees who have arrived at Port Said have seen these corpses with their own eyes, and it was the cumulative effect of all this that made the inhabitants of the six villages of Selefka decide to retire into the mountains and defend themselves.
Since the month of May, I have had no direct news from Har-pout or Diyarbekir, but the news which I have gathered from other quarters is very disquieting.
The first news received from Marash, Aintab and Killis was good, but the last news, which comes from a trustworthy source, is equally disquieting. It is said that there have been massacres at Marash, and that the survivors, together with the Armenian inhabitants of Aintab and Killis, have been deported bodily to the deserts to the south of the province of Aleppo. We hear likewise that the Armenian population of Mersina and Adana and the neighbouring villages has been deported.
* See Doc. 143, page 559.
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