THE TREATMENT OF ARMENIANS IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
XVIII. VILAYET OF ALEPPO.
The Vilayet of Aleppo is not Armenian soil. It is the border province of the Arabic language and the Semitic race, and the only considerable Armenian communities it contains are the villages of Jibal Mousa (which have been dealt with already) and an urban colony in the town of Aintab. In the city of Aleppo itself the Armenian element is altogether insignificant, and it was not as a centre of population, but as a junction of routes, that Aleppo played an important and terrible part in the Armenian deportations of 1915.
Aleppo is the natural meeting-place of all the roads and railways in Asiatic Turkey. It lies immediately south of the great Taurus barrier, which divides the Turco-Armenian provinces of the northwest from the Arabian provinces of the south-east ; and it also lies midway between the course of the Euphrates and the Mediterranean coast, at the point where the two approach most closely to one another. On the north-west, the railway leading to Aleppo from Constantinople and Konia over the Taurus and Amanus ranges has practically been completed ; from the north a route comes down over the Cilician mountains through Marash and Aintab ; from the north-east, through Ourfa, a carriage road converges on Aleppo from Diyar-bekir, while southward and eastward the routes radiate out from Aleppo again—the Baghdad Railway, which proceeds due eastward across the Euphrates, and is already complete in this section as far as Ras-ul-Ain ; the carriage road south-eastward down the Euphrates to Der-el-Zor ; and, finally, the Syrian Railway, which runs due south from Aleppo to Damascus, Beirout and Medina
All these routes were traversed by the convoys of Armenian exiles, and from the very beginning of the deportations they were continually arriving at Aleppo and leaving again, after a longer or shorter delay in the congested city, for their final destinations beyond.
Batches of Zeitounlis were already passing through Aleppo by the beginning of May, 1915, and the current of exiles from Cilicia went on flowing in a comparatively thin but steady stream during the next
three months. At the beginning of August the volume was suddenly increased by the arrival of the first convoys, or remnants of convoys, from the north-east. These first arrivals were from Diyarbekir, and even they had been forty-five days on the road. They were followed in due course by all who survived the far longer journey from the Vilayets of Mamouret-ul-Aziz and Erzeroum. Meanwhile, an even greater mass of exiles had been converging on Aleppo along the Anatolian Railway from all the Armenian districts which its branches tap ; but this stream was dammed up indefinitely by the mountain barriers where the railway was still incomplete, and even in December the convoys were still bivouacked on the slopes of Amanus. What was their subsequent fate—whether they died where they lay at Osmania and Islohia, or got through to Aleppo in any considerable numbers—there is little evidence to show. It is only known that 500,000 exiles altogether, out of those who converged upon Aleppo in 1915 from all the quarters above mentioned, were supposed to be still alive, in the spring of 1916, in the region between Aleppo, Damascus and Der-el-Zor.
[page 547] ALEPPO. REPORTS FROM A FOREIGN RESIDENT.
(a.) Report dated 12th May, 1915.
Between 4,300 and 4,500 families, that is, about 28,000 persons, are being removed by order of the Government from the districts of Zeitoun and Marash to distant places where they are unknown. Thousands have already been sent to the north-west into the provinces of Konia, Kaisaria, Kastamouni, &c, while others have been taken south-eastwards as far as Der-el-Zor, and report says to the vicinity of Baghdad. A traveller coming from Constantinople said that he met about 4,500 unfortunates on their way to Konia. The Armenians themselves say that they would by far have preferred a massacre.
(b.) Report dated 3rd August, 1915.
The idea of direct attack and massacre that was carried out in former times has been altered somewhat, in that the men and boys have been deported from their homes in great numbers and disappeared en route, and later on the women and children have been made to follow. For some time stories have been prevalent from travellers arriving from the interior of the killing of the males ; of great numbers of bodies along the roadside or floating in the Euphrates River ; of the delivery to the Kurds by the gendarmes accompanying the convoys of women and children and of all the younger members of the convoys ; of unthinkable outrages committed by gendarmes and Kurds, and even of the killing of many of the victims.
At first these stories were riot given much credence, but as many of the refugees are now arriving in Aleppo, no doubt any longer remains of the truth of the matter. On the 2nd August about 800 middle-aged and old women, and children under the age of ten years, arrived afoot from Diyarbekir, after forty-five days en route, in the most pitiable condition imaginable. They report the taking of all the young women and girls by the Kurds, the pillaging even of the last bit of money and other belongings, of starvation, of privation and hardship of every description. Their deplorable condition bears out their statements in every detail.
I am informed that 4,500 persons were sent from Sughurt* to Ras-ul-Ain, over 2,000 from Mezré to Diyarbekir, and that all the cities of Bitlis, Mardin, Mosul, Suverek †, Malatia, Besné, &c, have been depopulated of Armenians, the men and boys and many of the women killed, and the balance scattered throughout the country. If this is true, of which there is little doubt, even the latter must naturally die of fatigue, hunger and disease. The Governor of Der-el-Zor, on the Euphrates River, who is now in Aleppo, says that there are 15,000 Armenian refugees in that city. Children are frequently sold to prevent starvation, as the
* Sairt (?).
[page 548] ALEPPO.
Government furnishes practically no subsistence. The following statistics show the number of families and persons arriving in Aleppo, places whence deported, and number sent further on, up to and including the 30th July :—
|WHERE FROM.||FAMILIES.||PERSONS.||SENT AWAY.|
|Tcheuk-Merzemen (Dört Yöl)||400||2,109||734|
2,100 persons more arrived since the above figures were compiled.
Now all Armenians have been ordered to be deported from the cities of Aintab, Mardin, Bitlis, Antioch, Alexandretta, Kessab, and all the smaller towns in the Aleppo Province, estimated at 60,000 persons in all. It is natural to suppose that they will suffer the fate of those that have gone before, which is appalling to contemplate. The result is that, as 90 per cent, of the commerce of the interior is in the hands of the Armenians, the country is facing ruin. The great bulk of business being done on credit, hundreds of prominent business men other than Armenians face bankruptcy. There will not be left in the places evacuated a single tanner, moulder, blacksmith, tailor, carpenter, clay worker, weaver, shoemaker, jeweller, pharmacist, doctor, lawyer, or any of the professional people or tradesmen, with very few exceptions, and the country will be left in a practically helpless state.
The important American religious and educational institutions in this region are losing their professors, teachers, helpers and students, and even the orphanages are to be emptied of the hundreds of children therein, which ruins the fruits of fifty years of untiring effort in this field. The Government officials in a mocking way ask what the Americans are going to do with these establishments now that the Armenians are being done away with.
[page 549] REPORTS FROM A FOREIGN RESIDENT.
The situation is becoming more critical daily, as there is no telling where this thing will end. The Germans are being blamed on every hand, for if they have not directly ordered this wholesale slaughter (for it is nothing less than the extermination of the Armenian race), they at least condone it.
(c.) Report dated 19th August, 1915.
The city of Aintab is being rapidly depopulated of Armenians, several thousands having already passed through Aleppo on their way to the south. The accompanying gendarmes do nothing to protect their charges against attack by the way. The Armenian community of Aintab is the wealthiest of the kind in this part of the Empire. Their household belongings were left behind to be taken by the first plunderer to arrive. Most of the merchants of the city being Armenians, their stocks are likewise disappearing. It is a gigantic plundering scheme, as well as a final blow to extinguish the race.
Since the 1st August the German Baghdad Railway has brought nine trains of these unfortunate people to Aleppo, each of fifteen truck-loads and each truck containing from thirty-five to forty persons. All these in addition to many thousands that came on foot.
Since the 1st August 20,000 have so far arrived in Aleppo. The trains were mostly switched to the Damascus-Hama line, and run on south to disperse their contents among the Arabs and Druses, while a small proportion were permitted to remain in Aleppo for the time being. They all relate harrowing tales of hardships, abuse, robbery and atrocities committed en route, and, with the exception of those from Aintab, there were few if any men, girls over ten years or becoming young married women among them. Travellers from the interior have related to the writer that the beaten paths are lined with corpses of the victims. Between Ourfa and Arab-Pounar, a distance of about twenty-five miles, there were seen more than 500 unburied corpses along the highway.
On the 17th instant an order arrived from the Minister of the Interior to permit the Armenian Protestants to remain where they were. On the 19th another order came that all Armenian without distinction should be deported.
From Mardin the Government deported great numbers Syrians, Catholics, Chaldeans and Protestants, and it is feared that all Christians may later be included in the order, and possibly even the Jews. The cry is " Turkey for the Moslems ! " Judicious persons, well informed on the question, place the total loss of life up to the 15th August at over 500,000. The territory affected includes the provinces of Van, Erzeroum. Bitlis, Diyarbekir, Mamouret-ul-Aziz, Angora and Sivas ; in these the Armenians have already been practical exterminated. This leaves Aleppo and Adana to be completed, and here the movement is in rapid progress.
[page 550] ALEPPO. REPORTS FROM A FOREIGN RESIDENT.
(d.) Report dated 8th February, 1916.
I transmit herewith a copy of a report received from reliable sources in reference to the number of Armenian immigrants in this vicinity, between here and Damascus and in the surrounding country, and down the Euphrates River as far as Der-el-Zor, showing a total of about 500,000 persons. In connection with the relief sent by Mr. N. for these people, it would seem proper to state that the sum of £500 (Turkish) weekly is entirely inadequate to aid even a small part thereof. In fact, as a person cannot live on less than two gold piastres per day, it will require the sum of £10,000 (Turkish) (about £9,000 sterling) a day to keep those alive who are in good health, to say nothing of the sick.
The following are the statistics of Armenian immigrants according to the best information, up to the 3rd February, 1916 :
|Damascus as far as Ma'an, more than||100,000|
|Hama and surrounding villages||12,000|
|Horns and surrounding villages||20,000|
|Aleppo and surrounding villages||7,000|
|Ma'ara and surrounding villages||4,000|
|Bab and surrounding villages||8,000|
|Mumbidj and surrounding villages||5,000|
|Ras-ul-Ain and surrounding villages||20,000|
|Rakka and surrounding villages||10,000|
|Der-el-Zor and surrounding villages, more than||300,000|
[page 551] ALEPPO. ARMENIAN INHABITANT.
The number of people from Zeitoun exiled to Konia is more than 6,000 ; they have been put in the Sandjak of Sultania or Kara-Pounar. More than 20,000 Armenians who have been forced to emigrate are being cast into the deserts amid nomadic tribes, leaving their houses, gardens and tilled lands to the Turkish mouhadjirs. Deprived of all that they possessed, the unfortunate people have not even any graves for their dead.
At Aleppo all the churches and schools are full of exiled Armenians. Rich and poor, teachers and pupils, all are brothers there, victims of the same blow. The inhabitants of the city do their utmost to alleviate the suffering. Those that are deported— women, old men, children—are obliged to cross the deserts on foot, under the burning sun, often deprived of food and water. The most modest complaint is stifled by the most barbarous threats. Overpowered by fatigue, exhausted by hunger, mothers in despair leave on the way their infant children, often only six months old, and continue their journey.....Even in this deplorable state, rapes and violent acts are everyday occurrences. .....The Armenians deported from Hadjin could not be recognised as a result of their twelve days' journey.
* Name of author withheld.
[page 552] ALEPPO.
Speaking generally on the question of the expulsion of the Armenians from their native places, you are perhaps not aware that they have all been exiled from the towns in Northern Armenia and Anatolia, such as Harpout, Diyarbekir, Bitlis, Moush, Marash, Zeitoun, Sivas, Erzeroum, etc. They are all being sent south and are gradually moved on from one place to another until they reach the borders of the Syrian Desert. They are met with as far south as Mayadin, an Arab village one day south of Der-el-Zor or seven days' carriage journey south of Aleppo. Practically all . the towns in Syria (Aleppo, Damascus, etc.) are full of these exiles, whose condition is most pitiable, as may be imagined when one considers that some of them have been four or even six months on the road from their native places, passing through country which is practically barren and devoid of any means of obtaining proper sustenance. The Armenians are allowed to accumulate in a town until the numbers become so large that it is necessary to move them on to some other town further south, and the population commences to protest against their presence. One sees them in Aleppo on pieces of waste ground, in old buildings, courtyards and alleyways, and their condition is simply indescribable. They are totally without food and are dying of starvation. If one looks into these places where they are living one simply sees a huddled mass of dying and dead, all mixed up with discarded, ragged clothing, refuse and human excrement, and it is impossible to pick out any one portion and describe it as being a living person. A number of open carts used to parade the streets, looking out for corpses, and it was a common sight to see one of these carts pass containing anything up to ten or twelve human bodies, all terribly emaciated. These carts have since been provided with a lid and painted black, and one constantly sees bodies, mostly of women and children, being dragged out of courtyards and alleyways and thrown into them as one would throw a sack of coal. It is impossible to gauge the number of deaths per diem, but in the Armenian Cemetery trenches are dug and the bodies are simply brought there and thrown in indiscriminately. A number of priests remain at the cemetery all day, and perform some kind of funeral rite as the so-called interment is made. Every now and again an order is given for the town to be cleaned up, and the gendarmes and municipal guards go round and drive out the Armenians from their places of refuge, hustle them down to the railway station, pack them into the trucks like cattle and forward them to Damascus and different towns in the Hidjaz. Occasionally a large convoy is collected and put on the road to Der-el-Zor. Unnecessary brutality is shown in the expulsion of these people, the majority
† Name withheld.
[page 553] MEMORANDUM BY A FOREIGN WITNESS
of whom are simply living skeletons, and one sees emaciated and hunger-stricken women and children beaten with whips like dogs in order to make them move.
If one walks round certain quarters of Aleppo at night, one sees an indescribable " something " lying on the ground ; one hears a groan, and knows that it is one of these human wrecks who, the following morning, will be thrown into a cart and taken to the cemetery. Many of these people refuse to accept any help whatever, and say that they prefer to die and end their suffering rather than prolong it, since the future gives no hope of any alleviation. The stories they tell are beyond description. When they were expelled from any of the towns in Northern Asia Minor, all the men between the ages of fifteen and sixty were shot down before the eyes of the women and children, either before starting or some little way on the road. Some idea of the decimation of their numbers may be obtained when one learns that out of a convoy of 2,500, which left a village in the vicinity of Harpout, only 600 arrived in Der-el-Zor. One learns from their own stories that many of the women drowned their children in the river en route, since there was no visible means of nourishing them ; and practically every family has been depleted through the men being killed, the children dying en route and many of the girls having been carried off by roving bands of Kurdish and Arab robbers on the way. One boy of fourteen years old, from Diyarbekir, described how his father and mother were shot and two of his sisters dragged away en route, so that there remained to him only two little sisters out of the whole family. English-speaking girl students of the American College in H. told stories of the torture of various priests and professors in H., in order to make them divulge the location of supposed arms and ammunition. One girl, who was a nurse in the Military Hospital, swore that one of their professors was attended to by her after having had the hair torn from his face and his finger and toe-nails pulled out*. One Armenian priest was said to have suffered the same torture, and finally to have been burned alive ; the veracity of this, however, seems impossible in the Twentieth Century. It is no uncommon thing for women and girls who have any claim to good looks to be violated by the different Kurds and Arabs whom they meet on the way, and against whom it is impossible for them to defend themselves. Practically all these convoys are composed of women and children, and men between the ages of fifteen and sixty are rarely met with. Many of these people have been considerably well off, and brought away with them large sums of money secreted on their persons. This, of course, became known to the gendarmes and robbers en route, and they were despoiled of practically everything—not only their money, but their jewellery, clothing, bedding and everything else. Outside practically every town from Mayadin, on the Euphrates, up to
* See Doc. 68, page 272, and Doc 69, page 278.
[page 554] ALEPPO. MEMORANDUM BY A FOREIGN WITNESS.
Konia, one sees a camp containing anything from 2,000 up to 20,000 of these refugees, and one can imagine that such a large crowd of people, being thrown on to a population which already finds it difficult to obtain employment and food, would cause the position to become intolerable ; they must naturally die of starvation, since food cannot be found for such extra numbers.
On all the main routes one finds a continual stream of refugees dragging themselves wearily along and going for ever southwards. Their ultimate destination is unknown to them, but apparently they have a dim hope of at last reaching some place where they will be able to live in comparative comfort and find nourishment. If they knew, however, what they would find and what would ultimately happen to them, they would no doubt prefer simply to sit down and wait for death without going any further.
One woman in Aleppo was raving mad, owing to having lost her child and being unable to ascertain his whereabouts.
Any attempts to help the refugees are immediately nipped in the bud by the authorities, and spies are continually watching the foreign consulates. Several Armenians who called at one of them were afterwards put in prison, and one woman was cruelly beaten by a gendarme, after being compelled to leave the consulate.
[page 555] ALEPPO. MESSAGE FROM FRÄULEINO.
I want to beg our friends at home not to grow weary of making intercession for the members of the Armenian nation who are in exile here. If there is no visible prospect of a change for the better, a few months more will see the end of them all. They are succumbing in thousands to famine, pestilence and the inclemency of the weather. The exiles at Hama, Horns and in the neighbourhood of Damascus are comparatively better of. They are left where they are, and can look about for means of subsistence. But further East, along the Euphrates, they are driven from place to place, plundered and maltreated. Many of our friends are dead.
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