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Rendel J. Harris and Helen B. Harris

LETTERS FROM ARMENIA


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LETTER No. VII.

AMERICAN BRAVERY — OFFICIAL HYPOCRISY AND FATALISM — DETAILS OF THE GREAT MASSACRE — INSULTS TO ENGLAND — OCCUPATIONS OF ARMENIAN WOMEN — SOME COMPASSIONATE TURKS, ETC.

DR. FULLER’S HOUSE, AMERICAN COLLEGE,
AINTAB, April 24, 1896.

DEAR FRIENDS, — The interest here is so deep, and the things we are hearing and seeing every hour so remarkable, that if I can only convey a hundredth part to you of what we have been made to feel and think, I shall be glad.

And first let me say that words can never express the welcome and kindness we have received here, nor our wonder at the possibility of such an establishment and work existing amidst such absolutely antagonistic surroundings. Here is a noble building with extensive grounds, tennis-court, president’s and professors’ houses, and in a word peace, culture, Christianity, courtesy, education, surrounded by four strong walls, with a porter’s lodge, and outside anarchy, fanaticism, and confusion reign. Dr, and Mrs. F., the joint directors of this grand work, each in their own sphere are worthy of their position, and nothing dismayed or daunted because the Turkish Government has demanded their dismissal as seditious persons. (The request, I need hardly say, was

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not favourably received by the United States Embassy, and so they are here still.)

To show how bravely they face their position, I must mention one incident which specially shows Mrs. F.’s character. Lately her husband had escorted some lady missionaries to Alexandretta, and the Governor of Aintab took the opportunity to demand the surrender of the senior professor here, a noble, elderly Armenian gentleman (who spent an hour with us yesterday evening). The Turks had tried to get him before and had been refused, and now they thought, the Dr. being absent, was their time ! So an official arrived one morning with a document from the Governor and politely asked Mrs. F. who was her husband’s deputy ? She replied that she was, when with many regrets he presented his paper. She looked at it, and said such a request was impossible to comply with. He demanded and urged his authority, but she simply said “ No,” — she would go herself if need be, but give up the Professor — never! So the official returned the way he came, and they have heard no more of the matter. This Professor has his home within fifteen minutes’ walk of the college, but he has not ventured outside the walls for six months. Nor indeed do any of the Armenian collegians venture out, nor for three months did any one.

There are a number of interesting looking people on the grounds here, who have lost their own homes. They all seem patient and doing their best to be trustful and hopeful.

One lady had her harmonium and sewing-machine

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smashed up before her eyes, but the loss of such things is trifling compared to their other losses, and her husband is in prison at Aleppo. Some of the marauders, when they find they cannot use the things they stole at the time of the massacre here, are bringing them back and selling them boldly to their former owners! There were about 300 killed here, November 16, 1895, and numbers mutilated, hands and right arms cut off, and eyes gouged out, to render the poor people helpless. Dr. F. says when they first got among these, the day after, the massacre, it was awful hearing them crying for death to end their sufferings.

The same day he went to the Governor’s house, where he sat surrounded by his satellites, and when Dr. F. came in they were very polite and said, “ Ah! How terrible this is! Our town is all broken to pieces, but what can we do ? God wills it.”1 At the very same moment of these lamentations, the best rugs and other furniture of the looted houses were being safely conveyed to their own homes, where they were afterwards seen and recognized.

One of the cruel ways of outraging Christian feeling, as well as of maltreating the bodies of the sufferers here and

1 Any attempt to dispute this fatalistic statement is met by the inquiry, “ Does anything happen without God ?” If we cannot directly meet the question (and indeed the only way to meet it is to suggest that some other things will happen presently “ with God ” ), we can at least detect in the form of this question a survival from an earlier theology than the Turkish. For in the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles we are told to receive the things that come upon us as good — knowing that without God nothing happens ! There must have been a streak of fatalism in the Early Church. All Eastern Churches preserve traces of it, — J. R. H.

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elsewhere, was to slash them twice across the breast in the form of the cross, and say, “ Where is your Christ now? Where is your Jesus? Why does He not save you.” After the massacre the Turks got a panic that the English were going to come and punish them, and many went to the Armenians they knew, and said, “ You know we did not let you be killed, (?) now you must shelter us.”

This change of feeling passed again, when it was found that no English came, and then, several times they led a donkey with a mangy dog tied on its back around the town, amid great uproar and scorn, and cries of “Make way for Queen Victoria!” They also had a somewhat similar demonstration in derision of the Christ, who they said could not save the Armenians any better than Queen Victoria. Apropos of the scare of the English coming to punish them, some of these Turks got up a report that an artesian well, which was being dug at the time on the College grounds, was an underground way to England, and that soon English soldiers would come up from its depths and destroy the town! Others said it was not an underground way to England, but to America itself.

We have now had some opportunity of seeing the Armenians themselves, both of the higher and lower classes. The Professors here and their wives and families are the top of the tree, and probably of the finest type and education to be found in the country, and as they have spent a good part of two evenings here in Mrs. P.’s drawing-room with us, and there has been no lack of conversation, we have become pretty well acquainted. They all speak English excellently and talk with great

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interest and intelligence of the situation: indeed I see no inferiority on their part to Europeans, and they are a fine set of men physically as well as intellectually.

Yesterday Mrs. S., the wife of Dr. Shephard (just returned from Zeitun and Marash with the English Consul, Mr. Barnham), took me to a number of poor homes in the town, from which husbands, sons, &c, have been taken by the recent trouble, either by death or to be put in prison. Mrs. S. is employing a number, about two hundred, of these men and women in embroidery, a most exquisite industry to which they seem born, and the results of which she is sending to “ Liberty’s,” London. I want very much that some English friends of the Armenians should open a depot for its sale, so that a mere business-firm should not absorb all the profits from this fruit of industry, every penny of which one could wish the poor women to have. From house to house we went (five or six), and in each one was the same exquisite cleanliness, great delicacy of personal neatness — their hands so fine and clean for their beautiful work — and in every home, in spite of bare walls, a plant or two, scented geranium mostly, and in every case a leaf or two was picked and presented to us both on leaving. In better homes they give a little button-hole bouquet, but you cannot call anywhere and come away flowerless! The girls here are strikingly pretty; bright brown eyes, delicately marked eyebrows, white regular teeth, and gentle manners, and their black glossy hair they wear in long braids; and these are the women the Turks are taking and treating as we know. Delicate, modest, gentle girls! Several cases we have heard of here were sad enough.

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I took my “Frena” camera with me and photographed some ruined and burnt houses, but I wish I could have photographed a regular catacomb I went down into, under one house. It is being dug now by one family, in the courtyard of their house. You see the better houses are protected by high walls with iron doors outside, and a court within, and inside the court they cannot he seen, so they are preparing a place of refuge for any future calamity. It was a scramble getting down, some ten feet underground; but once there they had already made a good cave, very much indeed like some of the chambers in the Catacombs at Rome. This catacomb is connected with the well, so that in case of detention they would have water. I took the opportunity of telling them of the early Christians who had suffered at Rome and acted much as they were doing now, at the same time expressing my earnest hope that their catacomb might never be used.

When one of the large Christian houses was attacked and fired, some one called out for the water-hose to put out the fire, and a man ran to seek it. It was sent attached, not to water — but a petroleum barrel, and so the fire was helped instead of hindered. The lady of this house and her son were both shot as they came out — offering to give the mob anything they wanted — and their bodies burned.

I do not mean to put many tales of horror into my letters, but one more I must add just now, as it was told on the lawn - tennis ground yesterday, by one of the students to a horrified group of his companions, and then interpreted to me. One of their own number, a hotheaded young fellow, had left the college at the time of

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the Zeitun excitement, with the idea of helping his fellow-countrymen there. News had just come in that he had died in prison, and on his dead foot the marks were found where a red-hot horse-shoe had been fastened.

Now for a change. It will do your hearts good to know that all the Turks are not cruel. The American hospital here would undoubtedly have been wrecked but for the determined efforts of a Turk, whose brother’s life Dr. S. had saved. Other Turks also secreted Christian friends and neighbours in their houses. The Armenians themselves are helping one another splendidly.1 Everywhere this is the case. It is not only England and America that have given money. Many rich Armenians have quite impoverished themselves, and they are waiting on the sick and caring for the homeless in the church and school-houses here most lovingly.

This letter is so long I must now draw to a close, though

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1 In verification of this statement, here is a little table of contributions in money and goods made at Aintab between November 16, 1895, and March 8, 1896, the values being given in piastres : —

Cereals . . . 13,000 Bread, &c . . . 350
Wheat . . . 12,100 Shoes, &c . . . 250
Lentils . . . 2,050 Soap . . . 120
Molasses . . . 1,025 Clothes and unmade material . . . 30,220
Raisins . . . 2,250 Bedding . . . 1,560
Salt . . . 125 Alaja . . . 2,152
Charcoal . . . 1,120 Ornaments (gold and silver) . . . 3,145
Wood, &c . . . 515 Cash . . . 31,123
Butter . . . 513   . . .  
Olive oil . . . 100   . . .  
Meat . . . 2,560 Total . . . . . . 104,548
Vegetables . . . 270     = £ T. 829

from which it appears that the conjunction of “ deep poverty ” and “ riches of liberality ” still exists. — J. R. H.

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I have already enough more facts to tell to fill several letters. Yesterday the English Consul, who has been at Zeitun for months, and Dr. S., who went over when the fever broke out there, returned together; the Consul weak from recovery from typhus just gone through. All this morning he was in the drawing-room receiving visitors. The Turkish Governor of Aintab came to see him; then came the General of the Turkish army in Asia Minor and his aide-de-camp, now staying here; and after they left an archbishop, and the Protestant head of the Y.M.C.A. here, an Armenian gentleman educated in America and England. What contrasts, and what phases of life all these men represented you can imagine as well as I — but E. and I sat through all the visits and shook hands with all the men, though I did not enjoy the operation with the Turks. Still these are only the tools used — not the responsible arch-schemer and commander of the tragedy — and one pitied more than anything else, while looking and listening, and watching them smoking, drinking coffee, eating sweetmeats, and laughing.

Since then I have gone over the hospital, have seen the tears running down the cheeks of a strong man paralysed for life by cruelty, as he told of all his family and friends being killed but himself; there was also a poor woman from Ourfa whose hand was nearly cut off. She brightened up a little when I said I was going to her city, and sent her “ salaams ” to her son of fourteen, and to Miss Shattuck.

To-morrow we shall have a wonderful day. It is the day of prayer for Armenia in England, and the commencement here of a week of services. The great Gre-

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gorian Church, which holds when full over three thousand people, will be packed twice, once at daybreak for men, when a special service of ritualistic prayer will be held, and then Dr. Fuller and E. are to speak ; and at noon it is to be filled again with the women (such a thing as never happened before), for me to read the letter I have from the Women’s Armenian Relief Committee and speak, and also a letter of sympathy from America is to be read to them. The Gregorian priests belonging to the Church are to be present, and the Protestant minister, a professor of the college, will conduct the meeting and interpret, but no other men. At the same time a children’s meeting will be held in another church.
In the afternoon E. is to speak at the Protestant Church, and in the evening both of us at the College Service. Three weeks ago these meetings and services would have been utterly impossible, so you see how wonderful has been the leading that has brought us here for the opening of this week of services and prayer, and of which we knew nothing. — Yours affectionately,

HELEN B. H.

[As it is interesting to know the grounds upon which the attempt (alluded to in the foregoing letter) was made to expel Dr. Fuller from the country, I subjoin a part of a communication from him, dated August 19, 1896, which will show how causeless and unjust was the agitation against the Americans. — J. R. H.

The week in Aintab has been very quiet, but it has brought to a culmination a characteristic incident which will be of interest to all who are watching the progress of affairs in this country, viz.: The first massacre and plundering at Ourfa occurred October 25-27 ; Miss Shattuck was at that time the only member of our Mission in Ourfa. While the mob were yet murdering and plundering her

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neighbours, she sent a letter to us at Aintab by special messenger, who delivered the message October 26 ; on November 1, as he was returning, I gave him a note to Miss S. in reply. This man was arrested at Biredjik, his papers taken from him, and himself tried and condemned as a spy. It was immediately and loudly heralded that a letter written by the president of the college had fallen into the hands of the police, and that it contained undeniable and damning proof of the complicity of the missionaries with political agitators. This report was industriously circulated at Aintab and Ourfa, and was made a matter of repeated and formal complaint to our Consul at Aleppo by the Vali. As I was wholly ignorant of what particular letter might be referred to, I could only give and authorise a general protestation of innocence, with a challenge to produce any letter bearing my signature to which the Government could rightfully object; I especially wrote our Consul, Mr. Poche, authorising him to make the most explicit and positive denial of any and all political interference or intrigue on my part, and requesting him to demand from the Vali copies of any objectionable documents bearing my signature which might be in his possession, and offering to come personally to Aleppo to explain or to answer for anything which might cause anxiety to the Government in any word or act of mine. This method of adjusting affairs did not, however, meet the approval of his Excellency; the charges against us as a mission were persistently kept alive, and chiefly on the strength of the feeling aroused by this mysterious letter, two petitions, one signed by the present Governor and some of the principal officials of Aintab, and another quite widely signed by citizens, and representing the college as a pestilent centre of political intrigue, and the missionaries generally as highly objectionable persons, and requesting their immediate expulsion from the country, were sent to Aleppo and Constantinople. On the return of our Ambassador from America the matter was taken in hand, and a copy of the famous letter was demanded and finally furnished. I take pleasure in adding a copy, and commend it to all who have occasion to send messages in Turkey, as a specimen of what is here regarded as “seditious.”

AINTAB, Nov. 1, 1895.

DEAR MISS SHATTUCK, — Your letter received. We are in the deepest anxiety about you, especially as we get no further news ; we are doing all in our power to secure influences for your protection.

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When your letter came Dr. S. and Mr. S. were both away. Dr. S. came last night, but it does not seem possible for any one to get through to Ourfa in the present state of things. Brother S. will be here Saturday or Monday, and we will do all in our power to reach you. Be sure we think of you, and pray for you every moment. The situation here is very critical, but so far there has been no outbreak. Dr. S. and Mrs. Fuller send much love, as would all in our circle if they knew of this letter going. — Very sincerely yours,

(Signed) A. FULLER.]

 


Table of contents
The cover and pages 1-4 | Preface | Table of contents (as in the book)
Turkish Armenia with Route of J.R. & H.B. Harris (a map)
Letter I | Letter II | Letter III | Letter IV | Letter V | Letter VI | Letter VII | Letter VIII
Letter IX | Letter X | Letter XI | Letter XII | Letter XIII | Letter XIV | Letter XV
Letter XVI | Letter XVII | Letter XVIII | Letter XIX | Letter XX | Letter XXI | Letter XXII
Letter XXIII | Letter XXIV | Letter XXV | Letter XXVI | Letter XXVII | Letter XXVIII
Memorandum: Notes of Information from J. R. H. | Letter XXIX | Letter XXX
Letter XXXI | Letter XXXII | Letter XXXIII | Letter XXXIV | Letter XXXV
Letter XXXVI | Letter XXXVII

Acknowledgements:

Source: J. Rendel Harris & B. Helen Harris. Letters from the Scenes of the Recent Massacres in Armenia. London, James Nisbet & Co., Limited, 1897
Provided by: Aram Arkun, Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center
Scanned by: Karen Vrtanesyan
OCR: Irina Minasyan

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