LETTERS FROM ARMENIA
LETTER No. XXII.
ATTEMPTS AT BELIEF IN DIARBEKIR AND NEIGHBOURHOOD — A REVIEW OF HAMIDIYEH CAVALRY, ETC. — A SAD LETTER FROM AINTAB.
HARPOOT, July 18, 1896.
DEAR FRIENDS, — You may remember that in my last letter I spoke of a poor Christian woman who had rushed up to me from behind a wall at the ruined village of Khayad on the banks of the Tigris, as we were coming from Mardin, and with whom I had clasped hands for a moment. She had also made a similar appeal to E., and we thought little of it at the time; but afterwards, when we found that if the village were repaired the people could return to work and quiet life, and that there was no special money at Mr. Hallward’s command for this purpose, we felt that we had had through that silent appeal a special call to the work, and so left £100 with Mr. Hall-ward for the purpose of rebuilding it, and the same sum for another still more utterly devastated village, or rather small town, called Kitabel, also on the Tigris, close to Diarbekir, where very many were killed, and witnessed a good profession for Christ, especially the Protestant pastor.
We have also felt it right to leave the same sum for
the relief of the utterly destitute women with whom this city abounds. The wife of Mr. Hallward’s dragoman and another Christian woman, both graduates of the American College at Harpoot, have undertaken the investigation of cases for us, and they will send their reports to the Consul, who will advance to them according to need. This help is, of course, only to carry the poor creatures through the present distress, and does not deal with the future, for there is no industry for them to turn to here as at Aintab and Ourfa, and no lady missionaries to organise anything of the kind. Many of these helpless and needy ones were once wealthy ladies who had their own servants, and lived in every (Eastern) comfort; now, with husbands and sons killed, and their homes entirely pillaged, what can they do? When I asked Madame Tomas, the dragoman’s wife, “ What can the poor creatures do ? ” she replied, “ There is nothing they can do, only they look to God, for He only can help.”
Then, besides these, there are the poor ruined village girls who have been brought back, after months of imprisonment worse than death, from Kurdish homes, recovered at last by the indefatigable efforts of the French and English Consuls. There are many of these now in Diarbekir who have no homes and no parents to return to, and whose moral nature as well as physical health is all crushed and broken with what they have gone through. Again, what is to be done with them ? I have told my small committee to try and find them some work — anything to occupy their minds — and to feed and clothe them.
Then there are the maimed and the sick! One poor young woman was brought for me to see, both of whose hands had been literally cut to pieces while endeavouring to save her head, which was also wounded, during the massacre, her husband being killed at the same time, and she, poor wretch, after his death and her own mutilation, bore twins (just think of it!), but, from being unable to nurse them, the babes of course died — a matter of much grief to herself and other pitying women, though to me it seemed more cause for thankfulness than sorrow; and yet what a tragedy! This woman, I need not say, is on our list.
I made an effort to get a large woman’s meeting here as elsewhere, and the Armenian bishop had given leave, and planned for it in the great church at the close of the early Sunday service, when soldiers from the Government came “ making inquiries,” so it was relinquished, and also the plan for E. to speak in the Protestant church at the same time. Afterwards, however, I met, and read my letter to and addressed about fifty women in the dragoman’s house, where his good wife holds a little prayer-meeting every Sunday, and the letter was listened to as always with many tears.
Although thus prevented from ourselves taking any public work in Diarbekir, we were cordially invited to the native Gregorian service, and given places of honour on the chancel platform of the great national church, all the people rising, both as we entered and retired, to show their appreciation of our visit of sympathy to their suffering town. And how they have suffered here! Three thou-
sand massacred at once, and all the Christian shops and numbers of houses burned and pulled down!
You see, there being no mission station at Diarbekir nor relief committee, there has been little heard in England of the sufferings here. The French Consul, of whom I have already written, has done his uttermost most nobly, and since he came, Mr. Hallward, the British Vice-Consul, has spared no pains to investigate and help, and has been sustained by the Relief Committee at Constantinople ; but all that has been done has been but as a drop in an ocean, and our contribution will also only help a very little; and yet it is a comfort to know that every little relieves some of the misery, and lifts some of the weight of despair from the hearts of the helpless and almost hopeless. Could permission for emigration be once obtained from headquarters, probably a very large number from Diarbekir would be among the first to go.
You will think it strange if I now tell you, as I think I must, one incident of our stay in this place — an incident which almost made one wonder at one’s own identity, and yet probably it was permitted to give us an insight into the inner life of the oppressing race and of the wild people under their command.
One afternoon, as I was sitting on Mr. H.’s balcony quietly reading one of Dr. Westcott’s works, the dragoman came in great haste to know if I would ride out with the Ferik Pasha (the Turkish military commander) and the two Consuls, as well as my husband. I naturally thought it was to visit some neighbouring scene of interest, and of course complied, feeling that we ought to do everything
in our power to be friendly with the man who has so much control over the destinies of the poor people here, and who has shown himself far more merciful than the Vali, although the head of the military. Imagine, then, my feelings when I was escorted to a large tent outside the gates, and with E. and the Consuls given the places of honour, with Turkish officers and soldiers all around, and a display of the horsemanship of the Kurdish cavalry as our entertainment!
Whether this was devised to impress us as English people with their skill and warlike prowess, or was in regular order, and we only invited from courtesy, I do not know; but it was a scene of barbaric interest and wonder, impossible to describe. The beauty and pace of the horses, the skill and enthusiasm of the riders, the shouts, the gesticulations and cries of the soldiers, the waving and brandishing of lances and swords baffles description, and yet the control of the whole fantasia by those in authority — horseman over horse, and commander over commanded — was perfect.
It did not last long, such a show could not, and after coffee and hand-shaking, and as few words as possible, we returned and had a long discussion on the peace question afterwards with the Consuls — the Frenchman of course thinking our hopes and anticipations for the future coming of the kingdom of Christ, of peace and goodwill on the earth, quite impossible and Utopian. On the other hand, all we see and hear of the evils of national hatred and fanaticism only convinces us more than ever of the necessity and certainty that all this must pass away, and
this and all other countries become at last subject to the Prince of Peace.
One thing is cheering us even now amidst the gloom, and it is that permission has been given for those who have, under fear of death, or more generally under fear of the dishonour of wives and daughters, professed Moslemism, to return to the Christian profession of faith, and numbers are availing themselves of this privilege and are so doing. At Biredjik, for example, where there was not a single professed Christian when we came through, 120 have now returned to the faith,1 and have asked for a Protestant pastor to be sent them, and so also in other parts. This is cheering, and the accounts we still receive of the advancing tide of real conversion and faith in Aintab, in spite of much trouble there, is also very cheering and encouraging in regard to other places where we believe the same change will soon take place; but we will let our Aintab friends speak for themselves, and so enclose a letter from Mrs. Dr. Puller just received. — Your friend affectionately,
HELEN B. H.
Mrs. Dr. Fuller to H. B. H.
AINTAB, July 4, 1896.
MY DEAR MRS. HARRIS, — Your very kind letters of June 5th and 15th are at hand. I have been quite poorly of late, or the Ourfa letter would have been answered
1 A result which was due to the energy of Vice-Consul Fitzmaurice,
at once. Our hearty thanks for the efforts you and your dear husband are making in the emigration scheme. Your loving labours have already born fruit. Last week we had letters from Miss Frances Willard and from Mrs. Amos, both writing hopefully of the matter. We have replied at once and have assured them of our most earnest co-operation in any plan to ameliorate this distressed, dying nation. Now very little aid is coming to us. Starvation stares them in the face, and we have a horrible winter in prospect. Oh, is there no merciful hand to save these perishing ones ? Now is the time to strike for it. Let there once be a beginning, the rest comes easier. We are writing everywhere on this subject. . . .
All our circle are quite well, though much worn from the strain. College commencement passed off very quietly, only a few friends of the graduates present. In place of flags there were flowers and mottoes. Seventeen graduated. Many of our youth are fleeing to America. Who wonders ? I had a good letter from our student Baron Abraham of Severek, who spoke with great warmth of your visit there, and of your kindness. He is one of our most worthy young men, and we felt it to be a calamity to the college, when he was obliged to stay out one year to teach. He is a junior. His high Christian character has been the means of helping many of his companions in the college, and of leading some to Christ. He writes of his work and hopes. God spared him for some great purpose. He was my teacher in Armenian, so I thoroughly know him, and thoroughly trust him.
The weather is very hot here, and takes all the little
strength I have quite away. The Governor will not guarantee our safety at the mountain, only five hours away, even with a guard, so we are prisoners here. There is nothing to do but to keep as cool as possible, both in body and in mind. We are having many applications from the Gregorian community for college next year, but alas we are so crippled I fear many must be turned away, and we may not be able to keep all our professors, which will be a great calamity. We hope we can tide over this year in some way, but the outlook is very dark. If the friends at home could only realise our sore straits more fully! Never did we need support more. We must have it somehow. There is a marvellous awakening here. Many from the Gregorians are inquiring the way to eternal life. Visitors are appointed to go from house to house for prayer and reading of God’s Word. The services are union on the Sabbath and on week-days. The Sunday-schools also. Over 1500 in the Gregorian Church (of children). Truly a nation may be born in a day. The harvest is ripe, but the labourers how few! Our pastors are all worn out with the demands upon them. Deeply spiritual laymen are helping also, yet the force is weak. Miss Shattuck wishes some one for Ourfa. What shall we do? We have tried for five weeks to get a helper there.
Mr. Fuller joins me in warm love for yourself and Mr. H. The Lord be with thee and bless thee. — Yours in Christian love, my dear Mrs. H.,
A. G. FULLER.
Private Letter from H. B. H.
HARPOOT, July 21, 1896.
MY DEAR FRIEND, — The Friend with report of the Yearly-Meeting is now to hand. We think that our Ourfa letters about the orphanage there, and Miss Shattuck’s subsequent letters which I have forwarded, will have indicated to the committee one very clear and plain way of immediate and beautiful help, and perhaps also they will assist in the schools, which have already succeeded so wonderfully. We have advanced enough money for the current year for both — and are answerable for four years more for the orphans — and if Friends accept this burden it will leave us more to disburse for some of the innumerable pressing needs all around. Will you let us know as soon as possible where we stand in this matter — as we shall be very glad indeed of more ready money for the hungry, and needy, and houseless people about us. Could you not telegraph to what extent we may count on Friends for the immediate pressing needs of the people ? Of course emigration is the one present hope for the people, besides keeping them alive. If it is not in some way carried out this autumn, multitudes must perish. Every one (consuls included, and of course missionaries) says so. The mass of destitute humanity is so great, some must be lifted off the rest in this way, or very few will be able to do what they else could to recuperate. They will crush one another. What makes Ourfa so much
better able to make a fresh start than other places is no doubt that so many were killed outright, and those who are left have a chance to do something.
Here, the massacre was small, but every one suffered, and hundreds of villages were pillaged and their houses burned; and although a great deal has been done for them, and some 60,000 people kept alive, yet they have no means of livelihood, and no homes for next winter.
Our Red Cross friends, of whose work we hear such good accounts, have now left this country, and God’s blessing will, we are sure, follow them. They laboured largely in this field, but they had not enough funds at their disposal (wisely as they administered them) to do more than help the people for the immediate distress.
The food-relief work is now closing for the summer, and our missionary friends dread the scene, when they shall tell the people they have no more bread for them next week. The people will then be thrown back on mulberries and a kind of wild spinach that they dry — for they cannot possibly afford leben1— or the sour curd which, with bread, used to be their chief sustenance. Now that we have appeared on the scene every one is looking to us, yet we have only what is left of private friends’ gifts, and have not as yet had any of what Friends have publicly raised. Thus you will, I am sure, sympathise with our position, and relieve it as soon as possible.
1 Turkish : yaghoort. Leben is the Arabic name.
Our address is still as before, and letters reach here better from Constantinople than from Aintab or Ourfa.
HELEN B. H.
P.S. — Just as I was closing this, a note from the Consul arrived, telling of a telegram from Constantinople announcing the receipt by Mr. Whittall of £1000 for Professor H. We are deeply and profoundly grateful for its receipt just at this time, and please express our special thanks for its extreme appropriateness.
H. B. H.
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
J. Rendel Harris & B. Helen Harris. Letters from the Scenes of
the Recent Massacres in Armenia. London, James Nisbet & Co.,