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Rendel J. Harris and Helen B. Harris

LETTERS FROM ARMENIA


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LETTER No. XXVII.

ARRIVAL AT MALATIA — EXTENSIVE DISTRESS THERE — A PARADISE CITY — ACCOUNT OP THE MASSACRE — THE RUINS TO-DAY — HOW TO HELP THE PEOPLE — THE REFORM COMMISSIONER — LARGE MEETING IN A GARDEN — DEPARTURE OP J. R. H. — PASSPORTS FOR THE TWO SERVANTS — INTERVIEW WITH SHAKIR PASHA, AND WITH THE PASHA’S WIFE IN THE HAREM — A FRIENDLY BEY WHO HELPED THE ARMENIANS — EMBROIDERY WORK — BOARDING OUT THE ORPHANS : FIVE POUNDS FOR ONE YEAR — THE PRESS OP TEARFUL WOMEN — CONFISCATING THE FRUIT IN THE GARDENS — PERSECUTION OF KURDS WHO REFUSED TO MASSACRE — MISS BUSH AND DR. GATES.

MALATIA, August 3, 1896.

MY DEAR FRIENDS, — As I am now on my way home, I suppose this will be the last circular letter that I shall be able to write. We arrived here safely on Saturday night, after a two days’ journey over a mountainous country, from Harpoot. “ We ” stands for Miss Bush and Mr. Gates of the American Mission at Harpoot, Professor Tenekedjian of the Euphrates College, and our two selves. All of them are here for purposes of relief, and I only wish I could stay with them, for the trouble in Malatia is very great, worse than in any place we have visited except Ourfa, and in some respects it is worse than Ourfa, although the sum total of misery and wickedness is less. However, if I cannot stay another three or four months as I could wish, it is a satisfaction to know that the work

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is in such good hands in this district, and that good care is taken to make the help given such as will be of permanent benefit. Up to the present time 7732 people have been assisted in this city; but the work has now passed out of the stage of immediate relief to sick and wounded or starving individuals, and our friends have to face the problem of putting together as best they may the broken pieces of the social fabric. You will understand what is involved in this if I tell you the state of the city a little more in detail.

Malatia is the most beautiful city I have yet visited in Asiatic Turkey. If we use the word Paradise in the old Persian sense of park or garden, this place is or was a paradise. It is a succession of beautiful gardens, planted with poplar trees and every variety of fruit trees, and watered by streams that descend out of the neighbouring mountains. Almost all the houses stand in the midst of their own gardens, and the impression of the city as one approaches it from outside is more like that of a long stretch of woods than of an inhabited place, as the houses are almost entirely hidden away.

Before the troubles began in this place the relations between Moslems and Christians were very friendly, and there was no revolutionist propaganda of any kind, as there is also no trace of any such movement in the majority of the inland cities of Asiatic Turkey. But the fire of fanaticism is easy to light; a part of its fuel was found in the increasing prosperity of the Armenians, and the match was set to the fuel by a direct telegram from the Sultan. As the Moslems are five to one, it is not sur-

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prising that the massacre was a successful one; what is surprising is that the Christians were able to defend themselves for many days by firing from the roof of the chief Gregorian church upon the attacking Turks, when they had only old-fashioned guns with flint-locks, whereas their persecutors were armed by the Government with Martini-Henry rifles.

I could tell you many tales of horror in connection with these days of violence and persecution. The estimate of Christians killed varies from 2000 to 4000; most of the leading Protestants were slaughtered, and the flesh of their chief men carried round the market for sale at 20 paras (about id.) the oke (2 1/2 lbs.)! (I may say that I thought this last piece of atrocity must be apocryphal, but we have heard it from four different quarters.) In one of the churches fifty people were burned, and no doubt the great Gregorian church would have been the scene of a massacre like that at Ourfa, if it had not been for the heroic defence made by the people who were imprisoned in it.

The Protestant church and schools which I have visited to-day is a mere pile of bare walls. Of the houses in the Christian quarter 560 were destroyed, and up to the present time I cannot find one case of rebuilding, such is the fear in which the poor people live. Add to all this wreck of property in the destruction of houses, churches, and schools, the wholesale robbery of everything that could be carried away, the violence done to the women (600 girls and brides carried off to Kurdish and Turkish houses), and the ruin of families by the murder of the

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men, and you will get a faint idea of the state of things in Malatia. As I have said, it is in some ways worse than Ourfa. At Ourfa the houses are built of hard stone, upon which fire had little effect; but here the material is sun-dried bricks made of mud, with roofs of poplar beams, and such houses it is comparatively easy to destroy.

What is to be done with it all ? It would take an immense sum to rebuild the ruined quarter; I cannot see how any relief committee can take the responsibility of it. Yet, on the other hand, some shelters must be found for the people against next winter, or they will die like sheep. They cannot live in the gardens when the frost and snow come, nor sleep on the ground without beds, as many are doing now. The only thing I can think of is to stir the people out of their lethargy by offering some help towards building to selected individuals, and so stimulating the rest by their example to build themselves some rude shelters. Then there are the widows and orphans and the ruined schools, &c. &c.

Our friends will have their hands full during the next few weeks, as they proceed to the closer analysis of all this distress; but they have good experience of the work from their toil during the past eight months, and we shall be able to help them in many ways in rolling the load from off the back of this crushed and suffering community.

We have come here at a good time, as Shakir Pasha, the Reform Commissioner, is at present here investigating into the abuses of Government and the misfortunes of the people. We hope to have an interview with him this afternoon, and, if possible, shall urge the release of

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certain prisoners who are still under ward though they are known to be perfectly innocent. Perhaps we may also obtain from him permission for the rebuilding of the ruined church and schools. We shall see. And here for the present I must stay my pen. — Your sincere friend,

J. R. H.

P.S. — We had a good meeting with the Protestants yesterday. As the church is in ruins, the people met under the trees in a garden. They were very attentive. When we proposed that they should sing a hymn they shook their heads; since the troubles they had not been able to sing. However, some of our party started a hymn which they all knew very well, and presently they joined in. The number of orphans in the town is very great; they say at least two thousand.

J. R. H.

Further Account by H. B. H.

MALATIA, August 6th.

R. left us on the 4th, our entire party and the British Consul, Mr. Fontana, accompanying him for two hours, when we were obliged to return. Our two servants accompanied him, having obtained teskerehs for the rest of the journey by the good help of the Consul; and these permits will prove a valuable aid to his safe return to Constantinople, so that we have now no more fear of prison for them, or detention on their behalf for him — a danger which for the last month has been threatened for both of them, as Griva the cook lost his road-paper when flounder-

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ing in a mud-hole we went through near the Tigris, and the Pasha at Harpoot refused to grant another.

R. and the other gentlemen had an interview with Shakir Pasha before he left, but they did not get as far as to be able to intercede for the prisoners, but Miss Bush and I fared somewhat better in a visit to Mrs. Shakir and the harem yesterday. We were able to put the matter plainly before her, and Miss Bush assured her that she had known the imprisoned pastor for years, and highly esteemed him and most of the others in prison. Then I put in my word in testimony of the good work done everywhere by the American missionaries, both for Christians and Moslems, and I said they loved all. “ Not the Turks, I fear,” she said, with a slightly sarcastic smile; but Miss Bush said most emphatically, “ Yes, the Turks also, and we earnestly desire that all may dwell together as brothers.” How much of what we said sunk in we cannot tell, but we felt God’s presence and help as we sat talking there in the shady harem tent, and sipping first tea and then sherbet, and we believe good must and will come of the visit. This lady, we should say, is a Polish Roman Catholic, and the Pasha’s chief, though not his only wife. How she reconciles her position with any sort of Christian profession I do not know; we looked upon her simply as a Turkish lady. Her position must in any case be most painful and anomalous.

After visiting her, we went to the harem of the governor of the city, and got on satisfactorily, and again after that visited the ladies of a very friendly Turkish Bey, the only one in the city who has really befriended the Christians,

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but he has done so all through at the risk of his life, and at the time of the massacre had his house full of Armenians ; and we saw a woman whose hand had been nearly-severed by a sword, the wound having been at the time dressed by the Turkish ladies of this home. An Armenian woman and a sufferer was in the room with us during our reception, and lovingly treated by them; and you may imagine how cordial our intercourse was under the circumstances, and how we all united in the desire that such events as have just transpired here might never again be repeated while the world lasts !

Now that R. has gone, I am only remaining, as you can easily imagine, to help the people a little longer, working with the missionaries, and also doing some things alone. For example I am ordering a good deal of sample embroidery to be made (as at Ourfa and elsewhere), hoping to get a sale for it in England and America. It is quite unique here, and used for divan covers; but I am having squares and round pieces done for cushions, footstools, and strips for borders of curtains.

Then I must do something with the money of the Friends’ Fund for the hundreds of widows and orphans — of course taking advice with the missionaries and Consul — whom the other friends are unable to attend to for lack of funds. Instead of starting an orphanage as at Ourfa, I want to give two or three fatherless and motherless children to such widows as have lost their own or have room to take them, and already there are a hundred waiting ! Five pounds each would keep a child for a year and be a little help to the widow, and this means £500 at one

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stroke ! Of orphans whose fathers only have been killed there are thousands, and of these many must also be supported ; £500 would be none too much for them, and then it is only for a year; and what then ? Happily there are very good people here to superintend this work, both men and women who once lived in every comfort, had beautiful houses, and are educated according to the standard of the country, and who also are full of deep sympathy for their people, while themselves are suffering with them, and who can be fully trusted.

Oh! if you could only see and hear these people! The women’s eyes are always full of tears, and for the most part the men’s too, only farther back ; the women cling to one’s dress, they catch and clasp our hands, they will not let us go without a promise of help, and yet they evidently hate to trouble us, and are not a bit like common beggars; but what can they do ? We seem to them like messengers from above, and they flock around so that often there is not room to move for the press ; and what can we do, in our turn, but still hand on their sad, sad beseeching cry for help to those at home who love Christ’s poor ?

Another piece of injustice I must tell you before I close. R. has written of the beautiful fruit-gardens, and the fruit is most abundant; but since he left we have heard that the Turks have stationed people to guard the Christians’ gardens (outside the city where the largest are) to prevent the owners picking the fruit, on the threat of having their throats cut. So they cannot eat their own fruit.

One more tale and I have finished for this time. Yester-

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day, outside Shakir Pasha’s encampment, were a number of Koordish women begging. To my surprise Miss Bush gave them each a small alms ; and as this is not her practice, even with the Christians, I naturally inquired the reason; and then she told me these women belonged to a Koordish village near the city which, for some reason, had refused to help with the massacre (the only one out of a hundred who did refuse). Because of this humanity, regular troops were sent who destroyed and burned and pillaged their village as if it had been a Christian one! They therefore have a special claim upon our sympathies, and you will no longer wonder at Miss Bush’s action.

Miss Bush, I must tell you, is a second Miss Shattuck, who has lived twenty years in this country, and has visited most of the chief towns, and all the people love her; she and I are likely to work together pretty closely now that I am alone, which is a great privilege and blessing for me. Dr. Gates, President of Euphrates College, is also with us, a very interesting man and devoted missionary.

We shall probably stay here ten days longer, making arrangements to send more money after we leave ; and we shall probably also return by Arabkir, where there is also great need, to Harpoot. — Yours affectionately,

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

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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