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Rendel J. Harris and Helen B. Harris

LETTERS FROM ARMENIA


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LETTER No. XXXI.

SUMMARY BY R. H. F. OF PRIVATE LETTER FROM H. B. H. — SYMPTOMS OF FURTHER MASSACRES — THE BLOW FELL AT EGHIN — HARPOOT THREATENED — STATE OF TERROR — THE PROTESTANTS TO BE SUPPRESSED — REPORT OF THE EGHIN MASSACRE.

PRIVATE letters were received on October 10 from H. B. H., dated from Harpoot, Sept. 21. The account she gives of the present situation is distressing in the extreme. The people had begun to have some hope, the widows were again gathering the little interests of a home around them and their half-clothed little ones; the men were settling into work; the children were collected from the streets and again placed in schools, and the churches were regularly filled by the saddened remains of their former congregations. Gleams of a brighter day seemed breaking upon the unhappy people; but alas! these have been dispelled, and again the dark shadow of massacre has risen. The symptoms which ushered in last year’s terrible events are again present, massacre is in the air ; there are whispers, communications, reports, letters. A day is spoken of, “ no protection, no quarter this time:” must the woes of the flock of wretched unarmed sheep, ready for the slaughter, be yet further prolonged ? So in Harpoot came this terror upon them: the women were wailing, the men
praying that they might die by the bullets of the Kurds,

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and not by torture. They knew not where the blow would first fall. It fell at Eghin (Sept. 15); so at Harpoot there is a respite.

But at Eghin the scene was terrible. Most of the Christian houses were burnt, many of the best and most respected townsmen are killed; a father and his three sons, for example, who have all left widows except the youngest. Some of the women and girls, to escape dishonour, flung themselves into the river. Alas! for the unutterable woes of these people. Our friends deem this act to be justified: “ It is better to fall into the hands of God.”

Some assert that the Armenians always themselves bring on these troubles, that they do something to bring down reprisals. H. B. H. (speaking for the localities she knows) states that this is a falsehood patent to all who witness the events. The massacres are planned beforehand. The Armenians have been deprived long since of their arms, they are defenceless and cowed. Do the sheep attack the wolf ? They have no recourse, no place to flee to. Abject submission is their attitude, and their only possible policy.

And now Harpoot is trembling. The fiery trial of November last was not enough. The Turks are saying “ Wait a little, wait until the harvest is gathered in. By the middle of October this will be done, and then ------.” Imagine with what feelings the peasants are reaping their fields, and the poor wives and daughters are going about their daily tasks!

The face of the country has changed during the past few weeks. H. B. H. says she has herself gone through more

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suffering in these three weeks than in all her previous life, but she adds, “ It is not of ourselves that any one thinks in this mission circle,” though danger is great. The British Consul is doing his utmost for their and her protection, yet their safety, even as to life, is far from sure, and she desires that no warlike reprisals should be taken if aught happens to her. “ But these poor terrified creatures, who have no Government to protect them, no Consul to interfere for them, only an unseen foe hungering for their extermination, — God protect, and pity, and save them!”

“ I think God held me here,” she continues, “ that I might hear and see what before we had but heard of. Also I can comfort the people a little, and sympathise with these dear and noble missionaries. Last Sunday I held a meeting for women after the other service, and I think about 200 were present, and I spoke to them on ‘overcoming faith.’ Afterwards how they gathered round me ! weeping and smiling at once, so grateful and loving, and now I am to speak to them again to-morrow. ”

“An edict has come to the Governor here, and no doubt to all other places where American missionaries work, ‘ to suppress the Protestant propaganda,’ so there is a general stopping, or forbidding to open, of these places of worship and schools. But on the college premises worship still goes on as usual, only it is far more fervent, and in spite of everything there are now over 600 students, boys and girls, on the grounds, whose laughter at play, or singing in the schools, often comes to my ears as a strange contrast to everything else around.

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“In less than a fortnight I may attempt the journey to Sivas, where other missionaries are, and where most earnest invitation calls me, and thence as way shall open, Van being, humanly speaking, impossible.

“ Possibly I may go to Eghin instead of to Sivas, as the accounts that are coming in of the distress there are terrible. But the road is very rough, and the missionaries say I have not the physical strength.”

Our friend goes on to suggest possible means to help in this crisis, and some steps which have now been taken, the nature of which cannot be stated here, but these means are followed by very earnest thoughts and prayers that they may be blessed. She concludes, “I will go anywhere and do anything, and meet any one, for the sake of this suffering people. I am at your and God’s disposal.”

A telegram has been received stating that H. B. H. started from Harpoot on Oct. 5 for Arabkir and Eghin, hoping to go on to Sivas, and so to the Black Sea coast, homeward.

A short report, by one of the Harpoot missionaries, of the Eghin massacre has been received, and is given below.

R. H. F.

 

HARPOOT, Sept. 23, 1896.

I am very sorry to report that a great calamity has befallen the city of Eghin. There is no town in the interior with more wealth probably and with better houses. There were about 1000 Armenian houses and an equal number of Turkish. Of the Christian houses it is said more than 600 have been burned. The estimate of the killed is from 800 to 1000.

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Eghin is one of the few places that was spared during the devastation last autumn. A large ransom was paid to the Kurds at that time, and the Turks and Christians joined in defending the place.
The official version of the late affair is (I have it from superior officers), that the Christians gathered in large numbers in the churches, Sunday morning and Monday morning, and prolonged their services so that the suspicions of the Turks were excited. On Tuesday the Armenians set fire to some of their own houses in the upper part of the city, and began to fire on the Turkish houses, killing a soldier.

The facts seem to be these. The local governor, who is a native of the place, with two or three others has represented to the Governor here that there were some seditious characters there, and it is claimed that some Eghinlees in Constantinople were concerned in the late disturbances there. The Vali spoke to some of the Eghinlees who live here in regard to it, and they wrote to their friends, and they said there was only one suspicious character there, and he was a Harpootlee, and had been sent away. Correspondence between the Eghin, Harpoot, and Constantinople authorities has been going on for several weeks, and it would seem that the Constantinople Government was persuaded that there was a seditious element in Eghin, and orders were sent to eliminate it. A few days ago, the Kurds, but not in large numbers, threatened the place, but they were sent away by the soldiers. This was repeated two or three times. On Monday the 14th instant they again appeared, and the Christians had begun to distrust their own neighbours and closed their shops. Tuesday morning, as the shops were not opened, the Governor sent criers throughout the city, to proclaim that the Kurds had been dispersed and the Government would assure the perfect safety of every citizen, and every person was commanded to open his shop and resume his business. Upon this, the shops were opened and business resumed its usual course. About noon a single shot was fired, and the slaughter immediately begun. The gun is supposed to have been the signal, although the Turks claim that it was fired by an Armenian. Massacre seems to have been the first thing in order; plunder, and the burning of houses, later. It is reported that many women and girls threw themselves into the Euphrates, which flows just at the foot of the city.

The Kaimakam has telegraphed that two or three thousand

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persons are helpless and hungry, and he appeals for aid. The Government will probably do a little for present relief, but it will be only temporary and inadequate. Eghin seems to have suffered even worse than Arabkir and Malatia.

Some prominent Turks intimate that the probabilities are that trouble is in store for this region, and they say that if it comes, it will be worse than last year.

 


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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