Nothing New About Erdoğan

A 106-year-old Armenian woman sits in front of her home guarding it with a rifle, in the village of Degh, near the border of Azerbaijan. 1990.

The Russians had hardly gone when the Mohammedans began to rob and to pillage. Window-frames, doors, staircases, woodwork, everything was taken away. Many Syrians had abandoned the whole of their household goods and the stores accumulated for the winter and had fled.  Everything fell into the enemy’s hands.

Flight was the best expedient; for those who were left behind had a sad fate. Fifteen thousand Syrians found protection within the walls of the Mission Station, and were provided with bread by the missionaries.

One lavash (a thin water biscuit) was each person’s daily ration. Sickness broke out; the death rate mounted up to fifty a day. In the villages, the Kurds killed nearly every man who came into their power. During six weeks a Turkish soldier guarded us. The fact that I was born in Germany was very helpful; nobody even touched us.

Am I to report how the Turks had erected gallows on the main road outside the town gates and had hanged many innocent Syrians and shot others, who previously had been detained a long time in prison? I will be silent as to all these horrible things. Like many other Armenian soldiers, one was beaten to death here outside the gate and buried close to Miss Friedemann’s wall, but so carelessly that the dogs were able to disinter part of the corpse.

One of the hands was quite uncovered. I took a few spades and we heaped a mound over him. Miss Friedemann’s garden, the property of the German Orient Mission, was destroyed by the Mohammedans and some of the houses were set on fire. We gladly welcomed the first Cossacks, who appeared again after five months. Now we feel once more that our life is safe and that it is unnecessary to keep the gates locked during the daytime.

The latest reports tell us that 4,000 Syrians and 100 Armenians who were here with the [American] missionaries [in Urmia] died of sickness alone. All the surrounding villages have been plundered and burnt down, more particularly Göktepe, Gülpashan, and Icharguscha. Two thousand Christians have been massacred in Urmia and the surrounding country; many churches have been destroyed and burnt; also many houses in the town.

Sautchbulak was razed to the ground by the Turks. Gallows were erected for the missionaries, but help came and prevented the worst. A lady missionary and a doctor have died.

In Haftevan and Salmas 850 corpses were found in the wells and cisterns alone, all headless. Why? The Commander-in-Chief of the Turkish troops had promised a sum of money for every Christian head. The wells are drenched with the blood of Christians. From Haftevan alone 500 women and girls were handed over to the Kurds in Sautchbulak.

In Diliman, crowds of Christians were locked up and forced to become Mohammedans. The males were circumcised. Gülpashan, the richest village in the district of Urmia, has been razed to the ground. The men were killed, the pretty girls and women carried off. The same fate befell Babaru. Hundreds of women threw themselves into the depths of the river when they saw so many of their sisters being violated in the streets in broad daylight; the same happened in Miandoab in the district of Sulduz.

The soldiers who passed through from Sautchbulak carried the Russian Consul’s head on a bayonet-point into Maragha. Forty Syrians were hanged on the gallows erected in the Catholic Mission Station at Fath-Ali-Han-Göl. The nuns had run into the street and prayed for pity, but in vain. In Salmas in Khosrova, their whole station has been destroyed; the nuns have fled. Maragha is destroyed. In Tabriz things are not quite so bad; 1,175 Christians were massacred in Salmas, 2,000 in the district of Urmia.

Of those who had taken refuge with the missionaries, 4,100 died of typhus. The whole number of the refugees, including those from Tergavar, Van, and Azerbaijan, is estimated at 300,000. In Etchmiadzin a committee was formed for the purpose of taking care of the poor people. Over 500 children were found on the roads over which the refugees had come, some only nine days old. Altogether over 3,000 orphans were collected at Etchmiadzin.

Adapted from the anthology Germany, Turkey and Armenia (1917). Photograph courtesy of United Nations Photo. Published under a Creative Commons license.