The Armenians in Asia Minor

[The Outlook; August 18, 1915]

On July 28, in the British House of Lords, the Earl of Crewe, Lord President of the Council, replying to a question by Viscount Bryce concerning the killing of Christians in Armenia, said that such crimes had increased both in number and in degree of atrocity. The Armenians have often suffered outrage and massacre, and the present war offers a new opportunity for oppression.

As far back as last January some one hundred thousand persons from the Turkish and Persian Armenian provinces had taken refuge at Etchmiadzin, at the foot of Mount Ararat, in Russian Armenia, where they appealed for relief to the head of the Armenian Church and to their compatriots. They had been chiefly suffering from the wild Kurdish tribes along the border.

In May, however, the Armenians of Asia Minor had to meet another oppressor, the Turkish Government. It issued an order, the execution of which at Brusa (the city which the Turks may make their capital if Constantinople falls) is thus described by an eye-witness:

The police at midnight swooped down upon the homes of all Armenians whose names had been put on the proscribed list sent from Constantinople. These men were arrested and the minutest search made of their homes for possible revolutionary documents. The young Armenians were then ordered into the army; the older men were deported into the interior, while women and children who were not carried off in an opposite direction were left to shift for themselves. In thousands of cases the deportation has been carried out on such a basis that families, broken up by the Turkish officials, will never be reunited.

Another report is at hand in a letter just received by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions from a British resident of Constantinople:

Zeitun has ceased to exist as an Armenian town. The inhabitants have been scattered, the city occupied by Turks, and the very name changed. The same is true, to a large extent, of Hadjin, except, I believe, the name has not been altered. The Armenians of the regions of Erzerum, Bitlis, and Erzingan have under torture been converted to Islam. Hardin reports 1895 (the year of the infamous massacre) conditions as prevailing there. The tale is awful to the last degree.... The inhabitants of cities like Zeitun and Hadjin are driven out like cattle and made to march long distances under the burning sun, hungry and thirsty. For instance, large numbers from Zeitun have recently reached Adana utterly destitute, many having been left to die along the road. More than a thousand families from Hadjin recently arrived in Aleppo in the last degree of misery, and yet the purpose is to send them much farther. Husbands are forcibly separated from wives and sent to places long distances apart. Children are similarly separated from parents.

We learn that some twenty thousand Turks from Thrace were taken to Zeitun and established in houses that for generations belonged to the Armenians, while the former owners were scattered to the extreme ends of the Empire, one portion being sent to the sandy deserts at the head of the Persian Gulf and the other to malarial marshes in the interior.

So critical is the situation that Mr. Morgenthau, our Ambassador at Constantinople, who, almost single-handed, is fighting to prevent a wholesale slaughter, has asked and obtained the co-operation of the Ambassadors there of Turkey's allies, Baron von Wangenheim and Margrave Pallavincini. They have joined our Ambassador in trying to convince the Turkish Government that a renewal of the atrocities of the former Turkish regime would be a crime.

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013

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