The Trail of Death in Armenia

[The New York Times/Current History, March 1916]

This harrowing account of Turkish atrocities in Asia Minor was furnished to a London newspaper correspondent in Egypt by a young woman who had been a British missionary of the American Board, and had just arrived from Beirut. The incident she relates occurred in the late Summer and Autumn. She herself saw and talked with the refugees at Aleppo and Aintab.

At Aleppo were the remnants of 5,000 exiles who had started from Kharput. When they began their journey they were of all ages and of both sexes. Among them were many intelligent and refined young women who had graduated from Constantinople College and the Euphrates College. Their treatment at the hands of the gendarmes, and their fate as occupants of harems, are almost unthinkable. When the refugees came to cross the rivers that flow into the Euphrates, the able-bodied men were drowned.

Further on, the survivors, now only old men, women, and children, were stripped of all their clothing. Naked, they waded through streams, slept in the chilly nights, and bore the heat of the sun. They were brought into Aleppo for the last few miles in third-class railway carriages, herded together like so many animals. When the doors of the carriages were opened they were jeered at by the populace for their nakedness. Of the 5,000 that had started from Kharput only 213 were left!

On the way from Kharput one party of 40 women came to a river at dusk. The gendarmes told them to strip and wade across. This they did, thinking that the gendarmes would follow with their clothing. Instead, they turned back, taking all the animals, baggage, clothing, and food with them, and leaving the naked women alone for the night. Another caravan of refugees came along later and found the women in their unhappy plight.

In Marash an ophanage had to be given up to the Turks, who turned it over to men. Its occupants were girls and young women, made orphans by the massacres of 1909 and preceding years. Many of them were cultured young women. The condition of those not yet dead is worse than death itself.

In a German orphanage at Marash there were more than 1,000 girls. The order for expatriation came, and, in order that she might shield a few of the older girls, the headmistress kept them under her own protection. Soon there came a telegram from the German Consul at Aleppo, saying, "You have hidden some girls. You have no business to do such a thing. Give them up." The girls had to be given up, and were taken away to suffer the inevitable at the hands of their Turkish masters.

This so angered the headmistress that she went to Constantinople to protest to the German Ambassador. She tried repeatedly to interview him on the subject, but failed every time. She was told curtly that it was none of her business. Broken-hearted, she returned to do what little relief work might be possible.

Near Aintab the refugees were not permitted to camp near any water, nor were they even allowed to go for any. Miss –––– finally secured permission from a Turkish gendarme to give a pittance of food to the miserable multitude. While she was distributing it, the gendarme suddenly became excited and began striking her. The reason for his action was the approach of some German officers on horseback. One of them rode directly at Miss –––– with the plain intention of riding her down. However, she braced herself and suffered only a bruise from contact with the horse's head. She was then rushed off by a gendarme at the command of the German officer.

The officer also said, in her hearing, to the Turkish gendarmes,
"You are too easy with the people. Draw your whips and beat this crowd." The Turks obeyed, and began beating the suffering crowd of old men, women, and children.

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013

If you appreciate the articles, read the e-novel informed by them —


A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald

The Headlong Fury