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Testimony about the Armenian Genocide, Armenian Holocaust, the Medz Yeghen Eyewitnesses to Turkish Atrocities and Genocide

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Testimony about the Armenian Genocide, Armenian Holocaust, the Medz Yeghen

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Divine Singles are the ones we keep

C. CILICIA AND NORTHERN SYRIA.

[Contents]

7. EXILES FROM ZEITOUN.

Diary of a Foreign Resident in the Town of B. on the Cilician Plain. Communicated by a Swiss Gentleman of Geneva.

Sunday, 14th March, 1915.

This morning I had a long conversation with Mr.—— about events at Zeitoun. He has managed to obtain some information regarding the little Armenian town, although all direct communication with it has been interrupted. Turkish troops have left Aleppo for Zeitoun—some say 4,000, some 6,000, others 8,000. With what intention, one wonders? Mr.——, who has been there himself during last summer and this winter, assures me that the Armenians have no wish to revolt, and are prepared to put up with anything the Government may do. Contrary to the old-established custom, a levy was made at Zeitoun at the time of the August mobilisation, and they did not offer the slightest resistance. None the less, the Government has played them false. In October, [54]1914, their leader, Nazaret Tchaoush, came to Marash with a “safe conduct” to arrange some special points with the officials. In spite of the “safe conduct,” they imprisoned him, tortured him and put him to death. Still the people of Zeitoun remained quiet. Bands of zaptiehs (Turkish gendarmes), quartered in the town, have been molesting the inhabitants, raiding shops, stealing, maltreating the people and dishonouring their women. It is obvious that the Government are trying to get a case against the Zeitounlis, so as to be able to exterminate them at their pleasure and yet justify themselves in the eyes of the world.

th April, 1915.

Three Armenians from Dört Yöl were hanged last night in the chief square of Adana. The Government declare that they had been signalling to the British warship or warships stationed in the Gulf of Alexandretta. This is untrue, for I know, though I dare not put the source of my information on paper, that only one Armenian from Dört Yöl has had any communication with the English.

th April.

Two more Armenians from Dört Yöl have been hanged at Adana.

th April.

Three Armenians have been hanged at Adana. We were out riding to-day, and the train came into the station just as we reached the railway. Imagine our indignation when we saw a cattle-truck filled with Armenians from Zeitoun. Most of these mountaineers were in rags, but a few were quite well dressed. They had been driven out of their homes and were going to be transplanted, God knows where, to some town in Asia Minor. It seems we have returned to the days of the [55]Assyrians, if whole populations can be exiled in this way, and the sacred liberty of the individual so violated.

th April (the next day).

We were able to see the unfortunate refugees, who are still here to-day. These are the circumstances of their departure from Zeitoun, or rather this is the tragedy which preceded their exile, though it was not the cause of it.

The Turkish gendarmes outraged several girls in the town, and were attacked in consequence by about twenty of the more hot-headed young men. Several gendarmes were killed, though all the while the population as a whole was opposed to bloodshed, and desired most earnestly to avoid the least pretext for reprisals. The twenty rebels were driven out of the town and took refuge in a monastery about three-quarters of an hour’s distance from the town. At this point the troops from Aleppo arrived. The Zeitounlis gave them lodging, and it seemed that all was going excellently between the populace and the 8,000 soldiers under their German officers.

The Turks surrounded the monastery and attacked it for a whole day; but the insurgents defended themselves, and, at the cost of one man slightly wounded, they killed 300 of the regular troops. During the night, moreover, they managed to escape.

Their escape was as yet unknown to the town when, about nine o’clock on the following morning, the Turkish Commandant summoned about 300 of the principal inhabitants to present themselves immediately at the military headquarters. They obeyed the summons without the least suspicion, believing themselves to be on excellent terms with the authorities. Some of them took a little money, others some clothing or wraps, but the majority came in their working clothes and brought nothing [56]with them. Some of them had even left their flocks on the mountains in the charge of children. When they reached the Turkish camp, they were ordered to leave the town at once without returning to their homes. They were completely stupefied. Leave? But for where? They did not know.

They had been unable even yet to learn their destination, but it is probable that they are being sent to the Vilayet of Konia. Some of them have come in carriages and some on foot.

th April.

I heard to-day that the whole population of Dört Yöl has been taken away to work on the roads. They continue to hang Armenians at Adana. It is a point worth remembering that Zeitoun and Dört Yöl are the two Armenian towns which held their own during the Adana massacres of 1909.

th May.

A new batch of Zeitounlis has just arrived. I saw them marching along the road, an interminable file under the Turkish whips. It is really the most miserable and pitiable thing in the world. Weak and scarcely clothed, they rather drag themselves along than walk. Old women fall down, and struggle to their feet again when the zaptieh approaches with lifted stick. Others are driven along like donkeys. I saw one young woman drop down exhausted. The Turk gave her two or three blows with his stick and she raised herself painfully. Her husband was walking in front with a baby two or three days old in his arms.

Further on an old woman had stumbled, and slipped down into the mud. The gendarme touched her two or three times with his whip, but she did not stir; then he gave her several kicks with his foot; still she did not move; then he kicked her harder, and she rolled over [57]into the ditch; I hope that she was already dead.

These people have now arrived in the town. They have had nothing to eat for two days. The Turks forbade them to bring anything with them from Zeitoun, except, in some cases, a few blankets, a donkey, a mule, or a goat. But even these things they are selling here for practically nothing—a goat for one medjidia (3s. 2d.), a mule for half a lira (nine shillings). This is because the Turks steal them on the road. One young woman who had only been a mother eight days, had her donkey stolen the first night of the journey. What a way of starting out! The German and Turkish officers made the Armenians leave all their property behind, so that the mouhadjirs (refugees) from Thrace might enter into possession. There are five families in ——’s house! The town and the surrounding villages (about 25,000 inhabitants) are entirely destroyed.

Between fifteen and sixteen thousand exiles have been sent towards Aleppo, but they are going to be taken further. Perhaps into Arabia? Can the real object be to starve them to death? Those who have passed through our town were going to the Vilayet of Konia; there too there are deserts.

th May.

Letters have come which confirm my fears. It is not to Aleppo that the Zeitounlis are being sent, but to Der-el-Zor, in Arabia, between Aleppo and Babylonia. And those we saw the other day are going to Kara-Pounar, between Konia and Eregli, in the most arid part of Asia Minor.

Certain ladies here have given blankets and shoes to some of the poorest. The local Christians, too, have shown themselves wonderfully self-sacrificing. But what can one do? It is a little drop of charity in the ocean of their suffering. [58]

th May.

News has come from Konia. Ninety Armenians have been taken to Kara-Pounar. The Zeitounlis have arrived at Konia. Their sufferings have been increased by their having had to wait—some of them 8, some 15, some 20 days—at Bozanti (the terminus of the Anatolian Railway in the Taurus, 2,400 feet above sea level). This delay was caused by the enormous masses of troops passing continually through the Cilician Gates; it is the army of Syria which is being recalled for the defence of the Dardanelles.

When the exiles reached Konia, they had eaten nothing, according to our news, for three days. The Greeks and Armenians at once collected money and food for their relief, but the Vali of Konia would not allow anything of any kind to be given to the exiles. They therefore remained another three days without food, at the end of which time the Vali removed the prohibition and allowed food to be served out to them under the supervision of the zaptiehs.

My informant tells me that, after the departure of the Armenians from Konia for Kara-Pounar, he saw an Armenian woman throw her new-born baby into a well; another is said to have thrown hers out of the window of the train.

th May.

A letter has come from Kara-Pounar. I know the writer of it, and can have no doubt of his truthfulness. He says that the 6,000 or 8,000 Armenians from Zeitoun are dying there from starvation at the rate of 150 to 200 a day. So from 15,000 to 19,000 Zeitounlis must have been sent into Arabia, the total population of the town and the outlying villages having been about 25,000.

th May.

The whole garrison of —— and of Adana have left for [59]the Dardanelles. There are no troops left to defend the district if it should be attacked from outside.

th May (the next day).

New troops have arrived, but they are untrained.

th May.

The last batch of Zeitounlis passed through our town to-day, and I was able to speak to some of them in the han where they had been put. I saw one poor little girl who had been walking, barefoot, for more than a week; her only clothing was a torn pinafore; she was shivering with cold and hunger, and her bones were literally pushing through her skin.

About a dozen children had to be left on the road because they could not walk any further. Have they died of hunger? Probably, but no one will ever know for certain. I also saw two poor old women without any hair left, or with hardly any. When the Turks drove them out of Zeitoun they had been rich, but they could not take anything with them beyond the clothes they were wearing. They managed somehow to hide five or six gold pieces in their hair, but, unfortunately for them, the sun glinted on the metal as they marched along and the glitter attracted the notice of a zaptieh. He did not waste any time in picking out the pieces of gold, but found it much quicker to tear the hair out by the roots.

I came across another very characteristic case. A citizen of Zeitoun, formerly a rich man, was leading two donkeys, the last remnants of his fortune. A gendarme came along and seized their bridles; the Armenian implored him to leave them, saying that he was already on the verge of starvation. The only answer he received from the Turk was a shower of blows, repeated till he rolled over in the dust; even then the Turk continued beating him, till the dust was turned into a blood-soaked [60]mud; then he gave a final kick and went off with the donkeys. Several Turks stood by watching; they did not appear to be at all surprised, nor did any of them attempt to intervene.

th May.

The authorities have sent a number of people from Dört Yöl to be hanged in the various towns of Adana Vilayet.

th May.

There is a rumour of a partial exodus from Marash. It is going to be our town next.

Dört Yöl has also been evacuated and the inhabitants sent into Arabia. Hadjin is threatened with the same fate. There has been a partial clearing out of Adana; Tarsus and Mersina are threatened too, and also Aintab. [61]

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