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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

by Eyewitnesses to Turkish Atrocities and Genocide

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Spiritual Living means a life filled with compassionate actions

10. Narrative of a German Official of the Bagdad Railway.

When the inhabitants of the Cilician villages left their homes, many of them still had donkeys for riding or carrying packs, but the soldiers escorting the convoys would only allow the “Katerdjis” (donkey-drivers) to ride on these animals, saying that strict orders had been given that no deported persons, whether male or female, might ride. In the case of the convoy starting from Hadjin the “Katerdjis” simply took all the pack animals which they suspected of carrying money or valuables straight to their own villages. Other animals, which the people had taken with them, were taken away from them by force or purchased for prices so absurdly low that it would hardly have made any difference if they had been given away gratis. A woman whose family is known to me sold 90 sheep for a hundred piastres, which at any other time would have realised about T£60 to £70; in other words, she had to sell ninety animals for the proper price of one animal. The villagers of Shar had received permission to take away their oxen, carts and pack animals. Near Gökpunar they were forced to leave the carriage road and to take the shorter footpath which crosses the mountains. They had to march on without any food, for their journey or other equipment. The escort simply said that these were their orders. [81]

At the beginning each deported person received from the Government one kilogram (2 lbs.) of bread per month (not per day). They lived on the provisions which they had taken with them. Small sums of money were afterwards paid to them. I was told of about 30 persons who had formerly been in good positions in the Circassian village of Bumbudj (Mumbidj, on the ruins of the ancient Bambyke), 1½ days’ journey from Aleppo, who had received 20 piastres in thirty days—not per head; but the 30 between them. That meant a penny a month each. About four hundred barefooted women, each with one child on her arm, one child on her back (often enough a dead one) and one held by the hand, passed through Marash during the first days. The Armenians of Marash—who afterwards were themselves deported—purchased £50 (Turkish) worth of shoes to supply those who passed through the town. Between Marash and Aintab the Mohammedan population in a Turkish village wished to give water and bread to a convoy of about 100 families. The soldiers refused to permit this. The American mission and the Armenians of Aintab—who later on were also deported—managed to bring bread and money during the night to the convoys which passed Aintab, and which totalled about 20,000 persons, mostly women and children. These were the villagers of the Sandjak of Marash. The convoys were not allowed to enter Marash, but encamped in the open. The American missionaries found it possible to provision them thus by night as far as Nisib (nine hours to the south-east of Aintab, on the way to the Euphrates).

While on the march the deported Armenians were at first robbed of their ready money, and afterwards of all their possessions. A deported Protestant minister saw T£43 being taken away from one family and £28 from [82]another. This minister was himself newly married, and was compelled to leave his young wife at Hadjin, expecting her first child. Four-fifths of the deported persons are women and children. Three-fifths of them are barefooted. A former inhabitant of Hadjin who is known to me personally and who had a fortune of at least T£15,000 had, like everybody else, been robbed of his clothes, and clothes had to be begged for him here. The deported Armenians are specially troubled by the fact that they are unable to bury their dead. They are left dying anywhere on the road. The women often carry their dead children for days on their backs. At Bab, ten hours to the east of Aleppo, those who came through were lodged provisionally for a week or two, but they were not allowed to retrace their steps to bury the companions who had died on the way.

The hardest fate is that of the women who are confined on the way. They are hardly allowed sufficient time to bring their child into the world. One poor woman gave birth to twins during the night. In the morning she had to march on, carrying the two newly-born children on her back. After a two hours’ march she collapsed. She had to put the children on the ground under a bush, and the soldiers compelled her to walk on with her companions. Another woman was confined during the march and was forced to proceed on her march immediately; she fell down dead. A third woman was surrounded by ladies belonging to the American mission, while she was confined in the neighbourhood of Aintab. They only succeeded in obtaining permission for her to ride an animal, and she continued her journey in this manner, holding the child in her lap with a few rags round it. These cases were witnessed merely on the section of road between Marash and Aintab. At Aintab the people clearing up a han, which [83]an hour before had been left by a convoy, found a new-born child. In the Tash-Han, in Marash, three new-born children were found buried in dung.

Innumerable corpses of children are found lying unburied on the road. A Turkish Major, who returned with me three days ago, said that many children were abandoned by their mothers on the way because they could not feed them any more. Older children are taken away from their mothers by the Turks. The Major, as well as each of his brothers, had an Armenian child with him; they intended to educate them as Mohammedans. One of the children speaks German. It must be one of the inmates of a German orphanage. It is thought that about 300 of the women who passed through here were confined on the way.

In this place a family, in its dire poverty and despair, sold a girl of the age of 18 years to a Turk for T£6. The husbands of most of the women had been called up for service in the Army. Anyone who does not obey the summons calling him up is hanged or shot; there were seven cases lately at Marash. The conscripts are, however, generally used merely for mending the roads, and are not allowed to carry arms. Those who return home find their houses empty. Two days ago I met an Armenian soldier at Djerabulus, who had come from Jerusalem, having obtained leave to visit his native village, Geben (situate between Zeitoun and Sis). I have known this man for years. Here he heard that his mother, his wife and three children had been deported into the desert. All inquiries as to the fate of his family were fruitless.

Corpses drifting down the Euphrates have been observed every day during the last 28 days, pairs of them being tied together back to back, while others are tied three to eight together by the arms. A Turkish [84]Colonel who is stationed at Djerabulus was asked why he did not have the corpses buried, whereupon he replied that he had no orders to do so, and that, moreover, it was impossible to ascertain whether they were Mohammedans or Christians, as their sexual organs had been cut off. (They would bury Mohammedans, but not Christians.) The corpses which had been stranded on the shore were eaten by the dogs. Others which had stuck on the sandbanks became the prey of the vultures. A German, in the course of one ride, saw six pairs of corpses drifting down stream. A German cavalry captain said he had, in the course of a ride from Diyarbekir to Ourfa, seen innumerable unburied corpses on both sides of the road, all corpses of young men whose throats had been cut. (These were the Armenians called up for military service and used for mending the roads.) A Turkish Pasha, addressing a distinguished Armenian, expressed himself as follows: “Be thankful, if at least you find a grave in the desert; many of you have to do without this.”

Not one half of the deported persons remain alive. The day before yesterday one woman died here in the station yard; yesterday there were 14 deaths, and this morning a further 10. A Protestant minister from Hadjin said to a Turk at Osmanieh: “Not one half of these deported persons remain alive.” The Turk replied: “That is what we are after.”

It ought not to be overlooked that there are some Mohammedans who disapprove of the horrible deeds done against the Armenians. A Mohammedan Sheikh, a person of great authority at Aleppo, said in my presence: “When I hear talk about the treatment of the Armenians, I am ashamed of being a Turk.”

Anyone who wishes to remain alive is compelled to go over to Islam. In order to promote this, isolated [85]families are in certain cases sent to purely Mohammedan villages.

The number of deported persons who have passed through here and at Aintab has so far reached about 50,000. Nine-tenths of them were told on the evening before their deportation that they had to start in the morning. The majority of the convoys go through Ourfa, the minority through Aleppo. The first mentioned take the road for Mosul, the others for Der-el-Zor. The authorities say that they are to be settled there, but those who escape the knife will certainly perish of hunger. Some 10,000 persons have reached Der-el-Zor on the Euphrates; no news has so far been received of the others. As regards those who were sent towards Mosul, it is said that they are to be settled at a distance of about 16 miles from the railway; this probably means that they are to be driven into the desert, where their extirpation can proceed without witnesses.

What I have written down is only a small fraction of all the cruelties which have been practised here during the last two months, and which assume larger proportions every day. It is only a fraction of the things which I have seen with my own eyes and heard from acquaintances and friends who were eye-witnesses. I am prepared at any time to mention the dates of the events and to give the names of the witnesses. [86]

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