19 August 2007
Updated With The Full Book View 4 Nov 2011
By Helen Davenport Gibbons
The New York Century Co. 1917
Published, April 1917 . .
The Letters that a young teacher at St. Paul’s College in Tarsus (the predecessor of Tarsus American College) sent to her mother in the United States beginning with her arrival in Tarsus on her 26th birthday on Dec 2, 1908, and published as a book in 1917, is available on the ArmenianHouse.org website. (St. Paul’s Colege was established in 1888 by Col. Elliott Shepard on the persuasion of missionary Dr. Thomas Christie following his stop over in Tarsus on his way to Jerusalem.) For those interested in the early life at Tarsus American College and what happened in Adana and Tarsus in 1909, and how the incidents were made public in the US, this is a very valuable, nostalgic and easy to read book. It is interesting that the 194 page book (short pages) has been dedicated to the ‘’Memory of C.H.M. Doughty-Whlie, V.C., the Major of this book who was killed in action leading a charge on Gallipoli Peninsula, April 29, 1915.’’
The ‘’Book of Letters’’ opens with the young teacher wishing that her mother was with her on her first married birthday in front of the fireplace in her bedroom at St. Paul’s College, twenty years after its founding. Than, the author goes on describing her house and its contents, including a First Aid outfit given to her as a wedding gift. In the next chapter, she writes about her and her husband Herbert’s teaching their classes how to plan and construct an essay and describes the Christmas celebrations at night, referring to her cooking that she learned at Simmins College and Bryn Mawr as having prepared her for the adventure in a country which she refers to as ‘’god forsaken lands.’’
The teacher refers to Dr. Thomas Christie and also Daddy Christie several times, and writes about their Greek helper, Socrates, whose education they sponsor, and their Armenian friends, seldom mentioning Turks in the book, only referring to them as being indifferent to human suffering. There are also references to the activities of Mormon and British missionaries in the area. In pages 27-30, Helen writes about their trip to the Cave of Seven Sleepers, something that a Tarsus graduate also mentioned in his latest ‘’Ashab-i Keyf’’’ story, except Helen states that the seven men that fled from Tarsus slept in the cave for one hundred years rather than three hundred and nine years, and when they wake up, they learn that that the whole world was Christian.
On page 40, Helen writes about her weekend trip to Adana where they visit the family of Chambers who live in the heart of the Armenian quarter and run the Girl’s School of the Mission in Adana, a city of sixty thousand. The family also makes weekend trips to Mersina (present day Mersin) and Helen writes about the Christie’s family and how one day Dr. Christie purchases one hundred chickens with his Civil Was pension when they run out of food.
In her letter dated April 14, 1909, Helen writes about massacres starting in Adana where four Armenian women were killed followed by the hundreds, both Armenians and Turks, and how Armenians in Tarsus start coming to the school, looking for protection, food and shelter. Than, the teacher states: ‘’How would you like to live in a country where you knew your Government not only would not protect you, but would periodically incite your neighbors to rob and kill you with the help of the army.’’ On page 138, she writes about the death of Daniel Miner Rogers, one of the missionaries, in Adana, who was actually killed by a stray bullet, as noted in a recent message form one of our former teachers and Principals, which is not mentioned in the book. Daniel Miner Rogers was the husband of Mrs Mary Christie Rogers Nute, whose grandchildren live in Pennsylvania, I believe.
Helen gives birth to a baby girl and the book ends with the departure of the teacher with her husband and new born baby to Egypt in April, 1909.
The author refers to the Adana incidents as if one day the Ottoman Turks decided to kill all the Armenians, without giving any backround information on the causes and making no reference to the findings of the ‘’Commission’’ that was established by the Ottoman Government following the incidents which included an Armenian Deputy, Hagop Babikian, to determine the causes of the incident. (The Commission Report was prepared but not not presented to the Parliament due to the death of Babikian the night before the scheduled debate, some even claiming that Babikian was murdered by some Armenians since he knew the facts, according to Salahi Sonyel’s book (1).) According to the memoirs of Talat Pasa, the purpose of the incidents was to provoke the people to riot, to attract European attention, and to establish an autonomous Armenian state in Clicia. As presented in Salahi Sonyel’s book , bishop Mousheg was a ‘firebrand’ who was seeking to force the foreign Powers to intervene, with the ultimate aim of declaring himself ‘king of Cilicia’ as confirmed by secret British documents (p.71).
Many books and artciles have been written about the incidents that took place in Adana and vicinity following the proclamation of Second Mesrutiyet in 1908 which provided equality among the different nationalities and allowed anyone in the Ottoman Empire to obtain guns freely. A 240 page book by Yusuf Ziya Bildirici (2) tells in detail the causes and the consequences of the incidents with full of references, documents and photographs. The proclamation gave the Armenian rebels the opportunity to accumulate huge arsenals of weapons and the Armenian bishop Mousheg, whose only aim in life was to be king, organized them in regular fighting forces who started the massacres of the Ottoman Turks, according to Salahi Sonyel. These facts, however, are not mentioned in ‘’The Red Carpets of Tarsus’’, described in many other books, including Guenter Lewy’s ‘’The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey – A disputed Genocide (3).
There are hundreds and thousands of books and articles written by the Armenians and their supporters about the Armenian issue, always referring to it as the ‘’Armenian massacres’’ and ‘’Armenian genocide,’’ when in fact, the issue was started by the Armenians and hundreds of thousands of Ottoman Turks were massacred by the Armenians who rebelled against their own government. In defense, the Ottoman Turks took to arms and killed Armenian rebels. Also, it was not only the Armenians and the Ottomans who were involved, but also the Russians, the British, the French, the Italians, the Armenian Patriach and many organizations which are mentioned very little, although they bear the responsibility for this tragedy which resulted in the death of both the Armenians and the Ottomans.
For those interested, a photograph of Christie House in Camliyayla (Namrun) is given in the Attachment where photographs of Dr. Christie and his wife adorn the walls. Following a visit there two years ago, additional photographs were distributed to Tarsus American Colege alumni group (TAC) together with a suggestion that the House could be turned into a TAC Museum.
It is recommended that who ever reads the ‘’Red Rugs of Tarsus’’ should also look at the books given below and others in order to get a balanced view of the Adana incidents.
Yuksel Oktay, PE
Istanbul, 22 September 2006
(1) The Great War and the Tragedy of Anatolia, (Turks and Armenians in the Maelstorm of Major Powers), by Salahi Sonyel. Turk Tarih Kurumu, 2001 (In English)
(2) Adana’da Ermenilerin yaptigi Katliamlar ve Fransiz-Ermeni Iliskileri, by Yusuf Ziya Bildirici, KOK Sosyal ve Stratejik Arastirmalar Serici No. 15, Ankara, 1999. (In Turkish)
(3) The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey – A Disputed Genocide, by Guenter Lewy, The University of Utah Press. 2005.