The following is based on an essay prepared by a marvelous researcher who wishes to remain in the background. He has given permission to have passages from his essay to be taken verbatim, for its presentation here.
The discussion below comes from essays and letters published in “The New Age," obtained through an archive provided by a professor at an Ivy League university. The writers were commenting on the events as they were occurring and were weighing the treatment of these events in the popular press of the day. The story told in these entries, spanning from 1907 to 1920, largely confirms what the Turkish government and Turkish Americans say today.
The New Age was a weekly magazine of politics, literature and art. Its greatest years were under the editorship of Alfred Richard Orage. These fifteen years, 1907-1922, correspond neatly with some of the most tumultuous years in Turkish history. Orage was widely respected; upon his death in 1934 many of England’s literary greats paid open homage. For example, T.S.Eliot praised his “honesty and selflessness,” while Edwin Muir spoke of his “incorruptible adherence to reason.”
The New Age is considered a “modernist” journal. Modernism generally refers to the literary and philosophic movement that sought to leave the orderly, Victorian morality of the 19th century behind and acknowledge the disarray of European society at the turn of the century and heading into World War I. In literature, the movement is associated with the works of T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, W.B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Franz Kafka and others. The New Age apparently did not limit its pages to writers of a single persuasion. C. H. Norman wrote when Orage died, “He expected his contributors to be competent, honest, and accurate: but, beyond that, he did not care what they wrote.”
Marmaduke William Pickthall, a translator of the Koran into English, who became a Muslim himself in 1917, wrote sympathetically about the Ottoman Empire in The New Age during the period in which T. E. Lawrence was fighting against the Ottomans in Arabia. Yet when Lawrence thought of two people to whom he might ask for advice about his manuscript of “Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” Orage was one of them.
Alfred Richard Orage
Before Orage joined the magazine, it was a Christian socialist journal of little consequence. Orage, with occasional financial help from others, including H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, built The New Age into a credible and widely read publication. Circulation, numbering probably less than 5,000 copies per issue, though not very wide, was concentrated among London’s most influential artistic and political personalities. According to one British diplomat at the time, Gerald Cumberland, “Tens of thousands of people have been influenced by this paper who have never even heard its name. It does not educate the masses directly: it reaches them through the medium of its few but exceedingly able readers.” According to Scholes, the contributors to the magazine, “who loved clarity and believed in truthfulness, produced a magazine that was extremely influential and remains important for historical reasons-and for its treatment of questions that still concern us.”
Our present interest should be drawn to The New Age for its publication of numerous essays and letters by Marmaduke Willam Pickthall, whose views on the Armenian issue add to the volume of scholarship that calls the Armenian orthodoxy into doubt. Additionally, C.F. Dixon-Johnson, a British soldier who had served in the Ottoman theater of war, appears in several short, but important letters.
Further, as a proper and objective understanding of the Turkish viewpoint in the Armenian conflict requires an appreciation of context, The New Age is an essential resource. Its renowned group of regular contributors, its influential readership, its very thorough discussion of the issues before it, and its meticulous use of the English language provide a broad window into one of the central WWI protagonists — Great Britain.
Marmaduke William Pickthall (1875-1936) is intimately described by Peter Clark in his 1986 biography, “Marmaduke Pickthall: British Muslim,” and in a short essay by Professor Daphnée Rentfrow of Brown University. Pickthall gained his greatest fame as a translator of and commentator upon the Koran. The fact that a practicing English Christian would one day convert to Islam and become a renowned translator of Muslim texts during years of volatile relations between Britain and the Ottoman Empire is extraordinary. Yet Pickthall was also a novelist, journalist, political and religious leader. Nine of his 15 novels were set in Turkey and the Middle East. He eventually became Acting Imam of the Muslim community in London; he was editor of Islamic Culture, worked for the London-based Islamic Information Bureau, which published the weekly, Muslim Outlook; and he wrote regularly for The New Age. E.M. Forster wrote in 1921 that Pickthall was, “the only contemporary English novelist who understands the Nearer East.” According to Rentfrow, “Clearly, Pickthall and his works deserve to be re-discovered: his writings for The New Age alone add an invaluable perspective on the colonial concerns pressing on Great Britain and the Muslim world in the first decades of the twentieth century.”
He was born in London to Mary O'Brien and the Reverend Charles Grayson Pickthall (Church of England). After the death of his father in 1881, his family moved several times. Pickthall, apparently a sickly child, suffered from bronchitis. After six terms at the Harrow school, where he was a contemporary of Winston Churchill, he left to travel throughout Europe with his mother. During these travels he discovered a talent for languages. Returning to England in 1894, Pickthall attempted to enter the Levant Consular Service, but despite outstanding marks in language, he placed too low in the other examination subjects. Rather than return to Harrow, which he disliked, he accepted the invitation of Thomas Dowling, a friend of his mother's, to go to Palestine to serve as chaplain to the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem.
Pickthall was convinced that if he learned eastern languages he could find a way into the Foreign Service, so he left early for Cairo, spending weeks wandering the city, developing empathy for its residents and learning Arabic. Months later, after further travels in Arabia, he arrived in Jerusalem nearly fluent in Arabic and completely enamored of the region. After two years as chaplain he was called home. He married and began publishing novels, some based on his travels.
Pickthall returned to the Middle East in 1907, arriving in Cairo as a guest of a British official. The assumption is, of course, that because of his sympathies for the people of the region, Pickthall would be critical of British rule. Instead, his politics were much more complicated. Pickthall praised the rule of the British Consul General in Egypt; while Liberal opinion in Egypt and Britain reacted in shock to the "Denshawai Incident" of 1906, Pickthall accepted the severe punishment given to the villagers, which included four hangings. Later in life he would be critical of British imperialism in India yet continue to support it in Egypt. Likewise, though he was a patriotic Tory, he opposed war between his country and the Ottoman Empire.
He began his association with The New Age in 1912. The association continued until 1920, when he left for India. Reacting to the harsh treatment of the Ottoman Empire in the British press during the Balkan Wars, he wrote a series of articles under the title “The Black Crusade,” which the New Age Press later published as a pamphlet. In these pieces, Pickthall condemns Christians for comparing Turks to Satan and for their approval of Bulgaria's Christian slaughter of Muslims. At the end of 1912, Pickthall went to the Ottoman Empire to see for himself the events he had been covering in his writings. When Britain went to war with Germany in 1914, Pickthall declared his willingness to be a British soldier as long as he did not have to fight against Turks.
Several themes in Pickthall’s writings in The New Age about the Ottoman Empire are evident. First, he argued strongly for Turkish neutrality and independence. Then, during the war years, his pieces advocated Britain returning to its prior foreign policy, which treated the Ottoman government with relative kindness. He warned against the influence of Russian foreign policy. He repudiated the idea that Balkan Christians could claim protection from Britain by virtue of shared religion. And, he praised the merits of Turkish society and the Turkish character.
Pickthall’s religious beliefs shifted during the war years. His father and his paternal grandfather were Anglican clergymen; two step-sisters were Anglican nuns; it was through church contacts that Pickthall first traveled to the Middle East. Little by little, however, the actions of the Christian community, especially missionaries, apparently disappointed Pickthall. Before the war, Pickthall was still a practicing Anglican. However, by November 1917, at the last of a series of talks to the Muslim Literary Society on “Islam and Progress,” Pickthall openly declared his acceptance of Islam. He took the name Mohammed and almost immediately became a pillar of the British Islamic community.
After the war Pickthall worked for the Islamic Information Bureau. In 1920 he left for India to serve as the editor of the Bombay Chronicle. In 1927 he took over as editor of Islamic Culture, a quarterly journal. He finally returned to England in 1935 and died a year later. Incidentally, Pickthall’s popular translation and commentary on the Koran, which has since been translated into many languages, was translated first into Turkish, in 1958.
Dikran Kouyoumdjian and Arshag Bodigian
The majority of Pickthall’s entries in The New Age impelled responses by Armenians and their defenders. Most prominent is Dikran Kouyoumdjian a notable writer about which a great deal is known. Also contributing is Arshag Bodigian.
Dikran Kouyoumdjian (1895-1956) is better known as Michael Arlen, a British novelist and short story writer of wide repute. He was born in Rustchuk, Bulgaria in an Armenian merchant family that had recently fled eastern Anatolia. In 1901 the family resettled in England. He entered the University of St. Andrews but left without taking a degree. He moved to London and chose the English-sounding name of Michael Arlen. He achieved fairly rapid success as his first novel, The London Venture, a fictionalized account of his life, received some attention. Kouyoumdjian, after having spent a short time in France, became a naturalized British citizen and legally changed his name to Arlen in 1922. As Michael Arlen, Kouyoumdjian eventually shot to fame and prosperity with the publication of his novel, The Green Hat, in 1924.
In 1928 he married a Greek Countess, Atalanta Mercati. He later preferred to live in Cannes and then as World War II got underway he moved to the U.S., where he died in New York in 1956. His son, Michael J. Arlen, wrote a biography of his father, entitled, Exiles.
C.F. Dixon-Johnson, A Pro-Turkish Voice
C. F. Dixon-Johnson
Among Turks versed in the Armenian issue, C.F. (Cuthbert Francis) Dixon-Johnson is well known. In 1916 he published a short book entitled, The Armenians, for the sole purpose, as he stated in its introduction, to provide “an opportunity of judging whether or not the Armenian Question has another side than that which has been recently so assiduously promulgated throughout the Western World.”
Professor Türkkaya Ataöv has published a thorough review of this book, including many excerpts. Ataöv’s review is widely available on Turkish websites. A lesser-known pamphlet by Dixon-Johnson is the 8-page, The Armenian Question: Its Meaning to Great Britain, which was published in 1914. I have been thus far unable to locate a copy of the 1914 pamphlet. The 1916 booklet is also very difficult to find. It has been rumored that Armenians have attempted to purchase all known copies not in private hands. C.F. Johnson’s letters published in The New Age, therefore, are an important addition.
On the following page are excerpts from and a discussion of issues of The New Age that concern the Armenian issue. To elicit the full context of events in question, I have favored breadth over brevity and, therefore, have under-edited the excerpts.
EXCERPTS FROM THE NEW AGE
May 9, 1907, Vol. 1. No. 2:
A.R. Orage comments on the disparate treatment of Russia and the Ottoman Empire in what he terms, the “Liberal press.”
“Had one-twentieth part of the horrors proved to have been committed by the servants of the Czar been alleged to have happened in Armenia or Macedonia, the whole Liberal Press would have sent up a howl of execration, would have talked about ‘forcing the Dardanelles,’ clamoured for the expulsion of the Sultan ‘bag and baggage.’ Yet the deliberate torture and outrage of young girls under the direct sanction of the Czar’s Government cannot move them to urge even a moment’s suspension of the ‘friendly understanding’ which we are told exists between our Liberal rulers and Maria Spiridonova. Is there any difference between the case of Turkey and that of Russia? Yes; there are many differences, and all of them are favourable to the Sultan. Some of the atrocities committed by the Turks were probably due to the weakness of their Government and its inability to control its own troops and agents; no such excuse can be alleged for the misdeeds of the strongest and closest bureaucracy in the world. Racial and religious feuds partially explain the disorders of the Ottoman Empire; in Russia all races and creeds are kept down under the heel of a common tyranny. Finally, the evils of Turkish rule stop at the Turkish frontier. Turkey could not, if she would, aspire - to the evil eminence to which Russia has attained - that of being the champion and protector of misrule all over the Continent. Why then does the Liberal Press, which waxed so eloquent over the Armenian atrocities, hear so meekly of the more sickening atrocities of Riga? Is it because Turkey was a small and weak power, which it was easy and safe to bully, while the military greatness of Russia, though it collapsed like a pricked bubble before Japan, is still sufficient to strike terror into the hearts of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and Sir Edward Grey?”
April 22, 1909, Vol. IV. No. 26:
Russian writer Maxim Gorki (born Aleksei Peshkov) published a multi-part fictionalized interview with Russian Czar (Nicholas II). Gorki, a devout Bolshevik portrayed the Czar as an uncaring and overconfident buffoon. In the passage excerpted below, Gorki has the Czar commenting on massacres of Armenians and comparing them to the Jews, whom history reveals were treated with great barbarity by the Czar.
Please note the date, 1909. The Czar, as written by Gorki, refers to the ordered extermination of Armenians. The Czar also confesses pleasure that some people are foolish enough to believe that Turks and Armenians hate one another racially when he knows the opposite is true. Gorki also portrays the Czar as a cynic, calling the Tartars (Turks) “faithful subjects.” I believe this is the Czar expressing gratitude to his erstwhile enemy for accomplishing something he himself had wished to do — weaken or destroy the Armenians.
“To the Massacres of Caucasians and the Armenians, by Our faithful subjects, the Tartars, We give the semblance of a race-hatred, and-thank God!—there are folks credulous enough to take that to be true! But how, it will be asked, is it possible that the Armenians and Tartars, after having lived for so many centuries in neighbourly harmony should of a sudden turn into irreconcileable enemies? What is there strange about that? Those terrible earthquakes were equally unexpected. When the Sultan ordered Kourdes and his army to exterminate the Armenians, there were tens of thousands of victims, and far less clutter was made then than now! I appeal to your sense of fairness; is it just? Then again, it was said that there were many thousands of Jews killed in the pogroms. Many thousands, yes; but not all! Those massacres were primarily due to their own stiff-neckedness in refusing to accept the Gospel of Love of the Prince of Peace! Besides, every true Christian knows that the extermination of the Jews is interwoven warp and woof with the progress of Christianity.”
November 17, 1910, Vol. VIII. No 3:
Allen Upward (1863-1920) was a poet, lawyer, politician and teacher. He strenuously argued in favor of Irish home rule. In The New Age, he wrote against the Ottoman Empire. In the piece excerpted below, he reflects prevailing European prejudices while disparaging C.U.P. efforts to reform the Empire and forge a modern sense of Ottoman nationhood. He criticizes the Turkish language. And even his positive statements about Turks are qualified with negative stereotyping.
“The region over which the Crescent still floats extends from the Adriatic to the Indian Ocean, half of it desert, and the rest thinly populated by a number of inhabitants estimated at twenty-six millions. But these inhabitants are split up among nearly a dozen nationalities, each profoundly distrustful of all the others. Divided by blood, by language, and by religion, they are divided most of all by their common history, a history of five hundred years of mutual strife, of oppression, spoliation and massacre. The very name Ottoman, put forward as a healing symbol of national union by the Turks, is, in the ears of Greeks, Bulgarians, Armenians, Syrians and Arabs, the historical symbol of barbarism and tyranny. The language for which the Greeks are asked to exchange that of Homer, and the Arabs to renounce that of the Koran, is a language without a literature and without a scientific vocabulary. Such a language is an intellectual handicap which keeps the Turks themselves below the mental level of their subjects. Instead of the proclamation of an Ottoman nation being a means of concord, every step taken to realise such an ideal is felt as a new form of oppression by all the other nationalities in the empire. …
The Turks possess many admirable qualities. They are endowed with the supreme human virtue, courage. Their rural population is sober, peaceable and honest. Christian missionaries from Europe have admitted that, man for man, the Turk is better than any of his Christian neighbours. Under the direction of a superior government the Turks would probably prove themselves to be as fine a people as the Gurkhas or the Sikhs. Unhappily they are deficient in the very qualities most necessary for the task the Young Turks have taken in hand. They are wanting in perseverance, wanting in energy, wanting in intelligence, wanting above all in the virtues of an administrator-wisdom, tact, firmness and the love of justice. The Turk in office is the worst Turk. The Young Turks themselves made a brilliant success of their revolt; they have made nothing but failures ever since. As a Turkish politician remarked to the writer, it does not follow because a man can make a revolution that he can also build a house.
The word Ottoman has no magic for any but Ottoman ears. To offer it to Arabs and Albanians is as tactless as to offer it to Armenians and Greeks. A cage of animals hostile by instinct to each other cannot be converted into a happy family merely by calling the canaries cats.”
November 7, 1912, Vol. XII. No. 1:
Marmaduke Pickthall’s Black Crusade series first appears. In this first installment he applauds the C.U.P. revolution of 1908 but criticizes how the nations of Europe failed to support what was at first universally lauded as progress for Turks. The blame lays, Pickthall argues, in religious and ethnic prejudice. Pickthall also addresses a notion that is commonly debated today - whether to support the development of moderate, nominally Muslim nations in order to defuse Islamic fundamentalism.
“[W]hen one hears (as I did lately) in an English church, the Turks compared to Satan, the Bulgarian advance to that of Christian souls assailing Paradise, one can only gasp. Are we really in the twentieth century? The notion that the lifeblood of Mohammedans is of little value in God’s sight compared with that of Christians, and may be shed more lightly (they would not put it so, but it amounts to that), obscures the minds of countless English people. This view seems horrible to me…
An example of real progress set by Turkey, encouraged by the Christian Powers, would have done more for the upraising of the Moslem peoples than all our lectures, all our laws, can ever do. It would once for all have laid the bugbear of Mohammedam fanaticism.
Europe and not Asia is to blame if Moslems everywhere are now exasperated. Their indignation has been growing ever since the [C.U.P.] revolution, as blow on blow was treacherously dealt at Turkey. The Turks themselves are well aware, and frightened, of this menace at their backs. More than the Bulgar arms, they dread an outburst of Old Moslem rage, so violent and general as to ruin all their hopes and plunge their country into utter barbarism. That is why they begged, when making peace with Italy, that the ignominy of the actual cession might be spared them for a while. That is why they must refuse to grant reforms to Macedonia, apart from other provinces, at the bidding of a Christian power. That, I believe, is why they fight half-heartedly. They fear that if the troops were once let go, there would be savage doings.”
Additionally, in this issue also appears a foreign policy analysis by S. Verdad (a humorous pseudonym of J. M. Kennedy, an early-20th century scholar on Nietsche). Commenting on the battle for Edirne during the Balkan Wars in his periodic column (not excerpted below), he indicates that while Europe at first welcomed the C.U.P. revolution, the C.U.P. could no longer be supported as it was corrupt and inept. The writing was on the wall, then: England would seek the final destruction of the Ottoman Empire.
June 26, 1913, Vol. XIII. No. 9:
S. Verdad (J.M. Kennedy), in his periodic foreign affairs column, alludes to the Russian exploitation of Armenians and to the theory that Armenian suffering will bring Western help in the project of dismantling the Ottoman Empire. One can surmise that the Russians knew well that the Armenians intended to provoke massacres that would bring attention to their cause. Further research may indeed prove that the Russians colluded in this effort.
“In addition to this, Armenia and Arabia are demanding some form of what we should call home rule. Arabia, as she supplies the best human material for the army, can take what she wants, and she shows every intention of doing so. Armenia, formerly so easily cowed, can now rely upon the protection of Russia; for what better excuse could Russia have for intervention than a massacre of Armenian Christians?”
August 14, 1913, Vol. XIII. No. 16:
In this edition, S. Verdad (J.M. Kennedy) again comments on Russia’s aims in eastern Anatolia at the expense of the Armenians, “…Russia … is not anxious to see Turkey too powerful in Europe — that might interfere with her designs on Armenia.” Of additional interest is a piece filed by Laurence Morton, about whom little is known, reporting on his recent visit to Istanbul. Morton reports on the misrepresentation of the Ottoman Empire in Europe:
“Western opinion respecting the Turk has decidedly not been a favourable one of late years, and the recent disaster to Ottoman arms has, by tarnishing their ancient lustre tended to add to the antagonism to the Osmanli race. Indeed his sympathisers are few and far between, and their number has been diminishing ever since this fatal Balkan war broke out in October last year. Thus, the recent capture of Adrianople by Enver Bey has given rise to an outcry which has quite drowned the chorus of adverse criticism which greeted the fratricidal warfare on the Serbo-Bulgar border. Why this should be, why the hapless Turk should be made the scapegoat of the Near East, is not far to seek nor difficult to conceive. In this decadent age of Liberalism, with its ‘Bag and Baggage’ principles of home and foreign policy, the case of Conservatism is hard indeed. Small wonder, them that perhaps the most conservative of peoples should get more than their full share of opprobrium.
Now, the indictment against the Turk as an ethnical entity is that he is an obstacle in the path of progress, that he bars the way to Asia, and is an active propagandist for Islam. Perhaps he is from the point of view of the outsider who may consider life from the standpoint of commerce, of industrial expansion and its correlative liberal ideas and tendencies, and whose gospel is that all that interferes with exports and dividends must be swept off the face of things like some cobweb on the wall. Judged by this standpoint, this hard, soul-killing, system of morality, the Turk is in the wrong from the very start; reaction is his crime, and he must suffer the full penalty that this unwritten law of economics prescribes for all who do not form part and parcel of its universal general plan.”
September 11, 1913, Vol. XIII. No. 20:
Pickthall, having written extensively on the Balkan Wars travels to Istanbul to gather first-hand reports. While on the ship he converses with an Ottoman Christian, presumably an Armenian. In the conversation, the Armenian at first tells Pickthall stories of Turkish treachery against Christians, but when pressed by Pickthall, admits that the stories are untrue.
“[The Armenian speaking:] ‘Ah, it is very fortunate that I have met you. I can tell you everything. Are there any questions you would like to ask me? I am well informed of everything in Turkey. I have secret informations which I can procure for you.’
[Pickthall narrating:] I put a question as to the atrocities committed by the Bulgarians in Macedonia. This made him snigger.
[Armenian:] ‘That is all a fabrication. I have private information from a friend of mine at Dede-Aghach, where the Turks have slaughtered all the Christians.’
[Pickthall narrating:] It so happened that Dede-Aghach was one of the very few places where we had respectable European evidence upon the horrors committed by Bulgarian troops and komitajis. I said as much. At once my friend revoked, exclaiming:
[Armenian:] ‘I will tell you how it was: The Turks began to massacre, killing two or three; so the Bulgars said: You will either become Christians or leave the country, or else we will massacre you all. Were they not right? Ah, sir, you do not know all that we have to suffer, we Christians here in Turkey, from the fanaticism of the Mussulmans. I shall be happy to inform you fully. I am at your disposal.’
[Pickthall narrating:] I smoked in silence for a while before replying: -- ‘You talk nonsense. If it had not been for the Turks, not one Oriental Christian would have been alive to-day. The fanaticism of Latin Europe was in a fair way to destroy you when the Turkish conquest came and, with its toleration, preserved you in existence.’
[Armenian:] ‘Ah!’ he veered round at once. ‘What you are saying now is very true. Formerly the Turks were not at all fanatical. And even now they are not half so bad as people think. I have heard gentlemen on board saying that there has been another revolution, and attacks on Christians in Constantinople. I, who am of the country, well acquainted with the Turkish character, find myself wondering how such false reports can be believed.’
[Pickthall narrating:] I may be wronging my unknown interlocutor, but I cannot help suspecting that, but for the firm line I had taken with him, he would himself have told me those reports were true.
[Armenian:] ‘May I ask if you have friends living in Constantinople?’ he inquired. His tone had grown much less obsequious, and more respectful. I let fall Turkish names. ‘But you should know Armenians also?’ he protested.
September 25, 1913, Vol. XIII. No. 22
As Pickthall’s travelogue from Turkey continues he recounts two events. First he mentions that in his 16 days spent at the Pera Palace Hotel, while otherwise seeking a house, he saw many foreign war correspondents. In particular he noted the many people who attempted to influence the reporters, including one Armenian who repeatedly claimed that he possessed private information, presumably of fictional Turkish treachery. Second, Pickthall recounts his time with his Turkish language teacher, who was a Christian from Diyarbakir. Of him, Pickthall said, “Though we talked together long and freely, I could not discover that he had ever so much as heard of Turkish fanaticism — Christian though he was, and mixing, as he did, continually with Mahommedans.”
November 27, 1913, Vol. XIV. No. 4:
This issue contains three articles concerning the Ottoman Empire, though none discuss the Armenian issue directly. Ali Fahmy Mohammed, a former Egyptian nationalist, argues in his piece, “England & Turkey,” for a stronger British policy supporting the C.U.P. Marmaduke Pickthall continues his travelogue, in this episode conversing with a conspirator who supports policies that would have quickly divested the Ottoman Empire of its Arab provinces. Finally, Pickthall publishes a letter to the editor entitled, “A Plea for Civilisation,” in which he, like Fahmy, urges Britain to be consistent in its support for the C.U.P. and to help preserve the unity of the Ottoman Empire. Of particular interest, Pickthall notes that the Ottoman government had requested that the British government send administrators to the “Kurd-Armenian Vilayets” but that England failed to do so. Pickthall correctly feared that the British, who had once worked to strengthen the Ottoman state, would now work to undermine it.
In Vol. XIV. No. 5 (December 4, 1913) and in Vol. XIV. No. 18 (March 5, 1914), neither of which are attached, several writers respond to Ali Fahmy Mohammed’s piece, and Mohammed responds in turn. This dialog provides interesting insights into the frail state of the Ottoman government during the era, but it does not address the Armenian issue directly, other than where Mohammed alleges that in the Sultan’s attempted counterrevolution against the C.U.P. he employed religious rhetoric to encourage the Muslims of Adana to massacre Armenians there.
September 24, 1914, Vol. XV. No. 21:
With war looming, the Ottoman government abolished the European Capitulations. In his essay, “Turkish Independence,” Marmaduke Pickthall provides an excellent description on how Turks negatively viewed the Capitulations. Pickthall, apparently unaware of the secret Ottoman-German defensive pact of August 2, portrayed the Ottoman government as still mulling offers for alliance in the coming conflict. Nonetheless, Pickthall fails to comment on the fact that approximately 6 weeks prior to the date of this issue, the German cruisers Goeben and Breslau had already been admitted into the Turkish Straits, which were thereafter closed to foreign traffic. Though the obvious aim of this piece was to emphasize the assertion of Ottoman independence embodied by the abolition of the Capitulations, that Pickthall did not note the feint toward Germany is surprising, if not disingenuous.
November 4, 1914, Vol. XVI. No. 4:
Marmaduke Pickthall publishes a piece entitled, “Six Years,” which is the first part of a series describing the C.U.P. revolution in the Ottoman Empire, the title of the piece referring the approximate six-year anniversary of the C.U.P. rise. More important in this issue, however, is a submission by Beatrice Hastings (1879-1943), under the pseudonym of Alice Morning. Hastings was rather well-known for having kept intimate company with a number of celebrated men, including Amadeo Modgliani, who painted several famous portraits of her, and Raymond Radiguet. She also had an affair with the editor of The New Age, A. R. Orage. Hastings was, for all practical purposes, The New Age’s Paris correspondent. She was also a novelist. Writing from Paris just prior to the outbreak of war, she first notes that life for Jews, especially Turkish Jews, in France is being made difficult by Catholics. Later, she writes, apparently incredulous of the anti-Turkish propaganda being generated on behalf of the Armenians,
“The charges of Turkish ‘atrocity’ have begun. The ‘Echo de Paris’ leads off with a tale of Turks who, having no time to kill Armenians, dragged them along in their retreat and cut their throats at a convenient season. One wonders how much longer it would take to drag along a struggling Armenian than to kill him on the spot? Here is the text of this ‘unheard-of atrocity,’ as the ‘Echo’ truly describes it—in case I were to be supposed exaggerating: “Dans leur retraite, les Turcs committent des atrocités inouies. N’ayant pas eu le temps de massacrer les Arméniens devant leur départ, ils les entraînerent avec eux, et les égorgèrent pendant leur fuite. ”
October 21, 1915, Vol. XVII. No. 25:
As noted earlier, C.F. Dixon-Johnson, a British soldier, published two short works, one of which is fairly well known that provided a voice to the Turkish side during the Armenian revolt. In The New Age, he published several letters that support his other works. Indeed, it could better be said that his 1916 book supports his letters to The New Age as these appear first. In this issue, under the heading, “Turkey and the Armenians,” Dixon-Johnson first notes that the Turks have traditionally had little voice in Europe compared to Christians. He then, acknowledging the good character of Turks, urges that no conclusions be reached on alleged atrocities until they can be fully investigated,
“Sir,—The accounts of the recent atrocities, reported to have been committed in the Provinces of Turkish Armenia, are certainly appalling. But I think in the interests of justice that the British public should be warned that the Turk has never in his history pleaded his own cause nor attempted to refute charges brought against him, even when these have been unfounded: whereas the case of the Christians of the Turkish Empire has always been extremely ably stated. It being impossible at this moment for us fully to investigate the present charges, it would, therefore, be only fair to an enemy who had fought us honourably and treated our wounded and prisoners with the greatest kindness to reserve judgment until it is possible to know the truth.”
Incidentally, the American poet Ezra Pound (1885-1972) also appears in this issue, writing of his dislike of Armenians, “I detest Armenians, I mistrust all accounts of Armenians, I believe them to have been invented by the late Mr. Gladstone, whose memory is, to me, most unsympathetic.” He cynically adds, “Personally, I could do without all the inhabitants of Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, the Balkans, and the Near East in general.” Pound’s goal in the article was to make a case for American neutrality in the war.
October 28, 1915, Vol. XVII. No. 26:
In this issue, Pickthall, in, “On Coaxing the Neutrals,” chastises the British government for inflaming passions against Turks who would not otherwise be predisposed to becoming a natural enemy of the British.
Ezra Pound’s insults drew a rebuke from Arshag Bodigian. The language used by Bodigian is what is oft-repeated today, that there occurred a “cold-blooded and organized massacre of nearly a million unfortunate Armenians, men, women, and children, without mercy…” He later uses the phrase, “systematic extermination of a nation.” Then, recycling the propaganda of the day, Bodigian quotes Gladstone, “To serve Armenia is to serve civilization.”
November 4, 1915, Vol XVIII. No. 1:
Here, Marmaduke Pickthall vents his anger at the British government for failing to prevent the massacres of Muslims and Christians in eastern Anatolia that the government knew were likely. Of importance, Pickthall cites a first-hand report by a member of British Parliament, Walter Guinness, that demonstrated Russian connivance. In quoting Guinness, Pickthall refers to “Impressions of Armenia and Kurdistan” published in the “National Review” on January 1, 1914. C.F. Dixon-Johnson’s quotes of Guinness presumably originate in this article. Guinness also was part of a British delegation aimed at easing tension in western Anatolia during the Greek occupation in 1921. Pickthall writes,
“In the year 1913 the British Government was requested by the Porte to provide a number of inspectors to superintend the reforms which the Turks had undertaken in the Kurd-Armenian vilayets; where, as an outcome of the Balkan War, and the consequent weakening of the local garrisons on the one hand, and of Russian intrigues on the other, the situation had become extremely critical. Mr. Walter Guinness, M.P., describing a tour which he made that year in Armenia and Kurdistan, mentions ‘numerous indications of an active Russian propaganda’ not only among Armenians but among the Kurds as well. ‘Many of them (the Kurds) are armed with Russian rifles, and in the mountains I found in an out-of-the-way village a Russian dressed as a Kurd, and living the life of the Kurds.’ Rifles supplied to the Kurds were sure, sooner or later, to be used against the Armenians. At the same time, Russia was arming the pro-Russian—that is, Orthodox-section of the Armenians in Turkish provinces adjacent to the Russian frontier. The Armenians thus, who are by no means lambs, would be emboldened to revolt against the Turkish Government; the Kurds would slay them in the name of law and order-a mere name in Kurdistan in these days, respected only when it suits the Kurds and Russia, posing as protector of the slaughtered Christians, wouId cry to Europe: ‘See what you have done by thwarting my desire to take those provinces.’”
Later, Pickthall, addresses the allegations of Armenian massacres at Van, the relocation orders, and also decries the hyperbole in the British press on the issue. The story told by Pickthall at the very time of the controversy is largely the story told today, without change or embellishment, by the Turkish government. He writes,
And now we hear about Armenian massacres, and Englishmen are filled with pious horror, laying all the blame upon the Turks. Let us try to understand what has actually happened. Some Armenians, in Armenia proper, Turkish subjects, rose in arms and betrayed the town of Van to the Russians. When the news of this occurrence spread throughout the Empire, the common people in some places rioted against Armenians, just as the people in the East End of London rioted against the Germans upon the news of the sinking of the ‘Lusitania’ but with this difference, that the Arab and the Kurdish mobs, being three hundred years, at least, behind the London mob in civilisation, did what the London rabble of three centuries ago would have done, and killed their victims. Following on these disorders the Turkish Government ordered the removal of the whole Armenian population from the war zones to concentration camps of some Sort—as much with a view to their protection, it seems but fair to suggest, as with a view to prevent further treachery. When the Turkish forces retook Van, there was a slaughter of Armenians in that district by the Kurds, their ancient enemies, who, as we have seen, were armed with Russian rifles before the war, at a moment when the Turks were wishing to disarm them. In one American report that I have seen, the Kurds, not Turks, are specified as the offenders. But it is all one to the enemies of Islam and they are powerful just now in England—since Kurds are Muslims of a sort. Unruly as the Scottish Highlanders three centuries ago, the Kurds have always raided the Armenians on the least excuse whenever the Turkish Government had its hands too full to deal with them. They are enemies to Turkish government in time of peace, and very uncongenial and mistrusted friends in time of war. And it must be remembered that the Armenians, in their native land, are far from being the sheep-like, inoffensive crowd that they are sometimes painted.
That the recent massacres of Armenians—whatever their extent, and that we cannot ascertain at present took place at the command, or in any sense with the connivance, of the Turkish Government, seems most improbable. We are not now in Abdul Hamid’s reign. The chief desire of the present rulers in Turkey has always been to prove their country worthy to take rank among the civilised, enlightened empires or the world, and their ideas of civilisation and enlightenment are derived from English and French sources, not from German frightfulness. The most that can be fairly laid to the charge of the Turkish Government, I should say, is the military execution of proved traitors and the removal of reputedly disaffected populations from the danger zones—this last a forcible proceeding involving hardship and discomfort to the deported; but, considering the state of war, and the straits in which the Turks were placed, a necessary military precaution, no ‘atrocity. Therefore, it seems unfair to count the many thus removed among the victims, especially as it is possible that in some cases they were removed to save their lives. We have the evidence of British prisoners of war at Urfah on the Euphrates, as to the kind of treatment the Armenians received from infuriated patriots in small provincial towns, inadequately garrisoned and unpoliced, on the news of the betrayal of Van. And the general order for removal seems to have followed pretty closely upon those disorders. Yet, I came the other day upon the headline: ‘Armenian Horrors: 800,000 Victims,’ to a newspaper paragraph, which stated that the number of the victims could not be much less than eight hundred thousand killed and deported. The statement loses all its force when one reflects that the total number of the deported from a hundred districts might easily be eight hundred thousand.
One cannot help contrasting the publicity accorded by our Press to this Armenian tragedy with the silence of the same Press on the subject of the Balkan tragedy in 1912-13. As one of the handful of Englishmen who tried to get a hearing for the Turkish case on that occasion, I can personally testify to the firmness of the censorship which we encountered. Yet, the tale we had to tell was much more horrible than anything which we have yet heard from Armenia; and the perpetrators were our ‘fellow Christians.’’ A few men who knew the East thought the facts deserved to be published, in the interests of religious toleration, as showing that bad Christians in those lands could be as bestial as bad Mohammedans in time of war. But our rulers, in their wisdom, thought it inadvisable that such enlightenment should reach the general public, who were told that the atrocities Committed by the Balkan Christians were ‘no more than is customary in all Eastern warfare.’ Quite so. And on behalf of the whole Muslim world today, I claim that these atrocities committed by the Kurds and Arabs are ‘no more than is customary in all Eastern warfare.’
November 25, 1915, Vol XVIII. No. 4:
Three weeks after the piece excerpted immediately above appeared, Pickthall again addresses the Armenian issue, this time in response to a November 14 article published in the London newspaper, Observer, that previewed Toynbee’s infamous Blue Book. With palpable indignation, Pickthall condemns the overemphasis by Toynbee on Christian losses when Muslim losses in the Balkan Wars were purposefully suppressed in the British press:
“The writer in the ‘Observer’ begins:
‘Terrible stories of the Armenian atrocities carried out by the Turks are given by Mr. Arnold J. Toynbee in a book which will make its appearance to-morrow, and which also contains Viscount Bryce’s speech in the House of Lords. Dealing with the outrages against the women, Mr. Toynbee states: ‘Some were sold into shame. One Moslem reported that a gendarme had offered to sell him two girls for a mejidieh (about 3s. 26.). They sold the youngest and most handsome at every village where they passed the night, and these girls have been trafficked in hundreds through the Ottoman Empire. Abundant news has come from Constantinople itself of their being sold for a few shillings in the open markets of the capital and one piece of evidence in Lord Bryce’s possession comes from a girl no more than ten years old, who was carried with this object from a town of North-Eastern Anatolia to the shores of the Bosphorus. These were Christian women, as civilised and refined as the women of Western Europe and they were enslaved into degradation.’ One can imagine that the author was anything but pleased to find this passage about women chosen for quotation in an article recommending his work by a paper with a large ‘family’ circulation. But that is not among the points I wish to raise. Nor do I doubt that atrocities of the sort described-and worse-have been committed, though it would take more than ‘abundant news’ (whatever that may mean), it would require the evidence of my own eyes, to convince me that Armenian girls have been ‘sold in the open markets of the capital.’ But, apart from that false touch, the crimes mentioned are so far from being ‘Unimaginable Horrors’ that they are simply the horrors which everyone who knows the East expects in Eastern war; and anyone who thinks them ‘unimaginable’ does not know the East, and therefore cannot see them in their true perspective. I would restrict the right of judgment in this case to those Englishmen who have either actually witnessed, or have been in the neighbourhood and atmosphere of, at least two massacres, one by Muslims, and the other by Eastern Christians. Men who have had that experience have undergone a training more severe than that of any nurse in hospital; they have passed the scream, the shudder, and the sickness, and can be of real use.
They will tell you that the man or woman who is eager to stand forward as a victim, who tells the most heart-rending and connected story of atrocities, and is prepared to swear to everything, has, ten to one, seen nothing of the horrors. His fiction is generally to be detected by some fancy detail like ‘sold in the open markets of the capital.’ The genuine victim sits and moans he does not speak; and to get anything like a coherent narrative from him is a work of hours, or even days. Nor is this narrative, when obtained, necessarily veracious. Things seen and heard get mixed in a distracted mind, and in the matter of numbers particularly it is almost impossible to arrive at a conception of the truth. ‘Nine thousand-ten thousand-all the population - what do I know!’ is the kind of answer given to the European questioner, who, if he is a fool, upon the strength of that, writes down, ‘Nine thousand as the lowest estimate.’ Eastern inquirers tend to accept all statements of their co-religionists, and their report must therefore be received with caution.
‘These were Christian women, as civilised and refined as the women of Western Europe and they were sold into degradation.’ What does Mr. Toynbee mean by that? Does he mean that the peasant girls and women of Armenia are as civilised and refined as English ladies of the wealthy classes, or as the girls and women of a Suffolk village, or as the harridans of a London slum or as the prostitutes of London and Paris? The statement is unnecessary, and it seems to me deplorable, because it is an appeal to the religious fanaticism, being based on the fanatical and altogether false assumption that Christians are intrinsically better than Mohammedans, and their lives more worth. That assumption, inculcated by the foreigner, whether as a private missionary or as the intriguing agent of a foreign Government, is at the root of all the troubles in Eastern Anatolia, where a Christian minority has been taught to regard itself as of infinitely more importance than a Mohammedan majority, and has been egged on to sedition, anarchism, and rebellion with the notion that Christians ought to rule over Mohammedans, being intrinsically superior. Such a view, espoused by English public men, can only in the present serve, as it has served in the past, to increase the fanaticism, the horrors and the misery in Asia Minor. And it is untrue. Are the Eastern Christians better people than the Mohammedans in time of peace; more honest, kind, and just in all their dealings? And if Kurds, Arabs, and Circassians have in time of war behaved like devils towards Armenians; and if the Turks in time of war have not manifested the horror which we ourselves experience at the tale of rapine and bloodshed, it is not because they are Muslims, but because they are Orientals. The Christians of those regions are as ruthless when victorious. The massacres have never been on one side only. Does Mr. Toynbee really suppose that Muslim women would suffer less than Christian women in the circumstances he describes? Is he so ignorant of Eastern life as to suppose that Muslim girls are by nature or education less modest than the daughters of the Christians of those regions? I recommend him to a study of the Christian brothels of Constantinople, whose keepers are accustomed to buy girls from Christian parents in times of peace. The Turks have often tried to close those houses, but have been prevented by the fact that the proprietors, being almost without exception foreign subjects, are protected in their ‘privileges’ by some Christian Power. The imputation to the Muslims of a lower standard of morality than that habitually used by Christians in the East is quite unwarranted; and its obtrusion in his summing-up of evidence betrays the bias of the judge.
While the systematic extermination of Muslim noncombatants in many parts of Thrace and Macedonia was going on in the winter of 1912-13, the British Government gave a hint to the Press to be silent on the subject. This silence caused much indignation among British Muslims, who received reports of the atrocities from Muslim sources doubtless in excess of the truth. We understood at the time that it was imposed for high reasons of policy. At the present moment, when millions of Muslims are exasperated to the last degree against the British Government, it seems to me that there exist good reasons why an anti-Muslim note should not be sounded loudly in the British Press. A mere campaign of hate can serve no useful purpose, and may add the problem of internal war to the many problems which already vex our rulers. Will not the Government, which now has legitimate and complete control of the press, take the same measures to suppress the Armenian which it employed to throttle the late Balkan outcry? High reasons of policy for such an action are not lacking, Allah knows !
I would find this a useful piece to add to any submission made by member of the T.B.M.M. in their effort to have the British government properly label the infamous Blue Book as propaganda and cease referring to it as an historic source. The same advice also stands for entries in the December 16, 1915 and May 24, 1916 editions discussed below.
December 4, 1915, Vol. XVIII. No. 5:
In this edition, Pickthall continues quarrelling against the double standard for Christians and Muslims:
“Our rulers would hardly have endorsed Lord Bryce’s description of the Young Turk Government as ‘a gang of murderers’ merely because of a suspicion (which I believe to be conceived on very slight foundation that the said Government ordered the extermination of Armenians in the Turkish Empire; because our rulers could not fail to recollect how they themselves condoned the ‘systematic extermination’ (v. Carnegie report) of Mohammedan populations in Thrace and Macedonia in the winter of 1912- 13, and even were so cynical as mildly to congratulate themselves on the event, as simplifying the Moslem question in those regions, and giving hope of an enduring peace. If Christians were allowed to ‘simplify the Moslem question’ in a certain manner, may not Muslims simplify the Christian question in the same manner when they get the chance? Or is there one standard for Christians and another for Muslims?
In the letters to the editor, Toynbee responds to Pickthall. He first chides Pickthall for basing his criticism on the newspaper article reviewing the book and not the book itself. Next, Toynbee states that his sources are more trustworthy than Pickthall alleges. Then Toynbee, in defending his allegations, emphasizes the government role in the alleged massacres. He calls them “organized from above, and carried out through the local officials of the Ottoman Empire — a political measure conceived and executed in cold blood to secure a political object.” Toynbee also calls them the “Ottoman Government’s scheme for extermination of the Armenian race.”
December 9, 1915, Vol. XVIII. No. 6:
The dialogue continues. Letters to the editor from Arshag Bodigian and Marmaduke Pickthall are published. Pickthall’s letter is short, generally affirming that his last posting was in fact not based on a reading of the actual Blue Book. Bodigian’s letter takes Pickthall to task on a variety of grounds. First, though, exposing several European prejudices of the day, he posits that Pickthall has been “duped” by Turks:
Sir,—Mr. Marmaduke Pickthall, when commenting on the Armenian atrocities and Mr. Toynbee’s pamphlet in your issue of November 25, takes again his usual stand as the champion of the Turk; he certainly is not the only Englishman—or European rather—whom the Turk has successfully duped by his traditional outward gentlemanly manners, or hypocrisy, or money, or his harem’s attractive and pleasant hospitality, or by some other means. And as it invariably is the case, these mentally Turkified essayists find it a matter of cheap publicity to try and hack a way through any subject to arrive at their favourite object in entertaining their readers about the unspeakable Turk—as a rule a fanciful subject to the average European’s taste — and proudly exhibit the great and mysterious things they have been uncommonly privileged enough to discover in him. The only discovery they rarely make is to what extent they have unconsciously been themselves the laughing stock of the very Turk, who to his delightful amusement has, with his notorious cunning and acuteness, converted ‘the infidel to his Allah’s path of justice and mercy, and the goodness of his followers.’
Later, he criticizes Pickthall for overemphasizing Muslim suffering and displacement during the Balkan Wars, calling the tragic flight of Balkan Muslims, “the voluntary abandonment … by Muslim non-combatants”:
In [Pickthall’s] view, the voluntary abandonment of Thrace and Macedonia by Muslim non-combatants during and after the Balkan wars (a course, by the way, fully advocated by and compatible with Muslim religious doctrine and practice) can tolerably be distorted and represented after a small mental effort of metamorphosis, as systematic extermination pure and simple. Finally he closes his famous panegyric of the Turk by serenely posing as a timely adviser to H.M. Government, warning them that they should take measures to suppress this Armenian campaign of hate as high reasons of policy for such an action are not lacking, calling — as he does, exhibiting his knowledge of a word or two in Turkish — on Allah as witness in the matter.”
December 16, 1915, Vol. XVIII. No. 7:
Though many other issues of The New Age favor the Turkish case, this particular edition may be the strongest. First, Marmaduke Pickthall provides a well-argued and thorough refutation of the Blue Book. Then, C.F. Dixon-Johnson, and another man, Douglas Fox Pitt, respond to Arshag Bodigian’s allegations concerning the numbers of Armenians lost during the relocations.
I excerpt the majority Pickthall’s riposte to Toynbee below:
“Mr. Arnold J. Toynbee invited me to read his book entitled ‘Armenian Atrocities: The Murder of a Nation,’ seeming confident that, if I did so, I should change my views. He assured me that these atrocities differed from all previous atrocities in that they were ‘ordered from above and carried out through the local officials of the Ottoman Empire—a political measure conceived and executed in cold blood to secure a political object. . . . If Mr. Pickthall will examine the evidence he will see that this is so.’
I have had no opportunity of examining the evidence, and I know not where it is to be found; but I have read Mr. Toynbee’s book, and can find there nothing serious in support of his contention that the Turkish Government ordered ‘the extermination of the Armenian race.’
On p. 27 we read: ‘But meanwhile [i.e., during the first months of the war] the Government at Constantinople — if Government is not too good a name for Enver, Talaat, and the rest of that ‘Committee of Union and Progress’ which Lord Bryce has justly described as a ‘gang of unscrupulous ruffians’— meanwhile, this unprincipled and all-powerful organization was working out its plans, and it began to put them into action in April.’
‘The scheme was nothing less than the extermination of the whole Christian population within the Ottoman frontiers. For the war had temporarily released the Ottoman Government from the control, slight as it was, which the Concert of Europe had been able to exert. The belligerents on one side were Turkey’s allies and very good friends; and Enver, looking to the future, relied upon their promised victory to shield himself and his accomplices from the vengeance of the Western Powers and Russia, which had always stood between the malignant hostility of the Turkish Government and the helplessness of its Christian subjects (!). The denunciation of the ‘Capitulations’ broke down the legal barrier of foreign protection, behind which many Ottoman Christians had found more or less effective shelter. Nothing remained but to use the opportunity and strike a stroke that would never need repetition. ‘After this,’ said Talaat Bey, when he gave the final signal, ‘there will be no Armenian question for fifty years.’ …
The massacres at Adana in 1909 are ascribed to the Young Turks by Mr. Toynbee, as if there were no doubt about the matter. I was in Syria at the time, and fanatical emissaries landed at Tripoli, Beyrout, and Jaffa with the same purpose with which they landed at Mersin, of preaching massacre of Christians. But they were arrested by the local Committees of Union and Progress and deported, which does not look as if the Young Turks were the instigators. It is true that members of the local committee at Adana took part in the massacres, but that committee had been captured by disguised reactionaries. There are several other cool assumptions in this book. After a careful reading of all Mr. Toynbee’s evidence, which, with but one exception, has a strong Armenian flavour, I have come to the conclusion, and so I think would anybody else who knew the state of Turkey, that all that the Turkish Government planned or ordered was the forcible deportation of the Armenians from a number of districts to concentration camps. The camps were of a very rough description and were sometimes distant more than a month’s journey from the Armenian’s home. In what one can imagine to be the condition of the provinces, for so vast an undertaking to be done humanely the Turks would have had to give up fighting for six months and devote their best troops and their best officials to this work. As things were, the deportations were a real martyrdom for the deported and an occasion for plunder and brutality to local malefactors, high and low. The mere order for deportation was enough to make the Armenians think that they were going to be massacred; and, as Mr. Toynbee with his Oriental experience must be well aware, the mere conviction of impending massacre produces a large crop of circumstantial narratives concerning massacres in other places. On p. 38 there is a good description of the panic:—
‘All the morning the ox-carts creaked out of the own, laden with women and children, and here and there a man who had escaped the previous deportations. The women and girls all wore the Turkish costume that their faces might not be exposed to the gaze of drivers and gendarmes—a brutal lot of men brought in from other regions. The panic in the city was terrible. The people felt that the Government was determined to exterminate the Armenian race, and they were powerless to resist. … Most of the Armenians in the district were absolutely hopeless. Many said it was worse than a massacre. No one knew what was coming, but all felt that it was the end. …’
Poor wretches! But compare that picture with the Stoicism of the Turks on similar occasions—for many such have been—and you will understand that the latter could not realise the sufferings of a more timid race in deportation. The first batch of the deported are always believed to have been murdered a day’s or two days’ journey from their starting-point. But there is no statement from an actual witness of such murder. The horrible list furnished by the President of a Missionary College (evidently American) in a town of Anatolia (there is here good reason for the omission of the name of the place, but in other cases, where no description of the informant is given, no imaginable reason) on p. 99 ff. is evidently three parts hearsay from Armenian sources; and the item, ‘one reported taken to a Turkish harem,’ shows a thoroughly Armenian ignorance of Turkish manners in the present. The evidence of Fraulein Beatrice Rohner, a Swiss lady missionary, the only evidence with name and place attached, as to the condition of the deported after their arrival at Deyr el-Zor—their destination-and their tale of sufferings upon the road is woeful reading; but the numbers of Armenians seen by her on three successive days seemed to me to dispose of the idea of their extermination by order of the Government; so does Mr. Toynbee’s statement on p. 60, based no doubt on further evidence: ‘These swamps (near Aleppo) were allotted to the first comers; but they did not suffice for so great a company, and the later batches were forwarded five days’ journey farther on, to the town of Deyr el-Zor.’ If the Turkish Government had really wished to exterminate the Armenians there was nothing to prevent its doing so that I can see. I notice that Mr. Toynbee mentions only four of the camps to which the dispossessed Armenians have been sent— Aleppo, Deyr el-Zor, Sultaniyeh, and, in one place, Konia. My information says that there are several others.
I turn now from the deportations to what Mr. Toynbee calls ‘murder outright’—the slaughter of Armenians near the Russo-Turkish frontier—which is described as altogether unprovoked. On p. 84 we read: ‘When the Russians began to cross the frontier in their turn, the Ottoman authorities in the border province of Van let loose the Turkish troops and Kurdish irregulars on the Armenian population. In the countryside the Armenians were overwhelmed, but in the town of Van itself, when they had seen some of their leading men murdered and massacre overshadowing the rest, they took up arms, expelled the murderers, and stood a siege of 27 days —1,500 defenders against 5,000 assailants equipped with artillery—till they were triumphantly relieved by the advancing Russians.’ The whole account given by Mr. Toynbee of this portion of the war being derived from Russian-Armenian sources—an Armenian journal, ‘The Horizon’ of Tiflis, being freely quoted—it is natural that we find no mention of the intrigues which have been worked from Tiflis, and the smuggling of arms into Turkish Armenia in the two years previous to the war. The Turkish version is that the Armenians rose on the approach of the Russians and succeeded in holding the town of Van for them. It was immediately upon this news that the Turkish Government ordered the deportation of all Armenians in proximity to the frontier or the coast, in view of the ramifications of the Armenian revolutionary societies and the desperate nature of their propaganda.
I have never been a hater of Armenians; I had always hoped, with Mr. Toynbee, that they and other Christian populations would contribute to the progress and regeneration of the Turkish Empire. It has always struck me as horrible that Greeks and Syrian Christians, no less than Kurds and Muslim Arabs, should regard that race as vermin: it amounts to that. And I must say that I have never met a Turk who took that view of them; for the Turk they are the millet-i-sadikeh (the loyal sect), most favoured in old days, which has turned against its patrons and become an enemy. Mr. Toynbee quotes the ‘Frankfurter Zeitung’ to the effect that the Armenians are more intelligent than the Turks. Well, so they are, and in precisely the same way they are more intelligent than the English. It was an Armenian— Nubar Pasha who called us ‘the Turks of the West.’ There are certain efforts of the intelligence which do not occur to us as possible for man to make. The Armenian recognises no such limitations, and this it is which has made him so disliked throughout the East. The typical Armenian esteems it meritorious not only to exaggerate but to invent occurrences calculated to excite the pity of the Western world. He has more than once, in well authenticated cases, attempted the murder of a European benefactor and protector in order that the murder of a European might rouse the indignation of the Powers against the Turks. He is at all times his own unscrupulous advocate, in striking contrast to the Turk, who—as Captain Dixon-Johnson mentioned in his admirable letter on this subject which appeared some weeks ago in THE NEW AGE-never has been known to plead his cause at all. Mr. Toynbee gives us the Armenian case in all sincerity. Going on the ground to which he objected in his letter-that of past experience-I believe, and truly hope, that the disaster will prove to be much less than he imagines.”
Among the letters to the editor section, first C.F. Dixon-Johnson responds to Arshag Bodigian, criticizing his numerical assertions by using prior examples where inflated figures were later proven specious:
“Sir,—Your correspondent, Mr. Bodigian’s statement that nearly 330,000 Armenians were killed in the massacres of 1895-96 is a model of moderation when we consider the numerical flights of some other massacre-mongers. For instance, a compatriot of his, Mr. Melick, a year or two ago, put down the Armenian ‘massacres’ at 500,000. Again, Lord Bryce—who, like Sir Edwin Pears, was one of the original boomers of the Gladstonian atrocities, estimates the total of the present alleged massacres at 800,000. I would suggest that as a general proposition one should take such opulent figures with a considerable amount of reserve. The need for this would be clear when we remember that the original figure of 60,000 which was given as the number of Bulgarian Christians slaughtered in 1876 was proved on the authority of Sir Henry Layard, the British Ambassador in Constantinople, to have been ‘about 3,500 souls, including the Turks, who were, in the first instance, slain by the Christians.’ Similarly in the case of the ‘massacres of Sassun’ of 1894, the total number of Armenians killed was at first stated to be 8,000, and afterwards reduced in the final report of the Commission of Enquiry to 900. With such appalling fabrications before us, it is small wonder that the latest campaign of Armenian atrocities should have fallen so completely flat.”
Douglas Fox-Pitt also responds to Bodigian. Fox-Pitt (1864-1922) was not an unknown. He was the son of General A.L. Fox Pitt-Rivers, who is often called the father of modern archaeology. Douglas studied at the Bartlett School of Architecture and at the Slade School. He was a friend of Walter Sickert and painted with him at Dieppe. He traveled widely, and illustrated Count Sternberg's “Barbarians of Morocco” in 1905-06. His works are hung in several famous museums. Fox-Pitt counters Bodigian by raising an eye-witness account:
“Sir,—Mr. Arshag Bodigian’s tirade against the Turk merely proves that Christian fanaticism is not yet dead. Does Mr. Bodigian know how ‘the terrible massacres of Armenians’ in 1896 originated? The story is told by an eye-witness, Mr. Sidney Whitman, in his book, ‘Turkish Memories.’ A huge Armenian crowd made an unprovoked attack on the Ottoman Bank, shooting at sight everyone in the streets. This impudent attack on the Ottoman Bank was the outcome of a vast Armenian conspiracy, nurtured in Russia and applauded by the Nonconformists in England. I venture to think that the Turk has erred on the side of toleration in his treatment of these Armenian conspirators. No other country but Turkey would have stood such dishonest plotters in their midst. No doubt Mohammedans have massacred Christians, but history tells us that the latter can beat them at that game.”
May 4, 1916, Vol. XIX. No. 1:
By the date of this edition, Captain C.F. Dixon-Johnson’s, “The Armenians” had already been published and, apparently, had been read by persons of influence, among them, Sir Mark Sykes, whom Dixon-Johnson cited in his work. Sykes, having spent time in eastern Anatolia and having formed an opinion of Armenians, sought to distance himself from Dixon-Johnson in a letter to the Times. Pickthall exposes Sykes’s rapid change of heart and responds
“…Would not anyone reading [Sykes’] letter suppose that Captain Dixon- Johnson’s work was in the nature of an attack on the Armenians, and that the quotations made by the author from the published works of Sir Mark Sykes were wrested from their true meaning, or unwarrantably introduced in such a work? Instead of that being the case, the pamphlet is a temperate, judicial and, in my opinion, well-written protest against an hysterical or hasty judgment in the matter of Armenian massacres, a judgment which might lead to rash political conclusions. The author supports his case by quotations from official papers and from writers whom he judged to be of some authority. Not least among these he reckoned Sir Mark Sykes on account of that gentleman’s acquaintance with Armenia.
Turning to the pamphlet in question, I find the following quotation from [Sykes’] ‘The Caliphs’ Last Heritage’ (published in the autumn of ).
‘…[Armenians] will undertake the most desperate political crimes without the least forethought or preparation; they will bring ruin and disaster on themselves and others without any hesitation; they will sacrifice their own brothers and most valuable citizens to a wayward caprice; they will enter largely into conspiracies with men in whom they repose not the slightest confidence; they will overthrow their own national cause to vent some petty spite on a private individual; they will at the very moment of danger grossly insult and provoke one who might be their protector, but may at any moment become their destroyer; by some stinging aggravation or injury they will alienate the sympathy of a stranger whose assistance they expect; they will suddenly abandon all hope when their plans are nearing fruition; they will betray the very person who might serve their cause; and, finally, they will bully and prey on one another at the very moment that the enemy is at their gates. … The Armenian revolutionaries prefer to plunder their co-religionists to giving battle to their enemies; the anarchists of Constantinople threw bombs with the intention of provoking a massacre of their fellow-countrymen. The Armenian villages are divided against themselves; the revolutionary societies are leagued against one another; the priests connive at the murder of a bishop; the Church is divided at its very foundations. … If the object of Armenians is to secure equality before the law, and the establishment of security and peace in the countries partly inhabited by Armenians,* then I can only say that their methods are not those to achieve success.’ [End of Sykes quotation.]
At the asterisk, Pickthall inserts a footnote, “According to an Armenian estimate, the Armenians formed 33 per cent of the total population of the six provinces commonly called Armenia in 1913.” Pickthall continues, referring to Dixon-Johnson’s use of Sykes,
“…Sir Mark Sykes writes decidedly and with the vehemence of firm conviction; and he should not be surprised much less annoyed—if one of his admiring readers thought him quite sincere; prepared to stand or fall by his decided utterance. The utterance is indeed so decided that the author’s firm conviction of its truth alone could justify its publication. I believe it, from my own slight knowledge of Armenians, to be true; and I, in common with many other Englishmen who have hitherto regarded Sir Mark Sykes as a friend and possible champion of the much misjudged Mohammedan majority in Turkey, am anxious to know what has caused this sudden change in his opinions.
If [Sykes] will consult a book entitled “Travel and Politics in Armenia,” by Noel Buxton and Harold Buxton, with an Introduction by Viscount Bryce (Smith, Elder, 1913), he will find this political object (partition of the Ottoman Empire) stated at considerable length, with amazing candour and simplicity, in the chapter entitled ‘The Function of the Powers’ (pp. 123- 159), and it is permissible to suppose that it has not altered since the war. Moreover, [Dixon-Johnson’s] pamphlet was not written with the purpose of attacking those gentlemen, but with that of opposing their political propaganda to the extent of warning the British public that there is another side to the whole question, and that it would be unfair to deliver judgment till we know the case for the defence.
That, I contend, is a perfectly legitimate aim in a publication, and if the pro- Armenian friends of Sir Mark Sykes object to temperate and reasoned opposition, they must be in a truly pitiable state of mind. I ask every reader of ‘The Armenians,’ by C. F. Dixon-Johnson, to compare it with the pamphlet ‘Armenian Massacres: The Murder of a Nation,’ by Mr. Arnold J. Toynbee, and then, and not till then, to think about it.”
Incidentally, in his book, “A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East,” David Fromkin writes, “Sykes who had a reputation for picking up opinions and arguments without taking the time to think them through, now showed that he could discard them with equal ease. … [After once writing that Armenians have no good points,] Sykes met with Armenian leaders in Cairo, and enthusiastically proposed the creation of an Armenian Army … to invade Turkey.”
August 3, 1916, Vol. XIX. No. 14:
In this edition, Dikran Kouyoumdjian publishes a lengthy piece under the title, “An Appeal to Sense.” In it he argues that Armenians have a superior right to the lands they once inhabited. He says Turks are relatively recent arrivals in the region. Kouyoumdjian criticizes both Sykes and Dixon-Johnson not only for disparaging Armenians, but for looking on them from an external view. That is, Kouyoumdjian believes only an Armenian can judge an Armenian.
Of greatest interest, in boasting of the numerous virtues possessed by Armenians, Kouyoumdjian confesses,
“An Armenian is not the weak, helpless coward which his friends and enemies give you to imagine. The Russians have found he makes a very good soldier … and would not have taken Van so easily the first time if the Armenian inhabitants had not held the town for more than a month against a far superior number of Imperialistic Turks. Also conforming to the general standard of courage, he has in his time been an extremely good, and as effective as possible, guerilla fighter, bandit and rebel, and since he has been more or less actively disliking his enemies for the last twenty-five centuries, he is the father of all patriots, rebels and exiles.”
Thus, Koyoumdjian confirms Turkish arguments that Armenians fought as guerillas against their own, Ottoman state and, rather than being victimized at Van, were victorious combatants there.
October 19, 1916, Vol. XIX. No. 25:
In this edition, Kouyoumdjian continues to argue the case that Armenians are unique, unified, and worthy of statehood. Kouyoumdjian rails against the theme current at the time that Armenians did not have the aptitude for self-government.
May 24, 1916, Vol. XXI. No. 4:
An anonymous contributor or group of authors reviews the infamous Blue Book. The review appears shortly after the Blue Book, which was originally presented in Parliament as an official governmental document, was made available to the general public. The reviewer considers the Blue Book a “powerful pleading” by one side in a dispute, and therefore, something less than a definitive judgment weighing the merits of both sides. Indeed, the reviewer suggests that a Royal Commission could weigh the evidence and reach a more definitive conclusion. The reviewer also criticizes the Blue Book for employing evidence of “unequal value.” In addition, the reviewer emphasizes those parts of the Blue Book that lead one to believe that the Armenian relocations were for a valid political purpose, not because of racism or religious fanaticism. Consider the following:
“Viscount Bryce says that ‘it is, however, for the reader to form his own judgment on these documents as he peruses them’; but he permits himself to make one observation: ‘The Young Turks, when they deposed Abd-ul- Hamid, came forward as the apostles of freedom, promising equal rights and equal treatment to all Ottoman subjects. The facts here recorded show how that promise was kept. Can anyone still continue to hope that the evils of such a government are curable? Or does the evidence contained in this volume furnish the most terrible and convincing proof that it can no longer be permitted to rule over subjects of a different faith?’
The evidence itself is of most unequal value, ranging from articles in Armenian papers to official reports; but it does definitely establish the facts of massacre and deportation, with all the accompanying horrors. What is not clear is the extent of this suffering, and the prime responsibility; and if we may make a suggestion, we think that it would be well if a representative body were to examine this evidence and publish its findings as, for example, a Royal Commission would do. It is impossible for the ordinary reader to determine (to mention one difficulty) the responsibility of the Turkish Government for the massacres; there is much evidence which shows that massacres were perpetrated by Kurds and other bands of robbers, who cannot reasonably be regarded as instruments of the Turkish Government without some proof. That the deportations were ordered by the Government is definitely proved; and the most agonising of these records recount the awful sufferings of populations for whose transport, and sustenance, no adequate provision was made. … All this is definitely proved, although, as we say, no precise computation of the extent of the tragedy has been made, and the general impression is that the whole Armenian people has thus been distributed or destroyed. But another difficulty presents itself to the reader. Viscount Bryce’s question suggests what is alleged in many of these documents, viz., that the Turkish Government ordered these deportations with the sole purpose of exterminating the Armenian nation because it was Christian. But the evidence is conflicting; there are allegations made in this volume, by Armenians as well as others, to the effect that in some provinces, notably Cilicia and Ourfa, the Armenians were engaged in revolution against the Turkish Government, and were expecting help from abroad. If this be true, although it does not modify the horrors here recounted by one iota, yet it does modify the case against the Turkish Government. The transport of a disaffected population from what was, or was likely to be, a war zone, is a not unusual practice of Governments, and cannot be attributed to any peculiar malignity of the Turks towards Christians. Mr. Arnold Toynbee, who edits the volume, has in an appendix (there are several appendices) attempted to answer some of these questions: for example, with regard to the extent of the tragedy, he says: ‘We can sum up this statistical inquiry by saying that, as far as our defective information carries us, about an equal number of Armenians in Turkey seem to have escaped, to have perished, and to have survived deportation in 1915; and we shall not be far wrong if, in round numbers, we estimate each of these categories at 600,000.’
We will also quote his conclusion concerning the responsibility of the Turkish Government, which is so emphatic that we think that it must be determined by more conclusive evidence than is here published. ‘The exact quantitative scale of the crime thus remains uncertain, but there is no uncertainty as to the responsibility for its perpetration. This immense infliction of suffering and destruction was not the work of religious fanaticism. Fanaticism played no more part here than it has played in the fighting at Gallipoli or Kut, and the ‘Holy War’ which the Young Turks caused to be proclaimed in October, 1914, was merely a political move to embarrass the Moslem subjects of the Entente Powers. There was no fanaticism, for instance, in the conduct of the Kurds and Chettis, who committed some of the most horrible acts of all, nor can the responsibility be fixed upon them. They were simply marauders and criminals who did after their kind, and the Government, which not only condoned, but instigated, their actions, must bear the guilt. … The behaviour of the gendarmerie, for example, was utterly atrocious; the subordinates were demoralised by the power for evil that was placed in their hands; they were egged on by their chiefs, who gave vent to a malevolence against the Armenians which they must have been harbouring for years; a very large proportion of the total misery inflicted was the gendarmerie’s work; and yet the gendarmerie were not, or ought not to have been, independent agents. The responsibility for their misconduct must be referred to the local civil administrators, or to the Central Government, or both.’
This is, of course, very powerful pleading, and the concluding paragraph (which we have not space to quote) refers to statements in various documents to enforce the conclusion that ‘the Central Government enforced and controlled the execution of the scheme, as it had alone originated the conception of it; and the Young Turkish Ministers and their associates at Constantinople are directly and personally responsible, from beginning to end, for the gigantic crime that devastated the Near East in 1915.’ But the power of this pleading does not disguise the fact that it is still a pleading, and not a judgment; the very deliberation with which Mr. Toynbee acquits the actual perpetrators of the outrages from responsibility reveals the advocate’s intention to fasten the responsibility on the Turkish Government. … But if neither religious fanaticism nor the suppression of revolutionary activity is allowed to explain the action of the Turkish Government, we are confronted with an apparently causeless malignity as the motive of the tragedy, which is really incredible.”
May 1, 1919, Vol. XXV. No. 1:
Marmaduke Pickthall writes generally on, “The Cause of Massacres.” In this, his lengthiest essay, Pickthall discourses on the tolerant nature of Islam and the fact that Christians thrived under Muslim rule in the Ottoman Empire. Pickthall lays most of the blame for massacres, whether Christian against Muslim or vice-versa, at the feet of the Russians. He gives the example first of Russian instigations in the Greek war of independence during which many Muslims were slaughtered. He then discusses the Bulgarian massacres of 1876, referring to an 1877 cable from the British Ambassador in Istanbul to the British Foreign Secretary:
“Sir Henry Layard, the British Ambassador at Constantinople, wrote to Lord Derby, Foreign Secretary, as follows :- ‘A great portion of the English public are still probably under the impression that the statements upon which the denunciations against Turkey were originally founded are true; the 60,000 Christians outraged and massacred; the cartloads of human heads; the crowds of women burnt in a barn; and other similar horrors. There are persons, and amongst them, I grieve to say, Englishmen, who boast that they invented these stories with the object of 'writing down' Turkey to which they were impelled by a well-known hand. People in England wilt scarcely believe that the most accurate and complete inquiries into the events of last year in Bulgaria now reduce the number of deaths to about 3,500 souls, including the Turks, who were, in the first instance, slain by the Christians. No impartial man can now deny that a rising of the Christians, which was intended by its authors to lead to a general massacre of the Mohammedans was in contemplation, and that it was directed by Russia and pan-Slavist agents.’”
Pickthall continues in this line to address the Armenian massacres of 1895-6, citing a source to prove that the Armenians instigated massacres against themselves:
“Sir Edwin Pears, a partisan of the Armenians, when, writing of the methods of Armenian revolutionaries (which include atrocities against the Muslim population), he says :—
‘As a friend of the Armenians, revolt seemed to me purely mischievous. Some of the extremists remarked that, while they recognised that hundreds of innocent persons suffered from each of these attempts, they could provoke a big massacre which would bring in foreign intervention.’
He adds, and the addition sheds a curious light upon the mental attitude of the Czarist, ‘Such intervention was useless so long as Russia was hostile.’ Not a word of disapproval of the policy of provocation. In a recent, strongly documented article in the ‘Revue Politique Internationale’ it has been shown exactly how, and with what objects Czarist Russia ceased to be hostile to the machinations of Armenian nationalists, and became their instigator. The latest massacres are, therefore, no exception to the rule. They began with a rebellion organised with Russian help in which the Christians massacred the Muslim population which was at the time quite helpless owing to the absence of the able men.
It is strange that Englishmen of position should have thought it necessary during the war to put forward the Armenian case in its extremist form not as a case for judgment, but as a cause already judged, in such a way as to impose their view upon the uninitiated. Knowing from my own experience how hard it is to obtain a true account of such events, even in the country where they happened and from actual sufferers, I was astonished at the nature of a good deal of the evidence which they considered worth presenting.
But passing over tales of horrors, which may or may not be authentic, I find two statements made with strange insistence in the two English reports of these events which I have read. One is that the whole responsibility for the alleged atrocities rests with the Turkish Government, the other is that the said atrocities were altogether unprovoked by the Armenians. We are gravely told that these last massacres were not due to Muslim fanaticism, that there was nothing like a popular outbreak. Everything was done in strict obedience to orders sent from Constantinople. And yet the chief offenders in a number of the cases are described as being Kurds or half-bred Arabs or Circassians — even brigands are occasionally specified — as if brigands, outlaws of a government which since it came to power had been severe on brigandage, were likely to obey the orders of that government. Kurds and Circassians, too, are not remarkable for their docility, nor yet for their attachment to the Committee of Union and Progress. It is strange that anybody should ignore the obvious cause of the, ill-treatment the Armenians met with—public indignation.
…Armenians (Turkish subjects in the pay of Russia) rose, possessed themselves of a considerable tract of Turkish territory which they handed over to the enemy, and exterminated the Mohammedan inhabitants. There are hints even in the one-sided evidence collected by Lord Bryce that a general rebellion of Armenians in the Turkish provinces took place.”
May 15, 1919, Vol. XXV. No. 3:
Pickthall appears twice in this issue, once in an essay entitled, “America and the Near East,” and again in a letter to the editor. In his first entry, Pickthall discusses America’s skewed view of the Ottoman Empire. He is especially critical of missionaries, from which America gained much of its knowledge of the region:
“Concerned entirely with Anatolia, he [Dr. White, the missionary] propounds a wondrous theory about ‘retroversion to type,’ a phrase of which he seems enamoured. The Muslims of Asia Minor being mostly the descendants of Christian converts to Islam, he tells us, will revert to Christianity when relieved of the inducement and support of Turkish rule. So Christians, one might argue, would revert to paganism if relieved of the attentions of their pastors, and garden products would revert to wild flowers if relieved of the attentions of the gardener. A large majority of the population is Muslim, he admits, but what of that? … Having proved to his satisfaction that the Shia’ and one half of the other Muslims will ‘retrovert’ to Christianity when rid of Turkish rule, and that the Christian populations will go on increasing as compared with the Muslims as in the past- ‘I, am convinced,’ he writes, ‘that the Mohammedan Turks do not increase in numbers, possibly as the penalty of nature for the permission of polygamy, while the Ottoman Christians do increase rapidly unless checked by periods of massacre.’ It seems never to have occurred to him that the Muslims have been decimated annually by military service in defence of an empire which the Christians merely inhabited.”
Pickthall then takes on another American “expert” on the region, Major E. Alexander Powell, former American Vice Consul in Syria.
“Of the political position Dr. White and Major Powell are both ignorant enough to swallow our delightful war-time propaganda blindly. The soldier (once a diplomat) is jubilant on the commercial prospects opened up by recent British conquests. ‘The plains across which tramped the glittering hosts of Cyrus and Alexander will ere long resound to the hoot of British locomotives and the clatter of British harvesting machines’—[Pickthall commenting:] which once were German—‘water will flow again in those Babylonian canals which were dug when the world was young’—[Pickthall commenting:] and which the Turks were doing their best to restore to use when we attacked them.—‘The red and white flag of Armenia will flutter once more from the towers of Van and Erzeroum. In Jerusalem the walls of the Temple will rise again.’ … —This is retroversion with a vengeance.
[W]hat is the good of noting every error of a writer who knows as much about the East as I know about the trade of Chicago.”
In his letter to the editor under the heading, “Asia and the Armenians,” Pickthall summarizes his writing on the Armenian issue. At the conclusion of the letter he proposes a solution to Turkish/Armenian conflict, one that, of course, never came to pass. Also of interest, Pickthall refers to the post-war Istanbul Tribunals that held many responsible for dereliction in the Armenian vilayets — Pickthall urged that the tribunals be halted lest they create anti-Armenian rage among Muslims. The letter is fairly brief yet very comprehensive. I am certain it will ring familiar, though embellished by a few prejudices. Politically, Pickthall is arguing that the creation of an Armenian state, as a post-war settlement, in lands in which they are numerically inferior will be a recipe for disaster. With few deletions, the letter is excerpted below:
“Sir,—I have been looking over the articles which I contributed to THE NEW AGE during the first two years of the war, and am surprised to find how well, upon the whole, they stand the test of subsequent events. … [W]hat has chiefly struck me in reviewing those past efforts is a strange omission in what is otherwise a pretty comprehensive raid upon the Eastern question: I have never written plainly what I think about Armenia.
Everybody seems to take it for granted that a lover of the Turks must be a hater of Armenians; and if to ridicule the claim of an Armenian minority to rule over a Muslim majority in Asia minor is to hate Armenians, the charge is true in my case; but not otherwise. I have no ill-will against Armenians as an element in the population of the Turkish Empire; nor had the Turks so long as the Armenians were content with the position in that Empire to which their numbers and intelligence entitled them. The other Christian nationalities, whose hatred of Armenians was intense, used always to accuse the Turks of petting them. It is only since the Armenian revolutionary movement (which had its origin beyond the frontier) was inaugurated, aiming at the establishment of an Armenian empire over countries in which Muslims were in an overwhelming majority, that the Turks have been unfavourable to Armenian aspirations. We hear how often the Armenians have been massacred, but not how often they have been protected by the Turkish Power from the mad rage and indignation of their Muslim neighbours in the provinces. Until the latest massacres — of which we have no certain information — it was really only when the local Kurds, enraged by the behaviour of Armenian revolutionaries, got out of hand, that the innocent Armenians suffered with the guilty. And it seems to me a fact of some significance that in a quarter of a century’s experience of the nations of the Near East the only people except sentimental English and Americans whom I have heard speak favourably of the Armenians absolutely the only people whom I have heard speak of them with feelings of affection—have been Osmanli Turks. The Armenians have been very useful to the Turks. They supplement each other’s qualities, and work well together. And the Armenians were the favourites of Turkish rule so long as they deserved the title which the Turks bestowed upon them of ‘the loyal nationality.’ One after another of the subject nationalities was seduced from its allegiance by the Czarist propaganda, but the Armenians remained staunch. At last a few of them, however, seeing that Christian nations could obtain dominion by rebelling, bethought them that they, too, were Christians, and began to agitate, adopting the same methods of terrorism towards their own folk and atrocities against the Muslim population which had profited the Serbs and Greeks and Bulgars.
In order justly to appreciate the feelings of the Muslim population towards seditious movements of their Christian neighbours, it must be remembered that every Christian rising has been marked by horrid butchery of the Muslim population. But for a long time the Armenian revolutionaries were considered, rightly, by the Turkish Government as quite apart from the Armenian nation and hostile to it. They were indeed its deadly enemies. Anyone who pushes forward the Armenians beyond their just position among the peoples of the empire is a deadly and cruel enemy of the Armenians. For they are Asiatics, and they have to live in Asia in the position of a minority. They represent an ancient Asiatic race renowned in history; yet they cringe and whine and lie to Europe to obtain unfair advantage over their Asiatic neighbours. American missionaries have educated them free of charge in Western style; Czarist agents have beguiled them with the promise of an empire reaching from the Mediterranean to the Caucasus. They give themselves the airs of Europeans. They, Asiatics, served as an outpost of Europe against Asia. They betrayed the Turks with the design to let in Europe. They, a minority, wished to enslave the Muslim majority, and did their best to reduce it, when they had the power, with Russian help. A race of traitors, spies, blacklegs, perjurers, lickspittles, liars, utterly devoid of shame or honour. That is the Armenian nation in the eyes of Asia at this moment. To kill them is as good a deed as to kill scorpions. They defile the globe; It is not a pleasant thing to write, but it is true. The loathing of them is so great that I should not be surprised to read tomorrow morning in my newspaper that they were being massacred in every Eastern land. And the indignation is increased by the prevailing notion that England favours their pretensions, and will impose their yoke upon the necks of a great Muslim majority. Is it the desire of England that these unhappy and deluded people—for that is how I regard the Armenians, victims as the Turks were victims of the cold designs of Europe—does England wish to see them utterly wiped out? To all Asia the events in Turkey since the Revolution have been stages in a tragedy as great and epoch-making as the Crucifixion, and the Armenian nation did its very best to play the part of Judas in that tragedy. If they are pushed forward as the result of those events, if they are given rule over their Muslim neighbours, nothing in the end can save them from the wrath of Asia.
In the interests of the Armenians themselves, we should be careful to do nothing to increase the force of public indignation they have raised against them. It would be even politic to stop the trial which, I understand, is going on at present in Constantinople, because the hanging of officials who may or may not have been to blame to some extent for the ill-treatment of Armenians, will have the very opposite of the effect intended. For example, the news of one such execution at Constantinople caused several murders of Armenians in the streets of Cairo. The trial, by reviving the excitement of Armenians and of Muslims both, is bound to have an ill effect, particularly when there is still talk of an Armenian State in Asia Minor. Things done in hot blood cannot be fairly judged in cold blood. The Oriental way is to regard such dreadful struggles as that which took place in Eastern Anatolia in the early part of the war, a struggle of men panic-stricken, both sides fighting for their lives and to save the honour or avenge the murder of their wives and children-the Oriental way is to regard it, not as so many individual crimes, but as an awful tragedy, and ask God’s mercy upon all concerned. …
If I were Grand Vizier, I know what I should do. I should go in state to the Armenian patriarchate and invite His Beatitude and the notables of the Armenian community to meet me and the Turkish notables in solemn council before judges chosen by both sides. In that council we should reckon up the damage done to each side by the other, the judges should assess that damage, and the balance should be paid by him on whom it fell. And then an act should be drawn up between the parties, declaring all illfeeling at an end, and setting forth the grounds of future amity. There should be public rejoicings; every town should be illuminated; the Armenians and the Muslims would embrace each other; and the most hideous ghost of modern times would be effectually laid. … What is to prevent our adopting [this peace] in this entirely Asiatic case? Only our scheme for the aggrandisement of the Armenians at the expense of their Mohammedan neighbours. Let the Armenians understand once for all that they have no earthly right to the position which their extremists claim in Asia Minor, and that Europe will not help them in injustice, and I verily believe you save their lives.
If Europe’s way of exalting them because they are Christians is pursued, the triumph of the Armenians will be short-lived. If an independent Armenian State must be set up, for God’s sake let it be set up in Russian territory, and let all Armenians whose desire is independence go and stop there.”
May 22, 1919, Vol. XXV. No. 4:
Kouyoumdjian responds to Pickthall in a letter to the editor. First, Koyoumdjian summarizes Pickthall’s argument as, “Turks and Armenians were living quite comfortably, until European intrigue and especially Czarist intrigue stepped in and bribed a few wild and wooly Armenian revolutionaries to upset the cordial relations between these two pacific peoples.” Kouyoumdjian admits that Czarist intrigue and Armenian revolutionaries played their roles, though, according to Kouyoumdjian, much less than Pickthall alleges. However, Kouyoumdjian disagrees wholly with Pickthall’s assertion that Turks and Armenians had lived together in peace. He calls this theory, “a lie cloaked in plausibility.” He then notes that the theory is only true relative to the 1915-1919 period during which, Kouyoumdjian implies, 3 million Armenians were killed. But again, Kouyoumdjian, expressing Armenian pride, helps the Turkish argument, admitting that Armenians instigated violence, massacred others, and brought massacres upon themselves:
“Armenia, after centuries of fighting and losing battle, lay quiet and dulled, and began to lose that national essence which had kept her a nation for so long, her self-respect—until, in the last century, by wildly pricking Kurdish blood from the fastnesses of Zeytoun and Sassoon, she regained it doubly, and with it strength to fight again over her own dead body. She fought, was massacred, and did indeed massacre.
Time over again I have said that Armenia’s punishment has not been entirely undeserved (from the Turkish point of view), that she has asked for trouble and got it.”
May 29, 1919, Vol. XXV. No. 5:
Pickthall continues the dialogue, responding to Kouyoumdjian’s letter to the editor. To revisit the historical context of this dialogue, the Ottoman Empire had been vanquished and occupation forces held most major cities. The issue of whether to partition the remnant Ottoman heartland had been settled; how to accomplish this partition, and in what portions, remained unsettled. Pickthall feared that a partition of the Ottoman Empire, which would bring large populations of Muslims under the rule of Christian minorities, thereby humiliating the Muslims, would spark a fierce Muslim revolt that would benefit neither Muslim nor Christian and would imperil Britain’s Near East policy. In southeast Anatolia, the French formed an Armenian legion, which after landing, attempted to secure Adana and the surrounding region. The legion, according to French documents, proved ineffective as an occupation force and mostly served to exact vengeance against Muslims. In the sight of such atrocities, the French disbanded the legion and thousands of Armenians, including many who had emigrated from other parts of Anatolia to the Adana area in hopes that it would one day become a majority Armenian homeland, fearing reprisals eventually retreated and disembarked with the French forces.
Pickthall largely recapitulates his argument in the first part of his letter. He then provides new evidence to bolster his claim that Czarist intrigue was largely responsible for destabilizing eastern Anatolia, referring to several sources in Tblisi that were heretofore unknown to me:
“When Mr. Kouyoumdjian accuses me of exaggerating the part played by Czarist intrigue in the Armenian troubles of the last six years, I can but laugh. Czarist intrigue kept Eastern Anatolia in a turmoil all through the years 1913-14. It deliberately ordered and prepared extensive massacres, which the Turkish Government had much difficulty to prevent. On one memorable occasion full reports were published in the Tiflis papers of a massacre which had been fixed for a certain day, and which the writers did not know had been frustrated. Mahmud Shevket Pasha, having collected most amazing evidence of Russia’s guilt, was going to make a great appeal to Europe when he was assassinated. It was Czarist intrigue which prevented England from providing those inspectors for Armenia which we had as good as promised to the Turkish Government. If Mr. Kouyoumdjian desires further light upon this subject he will find it in a document of unimpeachable authority, a brochure published by the Czarist Government itself to prove to the Armenians the great interest it took in them. It is entitled ‘The Reforms in Armenia, 12th November, 1912-10th May, 1914,’ and was translated into Armenian by one Setrak Avakian (Tiflis, 1915). Czarist intrigue in Anatolia was not diplomatic. It was murderous and utterly cynical. It egged on the two sections of the population to destroy each other, caring not a jot for either. Its weapons were the bomb, the rifle, and the machine-gun supplied in secret to the very firebrands whom the Turks, desiring to restore good older, had disarmed. I never yet knew anyone who took it as a joke, nor do I think that anyone could really do so.”
June 19, 1919, Vol. XXV. No. 8:
The victorious allies were picking over the corpse of the Ottoman Empire. Greek forces were given permission to land at Izmir. Italian and French-Armenian forces were on the ground in the south and southeast, respectively. Anti-Turkish rhetoric was swirling through Europe. Pickthall perceived the rhetoric as a prosecution of the Turks, much as all war victors seek to prosecute the perceived crimes of the defeated. In this issue of The New Age, Pickthall writes, “For the Defence,” worried that the trials of former C.U.P. members are unfair and that such trials are unfair in light of the lack of trials of the perpetrators of massacres against Muslims:
“Have the accused proper counsel to defend them, or are they handed over to the vengeance of their political opponents? … We may have seen to it that the men of mark at present on their trial in Constantinople are properly defended; we may have insisted that their trial shall be fair and open; but I do not think we have, and for this reason, that if the history of the relations of the Entente Governments with Turkey in general and the C.U.P. in particular, from June 22, 1908, to the day when Turkey came into the European War upon the side of Germany, were made public, there would be such a wave of sympathy for the accused even in England that the Government could no longer hold itself irresponsible to public opinion on the Turkish question.
Pickthall continues, defending the C.U.P. and regretting that it had been abandoned by Britain, who had once supported it. Later, he says that the blame for the Ottoman Empire’s joining the war on the German side should not rest with the Turks:
“[Britain] kept on whittling down the offer, trying to make it acceptable, till it amounted to no more than a request (based on the Cyprus Convention) that England should provide a few inspectors for Armenia where the Turkish Government was trying to enforce reforms in the teeth of the most unscrupulous and barefaced opposition that ever one Power dared to offer in another’s territory. This request was granted, as we all supposed. It was suddenly refused months later; another scrap of paper being thus torn up. But, surely, gentlemen, it is not the Turks who were to blame for that, nor for the increase of the troubles in Armenia subsequently. Still the pro-British [Ottoman] party, the majority, persisted. They were for ever trying to clutch hold of England, and for ever being driven back by methods which may fairly be compared to a kick in the face. The name of England was still popular among the Turkish people. Her protection would be welcomed, which could not be said of any other Power.
Counsel for the defence would not be meek or apologetic upon the subject of Armenian massacres. He would boldly charge our ex-Ally with the whole trouble, giving detailed proof, a printed book (in Russian) in his hand. He would point out firmly that the Turkish Government did and ordered to be done only what every other Government in the circumstances would have done and ordered; and that they were powerless at the time to hold in check the public indignation in the provinces after the tidings of the first great massacre of Muslims by Armenians (Turkish subjects in the pay of Russia) got abroad. Suppose that soldiers in a British, French, or Italian regiment were to hear that their wives and children and old people left at home had all been massacred with atrocious insult by some former neighbours siding with the enemy, would they be particularly kind to any relatives and partisans of those former neighbours whom they might chance to meet just then?”
July 10, 1919, Vol. XXV. No. 11:
Pickthall continues his defense of the defeated Ottoman Empire in an essay entitled, “Between the Lines.” He begins by reporting his perception that Turks defend themselves poorly in European controversies:
“As I have often had occasion to remark in these columns, the Turk never sticks up for himself in the controversy against Europe. He does not know how to do so. With a strong case which any advocate could make convincing, he puts himself in the wrong from a tendency to accept the point of view of his opponents — a tendency which results from a sense of material defeat or helplessness. It is natural for a warlike people to accept the condition of defeat in war, and to think that by accepting that condition they appeal most strongly to the generosity of the conqueror. There is also the feeling that it is a waste of time to seek to demolish prejudices so robust as those which Europe cherishes regarding Turkey, even though those prejudices may be based upon false information. The Turk is thus the worst possible champion of his own cause. Anyone in possession of the facts could state his case much better than he can state it. … [In Paris,] they have thrown away their own true case, and accepted the mere ‘propaganda’ case of the Allies; instead of taking the offensive in discussion, as they had the right to do, for the treatment Turkey had received from the Allies conducing to the war was downright infamous, they assumed a deprecating, defensive attitude and apologetic tone, and positively asked for what they got-a snub the more offensive for its bland hypocrisy.”
With particular derision toward Damad Ferid Pasha, Ottoman Representative at the Interallied Conference at Paris, Pickthall condemns the weakness of the Turkish presentation:
“The weakness and the falsehood of the case presented by Damad Ferid Pasha may be judged from these two points out of a dozen I could mention: that he represents the fear of Czarist Russia's designs on Constantinople which animated the Committee as quite groundless; and, when speaking of Armenian massacres, mentions only that numbers of Muslims were condemned to death for treason by the Committee, and not (what is a fact) that vast numbers of helpless Muslims were massacred by Armenians in the first place!” [emphasis in the original].
Pickthall continues to bemoan Damad Ferid Pasha’s weakness and the Allied reply that it elicited, including the accusations that the war was “accompanied by massacres whose calculated atrocity equals anything in recorded history.” The article concludes much as it began, cursing Ferid’s weakness and the Allies’ smugness.
July 17, 1919, Vol. XXV. No. 12:
Pickthall continues his tirade against Damad Ferid Pasha in an essay entitled, “The Truth at Last,” referring to the stronger position taken by the Turks of Vienna in a letter to U.S. President Wilson. With a sense of resignation, Pickthall notes that the letter bore no consequence on decisions, yet its text he summarized as a counterpoint to Ferid:
[Pickthall quoting the letter:] “’[W]e placed our fate in your hands. But the disappointment we experienced upon the assembly of the Interallied Conference in Paris has been aggravated on perusal of the address delivered by you, … in which you spoke of the disappearance of the Turkish Empire, and the liberation of the oppressed nationalities. Mr. President, it was not with this result in view that we accepted your 14 points.
Among the nationalities that go to the formation of the Ottoman Empire, there are only the Armenians who were unfortunately oppressed, and that only since they began to excite troubles and revolts. The Armenians, however, are minorities, enclosed in the midst of a great and overwhelming majority of Mussulmans.’”
[Pickthall:] A brief and accurate history of the Armenians in their relation to the Turks follows.
‘The creation of an Armenian State would only be possible where the Armenians lived in more or less compact masses, and its extent and limits can only be fixed on the spot. The ‘Grande Encyclopedie’ contains the following judicious observation on the subject of the countries which, by a false interpretation, are classed under the name of Armenia: ‘An ethnographic map of Armenia would present a most fantastic mosaic, since one cannot travel a hundred kilometres in that country without encountering three or four different populations. …’”
Pickthall continues to quote the letter at length, including an interesting passage on population counting:
[Pickthall again quoting the letter:] “’In 1896, at the session of the Chamber of Deputies on November 3, M. Gabriel Hanotaux, then French Minister for Foreign Affairs, declared that, according to the statistics, the Armenian population certainly did not represent a proportion of more than 13 per cent of the inhabitants. It is needless to say that neither this declaration nor the statistics in question had been prepared in defence of the Turkish cause.’ [Pickthall speaking for himself,] Nor by the Turks themselves, might have been added, for the Turks have almost always over-stated the numbers of their Christian subjects. I have known of cases where the census had been fairly taken. The Armenians or the Greeks came, let us say, to 12 per cent. The Armenian or the Greek patriarch called upon the Turkish Governor and protested that his people were full 20 per cent, threatening to make a row about it if the estimate was not corrected. The governor, knowing that his people are not great at figures, and wishing to avoid a scandal, yields the point which seems to him of slight importance. The patriarch then tells the foreign consuls interested: ‘You see the Turks themselves have put us down at twenty-they naturally under-estimate us for their own purposes—the figure is, of course, much nearer forty per cent.’”
March 25, 1920, Vol. XXVI. No. 21:
Nine months later, under the heading, “Imperial Suicide,” Pickthall delivers a letter to the editor that continues to rail at the press for misrepresenting Turks. He begins by criticizing the Daily Mail newspaper for putting a picture of Mustafa Kamil, the dead Egyptian nationalist leader, over a caption of Mustafa Kemal Pasha (Atatürk). Also, in the context of ongoing fighting in the southeast, Pickthall comments:
“Reports with regard to events in the vilayet of Adana (at present isolated), emanating from Beyrout or Constantinople, are declared to be ‘authoritative,’ while telegrams from Armenians in Marash itself, who say that they are in security, are regarded as fictitious. Lies which every Englishman who knows the East detects immediately -- lies with regard to population, customs, character — are circulated by extremely costly Press advertisement, while letters of protest and correction go unpublished. No impartial international inquiry into the whole question of Armenian massacres has been instituted in the ample time which has elapsed since the conclusion of the Armistice with Turkey; the Turkish Government has asked for such inquiry, but the Armenian organizations and Armenian partisans refuse to hear of such a thing, declaring that the Bryce and Lepsius reports are quite sufficient to condemn the Turks—in other words, that judgment should be given on the case for the prosecution alone. The inter- Allied Commission which investigated the unfortunate events in Smyrna last year made a report unfavourable to Greek claims. Therefore that report has not been published here in England, though in other countries it has long been public property.
This conjunction of dense ignorance and cunning falsehood is fraught with instant danger to the British realm. Enormous sums of money are being spent daily on utterly misleading propaganda, a propaganda of which the methods are so far from English as to suggest the presence here in England of the very scum of the Levant. Everything that apparently boundless wealth can do is being done to persuade the man in the street that Oriental sentiment is negligible, and that, far from being dangerous to England, the policy of supporting Eastern Christians, right or wrong, against non- Christians is the only way of future peace for humankind.”
Indeed, the Ottomans not only asked for British help in administering the Armenian vilayets before the war, after being defeated, the Ottoman government asked for a neutral commission of inquiry and were again denied. Each time, the victors chose to rest on accusations made in documents produced as propaganda.
April 15, 1920, Vol. XXVI. No. 24:
In this edition, Pickthall responds to a letter by Dikran Kouyoumdjian, who had written as Michael Arlen. Though the letter largely reprises Pickthall’s March 25 entry, it adds that when referring the sums spent on Armenian propaganda, Pickthall was partly referring to “a film of faked atrocities acted by hired performers in America, which as first shown here, was banned by Scotland Yard for its indecency.”
April 22, 1920, Vol. XXVI. No. 25:
Koyoumdjian responds. After first generally accusing Pickthall of lying, Kouyoumdjian first says that the Armenians are independently capable and, therefore, are not in league with other anti-Turkish blocks, such as the Greeks, as Pickthall had insinuated. He then wails in disappointment at the fate of the Armenians. Again, however, his pride gets the best of him and he makes effective arguments on our behalf, admitting the belligerence and disloyalty of the Armenians during the war. Of note, this is one of very few instances in which an Armenian blames England for Armenia’s fate.
“Sympathy must be seduced, if it can be got by no other means. The Armenians have paid with their lives, they will now pay with their treasure, to enshroud more quickly with weeds that growth of anarchy and misgovernment which was once called the Turkish Empire. But I cannot see why Mr. Pickthall so consistently keeps his grievances against the Christian peoples of Asia Minor. They are really lost, finished, beaten, friendless. This war was the Armenians’ last throw of the dice, their last furious gamble. And, as for 5,000 years, so now-they have lost! The war has left them worse off than ever before. So badly off, indeed, that, after fighting for England and themselves, after having stormed Erivan and Erzeroum, after having held and only lost Baku because of the idiocy of a British general who thought that 1,500 men mere enough to relieve them — after all this, the Prime Minister of England can say of them that, if they relied more on themselves, the Armenians would become a ‘more manly and virile people’!”
April 29, 1920, Vol. XXVI. No. 25:
Pickthall responds in turn to Kouyoumdjian congratulating him on pointing to England as a source of Armenian problems. He also highlights that Kouyoumdjian admitted that the Armenians sided against the Ottoman government, asking, “How are [the Armenians] going to live among the peoples they have wronged and angered by their wreckless ‘gamble’?”
And here the trail runs cold. Pickthall later appears in The New Age, writing primarily about British treatment of Muslims in India. Dikran Kouyoumdjian, a.k.a. Michael Arlen, disappears entirely from The New Age. C.F. Dixon-Johnson also fails to again appear.
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