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30 March 2008

2404) Governmental Service And Social Life Of Armenians In Diyarbakir

Res. Assist. Serkan YAZICI

Sakarya University Faculty of Arts and Sciences Department of History / Sakarya

Within the Ottoman Empire in which various ethnic communities lived in peace and tranquility, the Armenians had the closest relationship with the Muslim citizens. This was observed both in the State service and social life of every city of the Empire. In the case of Diyarbakır, too, the Armenians would be met in every part of city life. . .

Diyarbakır, composed of Turkish-Kurds, Armenians, Caledonians, Greeks, Syrians, and Jews at the turn of the 19th century, had maintained its strategic importance of long standing in the Middle East. Having been the capital of many past powers, the city had been multi-cultural, where, throughout history, different ethnic groups could live in harmony. The Armenians, whose numbers were approximately 10-20% of the total population, have played important roles in the social life and the government of Diyarbakır.

Although the Armenians of Diyarbakır chose the city center as a residential area, we could also see them in the countryside. Evliya Çelebi recorded that, in 1655-56, there were a total of fifty-four quarters in the center of Diyarbakır, forty-seven of them were Muslim and seven of them were non-Muslim1. At the turn of the twentieth century, the administrative division of Diyarbakır, according to the Salname (Yearbook) of 1902, was as follows: 3 sanjaks, 14 districts, 58 sub-districts, and 3117 villages2. In addition, Ali Emiri gave statistics about the numbers of religious groups in the villages of Diyarbakır in 19143. (See Table 1.)

Table 1. The Numbers of Religios Groups in the Villages of Diyarbakır in 1914

Muslim Villages 2.871
Miscellaneous Villages 296
Non-Muslim Villages 183
Total 3.350


The Armenians in Diyarbakır like in other cities engaged mostly in trade, but it is also possible to see them in various other occupations. Under the Ottoman rule, they performed the occupations that the Muslims could not because of religion, like barkeeping. They were also interested in viniculture, a growing market which provided more income. In addition, the tax farming (Mukataa system) of the sheep market, which was the center of stockbreeding in Diyarbakır, was granted to an Armenian named Ibrahim in 15664. Notwithstanding, there were Armenians in economically inferior occupations, like farming, mining, and portage5.

In general, their commercial activities were based on the occupations that necessitated much capital and provided handsome profits, like goldsmithing and mining works6. Mustafa Akif Tütenk, a contemporary observer, says that Armenians took over most of the trade in Diyarbakır after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. They also conducted import and export businesses thanks to their knowledge of foreign languages and good relations with European merchants7. Though we do not know the trading volume that the Armenians attained, Diyarbakır’s export of

1 Nejat Göyünç, Diyarbakır Maddesi, DİA, vol. 9, pp. 464-472. (468).
2 1320 Senesi Mahsus Salname-i Devlet-i Âli Osmaniye, 1918, p. 649.
3 Ali Emiri, Osmanlı Vilayeti Şarkiyyesi, İstanbul, 1918, p. 32.
4 Göyünç, op.cit, p. 467.
5 BOA, Y. PRK. AZN. 14/5.
6 BOA, A. MKT. UM. 396/54.
7 Şevket Beysanoğlu, Kültürümüzde Diyarbakır, Ankara, 1992, p. 10.

242,800 and import of 274,100 Ottoman liras in 1900’s could give a clue about their capital accumulations and affluence8.

In general, Armenians were one of the well-educated communities of the Ottoman State. Their connections with education were not just limited to being well-educated. A lot of documents in the Prime Ministry Ottoman Archive record that there were many Armenians serving in educational institutions as school directors and teachers9. These schools were generally set up by Armenians and often carried out the missionary activities of Christian sects, such as Catholicism and Protestantism.

For instance, there was a Catholic missionary school in Diyarbakır and two schools in Mardin in addition to a Protestant missionary school in Diyarbakır10. According to the 1901-1902 statistics of the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul, Azmi Süslü quoted from Baghdjian that there were four Armenian schools in Diyarbakır11. Another source, in which the same statistic (Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul 1901-1902) was used recorded that there were 803 Armenian schools along with 8 Armenian schools in Palu, a qaza (sub-district) of Diyarbakır12. One of them was an Armenian girls’ school directed by an Armenian, Mrs. Surmeliye (her name is mentioned as Mrs. Ameliya in the newspaper Takvim-i Vekayi) in 191113. The staff of these schools was mainly Armenians, and their students graduated from these schools with knowledge of foreign languages and a familiarity with western culture. Some of the teachers faced criminal proceedings since they sometimes resorted to certain methods of education which would rouse the students into revolutionary activities or they provided banned publications. For example, twenty five teachers of the Cüngüş Armenian School were taken to court for such activities14.

8 Göyünç, op.cit, p. 468.
9 BOA, DH-İD, 30-1/37.
10 Ayten Sezer, Osmanlı Döneminde Misyonerlik Faaliyetleri, Yeni Türkiye Mart-Nisan 2001 (Ermeni Sorunu Özel Sayısı), Ankara 2001, pp. 948-960.
11 Azmi Süslü, Ermeniler ve 1915 Tehcir Olayı, Ankara, 1990, p. 46.
12 Azmi Süslü, Fahrettin Kırzıoğlu, Refet Yinanç, Yusuf Halaçoğlu, Türk Tarihinde Ermeniler, Ankara, 1995, pp. 141-142.
13 BOA, DH-İD, 30-1/37.
14 BOA, Y. PRK. AZN. 20/68. This document includes the names of above-mentioned twenty five teachers.

Moreover, Mesrob Krikorian states that the Armenian participation in public health was notable in the provinces of Diyarbakır, Sivas and Elazig. He adds that the Armenians who received medical education abroad came back to these provinces to work15.

The problems that the Armenians encountered in their daily life were solved through the State courts. The courts concluded lawsuits judiciously without consideration of the plaintiffs or the defendant’s nationality. In one lawsuit, certain people claimed to be the owner of an area pertaining to the Armenian Church; the court confirmed that the area belonged to the church and judged it to be restitutive16. In another instance, Armenians, who were deceived that they would be assisted to go to America, resorted to court, and the criminals were caught and put before the judge17. Another disagreement between the prelates of two Christian sects was construction of windows on the wall of Caledenian Church. Armenians rejected their construction and there appeared a disagreement. Upon hearing this news, the officials of the police and gendarme by meeting with the leaders of two sects closed a deal and finally the construction of windows were not allowed18. We see that justice was revealed in another lawsuit in which both the plaintiffs and defendants were Armenian. In the Ergani mine, one of the mine managers, Ohannes, was faced with criminal proceeding after he victimized some Armenians by giving money to his supporters that had been granted to the mine19.

It is remarkable to see that all the people who were put before the court were not accused of any crime; indeed some of them were found not guilty. For example, it was stated in the a telegram that Hamid beg, the governor of Diyarbakır, that the crimes attributed to Kazazyan Osib and his brother in 1890 did not reflect the reality20.

15 Mesrob Krikorian, Armenians in the Service of the Ottoman Empire 1860-1908, Scotland America, 1977, p. 106.
16 BOA, A. MKT. 545/34.
17 BOA, A. MKT. MHM. 617/37.
18 BOA, A. MKT. MHM. 637/47.
19 BOA. A. MKT. MHM. 396/54.
20 BOA, Y. MTV. 43/19.

In terms of rights and freedoms, the Armenians were free to publish newspapers in Diyarbakır21. There were various newspapers published with State permission and supervision. The demands of the Armenians so as to publish newspapers were met by giving a license following a legal proceeding. For instance, the newspaper named Diyarbakır in Turkish and Armenian was one of such papers.22 In 1909, the demand of Hemeyan Aromyan from Palu to publish an Armenian newspaper named Gühan was accepted.”23

In the social life of Diyarbakır, it was seen that the Armenians did not have any problems about their religious matters, and every sect had their own churches. Ottoman tolerance could be seen in Diyarbakır. Indeed, Nejat Göğünç states that there were people who did not believe in any godly religion24. Moreover, those who wanted to change their sects were also tolerated. There was no problem for the non-Muslims to perform their religious duties. An archival document dating 1851 records that permission was granted an Armenian, Sarkis, who wanted to change his sect and return from Antalya to Diyarbakır25. At the same time, many Armenians in Diyarbakır wanted to convert to Orthodoxy.

Their demands were accepted by the State, providing that they should be enrolled in Rum Milleti Defteri (Greek National Registry Book)26.

From a religious point of view, Diyarbakır with its mosques, churches and synagogues reflected the vibrancy of this period. All the members of the different denominations were able to worship freely. It is known that there were twenty-two churches in the center of Diyarbakır over the years.

Eight of them are still standing; one of them is active today. Fourteen churches collapsed or disappeared; either their community vanished or their functions were transferred to new owners. Six of them belonged to

21 Armenians have published newspapers and publications in Armenian 350 in İstanbul, 38 in İzmir, approximately 70 in almost 20 cities and districts from
1832 to 1970’s. Sezer, op.cit, pp. 63-66.
22 BOA, A. MKT. MHM. 435/39.
23 BOA, ZB. 330/76.
24 Göyünç, Osmanlı İdaresinde Ermeniler, İstanbul, p. 26.
25 BOA, HR. MKT. 44/75.
26 Davut Kılıç, Osmanlı İdaresinde Ermeniler Arasındaki Dini ve Siyasi Mücadeleler,Ankara, 2000, p. 89.

the Armenian community. Today27 the Virgin Mary Church is active and is attended by Assyrians28. The Ottoman Empire usually permitted the construction and repair of the churches. An archival document bearing the date of 1919 shows that the Ottoman parliament decided to draw a budget for one of the churches in Ergani as it was not right to leave it in ruin29. It is beyond a doubt that this data should be evaluated in light of the political conditions of 1919.

The activities of the Church and clergy that were particularly important in the Armenian question can be seen during the Armenian events of Diyarbakır, too. Originally the churches were low buildings until the idea of establishment of an independent Armenia in Eastern Anatolia; however, their dimension began to be seen as a symbol of power and ability. For example, the Small Church (Küçük Kilise) in Diyarbakır was torn down by the Armenians and its bell tower was reconstructed higher than the minaret of Şeyhmatar Mosque30. If the Armenian events of Diyarbakır are thoroughly examined, it is seen that the churches sometimes became centers of propaganda, arms, and sometimes harbors for fugitive Armenians.


From the mid of 19th century onwards, Armenians began to be employed in major and minor civil services. The Ottoman Empire entrusted the Armenians with the task of administering many governmental services. Being appointed to high ranking offices according to their education and proficiency, they became the part of the Ottoman State system. Şevket Beysanoğlu states that many Armenians were employed

27 Nurşen Mazıcı records that thirty three churhes were inactive and four of them are in Kırıkhan, İskenderun, Kayseri and Diyarbakır. Nurşen Mazıcı, Uluslar arası Rekabette Ermeni Sorununun Kökeni, İstanbul, 1987, p. 141. According to the Ministry of Culture, Mart Thoma, Meryem Ana, Kırklar, Mart Pityon Churhes are towering churches of Diyarbakır. 47281&belgekod =45868& baslik=Detay (28. 07. 2004).
28 Orhan Cezmi Tuncer, Diyarbakır Kiliseleri, Diyarbakır, 2002, p. 13.
29 BOA, M. V. 215/92.
30 Beysanoğlu, op.cit, p.10

in the court, council, and police and gendarme services, and an Armenian, Dikran, was even the dragoman of the governor. Further, Şevket Beysanoğlu states that Dikran misinformed the State about the Armenian affairs. For example, he expresses that Dikran gave reports that informed that the theatrical performance which had no drawbacks actually included revolutionary propaganda and was staged in Armenian31.

In this regard, an archival documents (see Tables at appendix) from the Prime Ministry Ottoman Archive records a table including detailed information about the Armenians serving in governmental service.

According to the table prepared on August 30, 1893, the Armenians had been in governmental services for a long time; some of them had high ranking offices, gained high salaries, and were granted decorations. This table includes forty-seven state officials’ appointment dates, salaries, their ranks, decorations, and their names with additional information.

It would be useful to give information about some of them instead of all of them. Namely, fourteen who had shown general circumstances are mentioned. The sixteen officials in the table have worked voluntarily, one with revenues and the rest with salary.

In addition, twenty-five Armenians were in governmental service, one in the Duyun-u Umumiye (Ottoman Foreign Debts Administration) of Diyarbakır, one in Maden Reji (State Management), and twenty-three in the Duyun-u Umumiye of Cizre32. Mesrop Krikorian gives similar information about twenty-five Armenians who had key positions and some of them were included in this table. His attainments are much like the ones given in the table33. Another important development about the Armenians of Diyarbakır was their candidacies in the deputy elections.

For example, in the election of 1914, an Armenian Istepan Çıracıyan entered parliament34.

It is interesting to know all their offices, salaries, ranks and positions, but it is more interesting to see the strategic position of their offices. It

31 Ibid, p. 10.
32 BOA, Y. PRK. UM. 35/125.
33 Krikorian, op.cit, p. 24.
34 (22.06.2006).

is seen from the table 2,3,4 that the Armenians were employed as police officers, telegram managers, telegram clerks, assemblyman in municipal council and members of provincial administration. This state of affairs on one hand indicates the Ottoman’s reliance on the Armenians, and, on the other hand, questions the claims as to the massacring or committing malevolent offences against the Armenians. As it is seen many Armenians were employed in various branches of the communicative, executive and judicial official authorities.

Though the Armenians were employed in various governmental offices and involved in undesirable events until the First World War, the Ottomans continued to accept and employ Armenians in civil offices. However, some of them were involved in illegal activities and were faced with judicial proceedings. For example, in 1916 the telegram manager of Cüngüş provided a way for many Armenians to avoid military service by leaking official correspondences. This led to a recruitment of only 8-9 draftees from an area that could actually provide 300. As a result, he was faced with a judicial inquiry35.

So far I have endeavored to explain the condition of the Armenians in the social life of Diyarbakır with their commercial and social activities, daily lives and religious affairs, and their relations with judicial and official institutions through various examples. What I have mentioned is a sign that the Armenians experienced favorable conditions during the period of the “Armenian Question.” For example, after the Armenian events of 1895 in Diyarbakır, in a document bearing the date of December 9, all the non-Muslim clergymen who affirmed their lack of any connection with the events, said, in their own words, what the Ottomans contributed these communities: “Our religion and sect, language, life, property, and virtue are all under the protection of the Sublime Porte”. They also spoke about the Muslims as “our beloved neighbors, the Muslims”36. Moreover, the Ottoman officials, on November 1-3, 1895, namely ten days after the events, claimed a list of needy Muslims and Armenians

35 BOA, DH. EUM. EMN. 90/64.
36 BOA, Y. PRK. AZN. 15/1.

to be assisted. It is an indicator that the State, despite all the negative activities, maintained its good intentions for the Armenians37.

Subsequently, it is seen from the examples that the Armenians, who had important roles in all the cities of Anatolia and governmental offices, held their places in the social and governmental life of Diyarbakır. It is a must to recognize this structure in order to comprehend properly the evalution of the “Armenian Question” and the fall of the Ottoman State with all their historical, social, political, and economical dimensions. If the question is handled justly on its social dimension and if the imperialist policies of certain states on the Ottoman land could not be considered, it is impossible to feel the pain and anguish suffered in every strata of society during the last fifty years of the Ottoman State, namely, the separation of two societies which had lived together in the same State in peace and harmony could not be understood.

In short, it can be proposed that the Armenian question can be solved by means of dialogue. But realization of dialogue is impossible so long as one of the sides considers genocide as its national history.

Table 2. Armenian Employee Officialdom within Diyarbakır Province


Dİyarbakir Sub-District Explanation Place Of Employment And Name Medals Ranks Salaries Appointment Dates Of Current Position First Dates Of Appointment Of State Service Before He Was Employee At This Office
Member of Court of Appeal Handanyan Karabet Efendi
— 3rd
or Without
15 April 1893 Unknown

Member of Court of Appeal Boyacıyan Osib Efendi
— —
or Without
15 April 1893 “
He has been a member of this court for almost a decade
Member of City Minasyan
Ohannes Efendi
Class of
or Without
13 April 1893 “
37 BOA, A. MKT. MHM. 636/20.
38 BOA. Y. PRK. DH. 6 / 94.

Dİyarbakir Sub-District Explanation Place Of Employment And Name Medals Ranks Salaries Appointment Dates Of Current Position First Dates Of Appointment Of State Service

He was a member of Abolished commercial court of Diyarbakır Proceeding Clerk in Chamber of Law of Civil Court of First Instance Tuhman Efendi — — 300 13 July 1888 “ Proceeding Clerk in Chamber of Civil Court of First Instance Haçadur Efendi — — 300 28 November 1889 “ Before he was convention clerk in Diyarbakır Siverek Sub-district Deputy of Notary of Civil Court of First Instance Bedros Efendi — — 300 24 Agust 1891 “ Member of Civil Court of First Instance of Diyarbakır Bedros Efendi — — 225 “ “ Before he was a government treasurer in Diyarbakır Member of Civil Court of First Instance of Lice Sub-district Aleksandır Efendi — — 225 15 April 1889 “ Chief (Şefdö) of Diyarbakır Foreign Correspondence Amaysan Efendi — — 900 1884 “ Accounting Clerk in Principal Directorate of Diyarbakır David Efendi — 650 1892 “ Principal Officer of Diyarbakır Foreign Correspondence Altunyan Efendi — — 570 1890 “ He was former Chief of Adana Foreign Correspondence. He was appointed to this position on 15 December 1890. Principal Officer of Diyarbakır Foreign Correspondence Kazamir Efendi — — 570 “ He was former officer of Halep Foreign Correspondence. He was appointed to this position on 17 June 1889. Officer of Diyarbakır Foreign Correspondence. İstefan Efendi — — 500 “

Dİyarbakir Sub-District Explanation Place Of Employment And Name Medals Ranks Salaries Appointment Dates Of Current Position First Dates Of Appointment Of State Service

Principal Officer of Diyarbakır Foreign Correspondence Dikran Efendi — — 500 April-May 1885 “ He was former officer of Kalozmon Asylum. He was appointed to this position on 30 April 1893. Principal Officer of Diyarbakır Foreign Correspondence Aristidi Efendi — — 400 “ He was former officer of Musul Foreign Correspondence. He was appointed to this position on 1 November 1888. Principal Officer of Diyarbakır Foreign Correspondence Aram Efendi — — 400 “ Principal Officer of Diyarbakır Foreign Correspondence Zoryan Efendi — — 380 5 May 1890 “ Operator of Diyarbakır Foreign Correspondence Agop Efendi — — 400 March-April 1865 “ Telegram Sergeant of Ergani Oakim Aga — — 285 September-October 1885 “ Responsible Clerk of Musul Correspondence in Diyarbakır Telegram Service Ohannes Aga — — 142 28 February 1887 “ Responsible Clerk of Musul Correspondence in Diyarbakır Telegram Service Artin Aga — — 142 19 January 1891 “

*This term is used in the original text, which is the abbreviation of a French word “chef de station”. Krikorian states that in 1892 he was the head of telegraphic service in Diyarbakır. Krikorian, op.cit, p. 23.

Table 3. Armenian Employee Officialdom Within Maden Sub-District

Maden Sub-District Explanation Place Of Employment And Name Medals Ranks Salaries Appointment Dates Of Current Position First Dates Of Appointment Of State Service

Accountant Principal Accounting Clerk in Maden District Artin Efendi — — 400 18 November 1891 13 August 1881 Clerk of Maden District Aleksan Efendi — — 225 7 Mart 1892 27 September 1881 Treasury Attorney of Maden District İstepan Efendi — — Stipendiary 13 June 1890 13 September 1897 Member in the First Instance of Maden District Bedros Efendi — — 360 15 April 1893 1873-1874 Lietunent Member in law Department of Maden District Agop Efendi — — 270 18 April 1887 10 May 1886 Executive Member of Council of Maden District Mardiros Efendi — — Voluntary or Without Money 1892-1893 13 Mart 1881 He is also member of executive committe of the Bank Member in Council of City Hall of Maden District Murad Aga — — Voluntary or Without Money 26 March 1885 26 March 1885 Mining Engineer Aram Efendi — — 1500 February-March 1889 March-April 1888 Police Officer in Maden District Karabet Efendi — — 300 1889-1890 March-April 1880 Executive Member of Council in Palu District Mıgırdiç Aga — 5th Voluntary or Without Money 9 May 1886 10 October 1873 Attorny Treasurer of Palu District Agop Efendi — — 360 21 May 1893 21 May 1884 Member in Council of City Hall of Palu District Sahak Aga — — Voluntary or Without Money 13 March 1890 13 March 1890 Session Clerk in Court of Palu Gabriel Efendi — — 160 13 December 1879 13 December 1879 He is also serve as public notary Member in the First Instance of Palu District Bogos Efendi — — 225 13 March 1892 13 May 1869 Member in Council of City Hall of Palu Donabet Aga — — Voluntary or Without Money 13 March 1890 13 March 1890

Maden Sub-District Explanation Place Of Employment And Name Medals Ranks Salaries Appointment Dates Of Current Position First Dates Of Appointment Of State Service

Executive Member of Council in Palu District Bakdasar Aga — — Voluntary or Without Money 27 April 1897 27 April 1897 Member in Council of City Hall of Çermik District Minas Aga — — Voluntary or Without Money 13 February 1897 25 April 1892 Member in the First Instance of Çermik District İguş Efendi — — 225 1892-1893 1882-1883 Member in Council of City Hall of Çermik District Mahsa Aga — — Voluntary or Without Money 10 September 1890 10 September 1890 Executive Member of Çüngüş Sub district Murat Aga — — Voluntary or Without Money 3 June 1891 3 June 1891 Executive Member of Çüngüş Sub district Bogos Aga — — Voluntary or Without Money 3 June 1891 3 June 1891 Member in Council of City Hall of Çüngüş Sub district Ohannes Aga — — Voluntary or Honorary 23 October 1885 23 October 1885 Member in Council of City Hall of Çüngüş Sub district Karagöz Aga — — Voluntary or Honorary 23 October 1885 23 October 1885 Member in Council of City Hall of Çüngüş Sub district Serkis Aga — — Voluntary or Honorary 23 October 1885 23 October 1885

Table 4. Armenian Employee Officialdom within Mardin Sub-District

Mardin Sub-District Explanation Names Medals Ranks Salaries Appointment Dates Of Current Position First Dates Of Appointment Of State Service

He has been telegram clerk for ten years. He was appointed to Mardin on 20 July 1892 Vice Telegram Clerk of Correspondence of Mardin Mıgırdiç Rasim Efendi — — 380 20 July 1892 — He is actually an Armenian affiliated with Assyrian Patriarchate Member of Court of First Instance of Nusaybin Sub district Herbo — — 225 March-April 1893 —


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