1344) The Ottoman Armenians: The Question Of Relocation And Immigration During WWI by Prof. Dr. Kemal ÇİÇEK

Historical Background of the Turkish-Armenian Conflict

Conflict between the Turks and the Armenians was not an historic one. The two peoples had lived in harmony and good neighbourly relations for almost 800 years, from the arrival of the Turks to Anatolia in 1064 till 1878, at which the congress of Berlin gathered. There were, of course, some problems between the state and the Armenians during those years of peaceful co-existence, as The Armenians of Anatolia and Europe had been Ottoman subjects. However these problems were ordinary ones and were of typical in nature arising from taxation, military obligation and etc. But there were never any problems between Turks as Muslims and Armenians as Christians. The ethnic conflicts were unknown subjects between the two races. The Armenians were equally treated, enjoyed religious freedom, and security of life under the limits of the so-called . . Millet system.

In fact, judged by all economic and social standards, the Armenians did well under Ottoman rule. By the late nineteenth century, in every Ottoman province the Armenians were better educated and richer than the Muslims. Armenians worked hard, it is true, but their comparative riches were largely due to European and American influence and Ottoman tolerance. European merchants made Ottoman Christians their agents. European merchants gave them their business. European consuls intervened in their behalf. The Armenians benefited from the education given to them by American missionaries. Ironically, this European influence among the Armenian community was also the cause of the collapse of peaceful relations between the state and the Armenians on the one hand, and between the Muslim Turks and the Armenians on the other.

So what happened towards the end of the 19th century that created conflict and ethnic tensions between the Armenians and the Turks?

Well, there were economic and political reasons, some of which were the results of a prevailing national consciousness in Europe following the French Revolution. At the beginning of the 19th century, nationalism had reached the Ottoman realm and helped the Greeks to carve out an independent state by the support and intervention of the European powers. Serbians and Romanians followed the Greeks. Even the Arab Muslims had showed signs of national awakenings. However the process naturally had not developed peacefully, ethnic violence and long-lasting conflicts occurred. The outcome was more painful and troublesome for the Muslims than the Christians. Muslims were living through some of the worst suffering experienced in modern history: In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Bosnian Muslims were massacred by Serbs, Russians killed and exiled the Circassians, Abkhazians, and Turks were killed and expelled from their homelands by Russians, Bulgarians, Greeks, and Serbs.

Yet, in the midst of all this Muslim sufferings, the political situation of the Ottoman Armenians constantly improved. First, equal rights for Christians and Jews were guaranteed in law. Equal rights increasingly became a reality, as well. Christians took high places in the government. They became ambassadors, treasury officials, and even foreign ministers. In many ways, in fact, the rights of Christians became greater than those of the Muslims, because powerful European states intervened in their behalf. The Europeans demanded and received special treatment for Christians. Muslims had no such advantages. They were known and regarded by the state as soldiers ready to die in defence of the holy and the only strong Muslim Empire.

Thus, this was the environment in which Armenians revolted against the Ottoman Empire, assuming that it was their turn to gain their own state within the Ottoman realm. After the treaty of Berlin had signed they did get support for, what had become national goal of the Armenians, from first missionary institutions and then from Russia and Britain. This liaison between the rivals of the Ottoman Empire and the Armenians also marked the beginning of the Armenian revolution movement. Although the real intentions of the Armenian Revolutionary parties had always been masked by demands for reforms, the Ottoman Empire had naturally been sceptical of this, in light of the recent developments that led to the foundations of Greek and Serbian States. In summary, the beginning of the Armenian revolution movement culminated in disaster for both Armenians and the Turks.

Russia and British Empire played a major and decisive role in this process. First Russian was the key player. Regions where Armenians and Muslim Turks had been living together in relative peace were lying before the advancement of the Russian Empire toward the warm waters of the Mediterranean. So when the Russians invaded the Caucasian Muslim lands at the first quarter of the 19th century, it followed a favourable policy for guarantying the permanent support of the Armenian people. Most Armenians were probably neutral, but a significant number took the side of the Russians. Armenians served as spies and even provided armed units of soldiers for the Russians. There were significant benefits for the Armenians: The Russians took Yerevan Province, today's Armenian Republic, in 1828. They expelled Turks and gave the Turkish land, tax-free, to Armenians. The Armenians paid with full support to the Russian ambitions. When the Russians army defeated the Ottoman army and invaded a large part of the European and Ottoman Turkey in the war of 1877-78, once again many Armenians joined the Russian side. They served as scouts and spies. Armenians became the 'fifth column' of the Russians in occupied territories. Nevertheless, with the intervention of European powers, the peace treaty of 1878 gave much of the lost lands back to the Ottomans.

Nonetheless the Armenian questions had now become an international issue in the political agenda of the European powers. The treaty of Berlin further imposed the execution of reform in the Eastern Anatolia, under article 61.

Meanwhile the Armenians who had helped the Russians feared revenge, although the Turks did not, in fact, take any revenge. In brief Armenian Revolutionaries had found a powerful protector in Russia. They established the operational basis of their revolutionary parties in Russia, received beyond moral support, weapons and ammunitions. However, the British response to the advancement of Russia was not a co-operative one, and furthermore showed strong dislike of the Russian plans to swallow up the Ottoman Empire in its own initiative. Also British diplomats discovered that the Ottoman Armenians were dangerous toll in the hand of Russia, in pursuing their historic aim of reaching the Mediterranean. On the other hand missionary support and sympathy for the Armenians would not allow Britain and the European powers to disregard the Armenian goals of an autonomous Armenia. So British had only one choice: instead of Russia they would give full support to Armenian national cause. Financial support of the Evangelical Church and missionaries became immense stimulation for Armenian revolutionaries. America had become one of the strongholds of Armenian revolutionary parties to collect money and to raise militants. Soon they received support of almost one third of the Armenians living in America. The church missionary societies propagated their views strongly in the name of bringing about religious freedom of one of the noble Christian races from the yoke of the barbaric Muslims. The revolutionary parties secured so strong support from the States that they organised an armed demonstration in New York as early as 1893. There they declared their road map and declared this openly, which also demonstrates their real intentions.

It is impossible to keep up military spirit by means of words and articles. We must begin by disciplining. The best way to arose [sic ! /arise] a military spirit among young Armenians in foreign countries is to give them the military training, which is the only means of preparing men for the field of battle.

....We must lose, if necessary, one half of the nation for the sake of saving the other half. "

"Experiences has [sic ! /have] shown that the political reconstruction of the nation through diplomatic action is impossible. Positive and energetic means are needed in order to bring about diplomatic intervention. These means are fire and sword, which call for soldiers and money. It must establish its centre of activity in Russia or the United States.-Just as there is an Armeno-Russian corps in the east, ready and organised, so must an Armeno-American corps, equally strong, be raised in the west. "

"A people is not aroused in a moment, as an electric lamp is lighted, it is true. Yet the eastern question, if it should again come upon the carpet, would be agitated for two years at least. At first there will be insurrectionary movements followed by repression, next, war, followed by a Congress of the great powers. If the Armenians get ready and make a beginning before the expiration of these two years, they may revolt, in good time. I approve of the system of Hentchaguien, viz. To organise bands at once. When the eastern question is revived, these bands may unite. It would be well for them to organise as guerrillas, and to carry on operations in the mountains of Turkey in Asia. That would protect the population of the cities and of the rural districts. "

This support along with others strengthened, of course, the Armenian revolutionary movements and many new parties established. Although there were others, two parties of nationalists were to lead the Armenian rebellion. Armenians from Russia founded the first, the Hunchakian Revolutionary Party, called the Hunchaks, in Geneva, Switzerland in 1887. The second, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, called the Dashnaks, was founded in the Russian Empire, in Tbilisi, in 1890. Both were Marxist. Their methods were violent. The Hunchak and Dashnak Party Manifestos called for armed revolution in the Ottoman Empire.

As of 1890s, they organised systematic rebellions in the Eastern Anatolia largely populated by the Armenians. The aim was to create a hostile environment between Muslims and Armenians in the area, which would lead eventually to ethnic and religious violence. Terrorism, including the murder of both Ottoman officials and Armenians who opposed them, was a method of he parties, and had unfortunately become successful. Soon the Muslims armed to defend themselves or to take in revenge.

The area had soon become a ground for the worse crimes that history had witnessed. The Armenian revolutionaries killed and massacred Muslim villagers. They ambushed the gendarmes in the area. They murdered the Armenian governor of the city of Van for his reluctance to support their revolutionary activities. The revolutionaries in his cathedral murdered the Armenian bishop of Van, Boghos, on Christmas Eve. They assassinated some high-ranking security officials and police chiefs. They assaulted the Ottoman Bank Head Quarters in Istanbul to attract the European attention to their cause. They attempted to kill the Sultan Abdulhamit II in an assassination plot, at which the history witnessed for the first time the use of car bomb. Yet they could not be properly put on trial for their crimes. The Europeans demanded that the Ottomans accept actions from the revolutionaries that the Europeans themselves would never tolerate in their own possessions. When the Dashnaks occupied the Ottoman Bank, Europeans arranged their release. European ambassadors forced the Ottomans to grant amnesty to rebels in Zeytun. They arranged pardons for those who attempted to kill sultan Abdülhamid II. The Russian consuls would not let Ottoman courts try Dashnak rebels, because they were Russian subjects. Many rebels who were successfully brought justice and convicted were released, because the Europeans demanded and received pardons for them. One Russian consul in Van even publicly trained Armenian rebels, acting personally as their weapons instructor.

Of course Muslim Kurds and Turks also responded to the Armenian bands with a better-organised self-defence movement. They formed, what was called Hamidiye regiments, with voluntary accession of the young tribesmen. These nomadic units turned out to be uncontrollable units in the region due to the anarchy and prevailing wars with Greece in the Balkans. They attacked Armenian villages killing brutally many innocent peasants, who may have had no association with the revolutionaries. The reason why these regiments received strong backing of the Muslims seems to stem from concerns over the planned land and administrative reforms in the area. Since such a reform may have taken away most of their possessions and also of influence. Thus, Armenians suffered more losses than their Muslim neighbours, mainly because in no province in the Eastern Anatolia, which was claimed to be historic Armenia, did the Armenians constitute a majority in population.

As for the population issue, we have to elaborate more on the demographic situation of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. This is of significance since that the Armenians had secured foreign support; they lacked enough population in the area to establish an independent state, as did the Greeks, Serbians and Bulgarians. This was indeed a serious problem for the Armenian nationalists. In Greece, the majority of the population was Greek. In Bulgaria, the majority was Bulgarian. In the lands claimed by the Armenians, however, Armenians were a fairly small minority. The region that was called "Ottoman Armenia," the "Six Vilâyets" of Sivas, Mamüretülaziz, Diyarbakir, Bitlis, Van, and Erzurum, was only 17% Armenian. It was 78% Muslim. According o the Armenian Patriarchate the total population of the Armenians in the Empire was 2.100.000 in 1912. However this convinced no one, because the same source had given 2.660.000 in 1878 during the Berlin Conference. An old Patriarch, Ormanian wrote that the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were 1.915.651 in 1913. Reverand Lepsius gives 1.845.000 Ottoman Armenian on the basis of Patriarchate sources.

Thus the figures of the Patriarchate cannot be relied upon. The independent scholars such as David Magie estimated the Armenian population as 1.479.000 excluding European Turkey in 1914. Justin McCarthy calculated the number of Armenians as 1.698.303. Which ever is the truth does not change the fact that The Armenians were in minority even in the Eastern provinces. This was a major obstacle in front of the Armenian revolutionaries. The only way to create the independent or autonomous "Armenia" would only be achieved if the Muslims had been expelled from the region. That was what justified their terror campaign and organised revolts against the Ottoman state since 1890s. Taschnak and Hunchaks forced Armenians for support and extracted enormous amount of money from them. According to the research conducted by Justin McCarthy "The greatest cost to villagers was the forced purchase of guns. The villagers were turned into rebel "soldiers," whether they wished to be or not. If they were to fight the Turks, they needed weapons. The revolutionaries smuggled weapons from Russia and forced the Armenian villagers to buy at excessive prices.

More serious developments took place in the Ottoman Empire from 1900 until the beginning of the WWI. Sultan Abdulhamid II, who famed with his Pan-Islamist policies were overthrown by a military Coup, led by the so-called "Young Turks Party" as well as some Armenian political parties and other minority groups. Between 1911 and 1912, the Ottomans fought with their former subject peoples in the Balkans and lost a vast territory in European part of the Empire. Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians and Montenegrins were the major benefactor of the war. The Muslims were in the losing side. Not only did they loss many lives but also were forced to leave their 600 years of old arable and fertile lands. Around 2.000.000 Turks left the Balkans for Anatolia. Italians invaded Libya, then a part of the Ottoman Empire. These disasters that had fallen upon the Turkish Muslim people gave strength to nationalistic sentiments and racial hatred among them. Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) led by Turkish nationalists and headed by Enver took in power by a coup d'etat in 1913. He grasped power, controlled the state affairs with the help of his associates at CUP. Later on he was married with the daughter of the Sultan and became the minister of war.

After the CUP gained control of the state, Armenian political parties had broken with the CUP, with which they were associated to overthrown Abdulhamit II. Tensions between the Armenians and Turks increased. Hopes of peace between Armenians and Turks fade away. Armenians throw ones more their lot with the Russians. Since Russia and Britain were in the same side, this time support for Armenian national cause had become stronger. Russia and England once more put the reforms in Eastern Anatolia on their agenda. Eventually they were able to force the Ottomans to accept a reform scheme in Eastern Anatolia, all aspects of which were to be supervised by a European inspector-general. (8 February 1914). The CUP regarded this agreement as the foundation basis of an independent Armenia. So they were never happy with this treaty. The WWI broke out in August 1914 prevented it from being put in force. On 2 August 1914, Ottomans signed a secret agreement with the central powers. One of the reasons siding with the Germans may have been that they were abstained from pushing the Ottomans to accept a reform scheme, which clearly carved out an Armenia within the Ottoman Empire.

On the other hand Ottoman Armenians sided with the Allied powers, led by England, France and Russia. Because Armenians had no choice but to side with Russia, which was the only state that was able to contribute to the materialization of the treaty of February 8, 1914. Meanwhile, all attempts to reconcile the Armenian political parties with the Ottoman administration had failed. The Hunchaks, at their party congress held in Romania shortly before the outbreak of the war pledged determined opposition to the Ottoman Empire. Dashnaks first followed a wait-to-see policy, but then decided to encourage their supporters to join up in one of the Armenian volunteer partisan units that were being formed in Russian Armenia.

Anyhow, to be brief, when the war started in Europe Ottoman military declared mobilisation. As the World War I threatened and the Ottoman Army mobilised, most Armenians fled and joined the Russians, as decided in secret committee meetings. Even Karekin Pastermadjian, an Armenian deputy and Dashnak in the Ottoman Parliament, had joined one of these units. The Armenians are stating the number of Armenians that joined the Russian army as 200,000. It may be a little exaggerated. That is, Armenians may have exaggerated this number as they exaggerate everything else. The Russians gave 2.4 million rubbles to the Dashnaks to arm the Ottoman Armenians. They began distributing weapons to Armenians in the Caucasus and Iran in September of 1914. In that month, seven months before the relocation were ordered; Armenian attacks on Ottoman soldiers and officials began.

Moreover not only did they desert army units, the 10s of thousands of Armenians of Sivas and other major cities formed "chette" bands. The rebels in Zeytun and elsewhere in Cilicia did not serve and rebelled in August 1914, two months before the Ottomans entered the war. There were more examples of treachery. In the war zones, especially in Eastern Anatolia, Armenians formed bands to fight a guerrilla war against the Ottoman army. Others fled only to return with the Russian Army, serving as spies and advance units for the Russian invaders. It was those who stayed behind who were the greatest danger to the Ottoman war effort and the greatest danger to the lives of the Muslims of Eastern Anatolia. The disastrous defeat of the Ottoman army under Enver Pasha in December of 1914 encouraged the Armenian bands and frightened the Ottoman army officials, since there were concerns that the Armenians would rebel behind the army lines.

Moreover, a very grave situation occurred in those days and particularly in February. After the Russian army defeated the Turkish army even before they arrived at the Allahüekber Mountains they drove all the Turkish and Muslim tribes in Caucasia towards Anatolia. Imagine yourself in the shoes of the Ottoman military officials and Enver Pasha who was the Chief of Staff in those days. There is an Armenian community at your back continuously cutting the army lines, sabotaging telegram wires, destroying railways, blocking roads, hindering the shipment of troops and refusing to reply to the summons of the army. On the other hand the advancing Russian army was driving around one million Muslim peoples of Caucasia towards Turkey. And there are your people from the same origin with you coming from the opposite side barefoot, naked, starving and miserable. They were becoming heavy burden upon the state treasury, and more importantly arousing hatred towards the Armenians for siding with Russia

What was feared materialized. Armenians organized armed uprisings in cities like Bitlis, Mu?, Erzurum, Merzifon etc. At almost the same time, British and French navies were beginning to hit the strait of Dardanelle. Again, as we learn from the British Intelligence the British and the French were planning to land troops to the Gulf Iskenderun with the support of 50,000. Voluntary Armenians. Imagine a perfect triangle. So Ottomans were trapped in that triangle. Their east, west and south was under continuous threats coming from inside.

What was the Law of Relocation intended?

Under these circumstances, the ottomans had no choice but to issue a security decree on April 24, 1915, as the very existence of the state was under serious threat. The leading propagandists and committee members of the Armenians were arrested in ?stanbul and elsewhere, and were sent into exile to the interior parts of the country, such as Ankara. The exact number of those arrested is not known with certainty, but the number must not exceed 3000. This security measure was effective, but not obviously enough to stop the Armenian revolutionaries. In May 17, 1915, Armenians captured the city of Van after four weeks siege from the Turkish army, massacred the Turks living in and around the city, and handed the keys of the city and the citadel to the Russian army, consisting of Armenian volunteers. Some of the Muslims of Van survived at least thanks to intervention and protection of American missionaries. The capture of Van was a serious blow to the Ottoman army officials and a sign of the strength of the Armenian irregulars. 400 Ottoman troops were killed during that occupation of the city of Van.

It was high time for the army to take concrete measures to prevent further sabotages behind army lines and occurrences of similar events as in Van. Thus, the army officials advised the government, after possibly consulting the German generals, to relocate the Armenians in the war zones. On May 27, 1915, Ottoman parliament enacted the famous law related to the relocation or displacement of Armenians living in the war zone outside the war zone. The initial plan was to relocate those Armenians in the security risk areas, but as 1915 wore on, it became necessary to enlarge the area subjected to relocation, because the armed resistance to the implementation gained pace. In some cities like Urfa, ?ebinkarahisar and so forth, army battalions had to be called in order to enforce the law and order.

What was the scope of the law?

I would like to read out you the law so that it is better understood.
"In wartime if army, corps and division commanders and their deputies and commanders of autonomous regions see any opposition, armed attacks or resistance from the people against any government decree and actions and arrangements for the defense of the country, and to ensure safety they are authorised and obliged to severely punish and to put down the attack and the resistance pronto with military forces. The second article of the law is very important. Army, autonomous corps and division commanders may ship or settle the people of villages and towns to other places individually or collectively for military reasons or if they feel any espionage activities or treason.

It is very obvious that the law intends the war zone. We said the first uprising occurred in Zeytun in February 1915. So the first relocations or exiles were made from Zeytun. Those exiled from Zeytun were settled in Konya and its vicinity. As you can see, this law was enacted quite innocently. Everybody admits that it was a necessity. Russian documents denote that as well. British and American documents denote that it was a military requirement. And what was the intention? Armenians claim that the intention of the relocations was to move those people from the region in the scorching summer heat and to kill them by exiling them to the deserts of Mesopotamia. They claim that was the intention. As I've said before, if that was the intention why would the earliest relocations be made to Konya and its vicinity? Why would only the people in the war zone be exiled? And why would the law that exiled Armenians rule that the properties of those people should be thoroughly secured sold by public auction? And the money earned from the public auction was to be deposited in the national treasury or handed over to the owners of those properties if they could be reached during the exile. The money of those who could not be reached should be held in a trust fund and paid to them upon their return. Why would they keep books for people you intend to kill? It's not a very simple operation. Commissions for abandoned properties were set up in every city. Each commission prepared inventory books for the estates and properties of Armenians.

Why would they do such an operation?

Regulations about the settlement and provision of the Armenians during Relocation (10 May 1915)

-The Armenians who are subject to relocations may take all their moveable possessions and live stocks with them.

If the Armenians get ready and make a beginning before the expiration of these two years, they may revolt, in good time. I approve of the system of Hentchaguien, viz. To organise bands at once. When the eastern question is revived, these bands may unite. It would be well for them to organise as guerrillas, and to carry on operations in the mountains of Turkey in Asia. That would protect the population of the cities and of the rural districts.

If the Armenians get ready and make a beginning before the expiration of these two years, they may revolt, in good time. I approve of the system of Hentchaguien, viz. To organise bands at once. When the eastern question is revived, these bands may unite. It would be well for them to organise as guerrillas, and to carry on operations in the mountains of Turkey in Asia. That would protect the population of the cities and of the rural districts.

- The local administrators shall meet all the expenses of the Armenians, who have arrived in their allocated places, in relation to their subsistence, and building new houses from the immigrants' funds until their thorough settings.

- Provisioning, security and well being of the immigrants will be provided by the Immigration Committees.

- A sufficient amount of land shall be given to every relocated family in proportion to their former economic means, and their present needs.

Every farmer and artisan shall be given appropriate amount of capital, or tools and implements should they need.

How many people emigrated during the relocations and what were the security measures? Or were there any security precautions taken?

Well, how many Armenians emigrated? Or before that, let me Tell you who were not relocated? People outside the war zone were not relocated. For instance, Istanbul was one of the places that Houses the highest number of Armenians. There were about 250,000 Armenians living there. None was relocated. Armenians living in Western Trace were left untouched. Only the Armenians in Çorlu were distrusted due to a demonstration they held in favor of Italy when Italy attacked Tripoli were relocated from the district of Çorlu to convenient places in the rural areas as a precaution And the committee members were relocated in Karesi in Balikesir. Those in Izmir were not exiled. The Armenians in Western Anatolia were almost untouched. For instance, there were no exiles from Kastamonu as well. Moreover, Protestants and Catholics were not exiled. Old people, children, crippled, orphans, government officials who worked at the Tobacco Monopoly, Public Debts Administration, railways were not subject to relocation either. Soldiers, that is, people who worked as workers in the Ottoman army and their families, teachers of the Armenian and missionary schools and their families were not shipped, unless convicted any crime. That is, there were so many people exempted it makes you wonder who was actually relocated. In fact, the population of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1914 or let's say 1915 is estimated as 1.5 million. Some people go up to 1.7 million. Let's take the highest number established by McCarthy which is 1.7 million. Those in the war zone were relocated first. But before they were relocated prominent Armenians and committee leaders were arrested and imprisoned on April 24, 1915. In fact, the date commemorated as the anniversary of genocide is not the date relocations were launched. It is the date that committee leaders were arrested. 3000 people in ?stanbul and various places were arrested and imprisoned. But we don't know the number for sure. There is rumour that the imprisoned Armenians were killed. That's a different issue. I'll denote what happened to them in every city in detail in my book. But as the exempted Armenians were not exiled the number of Armenians exiled by the Ottomans is one third of the total number of Armenians.

So the Armenians claimed to be massacred is one third of the total Armenian population. All sources confirm that, for instance, they say they were exiled to Mesopotamia. I don't know if you've been there. Armenians claim that Mesopotamia is a desert and people were exile there. In fact, they places they were exiled like Aleppo, Dayr al-Zor, southern Urfa and Mosul provinces were located within the region called the Fertile Crescent. I don't agree with the term "desert" they use to arouse pity. That region is not a desert at all. I said it was one third. If that is so, did great majority of them arrive safely at their destination? Yes, they did arrive.

Was protection and security provided for the Armenians enough?

We must take into consideration that there was a war going on and the number of gendarmes assigned for security was limited. So we may conclude that the security measures were inadequate and Kurdish bands, Circassians, vindictive Armenian, Turkish and Muslim chettes frequently attacked their convoys on the way. But the number killed was very low. Strangely enough, we learn these from Ottoman documents and coded telegrams. Because the governor of each province reported which convoy was attacked within his territory and how many people were killed. For instance, a convoy of 500 people out of Erzurum was massacred just as they entered the road to Erzincan. This information is also in an Ottoman document. These Ottoman documents are verified by the confirmation of the German consul and Leslie Davis, the American consul in Harput. We can confirm this information. Relocations were not made in a secret fashion. They were overt. In those days, there were consuls in ?zmir, Harput, Konya, Mersin, Aleppo, Erzurum, Trabzon and Samsun. There were countless schools of missionaries. Sometimes missionaries accompanied the convoys. That is, the operation was made before the whole world. Therefore, it wasn't easy to take the exiles to a convenient place and kill them there. In fact, there is a very interesting expression in the telegram informing about the Armenians killed on the way from Erzurum to Erzincan It says, the attacks on the convoys and the killing of Armenians puts us in a very difficult position before the world. The government said asks the commander of the gendarme, "Do whatever you can and don't allow anything like that happen again."

So they were aware that they were being watched. Certainly, the means used by press was quite improved in those days. For instance, 62 students of a girls school who set off from Merzifon were later shipped to Sivas. A missionary by the name Miss Gage accompanied them on the way. They were on so good terms with the administration she talked to the governor of Sivas told him they should have been exempted, as they were Protestants and brought them back. 48 of them were brought back. We don't know what happened to the remaining 14 girls but there is no definite information about their death. For instance, missionaries accompanied some convoys from Harput all the way to Diyarbak?r. So the claim of Armenians that the relocated people were killed in secluded places is completely a legend. None of the sources claim that the number of Armenians definitely killed exceeds 15,000. If the rumours accepted as true then we get around 50-60.000 casualties. Don't get me wrong. I don't mean to say that's all that is recorded. But this is the number that can be verified by documents.

Regulations of August 28, 1915, Concerning the Transportation and Settlement of the displaced persons:

-The Armenian groups to be displaced to the areas assigned, going on foot or by carts will assemble in the nearest railway station to the places where they live.
-The Armenians will be transported to the areas assigned in the railway cars unoccupied to the east, in maximum numbers possible.
-Since the expenses of transport by trainwill be paid in Istanbul, the records and papers are to be prepared by officials together with station masters on the basis of the number of carriages and people and following the approval of the related administrative authority, a copy of the said records and papers will be sent to the Ministry

-Wealthy Armenians can travel in passanger carriages on condition that they will buy their own tickets. These rich Armenins will be given priority in transport.
-The Armenians to be displaced are to be provided food and the expenses of food for the poor Armenians will be met from the immigration funds.
-The name and number of people in each convoy will be recorded.

- Protection of the convoys will be carried out with utmost security. Each convoy will formed of 1000 persons, including a public servant, and enough guards. At least 150 donkeys, horse or camels will allocate to each convoy as well food and water at least enough for four days.

- Flour depots shall be built, furnaces are to be opened to make bread in the area, designated for relocation.

- Breaks shall be given on the road to Aleppo at appropriate places, where doctors and medicines shall be ready to care sick person or unhealthy.

The Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief and care for the displaced people
Each convoy was made up of 1.000 or 2,000 people on the average. Unfortunately, each convoy of 2,000 people was not always given sufficient number of guards because the troops were fighting on the front. The numbers of troops assigned to protect the convoys were inadequate. Sometimes there were 100 of them. In certain cases, if you rely on the testimony of Armenian witnesses, there were only four soldiers to protect the entire convoy. In fact, one of the witnesses writes in his memoirs that he wonders why they didn't kill those four guards and leave scot-free. So, relief organisations accompanied them. In fact, Ottomans had set up certain camps in Aleppo, Birecik, Konya during the relocation period. There was a checkpoint in Harput rather than camp. There were hospitals in the camps. It is stated in the book of regulations. Ottomans issued a book of regulations of 34 articles June 10, 1915 titled "The Principles of Relocation."

The Regulations concerning left properties and its administration, dated June 10, 1915,

-After the evacuation of a village or town, all the properties and belongings will be sealed and will be taken into protection by the Commission or the appoinred official who has been appointed by the administrative commission.

-The type, amount, and estimated value, of the goods as well as the names of the owners will be recorded in detail; and they will be sent to suitable storage places such as churches, schools, and inns to be kept in utmost care in order of owners;

- Goods whose owners are not known will be taken under the protection by registering them to the village where they were found.

- A specially appointed committee, to be formed by the commission, will sell any goods that may spoil in short period, and livestock by a public auction. The money shall be entrusted in the owner's name; and if the owner is not known the money will be entrusted to the villages or towns' saving commission. The type, amount, estimated value, the name of the name of the owner as well as the name of the buyer, and the price at which they are sold will be registered in detail in a book, and after having had signed by the auction committee the original shall be given to the local administration and a signed copy shall be given to the administration of the Derelict Property Commission.

. - The sacred books, paintings, and the values of all the estates shall be registered in the name of the owner, and the charts pertaining to the abandoned fields of the villages and towns shall be drawn and given to the administrative committee.

- All the information related to the immigrants settled in the villages- such as their names, place of origins, date of settlement, place of settlement, as well as types, amount, value of the properties- shall be registered in the books, and each settler shall be given an official certificate stating the amount of the estates he received after settling.

- The properties that were not sold can be rented, for not more than two years, to the people provided that they shall guarantee the development and protection of the property by a written contract and by providing a strong guarantor.

They constructed flour cellars and bakeries. Most of those cellars and bakeries were run by relief organisations. The Ottomans operated some and their records still exist in the American archives today, because an organisation by the name the American Committee for Armenian and Assyrian Relief Organisation was founded. This organisation submitted its budget to the American Congress every year. Therefore, the amount of aid they had given presently exists in the documents. They aided the Armenians but no one helped the Muslim peasants.

How many people did they help?

Let me tell you the total because our time is limited. It is possible to get the figures for each individual city. For instance, this organisation says they have been providing aid for 486,000 people in February 1916 in Syrian cities like Aleppo, Ra's al Ayn and Dayr al-Zor. How many were exiled? It was 500,000 at most. Or, may be 600,000. An Armenian by the name Bezjian and a French source say approximately 600,000 people were relocated. But it is confirmed that 500,000 people got aid in February 1916 in that region.

And some of them were aboard ships that are a different story. We've said that Armenians in Western Anatolia were not relocated. There were Armenians in Eastern Anatolia who joined and helped the Russians when they started to advance. During the counter attack of the Ottoman army they immigrated to Caucasia by their own choice. Muslims in Caucasia immigrated to the Ottoman territory and the Ottoman Armenians immigrated to Caucasia. There are various rumours but the number of Ottoman Armenians that immigrated to Caucasia differs between 250,000 and 500,000. But the American Committee states it again for Armenian and Assyrian Relief Organisation that 420,000 people were aided. So, it is reasonable to say there were 400,000 people. We've already said 500,000 people were exiled to the south and 400,000 were exiled to Caucasia, which add up to 900,000.There were 300,000 Armenians in Western Anatolia and Thrace who were not relocated at all. So the whereabouts of 1.2 million Armenians can be determined during this operation. We assume that 40,000 to 70,000 Armenians joined the armies of the Allied Forces. They raise the number up to 200,000.. The numbers I've given so far are taken from American archives. As you know, Armenians claim that Turkey have revised its archives. That's why I particularly refer to the American archives.

So what happened to the Armenians returned to Anatolia after the Armistice in 1918?
Another objection made by Armenians is that some of the relocated people were killed in that area in the summer of 1916 and a very small number of them remained in the places they went. They say no one returned. This is a big lie. As is known, the Ottoman Empire issued a law in December 1918, which allowed the Armenians to return to their homes, and those converted to Islam would be Christian again. Anyway, that is another war tragedy and I will not go into detail here about the sad stories around this issue. Let's get back to the people returned to Turkey from 1918 onwards. I have a document here. This document says it was prepared in January 1921 by the Armenian Patriarchate. This table contains the Armenians that returned during the period between 1919 and 1921 It says in the table at the moment there are 150,000 Armenians in ?stanbul 6,000 in Edirne, 20,000 in ?znik. It goes on like this. I can't read it all because we don't have enough time but there are figures for each province. In conclusion, it says 624,900 Armenians presently live in Anatolia.

This is the number of Armenians who returned to Anatolia between 1919 and 1920. Let's assume that 300,000 of them were not exiled. So 400,000 of them returned. This document is very interesting. It says there were Armenians who hid in the mountains or sheltered by the Kurds of Dersim in return for money during the relocations. It says if you add the orphans etc. the number would reach a total of 50,000 to 70,000.So they all add up to 644,000 or 660,000. So the document states that there were 660,000 Armenians actually living in Anatolia at that period. During the same period the branch in Caucasia denotes in the report they submitted to the American Congress that there were 420,000 Armenians there. That makes 1 million. Then there were emigrations. There were people who immigrated to America, Canada and Greek islands and all over the World during the war. There were those who were still working in the French, British and Russian armies.

There were those who immigrated to Iran. 50,000 to 70,000 people immigrated to Iran. There were still 125,000 Armenians living in Aleppo. When you add them all up the American documents definitely denote that the destiny of 1.4 million Armenians is accounted for. They were alive and they were citizens of Turkey. So on the basis of the documentation at our disposal the number of Ottoman Armenians whose whereabouts cannot be determined do not exceed 300.000, of course assuming a population 1.7 million, which is the utmost figure. I used the word "loss" not casualty, because you can imagine that sanitary conditions were horrible in those days and epidemic diseases prevailed not only in Turkey but all around the world. Hikmet Özdemir has written a book on the issue "Deaths due to Epidemics During World War I".

For instance, it is said that about 200,000 Armenians died due to epidemic diseases. The number may be higher. 401,000 or 402,000 Ottoman soldiers died due to epidemic diseases. The number that died in combat was about 76,000 or so. It's really weird. So epidemic diseases prevailed. And as we all know, an epidemic does not discriminate between Armenians, Turks or Kurds, it took away everyone. For instance, there was the Indian flu like the bird flu of our time and destroyed masses even in Europe. Many Turks died as well. Many people in Europe died too. They would probably say Armenians wouldn't catch the disease if they weren't sending into exile. There were quite a number of people who died in Spain, Italy or England. The number of their losses is over 200,000.

So what happened to the Armenians returned to Anatolia after the Armistice in 1918?
As is known, the Ottoman Empire issued a law, which allowed the return of the Armenians. They returned to Marash, Adana, Antep, and other cities in Cilicia in British or French uniform. First of all, let me say that, of course, as of the end of the 1918, some of the ordinary people returned in great numbers as directed by their community leaders. However some returned to Marash, Adana, Antep, and other cities in Cilicia in British or in French uniform. They fought with the Turks on the side of French and British armies who invaded large parts of the then Turkey. As Walker states in his book "Because for the Armenians new hopes arose out of the calamity that had overtaken them, that the Allies (who had made a number of statements in warm support and sympathy for the Armenian plight) who would stand by them, and help them build a future for themselves. The Armenians had never thought of a living in the same side with Turks after their return. All ideas of any sort of co-operation with the Turks had been totally crushed by the relocation. So then, even an autonomous Armenia would not meet the demands of the Armenians. Promises of the Allies were so high that they need not too."

The question which now we seek is this: would the victorious Allies stand by their favourable utterances during the war, and enable Armenia to emerge from her historic ashes to become an independent state of Armenia? My answer is no. The Armenians received many promises as always had, but little concrete support. Despite this, encouraged by Allied declarations and assurances, the Armenians staked out large claims at Paris. They declared themselves "belligerent", claimed their independence. Their state was to include six provinces. Map of Armenia comprised all cities of the historic Armenia, stretching from Caucasus to the cities of Iskenderun in the Mediterranean and Trabzon in the Black Sea. However, this gigantic Armenia scared first the French who made its plans to invade the area known as Cilicia. England would be consented with the map with if some southern districts wiped out. However, seeing the mood at the Conference, Bogos Nubar, as head of Armenian national delegation at Paris, is reported to have said, "Peoples of strength on the ground is more valuable than the guarantee of a foreign statesman".

He was right. Allies promised many things, but did nothing. The Allies would not even recognise the Republic of Armenia, so keen were they to pursue their vendetta with the Bolsheviks, and so fearful of upsetting Russian 'democrats", who would demand the incorporation of Armenia into a reconstituted Russia. Hopes were postponed if not failed. A year later, the Treaty of Sevres established an Armenian State on the Map, but first off all Allies knew that it was impossible to realise it. Every western states was aware that Armenia needed a protective power to act as mandatory. England had America in mind but a after an investigation they found the scheme "favourable", but "expensive".

In meantime Armenians fought for no cause in the army uniforms of the French and English occupation forces. Since the American mandate plan of England over the Armenia did not materialise, she occupied Iraq, ?ran and also what is then named "Soviet Armenia". However, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk led Turkish War of Independence won a decisive victory over the Allies occupied some provinces of Turkey. First French withdrew from Cilicia, southern part of Turkey, where 300.000 Armenians were gathered with the promise of an independent Cilicia. Armenians also left with the withdrawing forces of France, fearing revenge from the victorious Turks. Armenians in the interior also felt uncomfortable, despite all promises of secure life offered by Mustafa Kemal began to emigrate from Turkey. In all, when the European powers signed the treaty of Lozan, in 1923, there left only 281,000 Armenians in Anatolia.

So what happened to the rest?

Well, they constituted the Armenian Diaspora. Armenians who left Turkey settled almost in every part of the world. The archives of the United Nation demonstrate this, how the Armenian Diaspora was formed. There is a report of United Nations dated 1925, which reveals what happened to the Armenians that left Turkey. There is a table that reveals the cities and countries that 1.399 million Armenians out of Turkey live at that time. It's known as the Nansen Report issued by the UN. Nansen was the chairman of the Committee for Refugees.

The figures show that the Armenians were not subject to a process of annihilation during the years 1915-1916. There are rumours of massacres, but no evidence of government involvement. However Armenian historians claim that the trials and convictions of CUP officials and officers, hold responsible for the massacres of Armenians during World War I prove that the Turks were guilty of genocide. They do not mention that the so-called trials reached their verdicts under British occupation. They do not say that the courts were under the oppression and influence of the Quisling Damad Ferid Pa?a government, who hated CUP leaders and lied about them at every occasion. They do not mention that Damad Ferid was pro-British, would do anything to please them, and keep his job as prime minister. They do cover up that their own lawyers did not represent the defendants. They do not mention that crimes against Armenians were only a small part of a long list of so-called crimes, everything the judges could invent. They do not mention that the British could not find evidence of any "genocide", and therefore released all they arrested and exiled to Malta for crimes against Armenians.

Is there a prospect for peace?

Turkish Historical Society attempted to debate and discuss with Armenian scholars the issue of what we call the 'Armenian Question'. However after the first round of exchange of documents in July 2004, the second round had to be cancelled, because the Armenian side did not submit the second group of documents and withdrew from the process. We now can only hope that scholarly integrity will triumph over politics and the Armenian Nationalists will join in debate. I am not hopeful they will do so.

27May2005 Tallin University / Estonia Conference
Turkish Historical Society

Kindly Forwarded by Prof Kemal Cicek


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