2617) Book Review: French Plan to Exterminate Armenians – Cilicia 1918–1922, Death Camp of Hacin

The French Plan to Exterminate the Armenians – Cilicia 1918 – 1922, The Death Camp of Hacin By Selahattin Sert, in Turkish, Kum Saati Yayinlari, Istanbul 2005
(Fransizlarin Ermenileri Yok Etme Plani – Kilikya 1918 – 1922, Hacin Olum Kampi)

Hacin, now called Saimbeyli, is located high on the Taurus mountains not too far from Kayseri. It is actually a district of Adana, a province around 200 km from Hacin. One of the longest battles during the war of independence took place in Hacin which came under the French occupation following the signing of the Mondros Treaty on October 30, 1918. Turkey was forced to sign the treaty with the Allies following her defeat .
in the First World War which led to the occupation of Ottoman lands by the British, the Italian, the Russians and the French. French forces occupied Syria and Cilicia, the area around the Seyhan and the Ceyhan rivers, and thousands of Armenians from Syria and other countries joined the French forces. The battle of Hacin turned out to be between the Armenians and the Turks when the Armenians tried to establish a state in Cilicia and a group of fanatics even declared the Armenian republic of Cilicia on August 5, 1920 which lasted for less than an hour.

The French actually had two objectives: one to use the Armenians in the fight against the Turkish nationalist forces who were resisting the occupation and second, secretly to exterminate the Armenians. This is what Selahattin Sert tells in his 651 page book and explains the events that took place between 1918 – 1922 in Cilicia, the southern part of Turkey that includes Adana, which has not been told before in such detail. The author, born in Hacin in 1954, has spent over 20 years researching the history of the French occupation and the Hacin and writing the book.

There must be thousands of stories of the Armenian atrocities committed against the Turks during the war years which may never be told. Unfortunately, there were few educated Turks among the fighters during those years who could read or write and therefore there are very few first hand accounts. According to the author, many missionary schools, including the American College in Hacin, were busy educating the minorities and helping them with their causes. Thousands of Armenians living abroad returned to Cilicia to take part in the struggle. Armenians were fooled to believe in false promises by the Russians, the British and the French that they would help them to create a state of their own on lands where they were never the majority. In order to achieve their goals, the Armenians continued with their uprisings that began in the 1860s and continued through 1914 and massacred the neighbors that they lived together for centuries, including in towns such as Hacin and the surrounding areas.

The book states that, in reality, the aim of the western powers after the First World War was the partitioning of the Ottoman lands and expulsion of Turks from Europe and Anatolia, and, at the same time the elimination of Armenians whom they saw as obstacles for their plans. The French was after the cotton grown in the region necessary for their textile sector and the gold mines around Hacin. The book tells the story of the battle started by the Armenians including by those who came to the region from abroad and who, at times, were at odds with the local Armenians. Among those who came to fight the Turks were the Russian commander Antranik and rebel Torkom who eventually went to Izmir and was responsible for the Izmir fire that destroyed the city in 1922.

The author makes frequent references to the report issued by General Harbord who was sent to Turkey in July 1918 by President Wilson and stated that there were close to 2 million Armenians living in Turkey and Syria at the time. Admiral Bristol, the US Ambassador at the time, also sent reports indicating that the aim of the Western powers was the destruction of the Ottoman Empire. Admiral Bristol also refutes reports sent by US Representative Engert on the killing of the Armenians. The author also cites from a book by French officer Pierre Loti, “The Death of our Beloved France in the East”, who mentions the atrocities committed by the Armenian rebels. There are also references to the Near East Relief Fund, established in 1915 as a quasi US government institution which is still active today as “the Near East Foundation” with an Armenian director. Mustafa Kemal visited the area and ordered the Turkish forces in the region to fight the French and the Armenian occupiers.

The siege at Hacin lasted for over nine months. Following their defeat, many Armenians fled the region, some with the aid of their Turkish friends and the priests from the churches in Hacin took refuge in Adana, Mersin and Tarsus American College. The French withdrew after the signing of friendship agreements in late 1920 with the Ankara government. According to this book, tens of thousands armed Armenians were taken to Izmir who took part in the Greek invasion of Western Anatolia that began on 15 May 1919 and lasted until 9 September 1922 when Izmir was liberated.

There is a long list of references at the end of the book, including many publications by foreigners. Others have also written about Hacin and Wikipedia Encyclopedia gives information on the history of the town from the Armenian point of view only. Selahattin Set has also written a book on the Armenians, “Haclilarin Son Kurbani” published in 2 volumes in 2005.

The review of the book, HACIN, which is not included in the list of references, and the section from the Wikipedia is given below.

Yuksel Oktay
19 October 2008
Washington, NJ

(1) Book review
HACIN, by Zebercet Coskun
Kurtis Matbaasi, Istanbul 1975

Hacin, a novel by Zebercet Coskun, tells the story of Moslems and Armenians living together for hundreds of years peacefully in a town that dates to the times of the Hittites, than turning against each other during the war years and the re-location of Armenians in 1915. Following World War I, the French forces occupy Hacin along with many towns in the area as known as Cilicia, including Adana and Maras and allows the return of the Armenians to their homes. The French occupiers put Armenians in charge of the administration of the town, who commit many atrocities against the moslem population during the take over. During the Turkish War of Independence, the town is liberated by the guerrilla forces on October 18, 1920 and the Armenian population leaves the area with the French occupiers.

The author, Zeber Coskun, born in Gemlik, Izmir, is a graduate of Arnavutkoy American College. In the postscript to the novel, she sates that, in order to attain the freedom of thought, she constantly reads, and to share her experiences gained through traveling and living in different parts of Anatolia, she writes. Ms Coskun sates that she wrote Hacin basing it on many documents, and without taking any sides. However, she emphasizes that she was happy to find out that her own nation was not guilty of any crimes. Her message at the end of the postscript states:

‘’Nothing, but sorrow will prevail in societies where personal ambitions and animosities take the leading role. Once more, I believe that the key to happiness is not within the system, but in the hearts of the people, in brotherhood and in love.’’

Hacin, known as Saimbeyli since 1923 when it was renamed in honor of Saim bey from Hacin, who is also one of the characters in the book, is a picturesque town high on the Taurus mountains, located on a highway between Maras, Kayseri and Adana. The French occupies Hacin and appoints an Armenian, Karabit Calliyan, as the local governor and another Armenian as the head of the Gendarme unit which is made up of all Armenians. Literally, the Armenians rule the town, arrest moslems and put them in jails, the make shift government offices, killing many during interrogations. The Armenians believe that the Moslems in Hacin, those that were left behind, are cooperating with the moslem guerrillas who have taken back many villages near Hacin from the French and are now approaching Hacin.

The novel begins with the main character, Mursel, going up the stairs to the second floor of his house where he lives with his wife Fatma and three children, Naime, Faik and Suleyman. Mursel is a school teacher and one of most respected member of the Hacin moslems. Mursel is sad, thinking of what will happen when the French take over the city and bring back the Armenians who were forced to leave four years ago. The Armenian family of Mihran Katayan lives in the same house, occupying the lower floor and the two families are very close to each other, providing all kinds of assistance, Mihran even hiding the 12 year old son of Mursel when the Gendarme come to arrest the Moslems living in the house.

Mursel and the town’s elite go to the outskirts of Hacin to greet the French forces coming to take over the administration of the town. However, later they are worried that the Armenians returning to Hacin will take revenge. In fact, that is exactly what happens and the gendarme starts arresting Moslems for no reason. As the harassment becomes unbearable, Moslems of Hacin start making plans to escape , even bribing some of the Armenian gendarme in order to leave the town.

When the Armenian gendarmes put Mursel under house arrest, his wife, Fatma, goes to the American High School high on the hill and meets with Miss Cold, the Principal, and re-enrolls her daughter Naime, who becomes one of only two moslem students at the school. Fatma also asks Miss Cold to allow her to stay at the school to escape the constant harassment by the Armenian gendarme who tells her that if she marries him, she will be saved. Miss Cold tells Fatma that she can not stay at the school and that she can not take sides in the conflict.

Than, the Moslem guerrillas enter Hacin after bombarding the castle for several weeks and start evacuating the Armenians from their homes, killing many along the way. Kurt Hasso even attempts to kill Armenian children, because his own children were killed by Armenians, but Suleyman stops him, telling him that the children had nothing to do with the conflict. The town is burned down, most of the houses are demolished and the book ends with Naime and Suleyman leaving Hacin on a horseback, because, there is no one left in the town. It is a very sad story.

The book is 391 pages and ends with a four page poem that tells the sad story of Hacin. Interestingly, a beautiful photograph of a bird adorns the cover of the book, a gift to the author from the world famous photographer Ara Guler, an Armenian Turk like no other.

The book is interesting where each main character tells his or her own story first hand. There are many instances where the Armenians and Turks help each other and together curse those who created the conflict, forcing them to kill each other. The American High School, one of over four hundred across the Ottoman Empire at the time, tries to stay outside the conflict, helping the victims on both sides. The Principal, Miss Cold, tells everyone that she has a wireless that she can use to tell America if any harm comes to her school. When the school is taken over, Miss Cold leaves Hacin as the town once again comes under the Ottoman rule.

Yuksel Oktay, PE
October 12, 2006, Istanbul

(2) The famous Wikipedia encyclopedia has the following information from an Armenian point of view, ignoring the atrocities and massacres that they committed against Turks.

History of Hacin

The area was occupied as far back as the Hittite period and many other civilisations subsequently. Then this is the spot where the Armenian city of Hadjin stood, the name coming from the son of an Armenian lord of the castle of Anavarza on the Cilician plain. When the plain was occupied by Turks, the Armenians retreated to the mountains and Hadjin was founded in 1096.

The city thrived until it passed into Ottoman hands.

During the late years of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century, there were repeated massacres of Armenians throughout Anatolia, and in particular in Adana and Tarsus as well as in Hadjin. These massacres became the official genocidal state policy of both the Ottoman Empire in its waning days and by the new Turkish state that arose at the close of World War I ("The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915-16," Viscount Bryce, 1916, G.P. Putnam's Sons). The massacres were carried out by Turkish soldiers as well as by ordinary Turkish citizens and Kurdish tribesmen living in the surrounding mountains. During World War I, the Turkish authorities utterly destroyed the Armenian population of Hadjin in the most barbaric manner (no mercy was shown to Armenians as women, children and old men in the town were burnt to death in their churches. See the larger story recounted in the Armenian Genocide.) Rose Lambert, an American missionary in Hadjin in the early 20h century provides a wealth of details about earlier massacres in her book ("Hadjin and the Armenian Massacres," 1911, Fleming Revell Co. pub.). The last remnants of the original Armenian residents of Hadjin were deported into the deserts of Syria in 1915 by the Ottomans where most of them died of thirst, starvation, or were murdered.[1]. There are no Armenians in Saimbeyli today. The city of Hadjin was destroyed during WWI.


Unknown said...

Lies! falsifications ! from 8000 armenians only 450 werescaped from turkish massacers.the innocent 7500 mostly women children and old people were massacred, among them my whole family, only women.

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