American Missionary W. Jacks: “I Witnessed the Extermination of an Entire Nation”

American Missionary W. Jacks

My trip from the province to Constantinople took place under hellish conditions: I will never forget what I have seen and heard. I witnessed the extermination of an entire people, and what I am writing now is a summary, a schematic depiction of what had happened, and it cannot even represent a thousandth part of everything seen and experienced by me.

In addition to my travel memories, when compiling this article-message, I used the information provided to me by one woman converted to Islam and brought to Constantinople, one 10-year-old girl abducted by a Turkish officer and taken to Constantinople, by a Muslim who had come from Harput, and foreign travelers who had arrived from Erzincan.

When I went to Constantinople, the Armenian beatings had already begun. The infernal plan of evictions of Armenians was carried out systematically with terrible measures. First of all, everywhere, in cities and villages, the Armenian population was disarmed by gendarmes, with horrific atrocities and numerous murders committed by couples who were composed of criminals released from prisons.

Where weapons, books, or anything related to parties has been found, mass searches would be conducted that terrorized the civilian population.

After that, the forced eviction of the still non-arrested men and those who had been arrested for nothing began: under the pretext of evictions, the parties sent them in different directions and killed every one of them. Prior to the exile, local authorities searched them and took away money and everything that was with them. I saw caravans with 5-10 people tied together, in other places — corpses tied together in 2 or 5.

When I arrived in Harput, the eviction of men was already over, and the rest of the population — women, old people, children – as an abandoned thing were left to the discretion of Muslims. Starting from a high official ending with a simple peasant, everyone could take any woman or girl as their wife and forcibly convert them to Islam.

Small children were handed out to everyone who wanted them. But in the end, when they no longer wanted to support them, many were taken out on the road so that they, naked and hungry, would become victims of the brutal couples or so that they would die of starvation.

In Harput, I learned that there had been a massacre in the Diyarbakir vilayet, mainly in Mertin. Even those who had survived would be subjected to terrible violence. When evicting the Armenian population from Erzurum, Bitlis, Sivaz and Trapezund vilayets, the government provided certain privileges to Armenians: ten days to leave and permission to sell their property. Some families were given carts – however, these carts would be taken away in 2-3 days along the road, and couples and Muslim peasants would slaughter their occupants mercilessly.

Before, women, girls, and children had been spared. This time, they did not escape the brutalities: the former became victims of low passions, while the latter were given to Muslim families as a peshkash (a present).

An eyewitness said that a group of women in the Erzurum vilayet, which had arrived at the Harput field, was left there to fend for themselves. Slowly, all of them would die, with 50-60 people dying daily. The government would send only a few people to bury the bodies so that the health of the Muslims wouldn’t suffer from the giaours (infidels).

A little girl from Zila told me that when those evicted from Marzuan, Amasia, and Tokat were set off, children were taken away from their mothers in the so-called Sar Khshlu (between Sivaz and Caesarea) and locked in a separate room, while the mothers were forced to leave them and go on with their way. And then, in the neighboring villages, it was announced that anyone could get any of the children.

And this girl herself along with her friend Nvard from Amasia was brought to Constantinople by a Turkish officer. The caravans of women and children in every city and village were paraded in front of government agencies so that Muslims could choose from them.

After the exiles from Bayburt were massacred, the rest of the women and children were dropped into the Euphrates in the place called Kemah-Pogazi near Erzincan. Angered by these atrocities, two sisters of mercy from the Erzincan Red Cross infirmary, Norwegian M. Flora A. Betel Yarsenberg, a girl from a noble family, and her German friend, leaving their service, arrived in Constantinople and personally reported to some embassies on these terrible things.

Armenians have been subjected to such barbarism everywhere, and now, travelers meet bodies of Armenians on all roads. From Malatya to Sivaz, along the entire 9-hour trip, I met thick rows of corpses with 2, 5, or 10 people tied together. All men from Malatya had been brought here and killed. As for children, some had been slaughtered, while others had been converted to Islam.

In these districts, not a single Armenian man can travel — every Muslim, every Chetnik, or gendarme considers it his duty to kill him. In recent days, on the same road, near Aleppo, Turkish parliamentarians, Armenians by nationality Zohrab and Vardkes were killed. They were to appear before a military tribunal in Diyarbakir. In these vilayets, it is now possible to travel only by impersonating a Muslim.

During my travels, I often met men who were building roads and who, when asked who they were, answered that they were disarmed Armenian soldiers and that construction works had been assigned to them. According to reliable sources, most of them would be slaughtered.

Thus, the Armenian soldiers from the Erzurum vilayet who worked on the Erzincan-Erzurum road were slaughtered. Soldiers from the Diyarbakir vilayet were killed on the roads of Diyarbakir-Urfa and Diyarbakir-Harput. Immediately, 1,800 young people were sent from Harput to Diyarbakir as soldiers to work on roads near the army – they would also be killed. Many of the imprisoned men were hanged. Thus, well-known Hunchakians from Caesarea were hanged – Minas Minasian, Aji Hagop Chetemian, and Dr. Karapet together with other comrades.

Several dozen Armenians were hanged in Sivaz, Harput, Erzurum, and Adana during the last month. In many places, the Armenian people, in order to save their lives, expressed their readiness to convert to Islam, but, unlike the last, smaller massacre, such appeals were not as easily satisfied this time.

In Sivaz, all those who wished to convert to Islam were suggested to give all their children under 12 years of age to the government and move to the places of residence that the government would indicate. Only under this condition would they be accepted into Islam.

In Harput vilayet, the conversion of men to Islam was not allowed, and women, when they converted to Islam, were supposed to be ready to marry a Muslim. Many Armenian women with their babies rushed into the Euphrates to drown themselves or otherwise committed suicide. The Euphrates and Tigris became the grave of many thousands of Armenians.

Those among the converted who were from the Black Sea coastal cities like Trapezund or Samsun would be moved to the innermost, fully Muslim areas of the Ottoman Empire.

Karahisar was destroyed by artillery fire for the resistance to disarmament and eviction, and the population of the city and the villages were all slaughtered, and the local chief priest was hanged.

Finally, in the area starting from Samsun and ending with Diyarbakir, most of the people were slaughtered, some were subjected to violence, and only a small part was converted to Islam. Seeing this general misfortune, Armenians sadly said that the times of Abdul Hamid could be considered the happiest period of their history.

It must be assumed that this government program was aimed at ending the Armenian issue forever, leaving 6 vilayets without Armenians and dispersing Armenians from Cilicia… Even one percent of the Armenian population of the 7 vilayets in which reforms were to be carried out did not survive. It is still unknown whether at least one Armenian got to Mosul or its surroundings.

History has never seen such a crime. The news from Cilicia is scant and controversial. Before my arrival in Constantinople, I had not known anything about the pogroms or beatings in these districts, but I had been told that the entire population had been dispersed or evicted to the southern part of the Aleppo province, in the direction of Deir ez-Zor and Damascus.

The government did not even spare the small colonies of Aleppo and Urfa. When I arrived in Constantinople, evictions from the outskirts of the capital began. Most of the Armenians of Smyrna and Bursa vilayets, having left all their goods here, were forced to move to Mesopotamia. The rector of the Armenian monastery along with the brethren and all the students abandoned the monastery with its wealth and library and left.

Leaving Constantinople, I learned that the time had come for Constantinople, where searches had already been taking place in recent days, especially among the provincials.

“The Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire”, editor M.G. Nersisyan, “Armenian Herald”, Moscow, 1916.

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