Evacuation of Armenian Orphans from the Ottoman Empire – 1915-1923

Evacuation of Armenian OrphansIn 1915 – 1923, as a result of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire, about 500.000 Armenian children were killed (burned, poisoned, strangled), starved to death, or died from illnesses. Many of them were orphaned and forcibly Islamized.

Armenian unions, religious organizations, foreign charitable foundations (Near East Relief, the Foundation of the Mayor of London, Danish Women’s Union, Russian Red Cross, the Union of Russian Cities), as well as international organizations (Red Cross, League of Nations) vigorously pursued to save the surviving children from imminent death and evacuate them from the territory of the empire.

The evacuation of Armenian orphans who were under the threat of death was supposed to ensure their physical security and solve the issues of their general and national education.

Essentially, the mentioned organizations evacuated those orphans who had been gathered in uninhabited places such as deserts or forests, as well as those who were panhandling in the streets from Muslim families and Turkish state orphanages.

Armenian children who were in the war zone were also evacuated. Their evacuation was carried out by Russian and British military personnel. In the years of the Genocide, the first large-scale evacuation of Armenian children was carried out during the heroic self-defense of Musa Dagh.

In the spring of 1915, the Young Turk government began to implement their plan of the deportation and extermination of the Armenian population of Western Armenia and other areas of the Ottoman Empire.

On July 30, an order was issued to evict the residents of six Armenian villages (over 6.000 people) in the Suiezia region located on the Mediterranean coast (vilayet of Aleppo, the province of Antioch).

The minority of the population obeyed the order, while the rest – about 5.000 Armenians – climbed the mountain Musa Dag and organized a self-defense that would last 53 days. The French warships “Guichen” and “Jeanne d’Arc”, in the end, came to their rescue. Over the course of two days, they evacuated 4.058 people to Port Said.

Several children who were born on these French ships were symbolically named “Guichen”, “Svobodnaya”, etc. Overall, 1.553 children were evacuated from Musa Dagh to Port Said.

In the meantime, the evacuation of Armenian children was also being carried out in Khnus, Van, Baghesh, and other areas.

With the spread of the Kemalist nationalist movement in Asia Minor in 1921-1922, a threatening situation developed for the Armenian children in the orphanages of the Ottoman Empire.

The situation became especially aggravated after the Kemalists organized Armenian pogroms in Cilicia, as a result of which thousands of Cilician Armenians from Ayntap, Marash, Ajna, Mersin, and other areas were forced to leave their native lands.

In 1921, during the last mass resettlement of Cilician Armenians, about 7.500 Armenian orphans were evacuated from Cilicia to Aleppo, Beirut, Damascus, and Alexandria. Most of them ended up under the tutelage of the National Guardianship and the Armenian General Benevolent Union.

One of the episodes of the evacuation of Armenian children was the moving of 816 Armenian orphans from the camp of Armenian refugees in the village of Nahr-Oman of the Basra Vilayet to Jerusalem in December 1921. They were received by the Jerusalem Armenian Patriarch Archbishop Yeghishe Duryan, national figures, and many local Armenians.

As a result of the Armenian pogroms carried out by the Young Turks and Kemalists in 1915-1923, thousands of orphaned Armenian children faced the threat of death throughout the Ottoman Empire.

On February 7, 1922, in Aleppo, a meeting was held between the representatives of the Near East Relief Foundation and the Armenian delegation authorized by Catholicos Sahak II of Cilicia. The meeting was chaired by the locum tenens Sahak II, priest Harutyun Yesayan.

The council decided to transfer the orphans from the shelters of the southern and southeastern regions of Turkey to Syria and Lebanon. Armenian orphans from the northern and northeastern regions were to be sent to Greece and the Caucasus.

Christian (Armenian and Greek) orphans from the central regions of Turkey – Caesarea, Konia, Sebastia, as well as from the northern regions (Trebizond, Samsun) – were sent by land to Constantinople and then by sea to Greece by the decision of the Near East Relief. There, the orphans were distributed between 13 shelters.

From Thrace, the orphans were sent to Romania and Bulgaria, and from Izmir and Brusy to Greece along the Maris River.

Jacob Künzler and his wife Elizabeth – employees of the Urfa branch of the Near East Relief – were entrusted with the evacuation of Armenian orphans from the southern and southeastern regions of Turkey (Urfa, Mardin, Kharberd, Akny, and Malatia regions) and with the care of the Armenian orphans gathered by the Near East Relief.

The choice of the Künzler spouses was dictated by their familiarity with the area and their brilliant command of Turkish. In April 1922, the spouses organized the unprecedented evacuation of about 5.000 orphaned Armenian children.

According to a report compiled by J. Künzler, about 8.000 Armenian children were evacuated from the southern and southeastern regions of Turkey and distributed to orphanages in Syria and Lebanon.

In September 1922, during the Smyrna massacre, about 5.000 Greek and Armenian orphans were evacuated from the city thanks to the efforts of Sarah Corning, an employee of the Near East Relief. The children were transported to Greece by American warships.

As a result of the evacuation activities, thousands of Armenian orphans were saved from the Genocide.

According to the data of G. Barton, in 1922-1923, as a result of the activities of the Near East Relief, about 30.000 Armenian and Greek orphans – of them 12.000 Armenian children from the southern and southeastern regions of the empire – were evacuated from Turkey to Syria, Lebanon, and Greece.

A group of 5,000 Armenian children evacuated from Kharberd, 1922
Musailer evacuation by French ships in Port Said, 1915
Children evacuated from Musa Dag, in Port Said, 1915
Children evacuated from Musa Dag to Port Said, 1915
Children evacuated from Musa Dag, to Port Said, 1915
Evacuation of 816 Armenian orphans from Nahr-Oman to Jerusalem, 1921.
Armenian orphans in Jerusalem, 1922
Evacuation of children with disabilities from Turkey by Jacob Künzler, 1922
Ways of evacuation of 8,000 Armenian orphans from Turkey, organized by J. Künzler, 1922
Group of Armenian orphans evacuated from Turkey, 1922
Group of Armenian children evacuated from Kharberd, 1922
Group of Armenian orphans evacuated from Turkey, 1922
The first group of 130 Armenian orphans, out of 8,000 evacuees from Turkey: rest time after a hard two-day journey
Armenian orphans evacuated from Urfa, near the Kurdish village of Surudzh, 1922
1,400 orphans evacuated from Turkey and found shelter in an orphanage in Gazir (Lebanon)
Boarding on board children evacuated by employees of the American Charity Committee for Assistance to the Middle East, 1922
Orphaned children, accompanied by members of the American Charity Committee for Assistance to the Middle East, board the ship, 1922
Little orphans on the platform waiting for the ship, 1922
A group of children from thousands of orphans evacuated from Turkey. They are forced to leave their historic homeland, 1922.
Orphans in small numbers are evacuated from Turkey in 1922.
Children evacuated from Smyrna by Sarah Corning, 1922




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Comments 6

  • A very good article, and a special thanks for including the photographs.

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  • Classification of the Armenian Genocide to
    Many Types During 1915-1923

    Ottomans genocided every element that God created, piece by piece;
    living bodies ended undefined genocided skeletons.

    1st Type: Genociding Intellectuals –
                    They killed the most literate, around 600 of them, by crushing
    their skulls open, to discover why they were so clever and stripping
    them off their clothes because the garments were European.
                      The Ottomans then proceeded to abuse reproductive organs.    
                      “Genociding Intellectuals”: the date for the Armenian Genocide
    was April 24, 1915, whilst the same fate befell Arab intellectuals
    on May 6, 1916.
     
    2nd Type: Genociding Wealthy Families –

                    They extinguished whole families from the unborn   
                      to the elderly, confiscating homes and belongings. 
                
    3rd Type: Genociding thru Deportation to Der-Zor Desert –

                     They could not annihilate any more, so the Ottomans deported
    people to Der-Zor dessert without food. Many were left to die on
    the way.
                      
    4th Type: Genociding thru Rape –
                      In many other sad events, soldiers raped and left…(an example 
                      is during the Bengali Genocide by Pakistani militants on 
                      March 25, 1971), but Turks raped and slayed.
     
    5th Type: Genociding Pregnant Brides, Women –
                      They lanced bellies of the pregnant women with their scimitars in
    order to discover the sex of the unborn! Arab Beduin’s eyes
    witnessed most events.
                     I heard from Syrian women who hailed from Dara’a, Syria, that
    every night the sound of a baby-boy crying would fill the air in that
    village. The Sheikh explained to them that this sound was the “Soul
    of a Baby” who had been alive when his mother’s belly was ripped
    open …. Ever since then, many years ago, he has cried every night!
    Fiction may be, but it illustrates the degree of suffering endured by
                     Armenian mothers.

    6th Type: Genociding Boys above 8-years old after measuring their heights-
    I read the story of this man on the Internet long ago. He was an
    Armenian who immigrated to Australia later and was Turkified, . . . He wrote, “I was 12 years old then, but I was very short; they
    measured my height and thought I was younger than eight.
    So I was very lucky not to have been slayed then . . . ”
                   Those below the age of eight, once Turkified, were taken to
    under a new identity become soldiers in the Turkish Army.

    7th Type: Genociding Young Girls by employing them as household
    unpaid servants – later using them in many other ways!

    8th Type: Genociding by throwing the whole village populace into valleys.

    9th Type: Genociding Identity: Turkification, . . . –
                     (They used Turkification on Arabs as well, which defined in
    Arabic language as ‘Tattreek’).
    The rest of the Armenians who were left were Turkified, changing
    their name, surname, religion, language, culture, ethnicity;
    (Genociding Identity: De-identification, Islamization
    Languageification, Cultureification, Ethnicification, . . .)
     
    10th Type: Genociding Skeletons –

                     Shipping and selling the genocided bones to factories, they
    produced products. The factories that bought them should
    confess….
     
    11th Type: Genociding Buildings: Homes, Palaces, Factories, Churches,
    Cathedrals, Monasteries, Schools, Domes, Altars, . . .
                      They transformed the best buildings to Turkish Temples or
    stables, I would not call them Mosques because in the Islamic
    religion it is not permitted to change Churches to Mosques
    according to Khalifa Omar Ibn al-Khattab (584-644). See Index

    12th Type: Genociding Ancient Sites which Existed B.C. –
    They changed Portasar Temple to Gobekli Tepe.

    13th Type: Genociding Lands, Gardens, Trees, . . . –
               These had been planted and cultivated by Armenian hands
    for millenniums.
     
    14th Type: Genociding animal names from Latin names in their dictionary–
            those, which were defined as Armeniana, Kurdistanica they said
    that any animal carrying Armenian and Kurdish names before
    B.C. must change to Turkish. Wild sheep called Ovis Armeniana
    became Ovis Orientalis Anatolicus. Roe deer are known as
    Capreolus Capreolus Armenus became Capreolus Cuprelus
    Capreolus.) 15th Type: Genociding History, Archives, Books, . . . –

    Turks tried to prove that Armenians never existed in their
    ancient land.

    16th Type: Genociding Armenian Language, Alphabets, Culture, Music,
    Arts, . . .
                     Well-known genocide music “Adana” with Armenian lyrics was
    reinvented as Turkish music, but was discovered late!
    The Ottoman government ordered genociders to cut the tongues
    of those who spoke other than Turkish.

    17th Type: Genociding Names of Mountains, Cities, Streets, . . . –

    Ararat’s name was changed to Agre This was refused by Geo
    graphical Maps, History books, Encyclopedias, Dictionaries,
    Wikipedia … because it is Biblical-God defined it as Ararat and
    never Agre.  No human agreed to change Ararat. The word Agre
    was not even accepted by the Internet.
    I say, “Who can agree on something unagreeable?”

    18th Type: Genociding Statues, Tombs, Khachkars (cross stones) –
                    Insulting the skeletons of the dead from centuries before the birth
    of Christ. They took grave stones, some those expensive stones
    and marbles were used to build Ottoman homes.

    19th Type: Genociding Wealth: Gold, Insurances, Bank accounts in many

    countries including in Great Britain, . . .

    20th Type: Genociding Possessions –
    The Ottoman government took possession of all “abandoned”
    Armenian goods and properties, which no-one was allowed to
    claim later.

    21st Type: Armenian Orphans –
    After the genocide of 1915, Turkish military followed Armenian
    orphans into Ottoman occupied territories, searching Beduin
    tents, and orphanages in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq to Turkify or
    annihilate them, see Index.

    Recent genetic studies prove that almost 10% of Turks carry Armenian genes if not more!

    This classification should be entered under the word ‘Genocide’ in the
    Oxford and Cambridge Dictionaries as well as in the
    Merriam–Webster of the USA.

    ©Sylva Portoian, M.D. – April 24, 2010
    From my poetry book, “BRING OUT our genocided Skulls & Artful Hands” available at Komitas Museum, Yerevan and Zangak bookshop…

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