Kharberd, known as Խարբերդ in Armenian, is a city steeped in history and nestled in the Western region of Armenia. Today, it falls within the borders of Turkey, near the Turkish city of Elazig, founded as Mamuret-ul-Aziz (El-Aziz) in 1834. Elazig now serves as the capital of the region sharing the same name. The city of Kharberd has been recognized by a multitude of names across different cultures and periods, including Kharberd and Karberd (Քարբերդ or Կարբերդ), Karput (Քարփութ), and Karpote by Armenian and Byzantine authors, as well as Isn-Ziak by Arab cultures.
Although Kharberd remains partially populated, with a few thousand residents, its geographical location and water supply challenges have led to a majority of the population migrating to Elazig. At the close of the 19th century, Kharberd was predominantly inhabited by Armenians. Unfortunately, in 1895-96, it was the site of a massacre, where several thousand Armenians lost their lives and around 1,000 were forcibly converted to Islam.
Even after such a tragic event, a significant Armenian community persisted in Kharberd at the onset of the First World War, constituting about 40% of the population (approximately 6,000 out of 15,000). However, in 1915, more than 4,000 Armenians were murdered, 1,000 were converted to Islam, and roughly 1,000 managed to escape, relocating to Beirut and later emigrating to the West.
The planned deportation and massacre of the Armenian population in Kharberd and its surrounding regions was a systematic and meticulously executed operation. Initially, men, including intellectuals and prominent Armenians of the city, were arrested. In the days following, they were tortured to extract confessions about a supposed uprising, allegedly planned by local Armenians, and about covert weapons caches.
Ruth A. Parmeli, an American missionary and a teacher at Euphrates College, was an eyewitness to these horrific events. She recounted, “When the Turkish government began to implement a plan to exterminate the Armenian people, the first blow was directed at educated and influential representatives of society.
In May 1915, famous people were arrested in Kharberd, including representatives of the clergy, merchants, and 5 professors of the Euphrates College … They were subjected to brutal torture to force out a confession about the secret possession of weapons. In recent weeks, thousands of men have been arrested. They were thrown into prisons, and as soon as a hundred people gathered, they were taken outside at night. The first caravan set off on the night of 23 June.”
Included in those forcibly deported were teachers from the American Euphrates College, influential Armenians, and the bishop of the Armenian Church of Kharberd. These events are documented in a report by the US Consul in Kharberd, Leslie Davis, which was sent to the US Ambassador in Constantinople, Henry Morgenthau, on July 11 (24), 1915.
Photo by Alexander Bakulin