Hakob Khorozyants from the city of Van was a teacher in the village of Gatavan in Salmast. According to him, in early December 1914, Kurds and Turks attacked the Armenian villages of the region and burned their haystacks. Villagers organized self-defense and put the robbers to flight.
However, on December 20-24, in parallel with the retreat of the Russian troops from the Turkish border, a large wave of organized migration commenced from all Armenian villages towards the Caucasus.
In early December 1914, the Amrkhan tribe from the Soma Jaangir aga region attacked the Armenian villages of Maglam and Sarna and burned the haystacks of the farmers. They attempted to invade the villages but met strong resistance and were forced to retreat.
The population that migrated to the Caucasus left behind much of their property, including cows, oxen, buffaloes, horses, etc., overall worth approximately 20 million rubles, perhaps even more.
During December 20-24, the mass migration continued. The Armenians of the Akhbak region left along with the Russians troops and came to Salmast. Then, some of them left for the Caucasus with some Salmastans, while the rest remained there.
Of these, 700 people, mostly men, would be massacred in the cruelest ways: some were beheaded, some shot, some dismembered and painfully killed, while the rest were buried alive under the walls of the gardens.
The massacre was carried out by order of a Turkish officer Khalil Bey. Kurds Timur Agha and Jahangir Agha from Soma were among those who participated in the looting of the Armenian property.
Local Turks gathered and locked up women and children in one of the houses, robbed and violated them in thousand ways, and then turned them in to the Russian troops. Liberated, those Armenians moved to the Caucasus.
A percentage of the population of this area would come back to their homes. Many would find their possessions along with the robbers, but it was possible to return only minor things. The rest of the Armenians settled mainly in Yerevan, Tiflis, New Nakhichevan, and in the inner Russian provinces.
Some villages have been completely devoid of Armenians, including Saramerik, Vardan, Kochamish, Kalashan, Dryshk, and Sheytanava (one Armenian didn’t leave this village, but he would be killed). Some villages haven’t seen any massacres: instead, their inhabitants would perish on their way to the Caucasus due to illnesses and hardships.
by Hambartsum Galustyan
National Academy of Sciences, f. 227, p. 1, p. 424, n. 17 and 18, manuscript.
“Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey: witness accounts of survivors, collection of documents, vol. 3, provinces of Erzurum, Kharberd, Diyarbakir, Sebastia, Trapezund, Armenian community of Iran”, NAS, Yerevan, 2012, pp. 375-377.