115 years ago, Clara Barton, the founder and chairman of the United States Red Cross, arrived in Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, to provide aid to the Armenian population that had fallen victim to the 1894-96 massacres.
Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born in North Oxford, Massachusetts, on December 25, 1821. In 1852, she established the first institution providing free education in Bordentown, New Jersey.
During the Civil War (1861–65), Barton entirely devoted herself to helping wounded soldiers. As a result of her tireless work, she became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield”.
At the end of 1895, the National Armenian Relief Committee and the Council of Missionaries appealed to the American Red Cross and Barton with a request to allocate funds to help the victims of the massacres of Armenians.
On December 14, 1895, Barton announced that the American Red Cross would send an aid expedition to Armenia as soon as sufficient funds became available to assist approximately 350,000 needy and starving people. On February 16, Barton herself arrived in Constantinople.
On March 18, Julian Hubbell, an assistant and field officer of the American Red Cross in the Ottoman Empire, headed towards Alexandretta from Constantinople. In Alexandretta, caravans were prepared for a journey to Ayntap. From Ayntap, they headed northeast towards Harput and Marash to help thousands of refugees.
The massacres had been followed by epidemics of typhoid fever, dysentery, and smallpox. To stop the epidemics in the cities of Zeytun and Marash, Dr. Ira Harris, a well-known epidemiologist based in Tripoli, Syria, was invited to the region.
The number of patients in both cities exceeded 10,000. Tens of people have died. Thanks to the efforts of American specialists, the number of cases of illness and death would significantly decrease.
When the refugees finally settled in homes and settlements, they were provided with food, medicine, clothing, seeds, sickles, spinning wheels, and looms.
However, not everything went as Barton had planned. She received many pessimistic letters from the United States addressing her call to shut down the relief mission because the Turkish government would often interfere with the mission of the Red Cross.
On September 2, Barton returned to London, leaving the Armenian relief mission incomplete. Christian Armenians were left to the mercy of fate and to the mercy of a half-wild civilization. 100-200 thousand Armenians were still homeless, had no medicine, food, and lacked the basic benefits of the civilized world. Clara Barton believed that without assistance, about 50,000 people would die due to hunger and deprivation by May 1897.
The reports of Barton and her partners on their humanitarian mission in the Ottoman Empire were published in Washington at the end of 1896. These reports are very interesting in the sense that they contain a detailed description of the assistance provided to Armenians by American expeditions and the situation of the Armenian population affected by the massacres.