The Recollections of an Eyewitness to the Armenian Genocide

The Recollections of an Eyewitness

“In 1915, the genocide of Armenians began in the territory of the Ottoman Empire. On the Genocide Remembrance Day (the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Great Crime, as the Armenians call it), we bring to your attention the memories of eyewitnesses to this tragedy.

I am the son of Mkrtich Yartymian, a native of the village of Chagmard, Boğazlıyan District, Yozgat Province. My former name is Sarkis Yartymian. I’m ashamed to say that my new name is Ali Fouad.

How many times have I escaped certain death! Now, after the sad loss of my father and mother, eighty-year-old and gray-haired grandfather, my two sisters, and all my relatives, I want to tell what I saw with my own eyes. My story can be confirmed by numerous witnesses, Armenians and Turks.

Boluk is a secluded, forgotten corner in Yozgat Province. Its fertile soil and the cold but healthy climate forged hardworking farmers.

The local population was especially distinguished by large families. Almost every house had two dozen children. In Boluk, there were up to forty Armenian villages, partly mixed with the Turks. Almost the entire population consisted of strong, hard-working farmers who were strongly devoted to their native church and national traditions.

In the last days of June 1915, the monstrous conspiracy of Ittihad was already carried out in some places. In our region, day by day, the atmosphere was thickened by new rumors of a massacre. The unexpected dismissal of the Boğazlıyan District chief who had carried out the orders of the center foreshadowed the imminent onset of a disaster.

From the very first days, his successor, the notorious Kemal, a young Ittihadist, managed to kindle passions among the population. This humanoid monster together with his milk brother Mukhlis soon prepared a massacre for Armenians…

It was Sunday, July 5, 1915. A fanatical crowd, pre-disposed, hand in hand with the authorities set to work. About 240 Armenians, gathered from the neighboring villages in Boğazlıyan, were beaten with cudgels at a mill in a one-hour ride from the city. Four wounded men brought news of this.

On the same day, the indigenous men of Boğazlıyan were taken somewhere outside the city’s limits, a quarter of an hour walk away, and were hacked to pieces with axes. I myself saw the place of the massacre when I was already fleeing.

It was our turn of martyrdom…

On July 8, it was only dawn when Kemal and Mukhlis surrounded the village with hundreds of gendarmes and Chetniks. Were heard the neighing of horses, the roar of bashi-bazouk gangs descending from the mountains, the cries of gendarmes shouting “In the name of Allah, do not spare, kill. May this day be blessed”, the cries of children from afar, the desperate cries of adults – everything cannot be described in words.

From this terrible noise, I suddenly woke up. Deadly horror gripped me. I heard quick footsteps. My father and my dear mother ran into my room. They hugged me and wept.

“Run, save yourself… We will die for you…” While I was silently staring in silence, my grandfather came, took my brother’s hand, and exclaimed:

“May God protect the lives of these innocents!”

Then, my underage sisters, prostrating themselves on the ground, began to scream, anticipating a terrible danger.

The noise in the street drowned in gunshots.

The cries seemed to have stopped – everyone was thinking about how to be saved. The pogrom began on the street, in the houses, the wounded fled wherever they could…

Some of the men in the village were taken to the church and locked up. These were the last days of ramazan. In the morning, at half past ten, they removed a line of martyrs from the church. Ahead, with their hands tied together, were two priests followed by others in the same order. In the very rear, they led my gray-haired grandfather, beating him.

They were taken to the Yagna Gisari gorge, which was in a ten-minute walk from the city. I watched from the window of the house. There, the martyrs were put on their knees facing east, and swords, spades, spikes, stones, and sticks soared above their heads.

The bodies torn to pieces fell to the ground, and the night covered this unheard-of crime with its black cover.

The crowd returned to the village. Women were next. Beautiful young women and girls mutilated their faces. I cannot forget the daughter of the barber Siranush who tried to burn her hair, burst into flames and, sweeping around, fell victim to the fire.

It was a night of hopeless grief. Armenian honor was cruelly mocked. Robbery of property and the abduction of women has become commonplace. A few days later, those who remained dispersed in Turkish villages.

Having paid a large sum of money, I took refuge in the home of a familiar agha-Turk, where I stayed for a long time.

This was our forcible eviction, and so it happened in all the other Armenian villages of Boluk. Our riches were robbed. They traded the honor of our sisters, selling them for silver or for a pound and a half of tobacco.

The terrible tragedy repeated on February 8, 1916, despite the fact that we all had changed religions. The few men who were remaining were taken away to the Boğazlıyan massacre place, and children with their mouths shut, in a half-dead state, were buried alive with the women.

The memory of our companion martyrs is still fresh. We must not forget them…

Peace be upon them.

Our dead, however, have no graves, no tombs. They do not want a requiem…

They want justice in the name of justice.

We, those who had been saved from the great evil, loudly appeal to the whole world:

“We demand justice in the name of justice.”

Zhoghovurd, 11 (24), 1918, Yerevan, on the basis of “The Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire,” edited by M.G. Nersisyan, 1982, p. 428-431.

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