The Peril Of Armenia -la191301
THE PERIL OF ARMENIA
The recent dramatic rush of events in the Balkan Peninsula has brought to pass in a month that would have appeared a year ago to be a faint and remote dream. We have seen the up rising in armies of a Balkan Alliance which has swiped before it the great armies of Turkey as dust before the wind, until the Ottoman Power is at the present moment making its last stand behind the lines of Chataldja, and little is left of Turkey in Europe except Constantinople and its adjacent strip of seaboard. Europe has been shaken out of her slumber; diplomatists are meeting in council, efforts- we would fain hope real and earnest efforts-are being made by great Powers to "see the things through," with due regard to the claims of the gallant Allies and without involving themselves in the iniquities of a general war of the iniquities of the general war of self-interest. Would God that such a genuine "Consort of Europe" had acted together long years ago , to secure the righteous ends which have now had to be won at so awful a coast of blood and misery, of devastated lands and ruined homes.
"If before his duty man with listless spirit stands, Ere long the great Avenger takes the task from out his hands."
It may well be that Turkey also has lost her opportunity, not only in Europe but likewise in Asia. For where as all evidence goes to prove that in the former massacres it was only necessary to proclaim that the Padishah commanded the slaughter to cease, for it cease at once, when the next occurs the Central Government may be powerless to control the demons it has raised.
Europe, however, is awake at last. But perhaps it is not to be wondered at that she is too much absorbed in the fate of Turkey in Europe to trouble herself with the results of the war in Turkey in Asia. yet the Powers cannot escape from the responsibility laid upon them as signatories of the Treaty of Berlin (1878),which promised reforms to be carried out in the Armenian Provinces-reforms which they well know have never been carried out. Indeed, by the cruel irony, it is the "protected" provinces which have been swept with massacre. England, by the Cyprus Convention, herself undertook the protectorate of the Christians in the Asiatic provinces of Turkey-i.e. , "all the land inhabited by the Armenian race and religion." And Englishmen may derive what comfort they can from the fact that England has from time to time remonstrated with the Porte through her Ambassadors and Consuls and procured the removal of a very few of the worst officials (who were promptly decorated and promoted by Abdul Hamid). One thing has been proved up till now is, that without guarantees no reforms have been or ever will be carried into effect.
what is the Armenia to hope from the astonishing war that has freed the Balkan States? She looks to England in trembling apprehension, for unless England intervenes, the blow that frees Macedonia may only rivet more tightly the chains that bind Armenia.
In this war the first time Christians have been allowed to serve in the Army. For generations a tax was taken from them instead of military service; since the granting of the Constitution they share in the conscription, and only wealthy families can redeem their sons, and that at a ruinous price. Formerly a man who supported a family was exempt, but now these breadwinners have been taken. What has it meant for the Christian lads, many of them engaged in sedentary toil and quit unused to exercise, to be suddenly torn from their simple homes and set to walk six hours a day through slush and snow without proper shoes, clothes, or food with companions who would treat them worse than dogs.
How the hearts of young men must have stirred when they heard the Bulgarian proclamatoin. The allies are their brothers, fighting for the things that they too hold dear: Religion, Home, theirs women's honor, and the safety of their children. But the duty of these unhappy lads is to fight for the race that has oppressed and harried them, and made life a burden to them for five hundred years. Their enrolment in the army seemed to some the one hope that future massacres and outrage in Armenia might become impossible , but this war has turned for Armenia a hope into a tragedy. The whisper will be repeated in markets and cafes, in the Khans and by the roadsides, "It was the Christians". "What else could come when the good old custom was broken?" And if these lie safe in their graves on the open hill-side or in the snowy valley, they have left hostages-mothers and brothers, sisters and little children.
Soon the broken army of the Moslems will be wandering through Anatolia. They are being dumped down anywhere with no provision made for them, and what will come of that? The past tells us. At the end of the eighteenth century whole armies of men owning no authority destroyed cities and laid waste lands; it seems all too probable this experience will be repeated. and Sassoun, Marash, Aintab, Harpoot, Urfa, and Adana -what have they to tell us? At Urfa still stands a large flat-roofed building, the thick stone walls of which are cracked: the flames, which split them, devoured between two and three thousand Armenians, living and dead, in one great holocaust, on that dread Sunday. December 29th, 1895. there is a narrow alley by the ruins of the burned Abgarian School at Adanawhere the Constitutional (!) troops shot down the Armenians who were trying to escape the flames, till they lay piled higher than a man could reach. It is there that Armenian faith in the Revolution lies buried. The next massacres may not be organized so perfectly, beginning with the sound of the trumpet and ending when the authorities give the signal, as at Urfa, but they will hardly be less deadly if perpetrated by hungry and demoralized soldiery. That eleven Kurds, turned out of the army, should have dared to attack Miss Matheison and her orphans (1912) on the much frequented road between Hadjin and Everek shows that the country is in a very disturbed state. Her presence saved the girls, for foreigners are generally respected, thanks to the Capitulations, and, if murdered, their States get indemnity, but they cannot always save their Armenian friends. Thus it was in vain that that Dr. Christie clasped an Armenian youth in his arms when the mob bore down upon them. He only heard the deaf-scream as the jagged knife was plunged and withdrawn(April, 1909).
The Capitulations which protect foreigners, by making them self-governing, are said to be a survival of the old Roman law; they are necessary when the moral and religious code of a country is inferior to that of the foreigners resident in it. "Look ye to it," said Gallio, the Roman Governor, as he drove the disputants from his judgment-seat. They must settle the affairs of their millet, or community, themselves he could not be bothered.
It is not usually known that the same idea is found in the position of the Armenians to-day. Thus Mahomet II. was acting by precedent when on conquering Turkey, he gave the Christians of Turkey judicial courts of their own, making the Patriarch (his nominee) their political head, with the rank of Vizier, responsible to the Sultan only , and all the Bishops responsible to the Patriarch. This resulted, through the sale of offices, in the degradation of the priesthood and the Church. Then in 1862 all real power passed into the hands of clerical and lay councils elected by the Representative Assembly of 140 Armenians. This Assembly was meant to be communal body, dealing with the affairs of the Armenian community. Nowadays i8t is called the National Assembly, but it must be borne in mind that the Turks are still the ruling community, Regarding Christians as rayahs. The meetings of this Assembly have been very stormy of late, for the Patriarch has been driven to bay. In vain does he remonstrate and protest to the Turkish Ministers. The Turkish Government allows murderers of his flock to go unpunished, the local Governors conceal facts and abet assassins, and as long as the Armenians are not allowed arms to defend themselves from the Kurds, his position is untenable. Hence, both the Patriarchs have tendered their resignations. It is noteworthy that at this sitting the Archbishop of Pera said that the only remedy was to demand the application of Article 61 of the Berlin Treaty.
This Article might well be quoted, for it not only promises reform, but actually promises security from the Kurds. The only thing Europe did to give them this security was to remonstrate with Sultan Abdul Hamid, who replied by arming the Kurds and enrolling then as irregular cavalry under his own name, Hamidieh. Meanwhile, he refused arms to the Christians, and this refusal is still enforced by the Turkish Government, in spit of the promise of the "Young Turk" Constitution. And yet no one can read the account of the granting of the Constitution as given by the official reports in our Government White Paper (Turkey, No.1,1909) without being struck by the fact that everywhere its promulgation was a terror to evil-doers.
Is it to be a beautiful promise unfulfilled? It would be seen so, far so common has rape and murder become that to-day no Armenian dare travel alone. Every day brings news of the lifting of sheep and cattle. In one district alone 5,000 sheep had been taken. The inspector of the Schools of the See of Aghtamar, with his companion, has been murdered in Karkar and cruelly mutilated. The reports come, not from one region, but from places as wide apart as Van and Adans, Bitlis and Hadjin. To all this things the Turkish Government is supremely indifferent, and the Patriarch interviews Ministers and utters protests in vain
On account of this disorders and the indifference of the Government, Noradougian Effendi, the Minister of foreign Affairs of Turkey, sent in his resignation on September 28th, 1912.He was asked to draw up a scheme of for Eastern Anatolia. But enough of such schemes: There is no intention, and there never was any intention, of letting these paper reforms be put into execution.
Thus the year 1913 opens gloomily for Armenia. The war has caused stagnation in trade and a rise in the price of foodstuffs; moreover, the cattle have been taken transport work, besides those stolen by the Kurds, and the able-bodied youths have been sent to the seat of war. Should their Moslem neighbors be roused to fanatical fury and visit the calamities of the war upon the Armenians, the latter will be in a peculiarly defenseless position. It will be another case of the Christians and the burning of Rome. Turk and Kurds have so regarded the Armenians as their milky cows, whom they can drain with impunity, that it does not seem possible that a defeated army returning to Anatolia, unfed but armed, and bearing in their harts a grudge for their cruel suffering and shameful repulse can settle down quietly. The fact that the Sheikul-Islam has issued an Encyclical to all the Muftis of the disturbed provinces, condemning religious fanaticism and commanding them to preach against it, is a ray in the darkness. He points out that the Sheriat or sacred law used in the Turkish Courts ordains the security of the non-Moslem as well as the Moslem. But whether or not his fata proclaiming the Jehad , or Holy War, deluges Asiatic Turkey in blood will largely depend on the used made of the Moslems pulpit. In 1908 a most effective and beneficent use was made of this pulpit as is shown in our Government White Paper (Turkey. No 1, 1909, Section No.65).
The Mufti of Silvan on the occasion of the recent festival of Bairam preached against the Christians, especially the Armenians, and that district is much agitated in consequence, for before all the great massacres of 1894-1897 and 1909 the fanatics of the people was fanned by preachers sent on purpose. Thus the Thursday before the massacre at Antioch, a grand personage, claiming to be the Head of the Society of Moslems, vowed to devote himself even to the death for religion and country, came harangued the Turks, and the teaching and buying up of arms and ammunition went on till Monday, April 19th. 1909. On that afternoon, while the Mohammedian chiefs were actually proclaiming "Peace, Liberty, and Fraternity," the massacre began and lasted until the arrival of the warship for which the British Vice-Consul had applied. Out of all that city hardly any Armenian was remained alive.
Members of this society are being sent to the Chataldja lines, and it is with this spirit that the Ulemasare trying to inspire the troops. Well might one ask, "Are the warships ready?" They will be needed to help the Turkish Government to keep order, not merely at Constantinople, but on the Black Sea coast and along the Cilitian shore.
The polished Turkish gentleman seems to have a fascination for certain English minds. Yet, in many cases, he was the organizer of "The events." On the other hand, massacres were doubtless rendered more hideous by the letting loose of the savage section that is found at the bottom of every population. In Turkey, however, the soldiery has invariably acted alongside of these ruffians.
Yet the Turkish peasant under a good Governor is often a quiet, though, speaking generally, the Armenian nation is "The industrious, energetic, self respecting element in the Turkish Empire," while it may be mentioned that there is a long list of the illustrious Russian Generals who were Armenians.
That the Armenians should have kept up the sanctity of home life, through all these centuries of oppression, while going in constant fear of having their women and girls torn from them, shows that there must be moral grit in the race; and their devolution at all costs to that church, which has, throughout, been their one bond of national unity and their guide and consoler, must appeal to all who have any reverence for religion or patriotism.
Men of known judgment and ability, long resident in Turkey, testify that all nationalities can live side by side peaceably and happily, provided only the local governor is just.
We read that at the present moment the governors of the provinces where outrages are most frequent neither punish nor arrest the criminals, but spend their time in searching for arms in Armenian houses. "It is the same donkey," as the Eastern proverb says. Just in this way did they rob the Armenians of Urfa of all weapons before they slaugtered them in 1895.
A Mohammedan governor can, if he wishes, protect his subjects from robbery and outrage and make life worth living, but it is impossible for a Mohammedan governor to treat the Mohammedans and Christians under him as equal, for this is against his religion. The Koran forbids molestation and cruel treatment of subject races who pay their taxes, but inculcates the dogma that all "infidels" ought to be the bondmen of the "true believers." To conquer them by the sword and hold them in subjection is the duty of all true Moslems. All reforms which promise equality are mere falsehoods wherewith to blind Europe, for the enlightened views of the present Sheik-ul-Islam and some other Turkish leaders have not yet permitted the mass of people.
The injustice of the present molestation of Armenians is all the more glaring because the Yong Turkey Party owes them a debt of gratitude. For it is not too much to say that, without the loyal support of the Armenians, the Young Turks could never have overtrown the Palace camarilla which was shaping the life of the country. Indeed, there are those who affirm that it was an Armenian brain that planned the wonderfully successful coup of July 24th, 1908.
After the granting of the Constitution on July 28th, 1908. it seemed for a few months as if the Golden Age had come. All nationalities fraternized, and in future there were to be neither Armenians, Greeks, Turks, nor Albanians, but all were Osmanil (Ottomans). All political prisoners were set free, exiles returned, and the Royal Princes of the blood were allowed to come out of their seclusion; freed from the returned, and the Royal Princes of the blood were allowed to come out of their seclusion; freed from the lies and spies the land breathed more freely; and men began to think that the Committee of Union and Progress had converted Midhat's Constitution of1876into a reality.
Amongst the Young Turkey Party were men who had risen above the teaching of their Prophet and were willing to give equality to all. Through them something was done, by appointing better men as governors, and this saved Aitab, Malatia, and Harpoot from sharing the fate of the Adana. Yet to-day the Armenians are not free, although the law courts no longer refuse to hear Christian evidence, the verdict is given on the Moslem evidence. Now they have to fear not only the returning army, but the Turks from the Balkan who are trekking back to Asia and will need homesteads. These are passing Constantinople with their families and family belongings, their cattle, and their buffalo and Ox-carts, much as they passed into Europe five hundred years ago. They affirm that their homes were burnt by the retreating Turkish army, not by the Bulgarians; the latter are carrying the war in a civilized fashion.
Twenty five years ago Mr. Freeman foretold that, unless the two following points were insisted on at the coming Berlin Conference, the whole work would have to be done again. In the face of the present situation, it might be well to remember them:
1st. What ever be the form of government in any of these lands, the Turk must have no hand in choosing the governors. 2nd. No spot in any of the lands that are to be set free must be garrisoned by Turkish soldiers.
Will this warning again be neglected?
We would, in conclusion, further commend the following suggestion, among the many that have been made for the improvement of the condition of the Armenians, since these three would seem to be feasible and moderate.
(1) An increase in the number of foreign consuls. But commercial consuls have ceased to be of much use since Turkey learned that no action would be taken on their reports. (2) The substitution of military census for commercial consuls. The Turk respects things military, and it is certain from past occurrences that the military consul is more effective; this would surely outweigh the extra coast. (3) The appointment of a Christian Governor over the six Vilayets. The difference between these three is briefly this: (1) Civil consuls can report on a massacre-e.g., Vice-Consul Fitzmaurice at Urfa, March, 1896. (2) Military consuls can stop a massacre-e.g., Major Doughty-Wylie at Adana, Aprile, 1909. (3) Governors can prevent a massacre and restore order-e.g., Daud Pasha, who wages the fires Governor of the Lebanon, installed July 14th, 1861.
This last was an Armenian Catholic, and, in spite of the oft-repeated prophecies of the Porte that the appointment of a Christian governor would rouse the Moslem population to fresh outbursts of fury and fanaticism and results in worst massacres than ever, he restored the Lebanon to prosperity tranquility. And to-day travelers tell how the very fields reveal where Turkish misrule ends and constitutional rule begins. But it must born in mind that Daud Pasha was appointed governors of Lebanon for three years and could not be removed at the fancy of the Sultan. (The disastrous effect of changing governors, when their schemes for improvement are but just begun, may be seen at Adana to-day. Djemal Bey has been sent to Baghdad, and the orphanage remains unfinished, the rebuilding and orphans grants unpaid.)
Moreover, Daud was not obliged to depend on Turkish troops to keep order, otherwise he must have failed. At first he was supported by the French troops, who only left in August, when the ships of the French and English squadrons still cruised off that coast; and while thus sheltered he prepared a military force from the inhabitants of the Lebanon which made the presence of Turkish soldiery unnecessary.
This is what is wanted in the six Armenian Vilayets to-day, and the Moslem section of the population would benefit only less than the Armenian. For if the Kurds were restrained and justice was administered, the wave of prosperity which would flow through these fertile provinces would benefit every inhabitant, and open a market for Europeian commerce. The alarming predictions of the Turkish Government were falsified in the case of the Lebanon, and if the same Constitution were granted to the Armenians, although the Porte might try to fulfill its own prediction by stirring up fanaticism, it is more than probable that history would repeat itself.
Were the six Powers as thoroughly agreed as the Balkan Allies have been that Turkish misrule must end, it would cease at once; for the Turk is a good subject, and his fatalism makes him the slave of the accomplished fact. Let him but realize the Fate, in the shape of United Europe, is too strong for him, and he will fold his hands and say "Kismet, it is decreed."
Lucy C. F. Cavendish.
A hard copy of this article or hundreds of others from the time of the Armenian Genocide can be found in The Armenian Genocide: News Accounts From The American Press: 1915-1922