Crimes Of Turkish Misrule -nyt192210a

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A Monthly Magazine of the New York Times

By Albert Mackenzie
Recently connected with relief work in Turkey

Freshly gleaned facts and personal observations offered in refutation of Rear Admiral Chester's statements - A massacre of 2,000 Armenians and Greeks that took place only a year ago

The article, "Turkey Reinterpreted," by Rear Admiral Colby M. Chester, in the September Current History, calls for a refutation. Nothing could be more pernicious.

The author's contention that "Turkey joined the Germans with reluctance" is, if true, the most singular truth in captivity. Turkey's armies were trained, officered and equipped by Germany before the war started. The Goeben and the Breslau, German cruisers, were bought by Turkey. It was the only move Turkey had on the board to prevent her complete disintegration. Her lot was already cast wit Germany's. To fight on the side of Russia, her traditional enemy, would have been suicide in view of the indications of that moment. Even to win the war with Russian as an ally would have meant the swamping of Turkey by the big Slav neighbor. Turkey's political dissolution is classic, and is only because of her flagrant misrule. Since her very advent into history she never ruled over a country that was content with her domination. The Turks are parasites; they have never built a city, their language is a hybrid of other tongues, the paucity of their literature is beyond discussion. Turks never make mechanical or scientific inventions. The Great Mosque of St. Sofia in Constantinople is a rebuilt Byzantine Church, and the greatest monument of her construction, aside from mosques, anywhere in the empire is Roumeli Hissar on the Bosporus. The Turks fight with foreign guns and ammunition; an Austrian firm used to make their fezzes, an Austrian today runs the establishment which supplies uniforms to the army. They make no automobiles, battleships, and airplanes - not even telephone and telegraph sets where there are such. Before 1915 the Christians were, generally speaking, the economic and intellectual developers of Turkey. It is that very thing which let loose the massacres. The Turk was in despair; brains he had not, but might he had.

In the last century Turkey's control at any time over Northern Africa was only nominal. In 1912 the Balkans exploded against her abominable lordship. She lost Tripoli. The Arabs - brother church members - revolted against Turkey, and now have a free State, the Hedjas. The Near East question is not religious, but racial and cultural; religion, however, aggravates it. The Arabs - more devout Mohammedans than the Turks - broke from Turkish misrule. The Kurds were never propitiated. The Syrians and Palestinians importunes the members of the Paris conference to grant them independence. Subjects of Turkey in those two regions inundated the Crane commission with petitions for independence, or, as an alternative mandate control by America (1.152 petitions to the latter effect).

In regard to the Turk as a husband, I will simply relate an incident in the American Hospital in Harput, where I was stationed seven months as a relief worker in 1921-22. A Turk brought his shrouded wife one day to the American Hospital and asked if there was any way of curing her of sterility. He was informed that, if he consented to let her undergo an operation, the woman would in all likelihood be able to bear him children. Fine! When could it be done? He was then told that the operation would cost him four golds, or about $16. Up went his arms in despair and indignation. "What, pay four golds to operate on her, when I can get another wife for a medjidie!" (40 cents). And off he stalked, out f the hospital. But Admiral Chester writes: "In Turkey every man by law and by religion must adequately support and treat with kindness and faithful respect whomsoever he may marry, and, moreover, this he does."

The retired Admiral says that the Adana massacre of 1909 was an "affair" in which "the Armenians, fully armed, arose in their might and drove the Moslems from Adana, killing more of them than they lost by their own causalities." Herbert Adams Gibbons, the author of several admirable books on international affairs, was in the courtyard of the Adana Government building when the massacre of 1909 broke out, and he attests with feeling to the crimes by the Turks. No more trustworthy witness could be found that Mr. Gibbons.

I have but recently come from the interior of Turkey, where I lived eight months. With my own eyes I have seen thousands upon thousand of Greek families tramping over the snow-covered mountains of that country .I have seen groups of 3.000 to 4.000 refugees moaning, freezing, dying, with typhus, gangrene, pneumonia, starvation, insanity - mothers so weak they could not lift their dead babies from their backs where they had been strapped. I have watched dogs and vultures eat so many bodies that I can tell now just where a dog will start on a fresh carcass for the choicest pieces, and his whole modus operandi until the bones are clean. We have pleaded with officials for mercy to the specters that still survives to allow them to be taken to the American Hospital for treatment. Oft-times permission was refused. In any case, every refugee we did not treat had to be O.K.'d by a callous Turkish Sanitary Inspector, who had less sympathy for the patients than he would have had for a dog. He begrudged them their lives.

As to the virtue of honesty in business, another of Admiral Chester's arguments, when the Turk is honest it is not a matter of principle, but only because he can't get away with anything else. Through my hands passed between $ 30.000 and $ 60.000 each month. It was my duty to pay all bills, and I had to exchange our Turkish paper banknote appropriations into gold and silver, because paper was not the currency in the vilayet of Mamuret-ul-Aziz. From this contact, day in day out, I grew to know, not only Turkish and Armenian merchants as classes, but the reputation of scores of individuals. The Treasurer of the Province tricked us out of $3.360. One day, nearly half a year afterward, we arranged a trap, to sell him a draft which was later dishonored and in that way got back the money. The son-in-law of the Governor of the province sold us wagonloads of wheat that he stole from military warehouses.

Even when the owners are alive, the Turks rarely - and rarely means once in twenty-five or thirty cases - pay rent on the shops and homes which they took from the Armenians in the massacre of 1915. On the other hand, the Government collects taxes, where it finds any one to tax, on the Armenian shops which they burned in 1915. Last spring they collected taxes for six years on Armenian shops from any persons who were supposed to have once owned them; and they collected taxes on shops whose sites are now ash-heaps that they themselves made. All this is paltry, however, when compared to the heinousness of the massacres.

When I left Constantinople, where I had lived all Summer, to go to the interior, I was pro-Turkish. I felt the majesty of the Turk's religion, I admired his inscrutable face., his reserved mien. I condoned his evil, because I didn't know and couldn't understand. Since then I have seen sights that have made me know and understand.

I find another glaring point in the Admiral's description of the Armenian deportations. "So the Armenians," he says, "were moved from the inhospitable regions where they were not welcome, and could not actually prosper, to the most delightful and fertile part of Syria. Those from the mountains were taken into Mesopotamia, where the climate is as benign as in Florida and California, whither New York millionaires journey every year for health and recreation, All this was done at great expense of money and effort." How beautiful to contemplate! Does Colby M. Chester know that the world knows - and knows that he knows - that some 800.000 Armenians perished in those deportations? Even the Turkish newspapers themselves estimated that they had cleared the land of 800,000 "giaours."

I personally know Turks -- have been on parties with them -- who boast of the number of Armenians they killed. One Kurd in Harput, a member of the old Committee of Union and Progress, glories in the fact that he used seventy-two Armenian girls in the deportations. Today the Turkish peasants, riding on their oxcarts, sing songs about the Paradise of the "sufkiet" (deportations), when they had the prettiest women all to themselves for nothing, and how they chased the ugly ones down the road. If the deportees returned "fat and prosperous" from their voyage, as Mr. Chester writes, why has the Near East Relief spent over "70,000,000 and why is it feeding over 100,000 orphans every day, whose only prayer is "Give us daily bread"?

In regard to the "benign" climate of the country in the Summer of 1915, I shall quote from Viscount Bryce's "The Treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire." This extract is a memorandum by a foreign resident in Turkey at the time of the "sufkiet." Obviously the source of this lostimony coming as it does from a neutral resident, is above reproach. To satisfy myself of its correctness I elicited the story from an Armenian lad in Turkey, who had been in this deportation. His story, of course, was more elaborate, but there was not a single discrepancy to be found, though the boy knew nothing of Voscount Bryce's book:

On the fortieth day the convoy came in sight of the River Mourad, a branch of the Euphrates. Here they saw the bodies of more than 200 men floating in the river, with traces of blood and blood-stained fezzes, clothes and stockings of the bank. The chief of the neighboring village took one lira in toll from each man as a ransom for not being into the river.

On the fifty-second day they arrived at another village, and here the Kurds took from them everything they had, even their shirts and drawer, so that for five days the whole convoy marched completely naked under the scorching sun. For another five days they did not have a morsel of bread nor even a drop of water. They were scorched to death by thirst. Hundreds upon hundreds fell dead on the way, their tongues were turned to charcoal, and when. at the end of the five days, they reached a fountain, the whole convoy naturally rushed toward it. But here the policemen barred the way and forbade them to take a single drop of water. Their purpose was to sell it at from one to three liras the cup, and sometimes they actually withheld the water after getting the money. At another place, where there were wells, some women threw themselves into them, as there was no rope or pail to draw up the water. These women were drowned, and in spite of that the rest of the people drank from that well, the dead bodies still remaining there and stinking in the water. Sometimes, when the wells were shallow and the women could go down into them and come out again, the other people would rush to lick or suck their wet, dirty clothes, in the effort to quench their thirst

When they passed an Arab village in their naked condition the Arabs pitied them and gave them old pieces of clothes to cover themselves with. Some of the exiles who still had money bought some clothes: but still some remained who traveled thus naked all the way to the City of Aleppo. The poor women could hardly walk for shame: they walked all day and night. Even in their nakedness they had found some means of preserving the little money they had. Some kept it in their hair, some in their months.* * *

On the sixtieth day, when they reached Viran Shehr, only 300 exiles remained out of all the 18,000. On the sixty-fourth day they gathered together all the man and sick women and children and burned and killed them all. On the seventieth day, when they reached Aleppo, thirty-five women and children were left out of the 3,000 exiles from H., and 150 women and children altogether out of the whole convoy of 18,000

Regarding the sufferings of Greeks in Asia Monor, we have the facts presented By Mr. Venizelos before the Council of Ten of Dec. 30,1918. in addition to which I have my own figures on the number of Greeks know to be alive now in Eastern Anatolia; these figures, collected in towns which I passed through, were supplemented with data from non-native sources with which I got into communication. Basin an estimate on my own investigations, I am positive that 225,000 Greeks -- men, women and children -- have met death in Eastern Asia Minor since May, 1921.

In September 1921. I stayed three days in Marsovan and gathered the story of a new massacre there from foreign residents who had been compelled to turn Christians out of their premises to be killed, and who had watched the actual murdering and burials in pits from their windows and even saw some of them being buries alive. So recently had the massacre of these 2,460 taken place that the air was still polluted with decomposed bodies upon my arrival. I smell it yet! The whole Christian quarter of the town was looted and burned and the only moot question is -- which official is most responsible? That was just one year ago.

No one gets rich laying the Turkish crimes before the world. Rather, one gets into a certain type of disrepute with those whose commercial aims would be best served by smothering such news. The greatest obstacle to imprinting the story of the Turkish massacres on our minds is its inconceivableness. It is almost beyond contemplation. After each outrage on the Armenians and Greeks, the American public is electrified with horror, and being a homage public it will -- if dollars and cents do not stuff its ears and blindfold it -- ultimately mete out justice where the vanishing peoples cry in supplication.

109 South Twenty-second Street, Philadelphia, Pa., Sept. 6, 1922.

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