The Total Of Armenian And Syrian Dead -nyt191611b

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The Total of Armenian and Syrian Dead

CURRENT HISTORY (Published by New York Times Company, Times Square, New York)

The Total of Armenian and Syrian Dead By William Walker Rockwell, Ph. D. (Professor in Union Theological Seminary and Member of American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief)

HOW many Armenian and Syrian noncombatants have died of disease, hardship, or violence during the last two years?

There are no perfectly reliable statistics of the racial elements which compose the population of Turkey. The ordinary Turkish figures for the Armenians and other Christian groups are too small, for two reasons: First, the Turks are anxious to minimize the strength of the Christian minorities, in order to block European demands for internal reforms; second, some Christian families fall to report all their men to the Government, in order to evade their full duty in the matter of military service. The Armenian figures, on the other hand, are collected by the Armenian Patriachate, till recently in Constantinople; and they certainly do not underestimate the numbers of their own millet or community. Though some German writers have inclined to accept the Turkish figures, the consensus of foreign opinion holds that there were in Turkey before the war at least 1,600,000 to 2,000,000 Armenians. How many of them are alive today?

No official list of the deaths has been kept. Nameless and unrecorded corpses have marked every trail down which the exiles straggled on their weary march toward the region of Aleppo. The scows of Trebizond and the flatboats of the Euphrates did not record passengers "lost overboard." In the desert vultures were the only coroners. Along the line of the Baghdad Railway, where imported system prevails, more accurate information may perhaps exist; but those who may know won't tell.

In some localities the death rate has been terribly high. From one small group of villages only 15.2 per cent. of the inhabitants are known to have reached what was, for the time to have reached what was, for the time at least, the goal of their deportation. A common estimate of the morality has been 50 per cent. of the total Armenian population; in other words, that from 800,000 to 1,000,000 have perished. In May, when I tabulated in the "Fifth Bulletin of the Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief" what we then knew, it seemed probable that the number of survivors was under 1,150,000. The total Armenian losses to that date would then be between 450,000 and 850,000 according as we estimate the population before the war at 1,600,000 or at 2,000,000. In view, however, of the frightful starvation since reported in the Deir-el-Zor region and elsewhere, it is quite possible that by this time the losses have reached 50 per cent.

How many Armenians have died in massacres? During the siege of Van the Turks are said to have slaughtered 55,000 Armenians in the surrounding country. That is the report brought back by the Americans who were in Van during the siege; one of them told me that the Russian authorities forbade people after that to eat fish drawn from the great inland lake Van, because of the multitude of the floating corpses of massacre victims. How many tens of thousands have died like the 1,213 men of Marsovan, who were marched up into lonely valleys and "deported" by knives at their throats or by bullets in their backs? Who can number the Armenian soldiers in labor regiments who were divided up into squads of 300 or 400 to mend roads, only to be shot and sabered to a man on suspicion of revolutionary plots? How numerous were the bundles of those drowned by the Kurds at Kemakh, that rolled down the Euphrates and were washed ashore near the railroad bridge at Jerablus, only to be refused burial by a local Turkish official because he could affiliations of the long-since deceased? If we add horror to horror, we must at the end confess that we do not know. To van add Marsovan; pile on Bitlis, Trebizond, Erzerum, Erzingan, Harpot, and thrice-savage Kemakh; exhaust even the villages of those provinces (now conquered by Russia) which formed what we may style massacre zone; make all possible deduction for exaggeration or downright lies, and you reach a ghastly total that must remain forever ringed around with impenetrable gloom.

How many Armenians are left? In May, 1916, the best figures were as follows:

Aleppo, Zor, Damascus, and southward...................................486,000
Constantinople and Smyrna, natives not deported, about............150,000
Armenians in other parts of Turkey, perhaps............................300,000
Refugees in the Russian Caucasus.......................................182,800
In districts of Turkey occupied by Russia...............................12,100
In Salmas, Persia, (some of them refugees from Turkey)..............9,000
Total living Armenians.....................................................1,139,900

The largest item tabulated in May was 486,000. That number was, however, reported of Feb. 3. Concerning those regions we have had later cables that hundreds are dying daily; that mothers are throwing babies into the Euphrates in despair; that survivors in many regions had to eat grass -- until the fierce rays of the Mesopotamian Summer dried up the grass, when some of the more desperate turned to cannibalism or attacked carrion. Therefore we may lop off another hundred thousand or two as the terrible toll of the year in which America has been toying with the problem of relief. There may be a scant million of Turkish Armenians still unburied.

The Armenians are not the only unfortunates; the Syrians also have been decimated. There are many varieties of Syrian Christians. Some lived near the Persian border and in ancient Assyria, and are known as Nestorians, or Assyrian Christians. Some of these living north of Mosul have been massacred. The Nestorian Highlanders, who, according to figures I communicate from a pamphlet now in press, claimed before the war to number 90,000, had to fight their way out to Persia in the Autumn of 1915. Our committee fed during November and December, 1915, no less than 30,000 of these refugees from Turkey, in addition to an equal number of destitute Christians whose homes were of the Persian side of the boundary. Though the death rate has been high, it not perhaps reacted the one-third to one-half reported through native channels of information. Before the war there were from 160,000 to 200,000 Syrian Christians (inclusive of Nestorians, Roman Catholic Uniats, Protestants, and some scattered communities of Jacobites) living in the Tigris region, exclusive of Diarbekir, in the Highlands of Kurdistan, and in Northwestern Persia, (Adarbaijan.) Great numbers have perished, but no one knows how many. During the Turkish occupation of Urmia (Jan. 2-May 20, 1915) 4,000 died of want and of epidemics in that town, and 1,000 were killed in outlying villages. That is the outstanding item in the long roll of death in Persia.

The woes of the Syrians in modern Syria, near the Mediterranean, are also crying. It is said that at least 80,000 of the inhabitants of the Lebanon have died of starvation; and some have been deported into the region of Sivas, Asia Minor. (See " The Near East," London June 9, 1916.) The Syrian Mount Lebanon Relief Committee, a native organization in New York, asserts that 100,000 have perished in the Lebanon alone. An American traveler, just back from Beirut, says that in that center of Information the estimates vary from 80,000 to 120,000. In addition, there has been awful misery among the Palestinian Jews.

The number of marchers in New York's great "preparedness" parade last May was about 125,000. They took about thirteen hours to pass a given point, marching twenty abreast. If the ghosts of the of the Christians civilians who have perished miserably in Turkey since the commencement of the great holocaust should march down Fifth Avenue twenty abreast there might be a million of them, and they would then take four days and eight hours to pass the great reviewing stand -- in fact, longer, for most of them would be women and children.

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