H. M Knadjian.

The eternal struggle; a word picture of Armenia's fight for freedom online

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at the time. They performed willingly and joyfully any duty
laid upon them.

When the number of warriors was calculated to be suf-
ficient for defensive and offensive purposes, Aryan gathered
them together one day and addressed them as follows : "Com-
rades, forget not that our quarrel is with the Turkish Govern-
ment. We do not fight the common people, whether they are
Turks or Kurds. Although they took part in the massacres,



VENGEANCE 111



it was the government who incited them. When you go to
the nearby villages to buy provisions, pay for what you get.
Only in case of opposition and enmity you are entitled to fight
them. Being victorious you are at liberty to confiscate their
possessions. Because the Mohammedan hordes behave like
barbarians, we should not imitate them. Our cause is sacred.
We fight for self-defense, for home and hearth. Follow the
international laws of warfare. An enemy army in taking a
city does not touch the civilian population, but does seize the
military stores and government possessions. When you meet
a band of soldiers, attack them and appropriate their arms
and horses and whatever they have. Do not turn your weapons
against the harmless and defenseless population. One thing I
want especially to emphasize, Respect the women of the en-
emy."

These words of the Leader were received with approval.
Now the meeting was open for questions.

Vahan, one of the captains, desired to know if provision
of weapons had been made for a long siege. "We can procure
enough food," he said, "from the city and the villages. But
what about arms and ammunition? Some of the muskets our
men possess, are old fashioned and are not of much use in an
emergency. I propose that we organize a band of volunteers,
to go to the city by night and attack the government magazine
and carry off some of the guns stored there. I am willing to
lead the assault if my proposition is accepted."

Several men volunteered to join him.

"That is a good scheme," said another captain," but is
it practical? Does anyone know how strongly the depository
is guarded?"

"With our present number and the means we have at our
disposal, I do not think we could succeed," answered Arshak,
a former teacher in one of the schools of Sivas. "As far as I
know the armory is well protected. It is a building next to the
barracks and watch is kept day and night."

"It would be wiser to wait until more favorable condi-
tions present themselves and we are sure of success," added
another.

One of the comrades asked: "What should be done if a
Kurd or a Turk, unaware of our presence, accidentally ap-
proaches our position?"



112 THE ETERNAL STRUGGLE

"If he comes near enough to discover our camp, you have
no alternative. It is necessary to silence him," answered Aryan.

Everyone understood the meaning of that statement.

Just then the bugle was sounded calling the men to arms.
The meeting was immediately broken up and every one ran
to his place of defense.

Their activities consisted mainly of molesting the gov-
ernment and the military authorities. When they found a de-
tachment of soldiers outside the city, they attacked them and
took possession of their rifles and cartridges.

Sometimes, under the leadership of one of the captains,
they organized raiding parties upon the strongholds of the
Kurdish sheiks who were notorious for the damage they had
done to the Armenian villagers.

The raiders would suddenly appear before a settlement,
surround the residence of the chief and, after a bloody fight,
carry off as much booty as they could. On these occasions
they made a point of searching the houses for captive girls
who had been abducted by the Kurds. If they found any, they
returned them safely to their parents. The avengers were care-
ful to carry on these marauding excursions far from their
headquarters, in order not to betray its location, and returned
by two's and three's, by devious ways.

One of these predatory incursions is now commemorated
each year as "The Expedition of Khanassor."

On the plateau of Khanassor, near the Persian boundary,
lived a Kurdish clan under a chieftain known as Sharaf Bey.
This man and his Mazrik tribe were celebrated for their fiend-
ish cruelty and bloodthirsty ferocity. During the massacres,
they had assisted in the butchering of many defenseless Christ-
ian villagers, for which service the Great Assassin had sent
to Sharaf Bey a firman a special edict of approbation and
ratification.

The limit of endurance was reached, when a company of
Armenian volunteers, about 800 in number, under the guidance
of Avedissian, a brave and able leader, retreating from a
powerful enemy after an engagement, were attacked treach-
erously from behind, near the monastery of St. Bartholomew,
by this Mazrik clan and cut down unsparingly.

A plan of expedition was formed and volunteers were
called to the ranks. Captain Vartan was elected to take charge
of the raid. They arrived at the foothills of Araoul, near the



VENGEANCE 113



plains where Sharef Bey had encamped with his followers and
women. It was a dark night. Vartan distributed his men at
strategic points. When the twilight partially illuminated the
face of the country, the black tents of the Mazriks could be
distinguished, with their pointed roofs. The beseigers were
waiting impatiently for the signal of attack, filled with the
bitter feeling of vengeance. Vartan was watchng with eagle
eyes for a sign of life among the tents. At last the Kurds began
to stir; the women lit the fires and prepared the coffee; the
men came out into the open, to the cool fresh air. They were
unaware of the danger lurking around them. Suddenly the
blast of a volley of a hundred rifles reverberated in the calm
morning air. At the same instant about as many Kurds fell.
They were certainly taken by surprise. Those inside the tents
did not know what was happening. They grasped their guns
and rushed out. They were shot down as they searched vainly
for the enemy. It did not last very long. Women, pressing bab-
ies to their breasts, were running to and fro. At last when
comparative quiet was established, Vartan, speaking in Kurd-
ish, assured them that no harm would come to the women
and children.

But where was Sharaf Bey all this time. Nobody had seen
him leave his tent. When the attackers entered, they could
see only a bunch of females herded together in one corner.
Sharaf Bey had escaped, disguised as a woman. Coward that
he was, he did not have the nerve to stand and fight like a
man. His sword and the royal firman fell into the hands of the
revolutionaries as a souvenir to remind the future generations
of this memorable act of vengeance and the annihilation of
a tribe of cut-throats. The tents were fired and Vartan left
with his followers, leaving behind him a heap of ashes to show
Abd-ul-Hamid that savage methods could be reciprocated and
that the law of retaliation existed even in Turkey and there
were men who could enforce it.

There was great rejoicing at the headquarters when the
raiders came back safely and related the success of the cam-
paign. The loot they brought with them augmented their sup-
plies.

Aryan was continually on the lookout for a chance to
cause damage to the government. He had chosen a high pin-
nacle where he often repaired and with his binoculars survey-
ed the surrounding country. Sometimes he would descry far



1 14 THE ETERNAL STRUGGLE

away on the highway a band of Armenian prisoners being
deported to the Syrian desert in the south. Marking where
they had camped along the road and measuring the strength
of the convoy, he organized a rescue party, killed the guard
and delivered the captives. This happened several times. The
central government in Sivas could not find any trace of these
rescuers. From all appearances it was the work of the revolu-
tionaries. Supposing that they had taken refuge in the neigh-
boring mountains, the Vali sent a detachment of soldiers to
discover their hiding place. The squad never returned. A
stronger force was dispatched. This also fell in a trap. Only
two wounded privates escaped and crawled back to the city
to tell what they had seen.

In those days a Major arrived from the north with auth-
ority to command the army division of the city. When he
learned that there was a body of revolutionaries hidden in
the nearby mountains, he decided personally to arrest them.

"I have had dealings with the Armenians in the past," he
told the Vali, "I am acquainted with the method of their activ-
ity. I have an old score to settle with them. You prepare a
line of gallows in the public square. In a few days I will de-
liver these obnoxious bandits into your hands."

The Major was a stranger to the environs of the country.
He selected two mountaineers to lead the way. A whole week
was spent in exploring the hills and the valleys. The Armen-
ians did not stir from their place, but through spies they fol-
lowed the movements of the Turkish army. Aryan did not
consider it wise to come out to the open field and give battle
to a much larger army of trained soldiers, with their modern
rifles and inexhaustible ammunition.

An incident, however, revealed the place of hiding of the
Armenians. A gang of Kurdish Hamediahs had received word
from the central government to go and join the Major's army
and to undertake the duty of guiding him. The Kurds were
familiar with mountains. In order to gain time, instead of fol-
lowing the highway, they cut through a ravine, which led
directly to the Armenian headquarters.

A sentinel saw them at a distance and reported to Aryan
that a number of horsemen were approaching by way of the
narrow passage between the hills. They could be seen, about
twenty of them, advancing slowly and laboriously, because



VENGEANCE 115



of the uneven and stony ground. There was no other alterna-
tive. They must be stopped.

Aryan posted about a dozen men behind the big boulders
along the defile. He, himself, with two aides, stood openly in
the middle of the track. When the Kurds were just leaving
the stony ground and trying to reach the comparatively
smooth bottom of the valley, to gain more speed, they sudden-
ly heard a voice calling upon them to stop and surrender. Im-
pulsively they reached for their guns. The signal was given
and the firing began. From unexpected spots a shower of lead
poured upon them. Not a chance was given them to shoot. Ar-
yan himself dropped the leader. The Kurds fell to the ground
one after the other like a pack of wolves caught in a trap.

One of them, who was riding a strong horse, realizing
in time the hoplessness of the situation, he turned his horse's
head and tried to escape. He spotted a fox trail going up the
mountain. He took it. In spite of the arduous climbing he soon
was out of sight. The Armenians, however, had seen him. Two
of them followed on foot. After a while they saw him. Be-
cause of the distance and the rocky hillside, their aim did not
take effect. They persisted in pursuing him. Sometimes he was
altogether lost sight. The trail ended at a projection with
a precipice of a hundred feet deep. The fugitive was nowhere
to be seen. When they investigated more closely, they found
the horse lying dead at the bottom of the pit with broken legs.
He had jumped from that prominence, killed his horse and
made his get-away.

They returned to the camp and reported their failure.
It was easy to predict what would happen. The escaped Kurd
would find his way to the Turkish camp and render an account
of the calamity which the Hamediah band had encountered. He
would be able to lead the Major to their stronghold.

Aryan ordered his bugler to summon the men to the
center. When they had gathered together, he addressed them,
saying, "Comrades, our hiding place is discovered by the en-
emy. One of the Kurds has escaped. We shall soon come face
to face with the Turkish army. It is most important to know
this fact and be prepared for the imminent encounter. Every
captain should be on duty and occupy with his contingent the
place assigned to him. Do not leave your barricades under any
circumstances. Be on the alert continuously. Fortify the weak
points of your entrenchments. Add artificial strength on the



VI6 THE ETERNAL STRUGGLE

natural one to your defensive work. We have an abundant sup-
ply of guns and ammunitions, but they are not inexhaustible.
Do not waste them. Let every individual make it a matter of
honor that his ball finds its mark."

"Captain Aznavourian is supervisor of the fortifications.
He will inspect every position carefully. Consider yourselves
in a state of war, day and night. The half of the company
sleeps and the other half keeps watch. Sleep with guns in
your hands and the cartridge belt on. You will be apprized of
the approach of the enemy."

"Miroyan's company will stay in the center on horse
back, as reserves wherever and whenever needed.

"If we can resist the first offensive successfully, you may
be sure that a larger army will be sent against us. Remember
Vartan the Brave who, with a handful of soldiers, opposed a
great Persian army. Although he died, he invested himself
with immortal glory. We are fighting for the same cause and
have the same odds against us. Let the Turk know that we
are not afraid to die. Long live Armenia!"

Aryan had hardly ceased speaking when Arshak Ayvaz-
ian, a well known man of letters, stood up and making a sign
to others, began to sing:

"I am a son of Dalvorik,

Not the child of a weakling;

Son of the hills, child of the rocks,

A true chip of the ancient oaks.

"A fearless son of Dalvorik,

I bend no head to enemy,

A free lad of hills and cloughs,

Have not handled spades nor ploughs."
Aryan was standing on a high rock. When they came to
the chorus, he told them to rise. "Sing, all of you." The strong
voices of a couple of hundred young men echoed from the
surrounding mountains and reverberated over the valleys :

"My brothers, brave brothers,

I am a son of Dalvorik,

For freedom's sake, come, follow me:

Forward, onward, to victory."

Nothing unusual happened that night. Here and there
the outlines of a man could be distinguished moving among
the rocks, reconnoitering the land.



VENGEANCE 117



At the break of day, Aryan was in his high watch-tower
surveying the surrounding country with his field glasses. He
could see the Turkish army waking. There was brisk activity,
evidence of an imminent offensive. He came back to the camp
and sent word to each company to be ready for an assault.

The Turks began to move forward. They were advancing
on foot and horseback. The commander was leading them. Ar-
yan tried to determine his rank. He was wearing the insignia
of a major. His face could not be clearly distinguished. It was
not possible to say whether he was the same officer who had
visited the prison during the clash between Turks and Armen-
ians. Arusag, who was standing beside in man's clothing, as
his body guard, took the field glasses and turned it towards
the major. Suddenly she changed color; her hands trembled.

"What is it? What has happened?" Aryan asked.

"I am only disconcerted. What a strange coincidence ! Do
you see that man? It is Major Hakky Bey, my old enemy. He
is the man. You know the story. Now once more he confronts
me."

Aryan raised his glasses and scrutinized the man. He
took careful measurement of his physical strength. He was
satified. The Major was not a weakling. A fierce expression
manifested itself on Aryan's face. He remained motionless in
deep thought for a moment. Then tearing a page from his note
book, he wrote on it in French :

"Major Hakky Bey; My name is Levon, I have a per-
sonal account to settle with you. It concerns the Armenian
nurse who cared for your sick wife. I challenge you to a duel,
with whatever weapon you prefer pistols or swords, or un-
armed if you so choose on neutral ground, in the presence
of both armies."

He folded the paper, tied it to a piece of stone and calling
Karekin, gave it to him: "Go down this hill and hide behind
that projection. When you see Turkish soldiers approaching,
throw this stone and tell them it is for the commander."

Aryan and Arusag stood there watching Karekin closely,
guarding him with their guns. After a few minutes he return-
ed, running from boulder to boulder to avoid the Turkish fire.

Less than half an hour had passed, when a soldier was
seen coming up the hill with a white flag. Karekin once more
went down in the same way and brought the answer: "The
Commander of the Imperial Ottoman Army would consider



118 THE ETERNAL STRUGGLE

it beneath his dignity to measure strength with a common
rebel. I have come to arrest you. Wisdom would dictate that
you surrender without compelling me to shed your blood.
Signed, Hakky Bey."

Aryan gave the paper to Arusag, mounted his horse and
went around on a tour of inspection of the positions. Arusag
and Karekin followed him.

Gradually one side of the hill was covered with
Turkish soldiers ; the side which was relatively more accessible
to the top. The Major had no knowledge of the strength of
the insurgents. He felt contempt for the Armenians as fighters.
He viewed the whole situation with a scornful eye. Therefore,
ignoring all precautions, he ordered a general assault. Aryan's
tactics were always to wait for the enemy until he came near
enough to shoot with ease. A pistol shot from the watch tower
gave the signal to fire. Within a second the entire face of the
hill was alive with men. The incessant volleys soon cleared
the advanced ranks of the Turks. From the valley further
down the bugle sounded for advance. The firing extended from
one end of the line of battle to the other. A body of Kurdish
horsemen was trying to force its way into the plateau from
the rear on the eastern side where the ground was rocky. This
was foreseen and the place had been strongly fortified. Horses
and riders fell among the boulders as soon as they appeared.

At about ten o'clock the battle was raging fiercely. Sev-
eral charges were repulsed successfully. The Turks formed
storming parties and tried to find the vulnerable points in the
defenses. Everywhere they met unfailing opposition.

Aryan was going from position to position, encouraging
his men. "Keep calm and cool. Ours is the victory. The enemy
shows signs of weakness. He has many casualties."

The sun had just passed the meridian when it was ob-
served that the Turkish firing slowed down noticeably. Aryan
did not believe that the enemy was retiring. He would not
give way so easily. It was a ruse. Through his field glasses
he surveyed the entire battle front. There was a commotion
towards the south. Leaping on his horse, he hastened to the
place. The Turks had concentrated their firing on that point
from a comparatively safe position. They had found a depres-
sion in the side of the mountain, and from behind projecting
rocks they were battering the southernmost entrenchment.
This flanking attack disconcerted the defenders. The Armen-



VENGEANCE 119



ians were fighting desperately, but could not hold their ground
under the heavy pressure of the enemy. They were gradually
retreating.

Aryan arrived just in time. He sent Karekin to the cen-
ter, to tell Miroyan to bring his company. As soon as they
came, he told them to dismount and follow him. The retiring
defenders, seeing help coming to them, renewed their efforts
and increased their resistance. Aryan led the newcomers
through dangerous but passable ways up to a higher eleva-
tion behind the Turkish position. It was a precarious location,
hardly a place for a foothold. Clinging to wild brushwood,
each man found a lodgment for himself.

"Fire!" came the voice of command. The Turks were
overwhelmed with consternation. No one could stand against
the devastating storm of bullets. Volley after volley swept
the platform. They left their position precipitately, leaving
many dead behind them.

The Turkish soldiers, in their haste to seek safe refuge,
were completely disorganized. They ran here and there in con-
fusion and unwittingly became open targets. When the place
was cleared, Aryan led his men down the mountain side to
search for fugitives. Some were hiding behind big boulders
and were caught and put to death. A captain, with about a
score of soldiers, surrendered.

"Drop your guns on the ground and hold up your hands,"
commanded Aryan. He detailed half a dozen of his followers
to escort the prisoners to the center. Meanwhile the battle was
still going on intermittently at various points. He turned his
attention to these places. With his reserve force, he visited the
station where activity prevailed. It was not difficult to rout
the Turks in their present demoralized condition.

At about four o'clock in the afternoon, the fighting dim-
inished appreciably. Gradually the field was cleared.

Aryan took with him a number of men and went down to
inspect the field of battle and to collect the rifles of the dead
soldiers. While he was busy with this work, some of the fol-
lowers drew his attention to a group of Turks behind the shel-
ter of a rock not far away. They were occupied with a wound-
ed person and trying to administer first aid. Aryan approached
them carefully. It was the Major, lying in the shadow, uncon-
scious. He was badly wounded. Arusag at once drew near and
told the men to remove his coat. The wound was exposed. A



THE ETERNAL STRUGGLE



bullet had entered his chest just above the heart, and lodged
under the skin at the back. From a small case of medical neces-
sities which she carried with her, Arusag took a roll of steril-
ized cotton, and with the help of the men, tied it tightly on
the injured place. Then they carried him, on an improvised
stretcher, to the camp.

All of the prisoners were gathered in a cave and guarded
by two men, who were told to shoot any who attempted to
escape.

Each captain was ordered to call the roll of his men.
The Armenian casualties were fifteen dead and about twenty
wounded.

While Aryan and the other men were occupied with var-
ious duties of the camp, Arusag was left alone with the wound-
ed and unconscious Major. Once more she examined him and
found that the cotton needed changing. She put out her hand
to open the case. She hesitated : "Why should I take so much
trouble for him," she thought. "Here he is, my enemy. He is
at my mercy. Should I help him? Would it be right to use
these precious materials for an enemy when they are needed
for our own wounded. Vengeance is sweet. It is not necessary
to put a knife into his heart. If he were left to his fate, with-
out aid from me, the injury would do its work. The blood
would flow to the last drop and reduce the unconscious body
to a corpse."

There was another voice, however, speaking from the
bottom of her heart. "A fallen enemy deserves compassion,
he is worthy of help." The question was not how the Turk
would behave under the same conditions. Her innate good
heartedness, her Christian education, and perhaps a little of
the inalienable mercy of her sex, united to defeat the tempta-
tion.

While she was proceeding with the work of changing the
dressing, the Major unconsciously lifted his hand and put it
on the wound. Arusag was once more agitated. She saw the
scar which her bullet had left. Her memory awakened. Her
thoughts went back to the scene, when every entreaty, every
word of pursuasion, every appeal to his sense of honor, fell
on the deaf ears of the passion-maddened man, until she was
compelled to defend herself with a gun. She remembered the
time, when escaping from the house, she had heard the Major



VENGEANCE 121



rap out a quick command to his orderly to bring her back
dead or alive.

Hakky Bey gradually opened his eyes. He asked for
water. After drinking, he once more fell on his back, insensible
to his surroundings. The movement had caused him pain. Aru-
sag put one or two drops of stimulant in his mouth. After a
while consciousness returned. He looked around and slowly
realized the situation. "I presume that the Armenians have
won the battle and have taken me prisoner," he said in a weak
voice. "I am fatally wounded and cannot last long. It is better
so. I must confess that the Armenians fought well and were
skillfully marshaled. Who is their leader?"

"Levon is our commander," answered Arusag.

"What! Levon? That notorious rebel?" he exclaimed.

"Levon is not a rebel," said Arusag, more vehemently
than the occasion warranted. "He is a man of high education,
speaks several languages, and is an architect by profession. He


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Online LibraryH. M KnadjianThe eternal struggle; a word picture of Armenia's fight for freedom → online text (page 12 of 21)