H. M Knadjian.

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

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side and slaughtered. I was tired and hungry. The room was
crowded and suffocating. There was not even space to stretch
one's self on the ground and rest. I spoke to on eof my ac-
quaintances and asked him about the members of my family.
He said he heard that all of them were killed. They had gath-
ered with several families in a neighbor's house and the Turks
had discovered them and put them to the sword. Later news
proved that fortunately he was misinformed. Somehow the
night spent itself and at last the dawn peeped through the
small window, gray and sad.

In the stillness of the morning, the boom of a gun rent
the air. It was the signal to begin the bloody operation. The
work was not completed to the satisfaction of the authorities.
Another day of carnage started. It continued until nightfall.
Two entire days of massacre and bloodshed, and then it was
over. Peace was re-established.

The news of my arrival soon spread in the city. My
mother came to see me. After so many years of separation,
we could only look at each other at a distance through the iron
bars of the prison. She told me that my father was absent
from home, in Aleppo, and that all my younger brothers were
safe. But our house and store had been plundered.

"Never mind," I said, "lost property can be replaced.
Thank God that we have no loss of life."

After keeping me in prison for two more weeks, they
liberated me when a friend of my father's bribed a Moslem to
go bail for me. No Christian's pledge was acceptable. I was
ordered not to leave the city and to report to the Police Head-
quarters once a week.



What do these worthies
But rob and spoil, burn, slaughter, and enslave

peaceable nations, neighboring or remote,
Made captive, yet deserving freedom more
Than those their conquerors, <who leave behind
Nothing but ruin wheresoever they rove,
And all the flourishing works of peace destroy;
Then swell with pride, and must be titled . . ,
Great benefactors of mankind.


At the first outbreak of hostilities, the Armenians of Our-
fa defended themselves more or less successfully, in spite of
the fact that there did not exist an efficiently organized body
of fighters. The revolutionary activities had not yet extended
as far as this ancient capital of King Abgar, in northern Mes-
opotamia, about twenty miles south of which is located the
Biblical City of Haran, where Abraham sojourned on his way
to the land of Canaan. News traveled very slowly in Turkey.
Rumors of fighting were heard now and then, but, with few
exceptions, the public generally did not know what was going
on in other parts of the country.

There were bands of young men in the city, who carried
on an illegal business by smuggling tobacco and selling it
cheaply in competition with the company which had the mon-
opoly in this industry. They often had encounters with the
patrols. One group rose to prominence by its daring acts. The
leader, Bakaghenzt Abojig, had spread terror among the com-
pany's men. When he heard that the Turks were going to at-
tack the Armenians, he gathered his followers and prepared
for the fight. Soon other bands joined him. When the assault
started, they began to shoot from street corners and roofs of
the houses. More Moslems fell in this first attempt than Christ-
ians. Only those who were caught outside the city limits for-
feited their lives. After a few unsuccessful attempts, the Turks
withdrew and regular soldiers took their place. The order was
not to shoot, but to stand guard. The government proclaimed
peace and commanded both sides to lay down their weapons.

As in other cities, in Ourfa too, the Turkish authorities
followed the usual tactics of prevarication and duplicity. They
assembled the leaders of two communities with the apparent


intention of establishing peace between them. The Armenians
of Ourfa were new to the game. They fell easily into the trap
that was set for them. The governor expressed deep sorrow
for the clash and the loss of life. He attributed the conflict to
the turbulent element of the population. "Those desperate
smugglers should be repressed," he said. "They have carried
on their nefarious trade against the government too long. Re-
cent events have opened the eyes of the Police Department
and it is decided to clear the city of these pests. You, good
and faithful subjects of the Sultan, must assist us in this work.
You know who they are and where they live. If they are dis-
armed, no more mischief will be done. You go to the smugglers
and exhort them to give up their firearms. But in order not
to excite their suspicion, I will issue a proclamation, ordering
all the people to surrender their weapons to avoid further dis-
turbances. I charge you to go to every individual and make
him swear on the Bible, that he has delivered all the means of
combat in his possession. Admonish everybody to live quietly
and to occupy himself with a lawful and useful trade."

The Armenian leaders answered, "Balee, Effendim,"
(Yes, Sir), and departed. They agreed with the words of the
governor. They were peace-loving men. There was no reason
to quarrel with their Turkish neighbors. The political cause
behind this turmoil all over the country was unknown to them.
Submission to the government would safeguard their lives
and property, they thought. Consequently, they started to dis-
charge the duty laid upon them with enthusiasm. The district
was divided among them and each group went from house to
house, advising and urging the inmates to hand over weapons
of any description, to show their loyalty to the authorities. No
opposition of any serious consequence was encountered. Only
Abojig and his band resisted. They refused to part with their
firearms. No persuasive word or threat of punishment could
induce them. Abojig went so far as to declare that any one
who came to his house for this purpose would be shot. Apart
from that, however, a large collection of miscellaneous weap-
ons muskets, pistols, swords, daggers were produced and
delivered to the police department.

Two weeks after the disarming of the people, there was
a commotion in the city one morning. A rumor circulated that
Abojig, with his entire band and several hundred other young
men were arrested secretly during the night and thrown into


prison. These were the men who had refused to give up their
weapons. The leaders of the nation had betrayed them. The
dwelling places of all those who had remained obdurate against
moral persuasion were noted, and late at night an army of
zaptiahs and volunteers had fallen upon and seized them un-

This method of procedure of the leading men provoked
indignation against them. Bitter resentment was expressed by
the friends and relatives of the prisoners. They were consider-
ed the backbone of the community. It was through their brave
defense that the city was saved from a terrible carnage. Now,
the people felt helpless at the mercy of the enemy.

But the councillors did not feel that they had done
wrong. It was all for the common good. These young men
would stay out of mischief until the storm passed over. They
would be released as soon as calm was restored. That was
their argument. Nothing treasonable about that. Only they
were not far-sighted enough to realize the possible results of
this action. They were not traitors not at all. Their only
fault was, that after living so many years with the Turk and
coming into contact with him, they had not learned the Turk-
ish character. Especially those who had held office in the
government and had a large circle of friends among them
should have known better than to trust their word. However,
is was perhaps providential that the lives of these young men
were spared during the second outbreak for a future reprisal.

One Friday, just a month after the first encounter, (the
Moslem Sunday), an unusually large crowd gathered in the
mosques for midday prayer. An agitation was noticed among
them. The hojas (teachers) were preaching from the pulpits,
fiery sermons against the infidels and pointing out the blissful
lot of those who fall in the fight for religion. There was some-
thing in the air. The Moslems kept silent, avoiding the Christ-
ians. When this was not possible, their looks spoke volumes
and clearly expressed impending calamity.

The Armenians became suspicious. They were careful not
to give any cause for offense. Some of them closed their shops
earlier than usual and retired to their homes.

On the following morning, Saturday, very few went
downtown to do business. The market place was deserted.
They were alert and watchful, ready to escape at the first sign
of danger.


Soon the signal was given; the first gun was discharged
from the hill on the west side of the Armenian quarter and
the attack began. It was altogether a one-sided affair. The
Armenians, deprived of all means of self-defense, could not
resist the onslaught of the Mohammedan hordes and were cut
down without mercy. They discovered too late that they had
been deceived. After their weapons had been collected and the
young warriors had been cast into prison, the work of butcher-
ing them had become easy. The Turkish mob entered the
streets of the Armenian quarter unhindered, without fear or
hesitation, and put to death unsparingly, every one they met
in their progress. Even the houses were not safe. Locked doors
were broken ; the barricaded entrances were smashed, and the
inmates were killed. Axes, swords, daggers and clubs were
used. Leaders had firearms. The voice of the mullah was heard
on all sides, calling upon Allah to help.

Some of the houses had underground cellars; those who
could escape took refuge in them. When the Turks discovered
their location, they opened the covers, brought out all the men
and stabbed them to death. Even the wells, where a few per-
sons had hidden themselves, were investigated. Large stones
and other articles were thrown down to crush them. A fellow
was caught. He asked for mercy. The leader told him that if
he would kiss the end of his gun his life would be spared. As
soon as his lips came in a level with the gun, he pulled the
trigger and blew out his brains.

The women and children were not harmed. In accordance
with the government orders, they were all gathered in the
mosques and kept under guard. Many of the good looking
young girls were kidnapped and some of them never returned
to their parents, even after the massacre.

There were two big churches in Ourfa. The first and the
largest was Saint Mary's Apostolical Cathedral, a sanctuary
about two hundred years old. The second was the National
Evangelical Church. They were both splendid, imposing
structures, with high domes, marble columns and strong, mas-
sive walls. Both buildings were crammed with fugitives. Every
one who could escape took refuge in one or the other of these
churches. On the first day of the massacre, the mobsters did
not bother themselves about them. They were too busy,
slaughtering those near at hand and plundering the houses and


stores. On the second day they turned their attention to the

The Evangelical Church was near the residence of the
American Missionaries; only a low wall separated them. The
resident missionary in Ourfa at that time was a single woman,
Miss Corinne Shattuck. The convulsion and anarchy actually
in existence around her, brought out the heroic nature of this
woman's character. Weak and frail in constitution, she had a
noble and fearless heart. Holding the American flag in her
hand, Miss Shattuck stood on the threshold of her home and
in their own language, ordered the mob to disperse. Could a
feeble sapling prevent the mountain torrent from rushing
down the valley? The blood thirsty hell hounds were daunted.
They suddenly came to a stand still at the sight of this in-
trepid woman.

"This is an American institution," she declared, "and
enjoys the protection of the American government. Whoever
dares to enter it, does so at his own risk. This flag stands for
a powerful army of a friendly nation. The man who tries to
ignore it will run into danger of losing his life."

"But we want the Armenians," said one of the leaders of
the mob. "We will not harm you. You stand one side."

"The Armenians are my people; no one can take them
away from me."

"Push that woman away and let us go in," shouted one
of the crowd at the back. Newcomers were continually added
and the situation was getting desperate.

"You can only pass through this door over my dead
body!" announced Miss Shattuck, with a voice that could be
heard above the din of the rabble.

Nobody dared to take the first step. They withdrew a
little way and held a consultation among themselves. Soon
after, one of them separated himself from the crowd and ran
towards the government house. Miss Shattuck knew the rea-
son. They wanted to ask the permission of the higher officials
to break through and enter into a foreign residence. They were
afraid to take the responsibility upon themselves.

She produced a small pocket book and wrote in it: "I am
murdered with the consent of the government." She was anx-
ious to let her friends know in case the answer confirmed the
desired assault.


Evidently the word brought back was favorable for her.
The rabble scattered. The church with all its multitudes of ref-
ugees was saved.

The fate of the cathedral was not so fortunate. It did
not have outside protection. About two thousand souls were
packed in the huge building, mostly women and children. They
were left at the mercy of the enemy.

St. Mary's Cathedral was a massive structure, with thick
stone walls and iron doors, like a fortress. Its high windows
made it difficult of access. A fairly strong wall surrounded
the spacious courtyard, which was also a cemetery. The gates
were made of iron bars.

When the Turks arrived at the main entrance, they found
it securely closed. To break through was not an easy task.
They went around the wall and found the weakest point and
made a hole in it. They poured through by hundreds. The
doors of the main auditorium were fastened and bolted from
within. The windows were too high. They seemed at a loss
for a moment. They milled around among the graves shout-
ing, threatening, gesticulating, discharging their guns. A mol-
lah went up the steps of the episcopate and with a loud voice
proclaimed that all the lives within the church were a corban
to God (a bloody offering to Allah), ending with the usual
Mohammedan formula. Just then someone suggested an easy
way of destroying the whole crowd of ensnared and defense-
less humanity. A shout of triumph went up. No sooner said
than done. It did not take them long to procure a quantity of
petroleum, which they poured inside the windows and set it
on fire. It is not to be imagined what happened in the holy
sanctuary during the hours that followed. The kerosene spread
along the floor carrying death and destruction with it. Soon
the entire structure was in flames. The fire could not reach
the high gallery; but the heavy smoke was enough to suffo-
cate those who tried to find shelter there. At last someone
opened the main door from the inside. A crowd rushed out.
The Turks standing in front of it were shooting at them pro-
miscuously. Those not burned to death inside were shot down
and killed outside. Only about three hundred persons, at their
last extremity found the way to the roof and remained there
until the end, at all hazards of the collapsing of the building.
These and a few others, miraculously escaped with their lives.

Is there anything parallel to this fiendish destruction of


life in the annals of history? Nero ordered the cold-blooded
slaughter of the Christians, whom he blamed as the cause of
the burning of Rome. Attila laid waste many countries and
massacred wholesale, those who made no resistance. Genghiz
Khan destroyed a dozen cities, inflicting death and torture
upon thousands who dared to oppose him. But never has such
a carnage been perpetrated anywhere as it was in the church
in Ourfa. The heaped up bodies of the burned or slain men,
women and children presented a frightful sight. It haunted
one for weeks and months. The smoke continued for days.
The walls were spattered with blood. Parts of human bodies
stuck to the cement floor. The beautiful chancel with all its
sacred vessels and rare relics was transformed into a mass
of rubbish. One could do nothing but lament with the Psalm-
ist: "They have cast fire into Thy sanctuary, O God, they
have defiled the dwelling place of Thy name."

Many pathetic stories are related in this connection.

A young mother, with her two babies, had taken refuge
in the gallery, after her husband was killed. As the flames
began to spread on the floor of the church, a Turk, watching
through the window, saw her and was struck with her comeli-
ness. He wanter to save her and to possess her. As soon as the
door was thown open, he rushed in, mounted the stairs, and
stood beside her. "Come quick. Save yourself and your babies."

"No, I will not come," she answered.

"But you will be burned to death here,' he cautioned her.

"I would rather die than go with a Turk."

He tried to persuade her: "I will be a good husband to
you. I will take care of your children. Have pity on them."

"Go away. Leave me alone."

Seeing that the time was short and words were of no
avail, he took hold of her arm and forcibly dragged her away.
The babies began to cry. She felt helpless. Suddenly she yield-

"Wait," she said, "lead the way." She made as if she
were going to take the babies up to follow him. The Turk
was duped. As soon as his back was turned, she grasped her
precious darlings to her breast, and in the twinkling of an
eye, leaped over the railing, into the lake of raging flames
below, calling upon Christ to receive her soul.

There was a rich Armenian, a member of the Civil Coun-
cil of the Turkish government, a man of high standing with


the community. His name was Ohan Effendi Ounjian. He had
taken a leading part in collecting the weapons from the people.
When the massacre broke out for the second time, he was
utterly stunned. He could not understand it at all. He had
been promised by the governor himself that there would be
no disturbance in the city, no clash between the Moslem and
the Christian elements of the population. He prepared to go
to the serai at once and remonstrate with the authorities. As
he stepped out and turned towards the Turkish quarter, he
saw a motley crowd of Mohammedans advancing, with swords
waving and guns threatening. Immediately he turned back.
His house was in the path of the oncoming rabble. He gather-
ed all the members of his family, and from a back door,
through the Armenian streets, arrived at the Cathedral. He
found the place filled to excess. He was still there in the gal-
lery when the church was set on fire.

A young man seeing him cringing in a corner said, "Ohan
Effendi, it was you who caused us to be left defenseless, tak-
ing away from us the few arms that we had ; you are respons-
ible for this bloodshed."

"You are right, my son," he mourned in a pitiful voice.
"I was deceived with the others. The governor promised pro-
tection and I believed him. They used me as an instrument to
destroy my own people. Woe is me!"

"But you had been with the Turks so many years, you
should have known better. Now, what are you going to do?"

"To die with my people. It is a just punishment for my
colossal stupidity. But I did it with the best intentions. God
help me !" He never tried to save himself. Like a good captain,
he remained where he was and perished with the rest.

That same young man, whose name was Haroutun Ek-
mekjian, stood at the entrance, watching for a chance to es-
cape. He saw a burly Turk, swinging a huge sword in his
hand and challenging anybody to come out. Flying at him
like a tiger, he twisted the sword from his hand, with breath-
less impetuosity, laid it on the man's bare and bald head,
deep and true. He rushed at the next assailant and drove the
sharp point into his heart. Swiftly he dashed at the thickly-
pressed mob and ran riot among them, killing some, wounding
others, without a moment's rest, until a soldier in the crowd
shot him to death.


At night when the Turks withdrew, those who had es-
caped to the roof of the church came down stealthily and dis-
appeared in the dark.

Others also, who had hidden themselves in the balconies,
or stood near the open windows, breathing fresh air, survived.

We must bear witness to the fact that some of the prom-
inent Turks did not approve of this indiscriminate butchering
of an innocent people. In defiance of the stringent orders to
give no quarter to the Armenians, at least two of them open-
ed their doors wide and received as many as they could into
their protection. Especially one, Haji Kiamil Bey, saved hun-
dreds of lives, among them the life of my younger brothers.

There were at this time two eminent clergymen in Ourfa.
Archbishop Khoran Mukhitarian, a learned divine and the
author of several books, and Reverend Hagop Abuhiattian, the
Pastor of the Evangelical Church, a graduate of the university
of Basel.

The Archbishop was residing in Saint Sarkis monastery,
outside the ancient walls, about a mile west of the city. On
the first day of the massacre, two zaptiahs presented them-
selves to him and giving the governor's regards asked him to
remain where he was. They told him that the city was unsafe
because of a small disturbance. When he tried to question
them, they affected ignorance. "We know nothing about it.
We have only come to protect you."

"But why should I need protection? And from whom?"
he asked again.

"From any marauders who might try to molest you. And
to make assurance doubly sure, we would kindly request you
to stay in your room." So saying, they left quietly, closed the
door behind them gently and locked it.

The Archbishop realized that he was a prisoner in his
own house. The situation must be serious. What was happen-
ing in the city? He rang for his servant. One of the zaptiahs
answered: "What can I do for you?" he asked.

"Send my servant to me."

"I am sorry, he cannot come. I will render whatever serv-
ice you desire."

Evidently his attendant was in custody too.

"Very well, prepare my horse. I want to go to the serai
and see the Mutasarif."

"No, Effendi. It is prohibited. The streets are not safe."


"You can come with me," the Prelate insisted.

"My orders forbid me to leave this place. No harm must
reach you."

There were several families living in the monastery. Gen-
erally, they could be heard talking and moving about in the
compound. Today, silence prevailed. No noise came to him
as yet from the city, because of a hill which intervened.

The Archbishop's room was on the second floor and had
windows that looked towards the east. It communicated on
the north side with a walled roof which served him as a prom-
enade. As he was walking about in this place, he sighted men
running down the hill, coming from the city. When they ap-
proached, they told him that the whole Armenian quarter
was overrun by a Turkish mob that was massacring and plun-
dering without opposition. The gates of the monastery were
all strongly fastened by the zaptiahs. The fugitives from the
city could not get in. They suggested climbing over the walls
and killing the Turks.

"No, you cannot do that," he said, forbidding them to
act rashly. "You must hide yourselves in the vineyards around
the place, until the storm passes over."

His Eminence was kept a prisoner, under lock and key,
during the two days of the massacre. The officers brought him
food and served him in every way they could. They were re-
spectful in their own way. Evidently his life was being spared
by a higher authority. It was surmised by some that as Arch-
bishop Khoren had once been an acting patriarch in Constan-
tinople and was well known in government circles and among
the European Ambassadors, it would be unwise to destroy
him with his people and in this way draw the attention of the
foreign powers to the enormity of the carnage.

It was on the second day, Sunday morning, as he was
praying, he heard a woman's voice in one of the rooms along
the corridor. Listening more attentively, he recognized the

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Online LibraryH. M KnadjianThe eternal struggle; a word picture of Armenia's fight for freedom → online text (page 15 of 21)