H. M Knadjian.

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

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"What is his name?" asked the chief of police.

"Sisak," she answered.

"Sisak what?"

"I do not know his second name. We used to call him
'Monsieur Sisak.' He said he came from France."

"Was he an Armenian?"

"I suppose so. He spoke Armenian."

"What is his native town? I mean where was he born?"

"I do not know."

"Had he any firearms?"

"I have never seen any."

"What was his occupation?"

"I do not know."

Afterwards her children were called to the witness stand.

"What is your name?"

"Arusag Ananian."

"What is your work?"

"I am a nurse."

"Where were you during the fighting?"

"In the hospital."

"Did you know Sisak, who used to live in your house?"

"I have seen him, but I have never spoken to him. I live
in the hospital."

"Do you know anything about these rebels?"

"I do not. I am entirely taken up with my work."

The hospital authorities testified that Miss Arusag was
an industrious, trustworthy and faithful nurse; that they had
never seen her with any young man. Her younger brother was


not questioned so closely, He was in the college during the
disturbance and was not old enough to concern himself with
such matters.

The government felt its defeat. It looked as if the rev-
olutionaries had got the better of them. The Armenian com-
munity was secretly rejoicng at the first success. Only the
anti-revolutionists were apprehensive.

The question was not, " Who had betrayed the meeting
place of the Committee," it was too well known, but "How
were the revolutionaries going to deal with the culprits?"
There was a general feeling of aversion against the persons
who were vile enough to plan the wholesale destruction of the
Committee. It was whispered about that capital punishment
will be inflicted on the traitors. It was said that the terrorists
were waiting for a chance to execute the judgment passed
against several men. Nobody dared to speak adversely of the
revolution or criticise it. The times were pregnant with un-
usual happenings.

Several days passed quietly. It was the calm before the
storm. I went to see Mrs. Ananian. Aryan was there. I asked
him about the rumor of terroristic action against the traitors.
"Yes, why not," he answered frankly.

"I am opposed to terrorism on principle. I consider it
murder. It will never help towards the success of our cause.
It will create bitter animosity between the wealthy and the
revolutionaries. It will cause the nation to be divided into two
camps. Especially the children and relatives of the men who
have been subjected to this kind of punishment will hate the
whole movement so deeply that nothing will hinder them from
betraying its leaders. In this way instead of rooting out trea-
son, it will multiply the number of traitors."

"Then how do you propose to deal with traitors?" he

"When it has been proved by undeniable evidence that
a man has communicated to the enemy the secrets of the Com-
mittee, let the fact be published among the Armenians; let
him be known as a traitor. Then everybody will turn against
him; he will be exposed to the contempt of his compatriots;
he will be despised, shunned, even by his own friends. He
will be dead morally. This would be a strong enough punish-

"Do you think they would mind such treatment? They


are despicable, vile creatures without sense of honor. Besides,
it will not stop the espionage against which we are trying to
guard ourselves," insisted Aryan.

"Then do not give out your secrets," I said. "Keep them
to yourselves."

"We do not give out our secrets. But they have their
spies, who follow our movements and try to find out where
we go, what we do. In this way they discovered our meeting
place and sent Turkish soldiers against us. In the fighting
two of our brave comrades were killed."

"At any rate, I advise you not to commit murder. Every
Armenian that is done to death is a loss to the nation."

"Then you do not believe in the destruction of treachery,"
he said earnestly. "My friend, you are wrong there. The pun-
ishment of a traitor is death. It is a universal law, in every
nation and country, the neglect of which will undermine the
revolutionary organization and increase disloyalty."



Treason and murther ever kept together,
As two yoke-devils sworn to either 1 s purpose,
Working so grossly in a natural cause
That admiration did not shoop at them.


Every radical change in science, religion and politics has
produced opponents : men and women, who have opposed the
new order of things. This is natural. It cannot be expected
that every individual should fall in with a novel proposition.
But when the opponents, instead of submitting to the will
of the majority, disconnect themselves from the main body
and form a separate organization, they are seceders, they di-
vide the strength of the whole.

When a country is engaged in war, to furnish the enemy
with military information constitutes an act of treason. Fur-
thermore if a man steps over to the enemy's side and takes
up arms against his own country, he is a traitor and is punish-
ed with death.

From Judas Iscariot, through the centuries, up to the
time of the World War, traitors have existed. " 'Sblood!" de-
plores Shakespeare."An arrant traitor as any is in the univers-
al world, or in France, or in England !" How are they despised !
Their end is tragic as a rule.

In our ancient history we have a notorious traitor in the
person of Prince Vasak. It was during the fifth century.
Christianity had only recently been introduced into the coun-
try. But Jezdegerd, the Persian king, was endeavoring to have
Zoroastrianism as a universal religion of all of his dominions.
He had sent a large army against Armenia, which was part
of the Empire, to enforce his will. Vartan the Great, with his
small army, confronted the Persian hordes. A war of life and
death waged. At a most critical time, Vasak, with his follow-
ers, passed to the enemy's side and turned his arms against his
own countrymen. He perished miserably in a Persian dungeon,
according to tradition.

A case of treason is recorded in the history of the United
States. During the revolutionary wars, when General Benedict
Arnold was in command of an army in Philadelphia, he was
accused of disloyalty, was tried by court martial and repri-
manded by Washington. Filled with a sense of wrong and


longing for revenge, he negotiated with the British Command-
er to betray the fortifications of West Point into his hands.
The plot was discovered. Arnold escaped. Leading a pillaging
expedition into Virginia, he burned New London and massa-
cred the inhabitants. He spent his last days in England, suffer-
ing from melancholia and treated with contempt everywhere.

During the Armenian revolutionary activities such des-
picable characters came to light. In Marsovan there were at
least three men, according to the findings of the Committee,
who had entered into treasonable association with the Turk-
ish Government. The first of these was Oscanian, on whom
the penalty of death was inflicted.

On a Monday morning, when I was getting ready to go
to church for our customary sunrise prayer meeting, the jan-
itor came in running and excited, and exclaimed, "Come to
the church, quick. Oscanian has been murdered."

"Oscanian? Where? How?"

"I do not know," he answered. "As I was going to open
the door, I heard a loud voice in the distance. He was calling
for help. I saw three men turn the corner of the church and
disappear. I was afraid to go any nearer. I ran back and came
here to tell you."

I hastened to the place of the murder. The body was
still warm. Oscanian was Hying on his side, in a declevity, just
in front of the church. There was no one in the street. I tried
to draw the attention of the people in the neighborhood but
nobody answered. The windows of the houses were all closed.
They were empty. I was bewildered. I was alone. The janitor
had not followed me. I opened the door of the church and went
into the courtyard. I called out to the people in the back
streets. Silence prevailed everywhere.

The condition of the corpse was terrible. In addition to
many dagger wounds, the skull was split by an ax. Evidently,
after he had fallen, they had hit him on the head, to stop his
cries leaving a cleavage an inch deep on the left ear. The
blood was still running down the gutter.

While I was examining the body, I saw Oscanian's two
daughters coming down toward me on their way to the church.
From a distance they saw the dead body. At first they did not
recognize him and, stricken with terror, they turned to run
away. But one of the girls had caught sight of the face and,
realizing who it was that had been killed, rushed back shriek-


ing and threw herself on her father. I tried to lift her up.
Meanwhile the other girl had arrived. Their screams and la-
mentations filled the air. They would fall on the dead body
and embrace it. They themselves were covered with blood.
The situation was tragic. There was no one to help me, no one
to send for help.

At this critical moment I heard footsteps of men behind
the church. Soon they came in sight. An officer with a few
soldiers turned the corner, running. Oscanian's young son
was leading them. It seems he also had been coming to church,
following his father. At the sight of the murderous attack, he
had the presence of mind to go to the government house and
inform the authorities.

After a while the Kaimakam also arrived. When he saw
me standing there near the body trying to keep the girls
away from it, he frowned and, looking at me with a displeased
expression, he said, "Is this the way to procure independence?
Is this how your revolutionary friends try to fight the govern-
ment? First killing several of our regular soldiers and now
butchering their own compatriots. It is the height of folly."
After inspecting the dead body, he added sarcastically, "I sup-
pose you approve of it."

I never answered him. I was extremely agitated. There
was no disposition on my part to speak. My only anxiety was
to help the poor girls.

Gradually a small crowd gathered. The worshipers were
arriving without knowing what had happened. The officer
ordered the corpse to be taken inside the church. When the
clothes were removed, it was found that, there were sixteen
dagger wounds, each one of which would have sent him to
his grave. The members of the Board of Trustees, who were
present, took charge of the body and the congregation was
advised to go home. There would be no prayer meeting that
morning. There was a mournful look on every face.

On investigation, it was found that the Committee had
warned the people in the neighborhood of the penalty to be
inflicted on a traitor, and instructed them to absent themselves
from home that night to avoid suspicion. That was the reason
no one heard when I called for help.

The police began widespread investigation to find the
criminals. About fifty of the outstanding young men of the
city were gathered and cast into prison. They were examined


closely, but none could be proved to have taken part in the
killing. Some were released on presenting indubitable alibis.
There were about twenty left in jail. Some of the members of
the Committee were among them.

This method of punishing the traitors had the desired
effect. There was a subdued air on all sides. Speaking against
the revolution ceased altogether. Those who were under sus-
picion as aiding and abetting the enemy disappeared from pub-
lic view.

Late one evening a stranger called on me in my house.
I did not know him at first, but when he removed his beard
and mustache, I at once recognized Dikran Aryan. His dis-
guise was perfect.

"I am greatly annoyed," I said. "I do not like your way
of butchering our fellow countrymen. I had advised you to
abstain from shedding Armenian blood, but evidently you did
not take any notice of it. Terrorism is a bad way to propagate
the ideas of freedom."

"I told you at the time," he answered, "that we have to
stop this treasonable betrayal of our secrets to the govern-
ment, and there is no other way than to terrorize the betray-

"I am grieved to hear you say so, Aryan," I said. "This
course is disastrous. No motive whatsoever could justify such
a crime as was committed the other day."

"Excuse me, my friend, you must not use the word
'crime.' It was a legal punishment that Oscanian received," he
answered quickly.

"How could it be a 'legal punishment' when he was sud-
denly attacked and cut to pieces on his way to church to per-
form his religious duties?"

"As I told you before, one of the elementary rules of
revolution, in every age and country, decrees death for trea-
son. This man was a traitor. He did not deny it. He was warn-
ed again and again to change his course. He answered with
curses and blasphemies. One more chance was given to him
before extreme action was taken. He challenged us contempt-
uously and told us that his government was strong enough to
defend him. Now I appeal to your sense of justice. Could we
let this dangerous man go free and do all the mischief he
could? If the revolution is going to live, the traitors must die."

"I am not even now convinced that this man was a men-


ace to our cause and that it was necessary to put him to
death," I said.

"It is plain that you have no confidence in our judg-
ment," said Aryan in derision. "However, do not, for a mom-
ent, consider us as criminals. If we shed blood or take money
by force, we have no personal motive. Speaking for myself
and for my comrades, I can unequivocally declare that we are
devoted to this sacred work heart and soul. We have willing-
ly and consciously put our lives in jeopardy. We do not feel
safe. At any time a Turkish bullet might find its mark in our
hearts. Even now while I am talking to you, I am not sure
that spies have not followed me and that I shall not fall in a
fight for my life. As for this man, we have proved fully that
it was he who directed the government agents to our secret
meeting place. Oscanian was not alone in this work. There
are others also occupied in this dastardly business who will
expiate their sins in due time."

When Aryan saw that I was still hesitating, he took from
his pocket a small note book and handed it to me saying,
"Read this. Its contents will convince you that you have not
been free from the traitor's spying."

As soon as I took the book I glanced through its pages.

"How did you get hold of this note book?" I asked.

"Our terrorists took it from Oscanian's pocket."

"May I keep it?"

"Of course. We have no use for it."

At this moment the barking of a small dog was heard
from the street. Aryan stood up and fixing his disguise prepar-
ed to leave.

"Are any of the executioners among those who are in
jail?" I asked.

"No fear of that," he answered. "They were transported
safely elsewhere on the same day. Those who are in prison are

When I found myself alone, I began to read carefully
the note book which was taken from Oscanian's pocket.

It was a diary, started soon after my arrival in Marsovan,
recording all my activities, written in the Turkish language.
It contained the resume of several of my sermons with their
subject matter and the text from the Bible. Sometimes my
freedom of expression was exaggerated. At other times sen-
tences were so twisted and translated that they gave a re-


bellious meaning. For instance, once I had preached on Hope.
I had expounded the thought that as long as there is breath
in a man he has hope. To illustrate this idea, I had used an
example from classic literature in which Hope is represented
by the picture of a young woman holding a harp whose strings
are all broken, except one on which she continues to play with-
out giving way to despair. This was interpreted as a declara-
tion of better times in store for us as instilling confidence in
future independence as an encouragement to carry on the work
in spite of obstacles and opposition.

After reading the note book through, I wondered wheth-
er he had already shown it to the Turkish officials.

While the young men were still in prison another act of
terrorism was perpetrated. The second man of the three per-
sons marked for punishment was done to death. He had been
silent since the first murder, but the Committee was aware
that he was working secretly, and consequently the sentence
of death was carried out.

One evening as he walked down a narrow street, return-
ing from his place of business, three Mohammedan hojas
(teachers) in flowing white garments and white turbans at-
tacked and killed him.

The police were baffled. It was as plain as day that the
revolutionaries, disguised as Mohammedan hojas, had accom-
plished their purpose, but there was not a single clue to fol-
low. The passers-by had only seen three men run away from
the spot where the man had fallen but had not recognized

This second murder was evidence that those who were
in jail could not be the slayers, and so they were released.

The third man, Mardiros Kerian, knew that his turn had
come. He was in continual dread. His whole family trembled
with fear. Every morning, before he went to his office, he re-
paired to the church and received the holy communion from
the priest, expecting each day to be his last. Someone always
accompanied him, but he had no hope that he could escape
the vengeance of the Committee.

In this critical time his son came to see me one day.
"Pastor," he said, "we know that you are a friend of the rev-
olutionaries and have influence with them. I have come to
ask you to intervene and save my father's life. He promises
to have nothing to do with the Turkish government and to


desist from speaking against the revolution."

"My boy," I said, "you are mistaken. I have nothing to
do with them. I am neither on the Committee nor a member
of the party. How can I help you?"

"I beseech you, in God's name, do something for us. My
mother and sisters will go crazy with worry. Our home has
become a house of mourning. Everytime that my father goes
out, we are in dread, lest he should not come back alive. Rum-
ors have reached us that even if he does not go out, the revo-
lutionaries will set our house on fire and burn us all in it."

These words pierced my heart. I could not reconcile my-
self to the situation. I believed in the revolution. I knew
that without bloodshed there could be no amelioration in our
national condition, but these acts of murder against our own
compatriots were shocking to me. Betrayals should be pre-
vented, there was no doubt about it, but this slaughtering
business was not justifiable. Especially, it was evident that the
members of the family were suffering more than the guilty
persons. Without giving any promise to the young man, I
sent him away with a few encouraging words. The scene in
their house, which was painted in my mind, tormented me.

Late that night there was a knock at the front door. My
old servant went to the window and wanted to know who it
was. Someone answered that he had come from a sick person
who desired to see the pastor.

I told the servant to open the door. A slim young man
of middle height, with sharp black eyes and watchful counten-
ance entered my room.

"I come from Aryan," he said, without preliminary greet-
ing, "to tell you to absent yourself from the city tomorrow
and if possible to stay away for several days."

"First you tell me who you are and what is your name,"
I asked.

"My name is Sisak and I am Aryan's bodyguard."

"Sisak? O, yes, I remember. Aryan has spoken to me
about you. Why does he want me to leave the city?"

"There is going to be an execution sometime tomorrow
and he wishes to save you from any complications. Word
reached him that Bekir Pasha has come to Marsovan and
threatens death to all the revolutionaries and their sympa-
thizers and has several times mentioned your name in his con-
sultation with the Kaimakam. Aryan is afraid that you might


be suspected this time. Being informed of the coming events,
you will no doubt take all the necessary precaution."

"Very well. I thank you," I said. "Give my regards to
Aryan and tell him to come and see me for a few minutes."

"When? Now?" he asked.

"Yes, now."

"I am afraid that is impossible," he said. "He is occupied
with very important business. He could not finish before two

"What is the time now?" Looking at the clock I said,
"It is 11 :30. Can he come at 1 :30 or 2 o'clock? I will wait for

"I think he can come at that time," he answered. "I will
tell him. Only your servant must not be awake. You have to
open the door. When you hear the barking of a dog you will
know that Aryan has come."

At the appointed time the signal was given and I opened
the door. Aryan looked tired and worn but did not for a mo-
ment lose his vigilance. My first question was, "Who is going
to be executed tomorrow?"

"Mardiros Kerian," he answered.

"That must not take place," I said.

"Who says so?"

"I say so."

Aryan looked at me wondering if I had lost my head.
When he saw that I was perfectly sane and serious he had an
inkling of my meaning, hung his head and began to think. For
a long time he did not raise his eyes from the ground. At last
he looked up and I saw a change had taken place in his un-
flinching appearance. Compassion and pity were plainly seen
fighting for mastery. He spoke and his voice also had altered.

"Pastor, I know how you feel about it all," he said. "Do
not regard me as a heartless man. The act of terrorism is our
most hated duty. Nobody undertakes it with the readiness
that circumstances indicate. The most hardened comrade,
when he is obliged to shed the blood of an Armenian, he does
it unwillingly. Do you not think that we pity the wives and
the children. We commiserate them more than you realize.
They are innocent victims of the treachery of their fathers.
But why do not the traitors themselves consider the conse-
quences of their act? Is it a patriotic feeling that urges them
to follow this contemptible course? Is it the interests of the


nation that they defend when they try to betray us to the
Turk, to be subjected to a worse fate than death? Have we
no mothers, sisters, dear ones, who suffer for us when we are
tormented in a dark dungeon? Do these men pity them? The
great majority of the traitors consider their own personal in-
terests. They are mostly men of wealth afraid to lose a few
piasters. There are others who are spies by trade. They get
position and influence with the Turkish government. Another
class of men, genuine turcophiles, who think, speak and act
like a Turk, servile in their behavior wherever the government
is concerned and naturally fall into line with the officialdom.
If a man is honestly convinced that the revolutionary move-
ment is harmful, he should not take the enemy's side and work
against those who believe in it. There are hundreds of anti-
revolutionists who speak against us, argue with us, but they
never betray us. We respect their opinions. Conservative
peoples are not our foes. If they do not work in favor of the
revolution, they are at least loyal enough to keep in the back-
ground and wait for consequences. As to this man, Mardiros
Kerian, we have definite proofs that he is guilty and is sen-
tenced to die. Arrangements are made to carry out the execu-
tion tomorrow if nothing untoward happens."

"Aryan, I have a proposition to make," I said.

"I would like to hear it," he answered.

"You say that this man is a traitor and worthy of death.
Let us suppose for a moment that the sentence against him
is just and that he has lost the right to live. Is it not possible
to punish him in some other way?"

"How?" he asked.

"Suppose he should buy his life with money," I said.

"Do you mean to say that he should pay ransom for his

"That is exactly what I mean. If this man dies nobody
will benefit by his death. The revolution will not be aided by
it. If you say that he will continue his nefarious work if he
lives, you can make him promise to have nothing to do with
the Turkish officials and never to go near them. He has been
made to realize the strength of the Committee. He is so fright-
ened that any condition will be acceptable to him if his life
is spared. On the other hand, if monetary compensation is

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Online LibraryH. M KnadjianThe eternal struggle; a word picture of Armenia's fight for freedom → online text (page 4 of 21)