The Genocide (1914 – 1918) / Statement and Discription / The American Foundation for Syriac Studies

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  massacre in Sasun (August 1894)

The effects of the 1915 massacres have profoundly touched all of us, and together we mourn the terrible loss of so many innocent lives.

–U.S. President Bill Clinton, April 24, 1994

more U. S presidential statments:


massacre in Constantinople, 30 September 1895

It is not understandable in human terms. God’s ways are not our ways.  It’s all a very great mystery now, but in Heaven we will find the answers to our many why?



The Attack by Softas (Theological Students)

…Probably one of the greatest tragedies that ever befell any group.  And there weren’t any Nuremberg trials.

–U.S. President Jimmy Carter, May 16, 1978


“The Police Taking Prisoners to the Grand Zaptie Prison, Stambul

We had become like animals, without much feeling.  We had been reconciled to crying, being hungry, walking.  We knew this way was our fate.  After awhile I was no longer afraid because no feelings remained in me.  We were concerned only about where we were walking and where we could get food and water.



Sketch by an eye-witness of the terriblemassacre of Armenians by Softas

…I feel confident that the people of the United States will be moved to aid these people stricken by war, famine, and disease…the stricken Syrian and Armenian people.

—US President Woodrow Wilson, August 31, 1916


Burial of the victims of the October 30, 1895

massacres of the Armenians during the region of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.

It is not possible to erase the memory of the genocide that has afflicted you.  It must be inscribed in the human memory, and this sacrifice must serve as a lesson to young people.  At the same time, it is a lesson in the will to survive.  So that everyone will know…that these people do not belong to the past, but they are part of the present and have a future.

Francois Mitterrand, President of France, January 6, 1984



the Great Gregorian Church at Urfa, where 3.500 Christians were

butchered; 1500 of them slaughtered in the Church where they had taken refuge

…There is no doubt that this crime was planned and executed for political reasons.  The opportunity presented itself for clearing Turkish soil of a Christian race.

–Sir Winston Churchill, Excerpts from memories of Winston Churchill ‘ The Aftermath “.


These left-overs from the former Young Turkey Party, who should have been made to account for the lives of millions of our Christian subjects who were ruthlessly driven en masse, from their homes and massacred, have been restive under the Republican rule.  They have hitherto lived on plunder, robbery and bribery, and become inimical to any idea or suggestion to enlist in useful labor and earn their living by the honest sweat of their brow.

–Kemal Ataturk, President and Founder of the

Republic of Turkey, June 22, 1926


Massacres of Christians in Turkey

“Le Petit” journal, May 2 1909

When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversation with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact… I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this.

–Henry Morgenthau, US Ambassador to Turkey (1913-1916)


The gathering of the corpses of victims, streets of Galata

“Le Petit Parisien” journal, September 13, 1896


Armenian Massacre in Constantinople

“Il Secolo Illustrato” journal, October 27, 1895

We succeeded in conquering many places but spiritually we were conquered in all of them.

Heyed, Gokalp


What is requested of you is to protect and to take good care of everyone from the Syrian and Armenian community living in your territories and frontiers and among your tribes; to help them in all of their affairs and defend them as you would defend yourselves, your properties, and your children, and provide everything they might need whether they are settled or moving from place to place, because they are the Protected People of the Muslims about whom the prophet Muhammad said: Whosoever takes from them even a rope, I will be his adversary on the Day of Judgment.

–Al-Husayn Ibn Ali, in a letter to Prince Faisal and Prince Abd al-Aziz al-Jarba


On a certain date in whatever town or village it might be…the public crier went through the streets announcing that every male Armenian must present himself forthwith at the Government Building.  In some cases, the warning was given by the soldiery or Gendarme who were slaughtering every male Armenian they encountered in the streets…but usually a summons to the Government Building was the preliminary stage.  The men presented themselves in their working clothes…When they arrived, they were thrown without explanation into prison, kept there a day or two, and then marched out of the town in batches, roped man to man, along some southerly or southeasterly road.  They were starting, they were told, on a long journey to Mosul or perhaps to Baghdad…But they had not long to ponder over their plight, for they were halted and massacred at the first lonely place on the road. The same process was applied to those other Armenian men…who had been imprisoned during the winter months on the charge of conspiracy or concealment of arms…This was the civil authorities part.

Arnold Toynbee, a British historian of high academic distinction.

Excerpts from his book “ Armenian Atrocities, the murder of a nation “.


Three great massacres took place after 1916…Men, women, and children from Constantinople and the surrounding districts, from the Anatolian railway line and Cilicia, were driven into the desert, where they met people from the six Armenian provinces and from the shores of the Black Sea, but this latter contingent consisted only of women, girls and boys of seven and under, as every male over seven had been slaughtered. All these were the victims of the three massacres. The first massacre was that of Res-ul-Ain, in which 70,000 people were killed; the second took place at Intilli, where there were 50,000 people assembled, most of them working on a tunnel of the Baghdad railway; and the third, which was the most fearful of all, at Der Zor, where Zia Bey slaughtered nearly 200,000…These figures only give the numbers of people killed by massacre. If we add to their numbers the victims of misery, sickness and hunger, especially in Res-ul-Ain and Der Zor, the number of Armenians who were slain or died in the desert will exceed a million.

Aram Andonians, Armenian auther.


Execution of Armenians in the Constantinople, June 1915

One day Talaat made what was the most astonishing request I had ever heard. The New York Life Insurance Company and the Equitable Life of New York had for years done considerable business among the Armenians…I wish, Talaat now said, that you would get the Armenian life insurance companies to send us a complete list of their Armenian policy holders.  They are practically all dead now and had left no heirs to collect the money. It of courses all [goes] to the States.  The Government is the beneficiary now.  Will you do so?

Henry Morgenthau, U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire (1913-16)


Syria – Aleppo – Armenian woman kneeling beside dead child in field “within sight of help and safety at Aleppo”

Late in July, 1915, when the thermometer registered from 105 to 115 degrees, as a group or more than l,000 women and chlldren from Harput [Kharpert] was being conducted southward near Veren Chiher, East of Diarbekir, they were turned over to a band of savage Kurds who rode among them, selecting the best looking women, girls and children. Terrified by the fears of their fate should chey fall into the hands of such ferocious brutes, the women resisted as best they could, thereby enraging the Kurds, who killed a number of their intended victims. Before carrying off those finally selected and subdued, they stripped most of the remaining women of their clothes, thereby forcing them to continue the rest of their journey in a nude condition. I was told by eyewitnesses to this outrage that over 300 women arrived at Ras-el-Ain, at that time the most easterly station to which the German-Baghdad railway was completed, entirely naked, their hair flowing in the air like wild beasts, and after travelling six days afoot in the burning sun. Most of these persons arrived in Aleppo a few days afterwards, and some of them personally came to the Consulate and exhibited their bodies to me, burned to the color of a green olive, the skin peeling off in great blotches, and many of them carrying gashes on the head and wounds on the body as a result of the terrible beatings inflicted by the Kurds.


Deportation in the Baghdad railway

One of the most terrible sights ever seen in Aleppo was the arrival early in Augusr, 1915, of some 5,000 terribly emaciaced, dirty, ragged and sick women and children, 3,000 on one day and 2,000 the following day. These people were the only survivors of the thrifty and well to do Armenian population of the province of Sivas, carefully estimated to have originally been over 300,000 souls! And what had become of the balance? From the most intelligent of those that miraculously reached Aleppo it was learned that in early Spring the men and the boys over 14 years old had been called to the police stations in the province on different mornings stretching over a period of several weeks, and had been sent off in groups of from 1,000 to 2,000 each, tied together with ropes, and that nothing had ever been heard of them thereafter. Their fate has been recorded by more than one eyewitness, so it is needless to dwell thereon here.

Survivors: An Oral History of the Genocide, by Donald E. Miller and Lorna Touryan Miller, .


Dead of exhaustion: a deported Armenian child (Kharberd, 1915) Maria Jacobsen, Diary 1907-1919. Kharput-Turkey, Translated into Armenian from the Original Manuscript by Nerses Pakhdikian, Mihran Simonan, Antelias-Lebanon, 1979

On the 52nd day they arrived at another village, here the Kurds took from them everything that they had, even their shirts and drawers and for five days the whole caravan walked all naked under the scorching sun. For another five days they did not have a morsel of bread, neither a drop of water. They were scorched to death by thirst. Hundreds over hundreds fell dead on the way, their tongues were turned to charcoal and when at the end of the fifth day they reached a fountain, the whole caravan, naturally, rushed on it, but the policemen stood in front of them and forbade them to take even a drop of water, for they wanted to sell the water, from one to three liras the cup, and sometimes not giving the water, after getting the money. At another place where there were some wells, some women threw themselves into it, as there was no rope and pail to draw water but these were drowned and in spite of that the rest of the people drank from that well, the dead bodies still staying and stinking in it. Sometimes, in other shallow wells, when the women could enter and come out, the other people would rush and lick and such [sic] the wet dirty clothes, to quench their thirst. This source said that by the seventieth day, only 35 women and children remained from the original group of 3,000 exiles from Kharpert, and only 150 women and children survived from the entire caravan that arrived at Aleppo.


Armenian refugees in Relief Committee tents, Aintab

For six weeks we have witnessed the most terrible cruelties inflicted upon the thousands of Christian exiles who have been daily passing through our city from the northern cities. All tell the same story and bear the same scars: their men were all killed on the first days march from their cities, after which the women and girls were constantly robbed of their money, bedding, clothing and beaten, criminally abused and abducted along the way. Their guards forced them to pay even for drinking from the springs along the way and were their worst abusers but also allowed the baser element in every village through which they passed to abduct the girls and women and abuse them. We not only were told these things but the same things occurred right here in our own city before our very eyes and openly on the streets

Rev. F.H. Leslie, an American missionary in Urfa


Among the ruins Maria Jacobsen, Diary 1907-1919. Kharput-Turkey,

A more pitiable sight cannot be imagined. They are almost without exception ragged, filthy, hungry and sick. That is not surprising in view of the fact that they have been on the road for nearly two months with no change of clothing, no chance to wash, no shelter and little to eat….

As one walks through the camp mothers offer their children and beg one to take them. In fact, the Turks have been taking their choice of these children and girls for slaves, or worse. In fact, they have even had their doctors there to examine the most likely girls and thus secure the best ones.

There are very few men among them, as most of them have been killed on the road. All tell the same story of having been attacked and robbed by the Kurds. Most of them were attacked over and over again and a great many of them, especially the men, were killed….

The system that is being followed seems to be to have bands of Kurds awaiting them on the road to kill the men especially and incidentally some of the others. The entire movement seems to be the most thoroughly organized and effective massacre this country has ever seen.

— eye witness


Children waiting in the snow for admission into the ‘Orphan City’, a daily spectacle from the early morning until late at night

On Monday many men were arrested both at Harput and Mezreh and put in prison. At daybreak Tuesday morning they were taken out and made to march towards an almost uninhabited mountain. There were about eight hundred in all and they were tied together in groups of fourteen each. That afternoon they arrived in a small Kurdish village where they were kept overnight in the mosque and other buildings. During all this time they were without food or water. All their money and much of their clothing had been taken from them. On Wednesday morning they were taken to a valley a few hours’ distance where they were all made to sit down. Then the gendarmes began shooting them until they had killed nearly all of them. Some who had not been killed by bullets were then disposed of with knives and bayonets.

— eye witness


Armenian deportees sleeping in the street, 1915

Politisches Archiv des Auswartigen Amtes,

Bonn, Turkei 183, Armenien


Outside the door Maria Jacobsen, Diary 1907-1919

They had been on the road for from three to five months; they have been plundered several times over, and have marched along naked and starving; the Government gave them on one single occasion a morsel of bread–a few had it twice. It is said that the number of these deported widows will reach 60,000; they are so exhausted that they cannot stand upright; the majority have great sores on their feet, through having to march barefoot.

— eye witness


Politisches Archiv des Auswartigen Amtes, Bonn, Turkei Archivbestand Abotschaft


Armenian children, the victims of the Turkish atrocities

# 44, 27 November, Front page, 1916, Moscow

In this group, Father Essayan saw no men or boys over eleven years old, the latter having all been slaughtered on the way. His letter also states, “one does not see a single pretty face among the survivors,” implying that all such women had been abducted. In addition, Father Essayan said that one thousand Armenians were deported from one city, and only four hundred arrived in Aleppo. Of these survivors, he estimated that 60 percent were sick, and all were suffering from serious malnutrition.

— eye witness


Because Germany and Turkey were allies during the war, this document was particularly incriminating, and the German censor immediately moved to confiscate the publication:

Between the 10th and the 30th May [1915], 1,200 of the most prominent Armenians and other Christians, without distinction of confession, were arrested in the Vilayets of Diyarbekir and Mamouret-ul-Aziz [Kharpert]… On the 30th May, 674 of them were embarked on thirteen Tigris barges, under the pretext that they were to be taken to Mosul. The Vali’s aide-de-camp, assisted by fifty gendarmes, was in charge of the convoy. Half the gendarmes started off on the barges, while the other half rode along the bank. A short time after the start the prisoners were stripped of all their money (about L6,000 Turkish) and then of their clothes; after that they were thrown into the river. The gendarmes on the bank were ordered to let none of them escape.

A living skeleton “Story of Near East Relief”

by James L. Barton, New York, 1930, p. 262


other atrocities had observed or heard of

For a whole month corpses were observed floating down the River Euphrates nearly every day, often in batches of from two to six corpses bound together. The male corpses are in many cases hideously mutilated (sexual organs cut off, and so on), the female corpses are ripped open…. The corpses stranded on the bank are devoured by dogs and vultures. To this fact there are many German eyewitnesses. An employee of the Baghdad Railway has brought the information that the prisons of Biredjik are filled regularly every day and emptied every night–into the Euphrates. Between Diyarbekir and Ourfa a German cavalry captain saw innumerable corpses lying unburied all along the road.

Children taken in by Near East Relief


In addition to reporting incidents of mass slaughter, this statement also gives examples of individual suffering. For example, a woman who gave birth to twins while being deported was allowed no time for recovery and was forced to start walking the next day. In despair, she placed the newborns under a bush and collapsed herself a short time later.


Among the 149 documents contained in the Bryce/Toynbee volume, it is possible to find, almost at random, equally graphic passages detailing the deportations. Two final examples will suffice, both describing events in the city of Moush:

The leading Armenians of the town and the headmen of the villages were subjected to revolting tortures. Their finger nails and then their toenails were forcibly extracted; their teeth were knocked out, and in some cases their noses were whittled down. . . . The female relatives of the victims who came to the rescue were outraged in public before the very eyes of their mutilated husbands and brothers….

Among the ruins Maria Jacobsen, Diary 1907-1919. Kharput-Turkey,***


Group of Near East Relief orphan girls at summer camp. Below: Alexandropol: “Hands up”, Polygon orphanage massed drill, October, 1925 “Story of Near East Relief”

by James L. Barton, New York, 1930, p. 21

The shortest method for disposing of the women and children concentrated in the various camps was to burn them. Fire was set to large wooden sheds in Alidjan, Megrakom, Khaskegh, and other Armenian villages, and these absolutely helpless women and children were roasted to death.

— eye witness

Armenian deportees, 1915 Armin T. Wegner  Wallstein Verlag, Germany.


In 1922-1923 Near East Relief evacuated 22.000 children from orphanages in interior Turkey to Syria and Greece

The above account, offered by an Armenian, is substantiated by Alma Johannsen, a German missionary eyewitness to events in Moush:

” When there was no one left in Bitlis to massacre, their attention was diverted to Moush. Cruelties had already been committed, but so far not too publicly; now, however, they started to shoot people down without any cause, and to beat them to death simply for the pleasure of doing so.”

Alma Johannsen, a German missionary eyewitness to events in Moush


This picture shows part of the 5.000 children from Kharput en route on donkey back and foot. “Story of Near East Relief” by James L. Barton, New York, 1930, p. 152


Before admission to the orphanage Maria Jacobsen, Diary 1907-1919. Kharput-Turkey, Translated into Armenian from the Original Manuscript

We all had to take refuge in the cellar for fear of our orphanage catching fire. It was heartrending to hear the cries of the people and children who were being burned to death in their houses. The soldiers took great delight in hearing them, and when people who were out in the street during the bombardment fell dead, the soldiers merely laughed at them….

I went to the Mutessarif and begged him to have mercy on the children at least, but in vain. He replied that the Armenian children must perish with their nation. All our people were taken from our hospital and orphanage; they left us three female servants. Under these atrocious circumstance Moush was burned to the ground.

Orphaned Armenian children, 1915

Armin T. Wegner  Wallstein Verlag, Germany.


This German missionary left Moush for Kharpert, where, she reported conditions were no better: “In Harpout and Mezre the people have had to endure terrible tortures. They have had their eyebrows plucked out, their breasts cut off, their nails torn off; their torturers hew off their feet or else hammer nails into them just as they do in shoeing horses.”


Misfits but welcome Maria Jacobsen, Diary 1907-1919.


These selected accounts are representative of the statements contained in the Bryce/Toynbee volume presented to the British Parliament. Because they are arranged by city, it is possible to corroborate statements by witnesses who did not know one another and could not have collaborated in concocting a story. This volume is extremely important not only because it provides detailed information but also because it was published within months of the time eyewitnesses wrote their accounts. Additionally, the report concludes with a summary of the genocide written by Arnold Toynbee, which continues to be a valuable overview of the events that occured in 1915 and 1916.


Armenian refugee family

“Story of Near East Relief” by James L. Barton, New York, 1930

Whether the gendarmes were responding directly to government orders to annihalate the Armenians or were commiting atrocities of their own accord, our interviews provide substantial documentation of actions that resulted in the deaths of thousands of deportees. The lowest level of involvment was complicity between gendarmes and local Kurds, Turks, and soldiers. For example, a survivor from Konia stated:

The soldiers would come and give us a bad time. Others from the hills and mountains would come and snatch girls and baggage, or whatever they could. You scream, “Gendarme, Gendarme,” but there was no help, because they [the soldiers and abductors] were all together in this. I saw all of this myself. I saw them snatch girls or goods right from the horses or wagons, dragging them by force. I can still picture the whole thing right now. They would kidnap more of the older girls. They had brought some deportees on the cliff. They would tie them, shoot them, and throw them in the river. There were gendarmes among them, civilians and soldiers. Sometimes it would be the turn of a pregnant woman. They would look at each other and say, “boy or girl,” and pierce her belly with the sword. Violence was also perpetrated in the very act of herding the caravans. Several survivors indicated that anyone who lagged behind the caravan was shot. For example, a survivor from Mezre recalled how the donkey on which her mother was riding kept dropping behind the rest of the caravan. This little girl repeatedly urged her mother to leave the donkey behind, but she refused because all their money was sewn into the bedding that was loaded on the donkey. The girl left her mother to catch up with her brother and the rest of the caravan. A short time later she heard a shot and then saw her mother’s donkey, without its rider, being led behind the horse of a gendarme.


… A survivor from Aintab recalled his father’s being struck by gendarmes after he had grown very weak: “The next morning, very early, the gendarmes got up the deportees to continue. They came and said, “Get up,” and he wouldn’t. So they beat him up so very badly. They beat him with their whips until his body was bleeding, and he fell down as though he were dead. Thinking that he was dead, the gendarmes left. I saw this with my own eyes.”

There is also indication that gendarmes engaged in extortion from members of the caravans they were deporting. For example, a survivor from Gurin recalled this scene: “On the way, a few gendarmes-a few of them were taking us-wanted money. They spread a sheet on the ground, and the women, one by one, threw down what they had. They filled a whole bag.” From the testimony that we heard, it appears that such greed was often mixed inseperably with violence.

Skulls of deportees


An Armenian Mother on the heights of the Taurus Mountains, 1915

Armin T. Wegner  Wallstein Verlag, Germany.

For example, Talaat does not challenge the fact that deportations occurred. However, he blames the victims for their own deaths, a theme that recurs in most justifications by perpetrators of genocide. He states that the Armenians collaborated with the Russians on the Caucasian front. In response, the government took the following actions:

The Porte, acting under the same obligation, and wishing to secure the safety of its army and its citizens, took energetic measures to check these uprisings. The deportation of the Armenians was one of these preventive measures.

I admit also that the deportation was not carried out lawfully everywhere. In some places unlawful acts were committed. The already existing hatred among the Armenians and Mohammedans, intensified by the barbarous activities of the former, had created many tragic consequences. Some of the officials abused their authority, and in many places people took preventive measures into their own hands and innocent people were molested. I confess it. I confess, also, that the duty of the Government was to prevent these abuses and atrocities, or at least to hunt down and punish their perpetrators severely. In many places, where the property and goods of the deported people were looted, and the Armenians molested, we did arrest those who were responsible and punished them according to the law. I confess, however, that we ought to have acted more sternly, opened up a general investigation for the purpose of finding out all the promoters and looters and punished them severely.


Talaat divided the “looters” into two categories: those who pillaged out of personal hatred and for individual profit, and those who sincerely believed that they were serving the common good by punishing the Armenians for their allegedly traitorous acts. Regarding this latter group, Talaat states: “The Turkish elements here referred to were shortsighted, fanatical, and yet sincere in their belief. The public encouraged them, and they had the gcneral approval behind them. They were numerous and strong.”

Talaat offers the following justification for his government’s unwillingness to punish these individuals: “Their open and immediate punishment would have aroused great discontent among the people, who favored their acts. An endeavor to arrest and to punish all these promoters would have created anarchy in Anatolia at a time when we greatly needed unity. It would have been dangerous to divide the nation into two camps, when we needed strength to fight outside enemies.”


Euphrates near Deir-el-Zor, where so many of the deported were murdered.

The river hides dark memories Collection of Bodil Biorn

What is noteworthy in Talaat’s reflections is that he does not deny the deportations, nor does he deny that crimes were committed against the Armenians. But he distances himself from the abuses by blaming the Armenians for the necessity of deporting them, implying that any atrocities that occurred in the process of deportation were carried out by fanatical local Turks who were pursuing a personal vendetta, and he excuses himself from punishing these Turks because it would have been policically divisive.

Yet Talaat’s remarks do not answer several significant questions: (1) why it was necessary to deport Armenians who were far from the Russian front; (2) why women and children had to be deported; (3) why the government armed the Special Organization and encouraged them to attack Armenian caravans; and (4) why events were orchestrated to make Armenian resistance practically impossible. (As discussed previously, some of the preliminary actions included disarming Armenians serving in the Turkish army, arresting Armenian political and religious leaders, seizing all weapons at a local level, creating hysteria among the local Turkish population toward the “traitorous” Armenians, and removing valis [regional officials] who refused to carry out abuses against the Armenians.) In Talaat’s version of the events, the government did what was required, but the local Turkish population got out of hand.


Bertolt Brecht

We walked for many days, occasionally running across small lakes and rivers. After awhile we saw corpses on the shores of these lakes. Then we began seeing them along the path: twisted corpses, blackened by the sun and bloated. Their stench was horrible. Vultures circled the skies above us, waiting for their evening meal.

National feast, dancers at St. Garabed (4-17th centuries, fully destroyed in 1915)

Collection of Bodil Biorn


At Igdir, Armenian children eating their dole of boiled rice supplied by the American Committee Volume XXXVI, Number Five, November 1919, p. 412

At one point, we came upon a small hole in the ground. It was a little deeper than average height and 25-30 people could easily fit in it. We lowered ourselves down into it. There was no water in it but the bottom was muddy. We began sucking on the mud. Some of the women made teats with their shirts filled with mud and suckled on them like children. We were there for about a half hour. If we hadn’t been forced out, that would have been our best grave.

Many days later we reached the Euphrates River and despite the hundreds of bodies floating in it, we drank from it like there was no tomorrow. We quenched our thirst for the first time since our departure. They put us on small boats and we crossed to the other side. From there we walked all the way to Ras-ul-Ain.

Of a caravan of nearly 10,000 people, there were now only some of us 300 left. My aunt, my sisters, my brothers had all died or disappeared. Only my mother and I were left. We decided to hide and take refuge with some Arab nomads. My mother died there under their tents. They did not treat me well—they kept me hungry and beat me often and they branded me as their own.


We had already been deported once, in 1915, sent towards Der-Zor. But, my uncle’s friend had connections in the government and he had us ordered back to Izmir.
Orders came again that everyone must gather in front of the Armenian church to be deported. My father refused to go and told us not to worry. He didn’t think the Turkish government would do anything to him, since he was a government employee himself.
Twelve Turkish soldiers and an official came very early the next morning. We were still asleep. They dragged us out in our nightgowns and lined us up against the living room wall.  Then the official ordered my father to lie down on the ground… they are dirty the Turks… very dirty… I can’t say what they did to him. They raped him! Raped! Just like that. Right in front of us. And that official made us watch. He whipped us if we turned away. My mother lost consciousness and fell to the floor.
Afterwards, we couldn’t find our father. My mother looked for him frantically. He was in the attic, trying to hang himself. Fortunately, my mother found him before it was too late.
My father did eventually kill himself—later, after we escaped.


They took us from Hüsenig, to Mezre, to Kharpert to Malatia and then, after a couple of days walk, to the shores of the Euphrates River. It was around noon when we got there and we camped. For a while, we were left alone. Sometime later, Turkish gendarmes came over and grabbed all the boys from 5 to 10 years old. I was about 7 or 8. They grabbed me too. They threw us all into a pile on the sandy beach and started jabbing us with their swords and bayonets. I must’ve been in the center because only one sword got me… nipped my cheek… here, my cheek. But, I couldn’t cry. I was covered with blood from the other bodies on top of me, but I couldn’t cry. If had, I would not be here today.
When it was getting dark, my grandmother found me. She picked me up and consoled me. It hurt so much. I was crying and she put me on her shoulder and walked around.
Then, some of the other parents came looking for their children. They mostly found dead bodies. The river bank there was very sandy. Some of them dug graves with their bare hands—shallow graves—and tried to bury their children in them. Others, just pushed them into the river, they pushed them into the Euphrates. Their little bodies floated away.


The crowds were huge in Meskeneh. We were in the middle of a vast sandy area and the Armenians there were from all over, not only from Marash. We had no water and gendarmes would not give us any. There were only two gendarmes for that huge crowd. Just two. Wasn’t there a single man among us who could have killed them? We were going to die anyway. Why did we obey those two gendarmes so sheepishly?
The word was that from Meskeneh, we were going to be deported to Der-Zor. My father had brought along a tent that was black on one side and white on the other. Each time gendarmes approached us to send another group to Der-Zor, my father would move the tent. He would pitch it on the other side of the crowd—as far away as possible. We were constantly moving. He bought us quite a bit of time that way.

Eventually, we crossed the Euphrates River to Rakka where we found an abandoned house—with no doors or windows—and we squatted there. But we still had no food. We used to eat grass. We used to pick grains from animal waste, wash them and then in tin cans fry them to eat. We used to say: “Oh, mommy, if we ever go back to Marash, just give us fried wheat and it will be enough.”


There was a girl, a girl who I had befriended on the road, earlier. Her name was Satenig. I remember her very well. She was not too strong. I saw her again in that basement. In the basement of the school where they had thrown us. She was there. She had a little bit of money and she gave it to me. “Don’t let them take me,” she said. “Don’t let them take me.” They would come around everyday and take whoever was dead or very weak. She was not in good shape, she was very weak. I stood her up and leaned on her. Held her up, so.  They came. I was holding her up, leaning her up against the wall. But they saw her and took her… took her…


I do not remember how many days our decimated caravan marched southward toward the Euphrates River. Day by day the men contingent of the caravan got smaller and smaller. Under pretext of not killing them if they would hand over liras and gold coins, men would be milked by the gendarmes of what little money they had. Then they would be killed anyway.
Days wore on. We marched through mountain roads and valleys. Those who could not keep up were put out of their misery. Always bodies were found strewn by the wayside. The caravan was getting smaller each day. At one place, my little grandmother, like Jeremiah incarnate, loudly cursed the Turkish government for their inhumanity, pointing to us children she asked, “What is the fault of children to be subjected to such suffering.” It was too much for a gendarme to bear, he pulled out his dagger and plunged it into my grandmother’s back. The more he plunged his dagger, the more my beloved Nana asked for heaven’s curses on him and his kind. Unable to silence her with repeated dagger thrusts, the gendarme mercifully pumped some bullets into her and ended her life. First my uncle, now my grandmother were left unmourned and unburied by the wayside.

We moved on.


A photo by an eyewitness of the terrible massacre of Armenians

Nubarian Collection

In 1915, we were the last to be deported out of Kessab because we were Protestant. The American Ambassador in Bolis had apparently secured guarantees for our safety, but we were deported anyway. They took us toward Der-Zor—the interior Syrian desert. Our whole family: my father, mother, four brothers, two sisters. I was 20-21, at the time. We loaded everything we had on mules and horses and set out under armed guards. They took us to Meskeneh on the Euphrates river. Meskeneh was a huge outdoor camp where ten of thousands of Armenians had been deported—bit by bit they were sent to Der-Zor, to their death. We were there for awhile. We lived under tents along with a lot of others from Kessab. Most of the time we had nothing to eat. Sometimes my father would buy bread from the soldiers but they had mixed sand with the flour—so we ate this hard bread and sand crunched under our teeth.
Meskeneh was a horrible, horrible place. 60,000 Armenians had been buried under the sand there. When a sandstorm hit, it would blow away a lot of the sand and uncover those remains. Bones, bones, bones were everywhere then. Wherever you looked, wherever you walked.


My brother-in-law was American Consul Davis’ body guard in Mezre and the consul himself saved my father’s life. There was a Turkish gendarme by the name of Shadhe who wanted to kill my father. Consul Davis came all the way to our door in Pazmashen. My father was hiding in the back, in the wood shed. He came on his horse and took my father back with him to the consulate.
When the deportations began, I went to Mezre to say goodbye to my father. He cried. The consul saw him and told me to stay. Later, my mother escaped from the deportation and also came to the consulate. We were in the American consulate during the deportations. Consul Davis saved us. Everybody else, my sisters, my maternal aunt—all of them, all of them—were deported. Our whole village was wiped out.
We lived in the consulate until 1922. On September 7, 1922, our family left Kharpert along with 250 Armenian orphans on horses and wagons. My father was asked by the Near East Relief to oversee the transportation of these orphans from Kharpert to Aleppo.
From Aleppo we went to Beirut, then to Marseille and then by ship we came to Providence, Rhode Island.


When the massacres began, I was 12 years old. I remember, they first took all the men of our village and kill them. The rest of us were deported. I don’t know how many hundreds we were. Everyone according to his ability rented a donkey or a horse and we left.
We went from Albistan to Zeitun to Marash to Aintab. We camped on a farm behind Aintab College, near some newly dug foundations for houses. They were simply large holes in the ground. You understand? An epidemic had broken out in our caravan and people were dying all around us. They started filling those foundations with dead bodies. Two, three, four, five bodies on top of each other.

From Aintab, orders came that everyone over the age of 12 was to be sent to Deir-El-Zor. A friend of mine and I escaped, but we were caught later and this time they sent us to Bizib then toward Biredjig. Biredjig is on the shores of the Euphrates. You understand? It is on the other side of the river. We stayed in a khan (an inn) on this side. Caravans would come through there and be sent off toward the desert; hundreds and hundreds of Armenians. We used to see dead, bloated bodies floating in the river.