The Armenian Weekly; April 5, 2008; Features

The Armenian Weekly On-Line
80 Bigelow Avenue
Watertown MA 02472 USA
(617) 926-3974
[email protected]


The Armenian Weekly; Volume 74, No. 13; April 5, 2008


1. Kurdish Accounts of the Armenian Genocide (Part II)

2. What one genocide scholar said (and did not say) at Rutgers

3. Four Brief Poems by Vahakn Karakashian
Translated by Tatul Sonentz


1. Kurdish Accounts of the Armenian Genocide (Part II)

This is the second part of the interviews conducted undercover with Kurds in
Anatolia for the documentary film "The Armenian Genocide" by Emmy
Award-winning producer Andrew Goldberg of Two Cats Productions

Very short segments of some of the interviews appeared in the documentary.
They are published exclusively in the Armenian Weekly for the first time and
in their entirety. The Kurdish producer of the interviews has requested

The Weekly once again thanks Andrew Goldberg and Two Cats TV for this


Interview #5: Khani

Question: Would this interview get you in trouble with the government?

The facts are clear whether they like it or not.

Question: What do you think of what Turkey says about the genocide?

Like I said, it isn’t a hidden thing. It is a fact. It cannot be denied. It
has been seen. It was in the open. They have to use their conscience.


Interview #6: Latif

Question: How did you feel when your parents would describe the genocide,
and how do you feel now?

It makes a person angry. When an acquaintance used to tell us about the
atrocities he had witnessed, they were so horrible that we couldn’t sleep at
night. I mean, the mass killing of children and women is heavy on the

I have also heard Grabat Khacho [an Armenian who is apparently known in the
area] talk about it, about how at that time he was in Kharza region, and
when they [the Turkish soldiers] came they killed his parents and older
brother, but he was spared because he was too young. He said he later made
it to Syria and then to Armenia.

Many of them were protected by the Kurds. The wealthy Kurds saved as many as
they could. It was easier for the wealthy because they had to hide them. As
I mentioned, in our village only one person was saved and had become a

Question: Thank You. Is there any thing else you would like to add?

Genocide is an atrocious inhumane act, and that is agreed upon universally.
I don’t put the blame of the genocide on the current government, but I do
think that they need to correct their history by admitting to the facts. I
don’t think Turkey will suffer from it [admitting]. The genocides of the
world, not just this one, for instance the most recent ones such as Halabja
and the others, must be admitted if humanity has to give value to life.


Interview #7: Mehmet

All the orchids and gardens in Dairike, the marble homes, all belonged to
the Armenians. The orchids, the olive farms, etc. They left and now it is in
our hands.

It is their land and their property. They are now out in Istanbul, in Europe
or Damascus and we are feeding on their property. I am sure they will find
proof of ownership in the old records.

There is a village, I forgot the name, Khanoke, the land there all belongs
to them but now other villagers are using it.

They weren’t harming anyone, but the government started killing them. There
is a gorge called "Christian Gorge." It is a deep gorge, where part of the
genocide took place. They killed the people and threw them in the gorge.

Right on those mountains, they would grab small kids, 6 months old, 1
year-olds, they would grab their arm and throw them into the gorge.
Meanwhile they [the Turks] deny doing that.

Question: Throwing people like that to their death is barbaric. Tell us more
about their monstrosity.

The monstrosity was committed by the government. When the republic was
established they began doing it. They were also committing it during the
Ottoman times. The genocide wasn’t only here. It was all over the country,
or wherever there were Armenians.

Question: What does the Turkish government say about the genocide, and are
they telling the truth?

It says it’s a lie and there is no such a thing. How could they deny such a
fact, I don’t know. The whole world is aware of it. To deny it is viscous in
itself. They killed the Kurds and the Yezidis, too, not just the Armenians.
They are barbarians.

Question: It has been nearly 100 years since the genocide. How do you feel
about it or when you remember it now?

[He cries.] I am still under the grievance. The stuff our grandfather told
us, I am still hurt by it. Where is humanity? When you ask me these
questions my inside is shaking.

We were like brothers. Our parents and grandparents were the same. We had no
differences and we had the same enemy. What else can I say?


Interview #8: Esma

Question: We have been told there are wells where the bodies were thrown in.

Yes, they killed them all. The area was mostly Christian. There were very
few Muslims. Later they [Muslims] took over.

We say we are Muslims but we do all the crimes in the world. We kill and we
destroy. We’re nothing. God is a witness.

They [my mother, grandmother] said the Muslims killed and completely
annihilated the Christians. They said they had no heart. Otherwise, how
could one swing a toddler in the air and throw it? They [Christians] were
also God’s children. The same way they [the Turks] killed the Kurds. My
grandmother said we used to live together like family. They had their sacred
places, we had ours.


Interview #9

Question: Did your grandfather participate in the genocide?

Everybody here did. There is a saying, Muslims are always hungry, they
always want more.

Everybody was ready to kill to gain something, a wife, land, property.

The army gave them the orders and they did it. My grandfather killed too,
and then married one, killed two of her baby boys, then bore three children
>From her. He ended up in the Diyarbekir prison until he died. Now no one
knows where his grave is. Anyone who hurts others will eventually get it

They say 70 percent of these graves are theirs. There weren’t many Muslims
here. They came later. Someone told my grandmother Aysha: I will show you
where I will hide the gold, but will not tell anyone else. I trust you. You
will keep an eye on it until we return. If we don’t return it’s for you to

A few days after they left, the villagers looked everywhere for the gold but
didn’t find any. Their jewelry is still around. When the archaeologists come
here and make surveys, they feel that there is something.


Interview #10: Jamal Akash

We have heard anecdotes about the genocide of the Christians. I don’t
remember too many of them. My grandmother told us this: Your grandfather
saved me and married me. I became Muslim. I had two brothers. They were both
in the village, in Pira Khala. They were children of a priest.

When the genocide began, the two brothers were killed. They each had a
child. My grandmother took the children to take care of them, but because of
an attack, the kids ran and disappeared. My grandmother lived until 1962.

She told us about a lot of events that took place during the genocide. I don’t
remember much about how they were captured and killed. Even the babies were
killed. Some were ordered to convert to Islam. Many of the ones who
converted were still killed.

Question: Where they killed individually or in groups?

They took them all together. Whether it was one person, a small group, or an
entire village, they would round them up and kill them all together.

My grandmother would say that even pregnant women were killed. They pierced
their swords into the women’s stomachs and lifted them in the air. They were
completely inhuman, ungodly acts.

Anyone who knows these tragic facts should tell them. Anyone who has a heart
and a soul needs to let the world know, let their children know about what

Question: The ones who committed these acts, did they later acknowledge that
what they had done was wrong?

Many of them who committed the crime later condemned themselves. Many
condemned themselves while doing it. I mean, they not only killed men and
women, but even babies.

Even now they experience psychological problems because of what they have


Interview #11: Farqin

Many situations like that and a lot of mass killings took place at that
time. The village we visited belonged to Christians. There were 300
Christian households. When I was young, I would go to the village, about 25
years ago. There were brass works done there. They were making pots and pans
>From brass. It used to be the work of the Christians.

There were 300 families. They all moved out and escaped in one night. They
say that they put their valuables in pots and buried them in the ground.
They told the Kurds, We trust you with our homes and property. If we return
give them back to us. If we don’t return then keep everything.

My grandmother Aysha would tell us they didn’t believe the Christians could
move out so swiftly. In the morning, we saw that the village was empty.

She said they sat there and cried. Why did they leave? Why was there a
genocide? Who did it? Did the republic do it? It happened before the
republic was formed. They [the army] told the clerics to tell the masses
that whoever kills the Christians will go to heaven.

Question: But the government policy at that time was to kill the boys and
spare the girls.

It was like that. They had two boys and one girl. There were also rumors
that there was an epidemic that killed them, but in reality, as you said,
the boys were killed and the girls were saved for marriage.

When they would capture them in groups and kill them the way the Nazis
killed the Jews in the concentration camps, they would tie them up with
ropes, take them to Zere and kill them en masse. The attractive women were
spared. The rest were killed.

Question: What does the Turkish government say about the genocide, and are
they telling the truth?

My grandmother is proof. Not only Turkey but if a hundred other nations deny
it, I wouldn’t believe them. Go see Capson Valley. How could I believe the
government? Go ask anyone in our district and they will tell you about the
genocide of the Christians.
————————————– ————————————————– ——-

2. What one genocide scholar said (and did not say) at Rutgers

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (A.W.)-On March 28, the Armenian Club of Rutgers
University hosted a lecture by Hilmar Kaiser at the Student Activities

Kaiser received his PhD from the European University Institute in Florence,
Italy. He specializes in Ottoman social and economic history as well as the
Armenian genocide. He has done research in more than 60 archives worldwide,
including the Ottoman Archives in Istanbul.

During the lecture, Kaiser presented an overview of the Armenian genocide,
based mainly on his research in the Ottoman archives. In the days following
the lecture, statements were disseminated over the internet about what
Kaiser said at Rutgers, portraying him as a denier of the Armenian genocide.

Kaiser is known in the community for his controversial statements and for
criticizing other genocide scholars, which he did at the Rutgers lecture.
And while many scholars and readers may not agree with some of his analysis
or conclusions on the genocide, at no point did Kaiser deny the genocide. He
consistently used the term "Armenian genocide" when referring to 1915-16,
clearly made the point that the massacres were centrally planned, and put
the number of "losses" at 1-1.5 million. The Turkish members of the audience
were anything but happy with Kaiser’s documentation of the genocide and
threw all kinds of denialist and revisionist arguments at him during the
question and answer session.

Kaiser parts ways with many genocide scholars on the issue of when the
decision to carry out the Armenian genocide was made. While most scholars
talk about a blueprint for the massacres, or a specific date when the
decision was made, Kaiser argues that there were not one but several
decisions for mass murder, all centrally planned and executed.

Below, we provide the transcript of Kaiser’s lecture, with the hope that it
will set the record straight and generate a healthy discussion. Kaiser did
not read from a prepared text. This transcript, shortened due to space
constraints, is from a digital recording taken by Armenian Weekly editor
Khatchig Mouradian.


The ARF and the Ottoman government

The Armenian community is a democratic, complex and politically competitive
community. And when I now say that the leading political party was the ARF,
some in the community might be offended. I just reflect the views of the
Ottoman Ministry of Interior and Ottoman Intelligence. The only political
group that was seen as politically of any relevance was the ARF.

The Ottoman government approached the ARF and proposed an alliance, because
the ARF was also present behind the Russian lines as a Russian political
party in Trans-Caucasia. The offer was that the ARF should start attacking
and sabotaging Russian lines of supply and communication, thereby
facilitating the Ottoman victory and, in return, the Ottoman government
would then grant them the political concession they denied the Armenian
community for years.

Basically, the offer was, "You join the war on our side, take the risk, and
then we promise you what we have denied you for years." So it wasn’t really
a good offer. What would happen to the Armenian community in Russia?

The ARF declined the offer and assured the Ottoman government that the
Armenian community in the Ottoman Empire would faithfully serve the common
Ottoman war cause, and the Armenians in Russia would serve the country they
were citizens of. This was the decision. But there was a minority opinion
[in the ARF] that was voted down. The minority opinion was a group of more
radical ARF members who said, "OK, the Russians are coming. We support the
advance and get the benefits." But this minority opinion was overvoted, and
the party line was at every single time upheld, with even strong measures by
the ARF leadership to assert the party line.

However, the internal communications of the meetings of the ARF had been
compromised and the details of the minority opinion were within days
available to Minister of Interior Talat. And the Ottoman government decided
to take the minority opinion that had been voted down as the real policy of
the ARF and began acting on it. They did this despite repeated intelligence
reports from the Eastern provinces, from Erzerum, Van, Bitlis, and Kharpert,
that the ARF and the Armenian community supported the war effort by
answering to the draft much more faithfully to the Muslim population. They
were supporting the draft more than the Muslims and they were absolutely

Campaign of repression

>From October 1914 right into May 1915, the Ottoman government began a
campaign of repression. Before the start of the war, the ARF had reactivated
an earlier, secret, semi-clandestine armed wing of the party, the
Self-Defense Organization. This was an organization that was created to
protect Armenian villages in remote areas especially from attacks by tribal
Kurdish groups, bandits, and other outrages that occurred regularly. Now
this sounds like a huge organization, but per village, it was maybe 6-10
armed men, plus, regionally, some so-called "mobile units," another 10-12
people who would be rushed to this or that village. This was a defensive
body that lacked heavy weapons and automatic weapons like machine guns, and
was not capable to really strike.

The Ottoman government knew who the militants were, they began taking out
local party leaders one by one and also tracking down the members of the
organization, thereby trying to destroy it. This was very easy because in
those days the winters in Armenia and Kurdistan were very severe in 1914-15,
high snow, so there was no way for the militants to escape to the mountains
and hide; and even if they were to leave the villages, there’s a trace. The
ARF leadership, based in Van, decided that it had to put up with the

And now comes a very important document, dated March 25, 1915. The document
has been used by Justin McCarthy in the book The Van Rebellion, but it seems
Professor McCarthy was so overworked that he could only use half the
document. I use the other half. In the second part of the report by Cevdet,
the governor, to Talat (there is not a single decision at Van that was not
supervised and approved by the central authorities), it says, The Armenian
population is entirely peaceful, calm, doing nothing; however, in reality
they are rebels, they are only waiting for the Russians to come and then
they will kill every Muslim.


At this point, the Ottoman government decided that it does not make a
difference at all if an Armenian would be fulfilling his civic duties,
obeying the law, or would be in open rebellion. He would be killed anyhow.
On March 25, the Ottoman forces decided to attack the Armenian community in
Van and wipe them out. It didn’t work.

Several Armenian leaders sacrificed their life (Ishkhan and Arshag Vramian).
Knowing that they would be murdered, they went to the other side to
negotiate, to win time. They knew that they were on a suicide mission going
to the other side to negotiate. Basically, the negotiator was going to his
own executioner in order to win a day, or in Vramian’s case, even a couple
of hours. And then the defense started. It was a defense, not a rebellion.
The defense was successful by accident.

The letter the Central Committee of ARF Van sent to the other Central
Committees says, We have done everything to avoid a clash. The last moment
has come, we will be killed, we will make our last stand. There was nothing
we could do.

The party line was to hold out until the last moment. They said, The last
moment has passed, we cannot hold out anymore. They explain to the rest of
the party why they are doing this. Basically, what they said was, Farewell,
there is no chance. We will just make a stand.

And indeed, the ARF, together with (this is one of the few moments of unity
in Armenian history) Hnchagians and Ramgavars fought together and they
survived. But had the Russian and Armenian volunteers arrived 24 hours late,
it would have meant total disaster. The Ottomans did not know that they had
overwhelmed the defenders.


At this point, the Ottoman government realized that it had failed to take
out the auto-defense unit in the area and probably in other areas.
Therefore, my conclusion (I don’t have a document that says this…) is that
the only way to avoid the potential threat of Armenians aiding the Russians
was to deport them. So in the last phase of the defense of Van, the Ottoman
government decides the deportation of Armenians in the area of the Van
province, adjacent to the Bitlis province and then in the northern Erzerum
province, exactly on the front line.

In the middle of June, the head of the Third Army (that’s the eastern front)
decreed the deportation of all Armenians within the Third Army area. This
adds Kharpert, Sivas, Dikranagert and Trebizond to the deportation. It’s the
bulk of the Armenian population.

At the end of July, the Ottoman government orders an immediate count of all
Armenians empire-wide and at the same time orders the deportation of
Armenians from the remaining provinces.

So what you have here is the successive waves of deportation that resulted,
by the end of September, in the total uprooting of Armenians, with the
exception of parts of Constantinople, Smyrna, Aleppo, and very small groups
of Armenians in Antaloya.

How were these deportation organized? Basically, they weren’t organized at
all in the beginning. They were just decreed. They said the local
administration takes care of the welfare of the Armenians. There were no
precise orders on how to secure the welfare of Armenians.

However, in a process that I would describe as "learning by doing," the
ideal size of an Armenian deportation caravan was established. One thousand
Armenians per deportation caravan was the best economy in the use of
accompanying gendarme forces. If the deportation caravan shrinks
considerably, the convoy is stopped and parked until a second convoy arrives
that has shrunk as well. Then they merge to the 1,000 number. So what you
have here is a filter, and the system of economy shows you that the
deportation was already a form of destruction, extermination. The concern
was about the economy, the best efficient use of the gendarmes or the
militia who accompanied the deportees. And they didn’t try to stop the
shrinking, by the way.

You have to understand that these were Ottoman citizens, protected by
Ottoman law. At no point in the entire time was the Ottoman penal code
cancelled. The government was breaking Ottoman law in the process.

These people were then sent to Der Zor, which, as a desert district, had
very weak infrastructure. What we see here is that in August/September, the
Ottoman central government established a deportation administration in the
Der Zor, Ras ul Ain, and along the Euphrates.

Andonian was not lying

One of these officials was Naim Bey, the famous Naim Bey of Aram Andonian.
We have identified him. He existed, the name was right, Andonian’s
description of him as corrupt was right, and also his workplace at Meskene
was right. Andonian was not lying.

The Der Zor massacre

In 1916, the Der Zor massacre. Possibly the worst massacre of the Armenian
genocide. Why did it happen? Why in 1916? And why do I say that it was not
planned in 1915?

Der Zor had such a weak administrative infrastructure that it was
overwhelmed. And because Der Zor was directly linked to the central
government and not first to a provincial governor, it reported directly to

In early 1916, Talat ordered an acceleration of deportation of Armenians
into Der Zor. He was really urging regional authorities to speed up and not
to let the Armenians stray. Then Talat ordered the authorities in Der Zor to
stop sending the Armenians to another settlement region, Kirkuk-which was in
the Mosul province-because the commander of the Sixth Army had complained
that these Armenians would be a security risk as the British were advancing
in Iraq. So what you see here, the overflow area of Der Zor, Kirkuk, was
closed-off because the army in Iraq said we don’t want to have them there.

So Der Zor became a cul de sac, a dead end. And even the one caravan that
made it to Mosul was sent back to Der Zor on the orders of Talat. Mind you,
we have survivor memoirs of people who were in the caravan. Then, the
central authorities say, No more Armenians into Homs, Hama. Only Der Zor.
Cannot go south, cannot go east.

Next order: The deportees in Ras ul Ain were sent into Der Zor.

Then comes the order that Armenians should not be employed by the government
anymore. It means the Armenians don’t get paid for their work anymore. If
you don’t get paid but you have to pay for food, who feeds you? The
government. You see the problem that’s building up? A lot of Armenians, very
expensive, very few resources, and then comes the big thing. The presence of
Armenians threatens the supply lines of the Iraqi army along the Euphrates.
They must not stay along the Euphrates. If you are not allowed to stay at
the Euphrates, if you are not allowed to leave the area, where to put you?
Then in July, Talat says, Move the Armenians away from Der Zor. What was the
direction? Cheddadiyye. What we also see is that Talat coordinated in late
July, in rapid succession, the deployment of additional mounted gendarmerie
or militia forces in Der Zor. There’s a build-up.

Then in August, the Armenians are massacred. And you don’t find much on this
in the archives. The only thing you find in some Turkish military memoirs is
a description of the bone fields.

The Young Turk government did not have one decision for mass murder, they
had several decisions for mass murder, and these various decisions for mass
murder add up to this total wipe out, destruction.

Concentration camps

When we talk about concentration camps, we all think about Auschwitz or
Germany in World War II. In the Armenian genocide, you don’t have that. You
do not need barbed wire. The desert was much more effective. In the Syrian
desert, you don’t have to fence the Armenians. Once you control the exits to
the water, you control the movement of the people because the people have to
go to the water to survive.

Gendered genocide

The Armenian genocide is a highly gendered genocide. The Armenian genocide
is a history of the women and the children, because the men were in the army
or were killed early in the deportation. The historiography of the Armenian
genocide is also highly gendered. It’s written by the males.

Number of victims

The Ottoman Armenian population was approximately 1.8-2.2 million people.
Depending on the estimate, between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians were "lost."
When I say "lost," I mean killed, but also taken into Muslim households.
"Lost" to the community, not returned.

It turns out the Armenian Patriarchate figures are surprisingly reliable. I
obtained documents from the Ottoman archives where you find Armenian in
small numbers in villages where, according to the Patriarchate, there were
no Armenians.
————————————— ————————————————– ———

3. Four Brief Poems by Vahakn Karakashian


You submit to the clouds
with a colorless body.
The feeling of eternity
Has lost its way,
as faith crumbles slowly
in your palms.

Faith in death is hard
when-beyond doubt-
given its girth,
it cannot fit in your deathbed.



Relics of dead music,
inside the eyes.
I, a depth
flattened at the start.
And-through lost spaces-
extraterrestrial gods
monitoring us.

The black lights shed from limbs
and the passionate parable of gazes.
Here, in the scream of the street.



With festering faces
we stoop
to the suffering sunset.
The time of your life expands
>From soil to sky.

You are convinced,
there is no moribund history,
you confess,
that the moon and the sky,
appearing after sunset,
find you friendly.



Days without echoes are here again,
your footsteps fade in memory.

The stars of longing show up late
and drown
in the puddles
formed by your steps
in the ground
after the rain.

Translated by Tatul Sonentz