‘A REIGN OF TERROR’
C UP Rule in Diyarbekir Province, 1913-1923 Ugur U. UngÃ¶r University
of Amsterdam, Department of History Master’s thesis ‘Holocaust
and Genocide Studies’ June 2005 2 ‘A Reign of Terror’ CUP Rule in
Diyarbekir Province, 1913-1923 Ugur U. UngÃ¶r University of Amsterdam
Department of History Master’s thesis ‘Holocaust and Genocide Studies’
Supervisors: Prof. Johannes Houwink ten Cate, Center for Holocaust and
Genocide Studies Dr. Karel Berkhoff, Center for Holocaust and Genocide
Studies June 2005 3 Contents Preface 4 Introduction 6 1 ‘Turkey for
the Turks’, 1913-1914 10 1.1 Crises in the Ottoman Empire 10 1.2
‘Nationalization’ of the population 17 1.3 Diyarbekir province before
World War I 21 1.4 Social relations between the groups 26 2 Persecution
of Christian communities, 1915 33 2.1 Mobilization and war 33 2.2 The
‘reign of terror’ begins 39 2.3 ‘Burn, destroy, kill’ 48 2.4 Center
and periphery 63 2.5 Widening and narrowing scopes of persecution
73 3 Deportations of Kurds and settlement of Muslims, 1916-1917 78
3.1 Deportations of Kurds, 1916 81 3.2 Settlement of Muslims, 1917 92
3.3 The aftermath of the war, 1918 95 3.4 The Kemalists take control,
1919-1923 101 4 Conclusion 110 Bibliography 116 Appendix 1: DH.Å~^FR
64/39 130 Appendix 2: DH.Å~^FR 87/40 132 Appendix 3: DH.Å~^FR 86/45
134 Appendix 4: Family tree of Y.A. 136 Maps 138 4 Preface A little
less than two decades ago, in my childhood, I became fascinated with
violence, whether it was children bullying each other in school,
fathers beating up their daughters for sneaking out on a date,
or the omnipresent racism that I did not understand at the time. In
essence, I was interested in why people hurt each other physically and
psychologically. The German occupation of the Netherlands provided
much food for thought, so I started reading thick popular books and
Dutch war novels in primary school. Later, in my adolescence, this
interest became more serious as it chrystallized further to include
the televised race riots in Los Angeles, the nationalist wars like
those in Yugoslavia or Eastern Turkey, the televised Rwandan genocide,
and finally, the Holocaust – my first monomaniac fascination. I was
absorbed by the black-and-white propaganda movies of thousands of
well-dressed Nazis rhythmically marching and saluting through streets
draped with hundreds of flags. But this was no over-moralized clichÃ©
anti-Nazi statement. On the contrary, my interest was rooted in other
emotions: I wanted to be like them, to experience in person that
nationalist hysteria, the feeling of belonging to an enormity, the
unlimited power, and the occult satisfaction of mass hate. But upon
seeing the images of the death camps, the children, the injections,
the obscenity of the body count, I realized that something insane
was going on. With very strong emotions of righting injustice, I
wanted to leap into history to free the victims, break their chains,
tear down the barbed wire and end the suffering.
Since I was determined to know more about the evils committed
in this period, I kept searching and finding material about the
Nazi genocide. I wrote several papers and organized a documentary
screening about the shoah, and by the time the topic was finally
taught in my thirdyear history class, I knew more about it than my
history teacher, Mr. Henk Wes, whom I would like to thank on this
occasion for his inspiring classes and for urging me to pursue my
interest further. In this never-ending quest for finding satisfying
answers to those disturbing questions haunting me since my childhood,
I registered for Sociology at the University of Groningen. With
the intellectual equipment of the modern social sciences, genocide
didn’t seem like an unfathomable mystery anymore. Since the dawn of
time human beings have been involved in organizing the mass-murder of
their fellow human beings. Along with a growing expertise in genocide
studies and a continuous process of redefining ethic frameworks, I
became interested in the Armenian Genocide. Not only was this one of
the major examples of modern genocide, it was also carried out in the
region where I was born (Eastern Turkey). Well before any scholarly
exercise I began interviewing the elderly from that region, as will
be explained in the introduction.
Not only did I realize that the events were very much alive in the
collective memories of present local communities, it also became
clear that these memories fully contradicted the denialist policies
of Turkish state organs. In order to fully commit myself to a more
or less thorough study 5 of an aspect of the genocide, I opted for
the one-year MA programme that the Center for Holocaust and Genocide
Studies offered at the University of Amsterdam.
During this intensive course I experienced a very productive year,
culminating in 3 publications and this MA thesis.
Naturally, I owe many people gratitude. First of all, thanks to
the CHGS staff for their ceaseless efforts to consort with their
parameters as this included educating their students; Ton Zwaan of
the University of Amsterdam for guiding me through the process of
understanding how human societies and genocides function; the staff
at the Zoryan Institute for everything; Osman Aytar of Stockholm
University for providing addresses in Istanbul; Ara Sarafian of the
Gomidas Institute for everything including chip butty; Mesut Ozcan
of Kalan Publishing for everything; Samuel Totten of the University
of Arkansas for giving me books; Erdal Gezik for his inspiration
and hospitality; Canan Seyfeli of Ankara University for sending
me certain ciphers; Hilmar Kaiser for intellectual exchanges; Fuat
Dundar for re-emphasizing important details of archival research;
the staff of the Ottoman archives in Istanbul for their professional
help; Jan Bet-Sawoce for his help on Syriac sources; in particular
Ahmet TaÅ~_gÄ±n of DiyarbakÄ±r Dicle University for everything; Mufit
Yuksel for sharing his erudition; Mark Levene of Southampton University
for his help and enthusiasm; Gurdal Aksoy for help with oral history;
Å~^erafettin Kocaman of the BeyazÄ±t Library for help with the Takvim-i
Vekayi issues; Sabri Atman for introducing me to Syriac society;
George Aghjayan for sending me oral histories; Zulfikar Ozdogan of
the International Institute for Social History for help with sources;
Fatih Ozdemir of Middle East Technic University for intellectual
exchanges, and Ali Levent UngÃ¶r for carrying my suitcase with 46
kilos of books from Turkey to Germany. I specifically thank my good
friend NiÅ~_an SarÄ±can, whose help and support during the writing
process was indispensible. Then, I also have to thank the dozens of
(partly anonymous) respondents that I interviewed for the sake of
oral history material.
Special acknowledgement also goes out to the AUV Fund (University of
Amsterdam) and GUF Fund (University of Groningen). With a generous
grant each, their financial support facilitated my research greatly.
Above all I would like to thank my supervisors: Prof. Dr. Johannes
Houwink ten Cate and Dr.
Karel Berkhoff of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Finally, thank you to my extended family for their endless support
and for putting up with me.
September 2004, Ä°stanbul May 2005, Amsterdam 6 Introduction This is
a study of Ottoman government policies in the province of Diyarbekir
from 1913 to 1918.
In this period, the Ottoman Empire was under the rule of the then
reigning ‘Committee of Union and Progress’ (Ä°ttihat ve Terakki
Cemiyeti). From 1913 on, a small but radical faction within this
semi-official political party ordered empire-wide campaigns of
ethnic cleansing, involving mass-deportation, forced assimilation,
and genocidal destruction of various ethnic communities.
Hundreds of Arab, Armenian, Kurdish, Syriac, and other communities
suffered losses as a result of these forced relocations and
persecutions. Combined with wartime famines due to corruption, failed
harvests due to deportations, and the outbreak of contagious diseases,
millions of human beings died. The CUP put its policies into practice
for the sake of a thorough ethno-religious homogenization of the
empire, resulting in the establishment of a Turkish nation-state in
1923. In the first Republican decades, processes of social engineering
went on as many CUP potentates remained influential and continued to
formulate and implement new nation-building policies in the Turkish
Although several general studies on these ethnic policies have been
written, there are only few case-studies.1 The wartime history of
provinces such as Bitlis, Adana, Mamuret-ul Aziz, or Diyarbekir
have been left practically unexplored by historians. This study
will analyze the wartime history of Diyarbekir province, which has
been selected because of its centrality in the Ottoman Empire. Its
administrative, legal, and military importance is illustrated by the
fact that it lodged a powerful governorship, a court-martial, and the
Second Army. Furthermore, it harboured a broad diversity of ethnic
and social groups of whom little is known. Diyarbekir is especially
an interesting case because it can provide opportunity for testing
the following research questions.
As mentioned above, the two main lacunes in the historiography
of the First World War of the Ottoman Empire are firstly the local
implementation of anti-Christian policies, and secondly the fact that
many other communities suffered losses too. These two issues will be
addressed for Diyarbekir province: the deportation and destruction
of Ottoman Christians, and the deportation and settlement of Ottoman
Muslims. It is not widely contested that between 1914 and 1924 Anatolia
was more or less cleansed of Ottoman Christians through migration,
forced conversion, deportation, and massacres. Throughout time, these
events came to be known as ‘the Armenian Genocide’, the planned,
coordinated CUP program of systematic destruction of the Ottoman
Armenian community.2 However, history proves to be more complex as
innovating research 1 Hilmar Kaiser, "’A Scene from the Inferno’:
The Armenians of Erzerum and the Genocide, 1915-1916," in: Hans-Lukas
Kieser & Dominik J. Schaller (eds.), Der VÃ¶lkermord an den Armeniern
und die Shoah: The Armenian Genocide and the Shoah (Zurich: Chronos,
2001), pp.129-86; Kevork Y. Suakjian, Genocide in Trebizond: A Case
Study of Armeno-Turkish Relations during the First World War (Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 1981); Ibrahim Khalil, Mosul Province:
A Study of its Political Development 1908-1922 (unpublished MA thesis,
University of Baghdad, 1975).
2 For an incomplete bibliography of research on the Armenian Genocide
see: Hamo B. Vassilian (ed.), The Armenian Genocide: A Comprehensive
Bibliography and Library Resource Guide (Glendale, CA: Armenian
Reference Books, 1992).
7 shows that many issues of this human catastrophy remain unaccounted
for.3 One of these issues is the relationship between center and
periphery during the deportations, in other words, how (in)dependent
local civil servants were of the central authorities. A second issue
is the fate of other (non-Muslim) minorities. Since this study is
on Diyarbekir province, the lesser known experiences of Syriacs and
Yezidis will be included. It is known that they were subjected to
similar genocidal attacks, but questions remain on how this should
be conceptualized. Thirdly, the long history of Kurdish-Armenian
relations included periods of coexistence alternated with periods
of friction, the large-scale political violence of 1915 being a
milestone of friction. Yet, relatively little research has been done
on the complex and often ambivalent actions of Kurdish individuals
and tribes before, during and after the genocide. The participation
of Kurdish tribesmen in the massacring of Christians will also be
considered in detail for Diyarbekir.
Regarding the second core problem, there is little detailed research
on deportations of Kurds. It is unclear whether Kurdish citizens were
deported out of wartime necessities to thwart off their potential
alliances with Russia, or whether these deportations were premeditated
programs of ethnic restructuring and forced assimilation. Then again,
this approach needs to reckon with the Balkan migrants that were
forced to settle in the eastern provinces, Diyarbekir included.
Naturally, all of these questions cannot be answered exhaustingly,
but these critical issues may pave the way for new areas of inquiry.
Until recently, scholarly studies on the CUP have expounded on its
genesis, organizational structure, cadre, and ideology.4 Many aspects
of its demographic plans and factual policies towards the Ottoman
population, including their consequences for the communities and
regions involved, remain obscure. This study aims at filling this
gap by attempting to contribute to our empirical understanding of
CUP policies in Diyarbekir province. A comprehensive analysis of the
period, including a full discussion of the entire scheme of social
engineering, is outside the scope of this study, therefore only one
province will be at the center of our attention: Diyarbekir.
Sporadically we will glance beyond its provincial borders, as this
will only be done in cases where the particular can only be explained
by the general, i.e. to contextualize Diyarbekir in the bureaucratic
fabric of Ottoman society.
Before proceeding into the structure of this thesis, it is first
important to point out why it seems necessary to focus on Diyarbekir
as a key to understanding the aforementioned problems.
Grasping the relationship between center and periphery requires
concentrating on a region per se.
This is significant because the implementation of any policy
depended on the balance between the administrative autonomy of
governors and mayors on the one hand, and the Interior Ministry on the
other. Important topics are the different levels of state involvement
in the process, local 3 Norman Naimark, "The Implications of the
Study of Mass Killing in the 20th century for Analyzing the Armenian
Genocide," paper presented at the conference Vectors of Violence:
War, Revolution, and Genocide, University of Minnesota (Minneapolis),
27-30 March 2003.
8 tensions and power structures utilized by the state, the varied
position of the local populations to the policies, different forms
of resistance and collaboration, and the actual implementation of the
process as to who is involved and under what circumstances. This way,
an analysis of the mesolevel would bridge the gap between the too
general macro- and too specific micro-level. Firstly, Diyarbekir was
to constitute a hub where deportees were concentrated from all over
the vast empire. Secondly, Diyarbekir province harboured a formidable
diversity of ethnic and religious communities. Each of these has its
(often very traumatic) collective memories and popular narratives
about the period thus it seems meaningful to explore these and compare
the various experiences.5 Since written sources were scarce among the
population of Diyarbekir, an appeal for use of oral history will be
made. Last but not least, this regional approach is methodologically
useful in terms of writing hitherto neglected local history.6 This
thesis consists of four chapters. The first chapter provides an
overview of the political situation in the Ottoman Empire at the eve
of the war, in particular the ideas and actions of the CUP vis-a-vis
their subject nationalities. Its three concepts, crisis, nationalism,
and ethnic restructuring will be elaborated as the chapter concentrates
on key decisions taken by the CUP, in the period 1910-1914. The chapter
will also provide a bird’s eye view of Diyarbekir province before the
outbreak of the war. Along with brief ethnographic and socio-economic
explorations, this will deal with intercommunal relations and with
the Turkification of administrative posts by loyal and influential
CUP members. Chapter two examines the persecution of the Christians
in the province of Diyarbekir. This reconstruction will focus on the
fate of the Diyarbekir province Armenians and Syriacs (including the
Tur Abdin region), and on passing convoys of deportees.
The role of Kurdish tribesmen in the persecution will also be
Chapter three takes up the deportations of Kurds to the western
provinces and their intended assimilation into the newly formulated
Turkish culture. It intends to reflect the situation in Diyarbekir in
the aftermath of the war, when the destructions had ebbed down. It
will also look into the actions of remaining CUP members and local
accomplices, and the implications of the war for Diyarbekir. Chapter
four will conclude by summing up the main findings of this study and
adding some more general remarks on the context of the events.
The material for this study is based on original documentation from
Ottoman, American and European consular, diplomatic, and private
archives and memoirs. Ottoman archival material is unquestionably
the prime source for any discussion of the deportations.7 The Ottoman
archives, located in the Sultanahmet district in European Istanbul,
are not only one of the richest 4 For a bibliography of research on
the CUP, see: N. Naim Turfan, Rise of the Young Turks: Politics,
the Military and Ottoman Collapse (London: I.B. Tauris, 2000),
5 Michael Kenny, "A Place for Memory: The Interface between Individual
and Collective History," in: Comparative Studies in Society and
History, vol.41, no.3 (1999), pp.420-37.
6 Harriet T. Zurndorfer, "From Local History to Cultural History:
Reflections on Some Recent Publications," in: T’oung Pao, vol.83
7 Ara Sarafian, "The Ottoman Archives Debate and the Armenian
Genocide," in: Armenian Forum, vol.2, no.1 (1999), pp.35-44.
9 collections of official, archival state documentation in the world,
they also permit the historian in her/his research to descend to the
provincial level without any shortage of documentation.8 However, use
of the Ottoman archives also bears certain restrictions, in that the
archival material unearthed for the CUP period needs to be treated with
reservation and careful assessment. Due to the sectarian and secretive
nature of the CUP many decisions and orders were issued orally.
This is especially true for compromising situations such as
murderous orders. Therefore, it is futile to delve in the Ottoman
archives for direct references containing the destruction of an
entire group.9 For this reason, post-war court-martial records,
parliamentary investigations, and memoirs of CUP potentates will
supplement state documents. In addition to official documents, a
bottom-up perspective will also be utilized. Perpetrator, survivor,
or bystander memoirs are very useful in drawing local pictures
and furnish details on small cities, villages, neighbourhoods, and
families.10 Oral history fulfills a crucial role in bridging the
gap between the historian’s fetishism for written documentation and
the anthropologist’s diversified heuristic program. Even though nine
decades have passed since the events, many details remain strikingly
vivid in the admittedly fragmented memory base of Eastern Anatolian
communities.11 This is particularly valid for (often rural) communities
with no written traditions, such as Alevis, Syriacs, or Kurds.12 Thus,
oral history is certainly a legitimate method of obtaining data.
Fortunately, a lot of work has already been carried out: there are
extensive Armenian oral history collections and survivor testimonies
on the genocide.13 Other collections, both in Turkey and in Europe,
are in the making.14 The complexity of Ottoman society and relative
paucity of detailed, micro-level material regarding our topic requires
this multi-dimensional approach.
8 Stanford J. Shaw, "Ottoman Archival Materials for the Nineteenth and
Early Twentieth Centuries: The Archives of Istanbul," in: International
Journal of Middle East Studies, vol.6 (1975), pp.94-114.
9 Vahakn N. Dadrian, "Ottoman Archives and Denial of the Armenian
Genocide", in: Richard G. Hovannisian, The Armenian Genocide: History,
Politics, Ethics (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992), pp.280-310.
10 The genocide survivor memoir has become a genre in the second half
of the twentieth century. Lorne Shirinian, Survivor Memoirs of the
Armenian Genocide (Reading: Taderon, 1999). For critical notes on
survivor memoirs see: Bogdan Musial, "Thesen zum Pogrom in Jedwabne:
Kritische Anmerkungen zu der Darstellung ‘Nachbarn’," in: Jahrbucher
fur Geschichte Osteuropas, vol.50, nr.4 (2002), pp.381- 411.
11 Leyla Neyzi, "Exploring Memory Through oral history in Turkey,"
in: Maria Todorova (ed.), National Identities and National Memories
in the Balkans (London: C. Hurst and Co., 2003), pp.60-76.
12 For centuries, most correspondence between Kurdish notables
was written in Arabic or Ottoman. In the 20th century publications
mushroomed in KurmancÃ®, the most widespread northern Kurdish language.
Martin van Bruinessen, "KurdÃ®: zimanekÃ® bi derd e," in: Mahabad
B. QilorÃ® & NÃªcÃ®rvan QilorÃ®, Ferhenga KurdÃ®-HolendÃ®; Woordenboek
Koerdisch-Nederlands (Amsterdam: Bulaaq, 2002), 14-21.
For a remarkable study including Kurdish oral history see: Susan
Meiselas, Kurdistan in the Shadow of History (New York: Random House,
13 Levon Marashlian, "The Status of Armenian oral history," in:
Society for Armenian Studies Bulletin, vol.5 (1980), pp.3-7. Donald E.
Miller & Lorna Touryan Miller, Survivors: An oral history of the
Armenian Genocide (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).
14 In the past decade the History Department of SabancÄ± University
in Turkey initiated a broad and ambitious oral history project:
< >. The History Foundation
(Tarih VakfÄ±, not to be confused with the semi-official Turkish
History Foundation, Turk Tarih Kurumu) has completed several projects
and continues its oral history activities. SÃ¶zlu Tarih KÄ±lavuzu
(Istanbul: Tarih VakfÄ±, 1993). The Netherlands Dersim Foundation
(Hollanda Dersim VakfÄ±) is currently transcribing hundreds of oral
history interviews with elderly Dersimites.
10 Chapter 1: ‘Turkey for the Turks’ 1.1 Crises in the Ottoman
Empire From the middle of the nineteenth century on, the Ottoman
Empire was vexed by several crises as politicians struggled for
the political survival and cultural formation of the decaying
empire.15 The reigning Sultan, Abdulhamid II (1842-1918), struggled
with managing the power balance between his government and various
oppositional political groups. The Sultan, a pious, intelligent but
ruthless leader, became the controversial 34th Sultan of the House
of Osman. The core concept during his autocratic rule (1876-1909)
was centralization of all domains of Ottoman society: education,
taxation, communication, transportation, and other societal areas were
thorougly centralized and improved. Parallel to these developments,
the Sultan enforced censorship on the press and organized dozens of
tribes into irregular mounted regiments called Hamidiye that massacred
many Armenian communities in Eastern Anatolia in the 1890s.
Grappling with a manifold political crisis, Abdulhamid remained in
power and continued his despotic regime in spite of two unsuccessful
attempts at his life.16 As the 20th century set in, the fragmented
opposition became more outspoken it its ideas and began exerting
critical influence on Ottoman politics.
One of the many oppositional parties in the decades before the
First World War was the ‘Committee of Union and Progress’ (Ä°ttihat
ve Terakki Cemiyeti), founded in 1899 at the Medical Academy in
Istanbul. The cadre of the CUP was made up of intellectuals, state
officials and young military officers, pushing for installment of the
constitution and the convention of parliament. The main force behind
the organization was the chief telegraphist of Salonica, Mehmed TalÃ¢t
(1874-1921),17 who, after 1906, came to lead a major faction within
the still secret CUP. Other groups within the CUP were the group
around Ä°smail Enver (1881-1922),18 a young major in the Third Army
Corps. As a result of lobbying and disseminating propaganda among
15 Ä°lber OrtaylÄ±, Ä°mparatorlugun en uzun YuzyÄ±lÄ± (Ä°stanbul:
Ä°letiÅ~_im, 2000), pp.13-32.
16 Francois Georgeon, Abdulhamid II: Le sultan calife (1876-1909)
(Paris: Fayard, 2003).
17 TalÃ¢t was born in 1874 as the son of a minor Ottoman civil
servant. He graduated from Edirne High School, joined the staff
of the telegraph company in Edirne, but was arrested in 1893 by the
Abdulhamid regime for subversive political activities. After two years
imprisonment, he was appointed chief secretary of post in Salonica and
rendered important services to the CUP. After the revolution of 1908,
he became member of parliament for Edirne, and in 1909, he rose to
the rank of Minister of the Interior. He was subsequently appointed
Minister of Post and then elected Secretary General of the CUP in 1912,
further boosting his power base within the party. In 1914 he yielded
to Enver PaÅ~_a’s pressure to enter the war on the side of Germany
and Austria-Hungary. As Minister of the Interior he was responsible
for the deportation and persecution of the Ottoman Armenians. In 1917
he became Grand Vizier but resigned on 14 October 1918, two weeks
before the Ottoman capitulation. Together with Enver PaÅ~_a and Cemal
PaÅ~_a he fled in a submarine to Germany, where he was murdered in
Berlin on 15 March 1921 in an act of revenge by Soghomon Tehlirian,
an Armenian hitman. In 1943, his remains were flown over to Turkey
and reburied in Istanbul. Tevfik Cavdar, TalÃ¢t PaÅ~_a: Bir Ã¶rgut
ustasÄ±nÄ±n yaÅ~_am Ã¶ykusu (Ankara: Dost, 1984).
18 Born on 22 November 1881 in Istanbul, Enver began making a career
in the Ottoman army at a young age. In 1908 he was one of the three
leaders of the CUP movement that rebelled against Abdulhamid. From
1909-11 he served as military attachÃ© to Berlin and became
thoroughly Germanophile. When Italy occupied Libya, Enver organised
the Ottoman resistance in Tripoli. 1913 saw Enver lead the bloody coup
d’Ã©tat, after which he remained an influential member of the Ottoman
government until 1918. In 1914 Enver had become Minister of War and,
after purging army officers deemed disloyal to the CUP, conducted
secret negotiations with Germany aimed at constructing a military
alliance. The calamitous defeat at SarÄ±kamÄ±Å~_ on 29 December 1914
severely damaged his charisma, but Enver fought back and with Russia
withdrawing from the war in 1917, he pushed the Ottoman forces into
Baku in 1918. The arrival of the armistice and the end of the war
caused Enver to flee to Germany in a submarine. From there, he left
for Central Asia with the aim of uniting the Turkic peoples in a pan-
Turanist state. His political fantasies ended when he was killed in the
1921 revolt by the Basmachi against the Bolsheviks on 4 August 1922.
Louis A. Springer, "The Romantic Career of Enver Pasha," in: Asia,
vol.17, no.6 (1917), pp.457-61.
11 Ottoman citizens, the CUP exerted enough pressure on Abdulhamid for
him to proclaim the constitution on 23 April 1908.19 The re-installment
of the constitution and the parliament was by no means the cure for
all diseases the Ottoman Empire suffered. On the contrary, one could
contend that it in many ways it contributed to a deconcentration of
power and increased the incapability of the government in dealing
with the ensuing crises.
>From 1909 on the ailing empire grappled with a severe crisis, comprised
of internal and external pressures. Internally, the country was torn
due to uprisings of both nationalist and rustic varieties. Between
1904 and 1911, a continuous war raged between the Ottoman army and
rebellious Arabs in the remote southeastern province Yemen. The war
had a detrimental effect upon Ottoman military morale due to the
high death rate among Ottoman soldiers, compared to other fronts.20
An other boiling pot was Albania, that demanded autonomy in 1910
even though its population was predominantly Muslim and nationalism
hadn’t gained foothold among larger segments of Albanian society.21
Kosovo and Montenegro too became scenes of important uprisings between
1910 and 1912.22 The Dersim region with its small but heavily armed
KÄ±zÄ±lbaÅ~_ population rose in rebellion in 1911 and 1912.23 Most of
these uprisings were caused by either organized ethnic nationalism
or discontent with Ottoman rule, such as taxation and military
conscription. The centralizing efforts of respective Ottoman
governments in the Balkans did not offer much solace and proved
counterproductive. But rebellions initiatives were conceived in the
Anatolian provinces as well, where intercommunal friction was prevalent
and governmental control weak. Moreover, provincial centers like Van,
Bitlis, and Diyarbekir were hotbeds of Armenian and Kurdish separatist
nationalism.24 At this juncture, Zionism too started becoming a serious
problem for the Ottoman government. Since this form of secular Jewish
nationalism was fixated upon establishing settlements and independence
in Palestine, it was a harmful ideology for the Ottoman elite.25 It is
not difficult to surmise that the effect of these series of internal
crises was not beneficial to societal peace.
The external crisis wasn’t any milder. First of all, the Ottoman
Ministry of Economy had to cope with exorbitant debts: for 1908-1909
the country owed its creditors 11.711.128 Turkish pounds, which
dropped to 11.000.004 pounds for 1910-1911, approximately one-thirds
of the Ottoman national budget. This kept the empire at the edge
of bankruptcy.26 The major Western powers had been encroaching upon
Ottoman territory for the sake of imperialist expansion for a long
time. Italy occupied Tripolitania in October 1912 and escaped potential
repercussions 19 Aykut Kansu, The revolution of 1908 in Turkey (Leiden:
20 M. Å~^akir UlkutaÅ~_Ä±r, "Turk Tarih ve Folklorunda Yemen," in:
Ulku, vol.2, no.17 (1948), pp.10-12.
21 George W. Gawrych, Ottoman administration and the Albanians:
1908-1913 (unpublished dissertation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor,
22 Erik-Jan Zurcher, "Kosovo revisited: Sultan Resad’s Macedonian
journey of June 1911," in: Middle Eastern Studies, vol.35, no.4
23 M. Kalman, Belge ve tanÄ±klarÄ±yla Dersim direniÅ~_leri (Ä°stanbul:
NÃ"jen, 1995), pp.99-100.
24 Roderic H. Davison, "The Armenian Crisis, 1912-1914," in: The
American Historical Review (1947), pp.465-505.
25 Esther Benbassa, "Zionism in the Ottoman Empire at the End of the
19th and the Beginning of the 20th Century," in: Studies in Zionism,
vol.11, no.2 (1990), pp.127-40.
12 because of Ottoman military impotence and British rejection of
intervention in favour of the Ottomans. CUP efforts of deploying
a paramilitary expedition including Enver proved futile; the
Italian government even ordered bombings of Gallipoli.27 Bitter and
disillusioned, the Ottoman government, lead by Minister of the Interior
KÃ¢mil PaÅ~_a (1823-1913), turned its back on the European powers
and could only organize an ineffective economic boycot when Austria-
Hungary officially annexed Bosnia-Hercegovina. The most severe and
acute crisis hadn’t come forth yet. Emboldened by these exhibitions
of Ottoman humiliations, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Montenegro
declared war on the Ottoman Empire in October 1912. The Ottoman armed
forces, underpaid and underfed, struggled with their technically
obsolete weapons and could not hold long. Completely demoralized,
the army retreated to the outskirts of Istanbul and awaited the terms
of truce the Balkan countries issued on 3 December 1912.28 Although
Edirne, the former capital of the Ottoman Empire, was being besieged
and desperately in need of relief, the negotiations of 22 January
indicated that the government would surrender this important city
to the Bulgarian government.29 The CUP was infuriated and a group of
hardliners including TalÃ¢t,30 Enver, the particularly powerful doctors
Bahaeddin Å~^akir and NÃ¢zÄ±m, orator Omer Naci, militant Yakup Cemil
and others embarked on a reckless raid to the ‘Sublime Porte’ (BÃ¢b-Ä±
Ali), the governmental building. On 23 January 1913 in the afternoon,
the building was surrounded and occupied by a dozen armed men. In
the ensuing skirmish, three CUP members and many guards were killed
as the short-tempered Yakup Cemil shot the Minister of Defense, and
Enver walked into a cabinet meeting and boldly demanded the immediate
resignation of the cabinet.31 The coup d’Ã©tat was a success.
The period 1908-191432 was characterized by fiery political discussions
about religion, modernity, and population politics. In the apocalyptic
atmosphere in Istanbul, other political factions like the ‘Freedom
and Coalition Party’ (Hurriyet ve Ä°tilaf FÄ±rkasÄ±) were pushing
for radical changes too. However, of all these different parties,
the CUP would emerge victorious owing to TalÃ¢t’s organizational
talent combined with Enver’s ruthless decisiveness. The country
was now on the verge of a new episode in its long and problematic
history. The humiliating defeats of the Balkan wars coupled with
ethnically organized massacres on all sides33 did not only mark a
new stage in the life-threatening crisis for the Ottoman Empire,
that now lost its most profitable and 26 Sina AkÅ~_in, JÃ¶n Turkler
ve Ä°ttihat ve Terakki (Ä°stanbul: Ä°mge, 2001, 3rd edition), p.264.
27 Å~^engul Mete, "Trablusgarp SavaÅ~_Ä± ve Ä°talya’nÄ±n Akdeniz’deki
Faaliyetleri," in: CagdaÅ~_ Turkiye Tarihi AraÅ~_tÄ±rmalarÄ± Dergisi,
vol.3, no.8 (1998), pp.261-92.
28 Edward J. Erickson, Defeat in detail: the Ottoman Army in the
Balkans, 1912-1913 (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003).
29 Aram Andonyan, Balkan SavaÅ~_Ä± (Ä°stanbul: Aras, 2002, 2nd
edition), transl. Zaven Biberyan, p.502.
30 Besides its political importance, Edirne bore a particularly
emotional significance for many CUP members such as TalÃ¢t, who was
born and raised in Edirne. According to his wife, the only instance
when she saw TalÃ¢t cry rivers of tears was when his hometown
fell. "EÅ~_i Hayriye HanÄ±m TalÃ¢t PaÅ~_ayÄ± anlatÄ±yor," in:
YakÄ±n Tarihimiz, vol.II (1962), p.194. His misery quickly turned
into vengefulness when he dragged an ill Enver out of the hospital
to encourage him to recapture Edirne. He then personally rushed to
the front in a self-sacrificial attempt to fight along the ranks
of Ottoman troops but was sent back. Tevfik Cavdar, TalÃ¢t PaÅ~_a
31 The inside story of the 1913 CUP coup is related in: Galip Vardar,
Ä°ttihat ve Terakki Ä°cinde DÃ¶nenler (Ä°stanbul: Tan, 1960),
32 For the periodization of the Young Turk period as 1908-1950 see:
Erik-Jan Zurcher, Een geschiedenis van het moderne Turkije (Nijmgen:
Sun, 1995), 113-268.
33 Justin McCarthy, Death and exile: the ethnic cleansing of Ottoman
Muslims, 1821-1922 (Princeton, N.J.: The Darwin Press, 1995).
13 fertile provinces. It also struck an emotional chord among many CUP
members, of whom many where born and raised in places like Monastir,
Salonica, Plovdiv, and other cities. A high-ranking commander of the
CUP’s paramilitary wing,34 wrote in his memoirs that the humiliations
in the Balkans stirred feelings of revenge in Enver PaÅ~_a as he raged:
"It is completely unacceptable to forget the valleys and plateaus that
were conquered with the blood of our ancestors; to leave the squares,
mosques, tombs, bridges, monasteries and castles where Turkish warriors
reigned for 400 years, in the hands of the previous inhabitants;
to be expelled from Thrace to Anatolia. I am more than willing to
dedicate the rest of my life to take revenge on the Bulgarians,
the Greeks, and the Macedonians." Yes, as Enver PaÅ~_a spoke these
words, he got excited, his face turned red, and lightning struck
in his eyes. He truly wanted to avenge the Balkan war and would do
anything to accomplish this.35 In a personal letter Enver wrote:
"Pour sentir plus amÃ¨rement toutes les blessures et se prÃ©paper
pour une vengeance plus cruelle, je veux que toutes les gÃ©nÃ©rations
prochaines sentent les hontes que nous portons et se venge plus
durÃ©ment envers nos ennemis".36 Later he added: "[N]otre haine se
fortifie: vengeance, vengeance, vengeance, pas d’autre mot!"37 In the
months after the coup, the CUP, wielding power from behind the scenes,
would gradually impose a violent dictatorship upon the country. Enver
greedily reconquered Edirne, was promoted to general, and became
Minister of War. The new cabinet stood under the auspices of TalÃ¢t,
who had become Minister of the Interior. As the CUP kept absorbing
political power, it also became more repressive: To them politics was
much more than a game and having seized power they meant to hold on
to it. To do so they were willing to use all possible means, so that
repression and violence became the order of the day. Nothing was sacred
in the pursuit of power and those guilty of dissent must be prepared
to pay with their lives.38 Slowly but steadily the political climate
in Istanbul depacified to an extent unseen in the Abdulhamid era, with
political violence becoming commonplace. These assassinations were
carried out by organized gangsters loyal to factions around TalÃ¢t
and especially Enver. Huseyin Cahit (1875-1957), publisher of Tanin,
one of the most important newspapers of the period, witnessed one
of these political murders as a hitman loyal to Enver PaÅ~_a shot an
opponent of the CUP in his presence.39 The CUP became the propelling
force behind Ottoman state terror. What had started out as a moderate
political party pressing for reforms, developed into a vindictive,
violent dictatorship, which furthermore became rabidly nationalist.
34 The commander in question was Husamettin Erturk. The CUP’s
paramilitary wing was called ‘Special Organization’, whose two-fold
task it was to foray across the eastern border, and to carry out
ethnic cleansing against Ottoman minorities. Philip H. Stoddard, The
Ottoman government and the Arabs, 1911 to 1918: a preliminary study
of the TeÅ~_kilÃ¢t-Ä± Mahsusa (unpublished dissertation, Princeton
35 Husamettin Erturk, Ä°ki Devrin Perde ArkasÄ±, Samih N. Tansu (ed.)
(Ä°stanbul: Batur, 1964), pp.120-21.
36 Enver to a German friend, 2 April 1913, in: M. Å~^ukru Hanioglu
(ed.), Kendi MektuplarÄ±nda Enver PaÅ~_a (Ä°stanbul: Der, 1989), p.237.
37 Enver to a German friend, 8 May 1913, in: Ibid., p.242.
38 Feroz Ahmad, The Young Turks: The Committee of Union and Progress
in Turkish politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), p.163.
39 Huseyin Cahit YalcÄ±n, Siyasal AnÄ±lar (Ä°stanbul: Turkiye Ä°Å~_
BankasÄ± Kultur YayÄ±nlarÄ±, 1976), p.170.
14 The evolution of nationalism in the Ottoman Empire is a long
and complex path through myriad twists of the minds of Ottoman
intellectuals and international geopolitics. Since the 19th century,
the concept, imported from the French Revolution by authors like
NÃ¢mÄ±k Kemal (1840- 1888), became more and more influential among the
new generation educated during the Abdulhamid era.40 The majority of
politicians in the CUP adopted some form of nationalism as the war drew
nearer. Although a full discussion of the ideological debates within
the CUP is outside the scope of this study, a brief description of the
ideas of influential thinkers and powerful politicians is necessary
in order to comprehend the policies that were in effect after 1913.
Since Turkish nationalism was in its incipient phase, the very
definition of the nation caused disagreement among Ottoman
intellectuals. What was the ‘nation’ of the Ottoman state?
The first coherent attempt at expounding a nationalism was written
by Yusuf Akcura (1876- 1935), who published an article titled Three
Types of Policy in 1909.41 In this pamphlet Akcura pointed out that the
impossibility of forging a nation out the Ottoman minorities precluded
the ideology of Ottomanism to be successful. Akcura then targeted
Islamism and declared it dead because of the genesis of nationalism
among Muslim minorities like Albanians and Kurds. He urged his readers
to embrace (pan-) Turkism as their future ideal. According to Akcura,
pan- Turkism (Turanism) would prevent Russia from intruding in Eastern
Anatolia and would unite all Turkophone ethnic groups in one state
‘from Vienna to the Chinese wall’. Although his theories were as
clear as crystal for Akcura, others had reservations. In CUP texts
the national ‘in-group’ is often designated as the Ottoman Muslims,
alternately called "Muslims" (Ä°slamlar) or "Turks" (Turkler), and
it was the latter category that caused much controversy.
There were many slogans containing the term ‘Turk’, but it was never
quite clear who these Turks were.
A good example of this dilemma is a polemic between Halide Edib
(AdÄ±var), a feminist nationalist author,42 and Mehmed Ziya
(GÃ¶kalp), party ideologue of the CUP.43 In an article published
during the war, Halide Edib pleaded for abandoning the notion of
Turanism and concentrating on Anatolia as the homeland of the ‘new
Turks’.44 GÃ¶kalp, on the other hand, criticized her for ignoring
other Turkish groups and emphasizes cultural nationalism instead of
territorial nationalism. GÃ¶kalp continued to state that "it becomes
clear that our nation consists 40 Hamit Bozarslan, "La rÃ©volution
francaise et les Jeunes Turcs," in: Revue de l’Occident Musulman
et de la MÃ©diterranÃ©e, no.52-53 (1989), pp.148-62; David Kushner,
The rise of Turkish nationalism, 1876-1908 (London: Cass, 1977).
41 Yusuf Akcura, Uc Tarz-Ä± Siyaset (Ä°stanbul: n.p., 1909).
42 Halide Edib AdÄ±var (1889-1964) was born in a Sabetayist (Jewish
convert) family from Salonica. She emerged to the scene of Turkish
politics as a staunch patriot but criticized CUP policies against
the minorities. This did not refrain her from directing orphanages in
Lebanon where Armenian children were turkified, an integral part of the
persecution of the Christians. After 1919 she supported Mustafa Kemal
(Ataturk) and became a professor of literature in the Turkish Republic.
Muzaffer Uyguner, Halide Edip AdÄ±var (Istanbul: VarlÄ±k, 1968).
43 ZiyÃ¢ GÃ¶kalp (1876-1924) was perhaps the most influential
intellectual of the CUP era. He was born in Cermik (Diyarbekir) from a
Zaza mother and Turkish father. He studied in Istanbul but was banned
back to Diyarbekir because of his support for the constitutional
He published countless articles in many journals, founded the CUP
branch in Diyarbekir and quickly rose to become a member of the
‘Central Committee’ (Merkez-i UmÃ"mi) of the CUP. After the war he was
banned to Malta and began working for the Kemalists in Diyarbekir. Taha
Parla, The social and political thought of Ziya GÃ¶kalp 1876-1924
(Leiden: Brill, 1985).
44 Halide Edib, "Evimize BakalÄ±m: Turkculugun Faaliyet SahasÄ±,"
in: Vakit, 30 June 1918.
15 of Turkophone Muslims".45 This exchange between GÃ¶kalp and
AdÄ±var symbolizes two trends in CUP nationalism: Anatolian-Turkish
nationalism, and Turanist-Turkish nationalism. No matter how intense
the debates were between these ideologues, they all agreed on one
thing: the new nation was to be made up of Turkish Muslims.
One should not conclude from this brief overview that a uniform
interpretation of nationalism existed in the CUP. On the contrary,
the sectarian nature of CUP allowed for subgroups to maintain their
differing opinions on the nature and virulence of nationalism.46
Although there are indications that certain individuals in the CUP had
adopted an intolerant form of Turkish nationalism from 1906 on,47 this
did not apply to the general current of the CUP: The Unionists were
motivated by a peculiar brand of Ottoman Muslim nationalism, which
was to a very high degree reactive. It was defined in a particular and
antagonistic relationship between Muslims who had been on the losing
side in terms of wealth and power for the best part of a century and
Ottoman Christians who had been the winners. The Unionists’ ideology
was nationalist in the sense that they demanded the establishment
of a state of their own: before 1918 they took every step to make
the existing Ottoman state the Muslims’ own and after 1918 they
fought to preserve what remained of that Ottoman Muslim state and
to prevent it from being carved up. But the nation for which they
demanded this political home was that of the Ottoman Muslims – not
that of all of the Ottomans, not only that of the Turks and certainly
not that of all the Muslims in the world.48 An important aspect of
Turkish nationalism was that the CUP began founding local nationalist
centers and CUP branches all over the empire. This way they were able
to gather regional information and indoctrinate the local notables
with Turkish nationalism.
Gradually, debate on the identity of the state was no longer the
prerogative of a select group of educated intellectuals.
On 22 March 1912 a group of Ottoman intellectuals founded the ‘Turkish
Hearths’ (Turk OcagÄ±), an organization involved in disseminating
Turkish nationalist propaganda among the Ottoman Muslims. Although
the organization was intended to operate independently from the CUP,
TalÃ¢t tried to control it by having ZiyÃ¢ GÃ¶kalp ‘infiltrate’
the headquarters of the Turkish Hearths.
>From then on the Hearths’ official journal, ‘Turkish Homeland’ (Turk
Yurdu), began publishing articles full of nationalist slogans, wishful
threats, and military fantasies.49 An other organization controlled
by the CUP was the ‘Society for National Defense’ (Mudafaa-Ä± Milliye
Cemiyeti), a semisecretive faction of CUP members ready to pledge
themselves to commit about any act that would turkify the empire. This
organization, lead by Kara Kemal (d. 1926) and closely connected 45
ZiyÃ¢ GÃ¶kalp, "Turkculuk ve Turkiyecilik," in: Yeni Mecmua, vol.2-51
(4 July 1918), p.482.
46 Memoirs of peripheral CUP members reveal that the CUP was comprised
of three main factions, corresponding to the omnipotent truimvirate:
a Turanist, pro-German group around Enver PaÅ~_a, a group of patriotic
hardliners around TalÃ¢t, and a more liberal group around Cemal
PaÅ~_a. Although a conforming ideology was an important element in
the formation of these groups, nepotism and loyalty perhaps were the
decisive factors. Falih RÄ±fkÄ± Atay, ZeytindagÄ± (Istanbul: BateÅ~_,
47 Answering to the question whether Armenians were allowed to join
the CUP, two CUP members wrote in a letter: "Ottoman non-Muslims
are allowed to join our party on one condition. Our organization is
a purely Turkish one. It will never agree with the enemies of Islam
and Turkism." Dr. Bahaeddin Å~^akir and Dr. NÃ¢zÄ±m to Hayri Efendi,
2 June 1906, in: Yusuf Hikmet Bayur, Turk Ä°nkÄ±labÄ± Tarihi (Ankara:
Turk Tarih Kurumu, 1991), vol.2, part 4, p.115.
48 Erik-Jan Zurcher, "Young Turks, Ottoman Muslims and Turkish
Nationalists: Identity Politics 1908-1938," in: Kemal H. Karpat (ed.),
Ottoman Past and Today’s Turkey (Leiden: Brill, 2000), pp.150-79,
quote at p.173.
49 Fusun Ustel, Ä°mparatorluktan Ulus-Devlete Turk Milliyetciligi:
Turk OcaklarÄ± (1912-1931) (Istanbul: Ä°letiÅ~_im, 1997), pp.70-78.
16 to other CUP organizations launched a campaign of ‘nationalization’
well before the war. Their control of several monopolies such as
that on tobacco, sugar, and petrol, allowed them to sell supplies at
astronomic prices, bringing forth huge profits – all under the banner
of ‘nationalization’ of the economy.50 One of the foundations intent
upon indoctrinating the Ottoman Muslim youth with nationalism and
militarism,51 was the ‘National Turkish Student Association’ (MillÃ®
Turk Talebe Birligi). Å~^ukru Kaya (1883-1959), an inconspicuous but
very important CUP insider served in its board of commissioners.52 The
overlap between all of these new organizations was obvious: they were
all ‘national’ (millÃ®) in character and would obviate any potential
hazard to the national, Turkish renaissance.
Total or near-total power allowed the CUP to extend their dictatorship
to the Ottoman provinces. They sought to accomplish this by the
appointment of trusted party loyalists as mayors and governors. Though
many of these organizational structures were unofficial,53 some
individuals were openly appointed governor (vali) or delegate
They were employed for the sake of collecting local information
and putting the CUP ideology into practice. Examples of wartime
CUP governors were Rahmi Bey (Ä°zmir), Cemal Azmi (Trabzon),
Ahmed Muammer (Sivas), Hasan Tahsin (Erzurum), Cevdet Bey (Van),
Sabit Bey (Mamuret-ul Aziz), Mustafa Abdulhalik (Bitlis), Ali Munif
(Cebel-i Lubnan), and the for this study relevant Dr. Mehmed ReÅ~_id
(Diyarbekir). In the army too, purges were carried out by Enver
PaÅ~_a, who single handedly sought to rejuvenate the corps but in the
process also dismissed ostensibly disloyal elements, and employed
military staff with CUP affinities. The CUP also began developing
its connections with influential urban Muslim elites in provincial
capitals and smaller cities.
Opportunistic Kurdish notables in Bitlis54 and chieftains of the
Balaban tribe in Erzincan55 seeking to settle scores with rival tribes
began collaborating with local CUP henchmen. In exchange for pledging
wartime loyalty they would receive logistic support and material
compensation.56 The principal aim of this entire undertaking was
to gradually gain control over the various populations of eastern
Turkey in order to implement plans of ethnic restructuring of the
50 NÃ¢zÄ±m H. Polat, Mudafaa-Ä± Milliye Cemiyeti (Ankara: Kultur
BakanlÄ±gÄ± YayÄ±nlarÄ±, 1991).
51 Zafer Toprak, "Ä°ttihat ve Terakki’nin paramiliter genclik
Ã¶rgutleri," in: Bogazici Universitesi Dergisi, vol.7 (1979),
52 M. Cagatay Okutan, Milli Turk Talebe Birligi (MTTB) 1916-1980
(Istanbul: Ä°stanbul Bilgi Universitesi YayÄ±nlarÄ±, 2004).
53 These covert structures were mostly acquaintanceships and familial
relationships such as TalÃ¢t’s personal friendship with Kara Kemal, but
also Enver’s brother-in-lawship with Cevdet, governor of Van. Though
many CUP members were non-Sabetayists, some were related to each other
through several large extended families of Sabetayist descent from
Salonica (16th-century Sephardic converts), such as the KapancÄ±,
Yakubi, and KarakaÅ~_ families. Together, these networks formed the
social basis of the CUP elite. Elie Kedourie, "Young Turks, Freemasons
and Jews," in: Middle Eastern Studies, vol.7, no.1 (1971), pp.89-104.
54 BaÅ~_bakanlÄ±k OsmanlÄ± ArÅ~_ivi (Ottoman Archives Istanbul,
hereafter cited as BOA), DH.KMS 19/27, TalÃ¢t to Bitlis and Van,
4 April 1914.
55 Vatan Ozgul, "Ä°ttihat ve Terakki ve Balaban AÅ~_ireti: BazÄ±
Belgeler IÅ~_Ä±gÄ±nda Ä°ttihatcÄ±larÄ±n AÅ~_iret CalÄ±Å~_malarÄ±,"
in : Toplumsal Tarih, vol.16, no.96 (2001), pp.38-42.
17 1.2 ‘Nationalization’ of the population It is not precisely clear
when the CUP planned to engage in an all-out, full-frontal campaign of
‘nationalization’, i.e. Turkification of the Ottoman Empire.
Nonetheless, it is possible to reconstruct some of the key processes
and decisions that may very likely have lead to shaping wartime
policies. Three parallel developments were in effect during the years
before the war.
First, an ethno-religious polarization at the highest political
level impelled the CUP leadership to steer away from political
pluralism: according to them, only their vision was an acceptable
model for the Ottoman Empire. Convinced that the country could only
be saved by forcefully transforming it into a ethnically homogenous
state with an ethnically homogenous population, it took several
key decisions. Second, detailed ethnographic research on almost all
non-Turkish Ottoman peoples was to facilitate these plans of ethnic
Third, the CUP initiated a policy of implementing several trial
balloons aiming at Turkification of many domains of Ottoman society.
It was no surprise that the huge losses of the Balkan wars, the ensuing
establishment of nation states by formerly Ottoman subjects, and the
persecution of Ottoman Muslims in those regions, confirmed suspicions
in the CUP that non-Turkish Ottomans could not be trusted. The
conclusions the CUP drew from its analysis of the political predicament
of the Ottoman minorities quickly turned very hostile. In the tense
ambience of the Ottoman parliament, the various (Turkish, Greek,
Arab, Armenian, Kurdish) politicians couldn’t stand each other any
longer and ignored, accused, cursed, provoked, or even threatened
each other. Especially from the Balkan wars on, ethnic-minority
members of parliament often polemicized with CUP members about the
laws of Turkification they continuously issued. Very often these
ethnicminority members supported each other in common solidarity
during plenary debates against the CUP.57 In this constellation,
the CUP kept emphasizing the victimization of the Ottoman Muslims in
the Balkans and threatened discordant minorities with sanctions.
Although a detailed program was lacking, the CUP leadership gradually
became more determined to homogenize the country by changing its
demography by force.58 Party ideologue ZiyÃ¢ GÃ¶kalp wrote extensively
about turkifying the Empire by concentrating the non-Ottoman Muslims
on Ottoman territory and instilling Turkish nationalism into the
Ottoman Muslims.59 According to GÃ¶kalp, this would contribute to the
nascence of a new Turkey. As he wrote in a poem titled ‘Motherland’
(Vatan): 56 Mehmet Mert Sunar, "Dogu Anadolu ve Kuzey Irak’ta OsmanlÄ±
Devleti ve AÅ~_iretler: II. Abdulhamid’den II. MeÅ~_rutiyet’e," in:
Kebikec, vol.10 (2000), pp.115-30.
57 For examples of hostile parliamentary debates including rich use
of profanity and even an occasional brawl, see: TarÄ±k Zafer Tunaya,
Turkiye’de Siyasal Partiler, vol.1, Ä°kinci MeÅ~_rutiyet DÃ¶nemi
(Istanbul: Ä°letiÅ~_im, 1997), pp.627-28, 488 footnote 11.
58 This phenomenon has often been described as ‘social engineering’,
a range of often ideologically driven policies directed at
violently changing a population in any way whatsoever. For an
application of the term on CUP policies see: Hilmar Kaiser, "The
Ottoman Government and the End of the Ottoman Social Formation,
1915-1917," paper presented at the conference Der VÃ¶lkermord an den
Armeniern und die Shoah, University of Zurich, 7 November 2001, at:
59 ZiyÃ¢ GÃ¶kalp, TurkleÅ~_mek, Ä°slÃ¢mlaÅ~_mak, MuasÄ±rlaÅ~_mak
(Ankara: Ziya GÃ¶kalp YayÄ±nlarÄ±, 1976), p.93. For post-war programs
of Turkification cf.: ZiyÃ¢ GÃ¶kalp, Turkculugun EsaslarÄ± (Ä°stanbul:
Kamer, 1996 ), translated into: Ziya GÃ¶kalp, The Principles
of Turkism, transl. Robert Devereux (Leiden: Brill, 1968).
18 A country that nobody plots against, Each individual being united
in ideal, language, tradition, religion, Its parliament clean,
without BoÅ~_o’s speaking, Its children happily sacrificing their
lives at its borders, Hey Turks, that is what your motherland should
be! 60 It becomes clear from this poem that GÃ¶kalp fantasizes about a
nation state, as he indulges in wishful dreams of ethnic, linguistic,
religious, and political homogeneity.
He refers to Yorgo BoÅ~_o, a Greek member of parliament known
for vehemently criticizing CUP policies. But GÃ¶kalp did not only
romanticize a Turkish nation state using poetry. According to one
of his closest students, his investigations were functional as they
laid out the theoretic framework for the future Turkification of
the empire.61 It did not take long before the CUP party dictatorship
started brainstorming about the at that time still vague notion of
Turkification. At the party congresses in Salonica (1910, 1911) and
Istanbul (1912, 1913) they adopted Turkish nationalism and emphasized
‘national education’, but no explicit comments were made on the fate
of the Ottoman minorities.62 Due to the secretive nature of the CUP
and the sensitivity of this question, critical decisions were taken
behind closed doors. According to Halil MenteÅ~_e (d. 1935), chairman
of the Ottoman parliament, TalÃ¢t stated to him in a meeting that "he
was preparing for cleaning the country of treacherous elements".63 The
new policy slogan ‘Turkey for the Turks’ has often been attributed to
TalÃ¢t.64 In May, June and August 1914, Enver PaÅ~_a organized a series
of secret meetings at the War Ministry, at which "the elimination of
non-Turkish masses" was discussed with Special Organization operatives,
most notably one of its commanders, EÅ~_ref KuÅ~_cubaÅ~_Ä± (d. 1922),
Enver’s closest trustee.65 During these meetings, the weaknesses of
the Ottoman Empire were juxtaposed with the presence of clusters
of non-Turkish people in strategic areas, such as in the Aegean
area, which harboured hundreds of thousands of Ottoman Greeks. CUP
loyalists decided that these "internal tumors" once and for all had
to be removed, in other words, "Infidel Ä°zmir had to become Turkish
Ä°zmir".66 This encompassing program was primarily directed against
non-Muslim Ottoman civilians like Greeks, Syriacs and Armenians, and
secondarily against non-Turkish Muslim 60 Fevziye A. Tansel (ed.),
Ziya GÃ¶kalp KulliyatÄ± 1: Å~^iirler ve Halk MasallarÄ± (Ankara:
Turk Tarih Kurumu YayÄ±nlarÄ±, 1989), p.113.
61 Enver Behnan Å~^apolyo, ZiyÃ¢ GÃ¶kalp ve Ä°ttihadÄ± Terakki ve
MeÅ~_rutiyet Tarihi: Evli ve FotograflÄ± (Istanbul: n.p., 1974),
co-edited by Nevzat KÄ±zÄ±lcan, p.149.
62 AgÃ¢h SÄ±rrÄ± Levend, "Ä°ttihat ve Terakki Kongreleri," in:
Memleket, 16 December 1947, p.2.
63 Halil MenteÅ~_e, OsmanlÄ± Mebusan Meclisi Reisi Halil MenteÅ~_e’nin
anÄ±larÄ± (Istanbul: Hurriyet VakfÄ± YayÄ±nlarÄ±, 1986), p.165.
64 According to British sources, TalÃ¢t spoke these words at the
1910 CUP congress. George P. Gooch & Harold W.V. Temperley (eds.),
British documents on the origins of the war 1898-1914 (London: Printed
and published by His Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1926), vol.9,
part 1, document no.181, pp.207-8. However, there is no definitive
evidence that corroborates this claim, although "at this conference
the Turkists gained the upper hand." TarÄ±k Zafer Tunaya, Turkiye’de
Siyasal Partiler, vol.3, Ä°ttihat ve Terakki (Istanbul: Ä°letiÅ~_im,
According to a Turkish sociologist, educated in the United States,
the slogan aimed at economic turkification. Ahmed Emin, Turkey in
the World War (New Haven, NY: Yale University Press, 1930), p.113.
65 CelÃ¢l Bayar, Ben de yazdÄ±m: MillÃ® Mucadele’ye GidiÅ~_ (Istanbul:
Baha, 1967), vol.5, p.1573.
66 Ibid., pp.1578, 1579. The concentration of Greeks in Ä°zmir
(Smyrna) prompted Turkish nationalists to use the term "Infidel Ä°zmir"
(gÃ¢vur Ä°zmir) to describe that harbour city. Vangelis Kechriotis,
"From ‘Giavour Izmir’ to ‘Hellenic Smyrna’: Reconstruction of a lost
Atlantis," paper presented at the conference Nationalism, Society
and Culture in post-Ottoman Southeast Europe, University of Oxford,
29 May 2004.
19 populations like Arabs, Kurds, and Albanians. Small or scattered
religious groups such as Alevis, Yezidis, Druzes, Jews, or Shiites
were targeted as well.
The introduction of this policy of ‘nationalization’ required a great
deal of organization.
Existing Ottoman bureaucratic tools sufficed and needed minor creative
adjustments to carry out the program of social engineering. First of
all, the hierarchic fabric of Ottoman state organs allowed for the
highest echelons of any ministry (such as the Minister of the Interior)
to telegraphically communicate with even insignificant civil servants
and police officers at county level. Discipline was reinforced not
only by the proverbial Ottoman culture of obedience, but especially by
the CUP’s notorious reputation for ruthlessness. Still, many written
orders were revoked and replaced by covert oral orders, a typical
CUP practice.67 An other important bureaucratic apparatus was the
‘Directorate for the Settlement of Tribes and Immigrants’ (Ä°skÃ¢n-Ä±
AÅ~ _Ã¢ir ve MuhacirÃ®n Muduriyeti, henceforth Ä°AMM). This organization
was established in early 1914 and served two purposes: on the one
hand, to advance the sedentarization of the many Turkoman, Kurdish,
and Arab tribes, and on the other hand, to provide accommodation for
homeless Muslim refugees, expelled from the Balkans and Russia.68 It
would later be expanded to constitute four branches, namely settlement,
intelligence, deportation, and tribes.69 The most prolific name in
the Ä°AMM was Å~^ukru Kaya, the "Director of Deportation" (Sevkiyat
Muduru) who organized most of the deportations.70 Since the army
would play a secondary role in the program, the concentration and
purposeful canalization of a huge reservoir of violence was delegated
to the Special Organization, which was reorganized in 1914 and split
into an external branch assigned with instigating rebellions in Iran
and Caucasia,71 and an internal branch charged with supervising the
program of nationalization.72 The organization’s rearrangement meant
that it was detached from regular Ottoman military jurisdiction and
brought under the direct control of the CUP, most specifically under
the auspices of Dr. Bahaeddin Å~^akir (1877-1922)73 and Dr.
NÃ¢zÄ±m (1872-1926).74 With a single order the CUP could now deploy
tens of thousands of ruthless and heavily armed paramilitary troops
to all corners of the vast empire.
67 Covert oral orders were an important phenomenon during CUP
rule. Although it was logical that genocidal orders were issued
orally, even critical decisions like the alliance with Germany, and
the declaration of war on the Entente powers were taken this way. Said
Halim ve Mehmed TalÃ¢t PaÅ~_alar kabinelerinin Divan-Ä± Ã~Bli’ye
sevkleri hakkÄ±nda Divaniye mebusu Fuad Bey merhum tarafÄ±ndan verilen
takrir uzerine berÃ¢y-Ä± tahkikat kur’a isÃ¢bet eden BeÅ~_inci Å~^ube
tarafÄ±ndan icrÃ¢ olunan tahkikat ve zabt edilen ifÃ¢datÄ± muhtevidir
(Istanbul, 1918), p.4.
68 Ä°kdam, 29 December 1913 (no.6052), p.3.
69 Cengiz Orhonlu, OsmanlÄ± Ä°mparatorlugu’nda AÅ~_iretlerin Ä°skÃ¢nÄ±
(Istanbul: Eren, 1987), p.120.
70 Hilmar Kaiser, "Shukru Kaya and the Extermination of the Ottoman
Armenians: The Portrait of a Perpetrator," lecture at California
State University, 6 April 2000.
71 Adil Hikmet Bey, Asya’da BeÅ~_ Turk (Istanbul: Otuken NeÅ~_riyat,
72 Cemal Kutay, Birinci Dunya Harbinde TeÅ~_kilÃ¢t-Ä± Mahsusa ve
Hayber Cengi (Istanbul: Tarih, 1962).
73 Dr. Bahaeddin Å~^akir was born in Thrace and enjoyed his medical
education at the Military Medical Academy in Istanbul. After joining
the CUP in 1906 he moved to Paris where he assisted Ahmet RÄ±za in
reviving the CUP. After returning to Istanbul he became one of the
most influential members of the CUP’s Central Committee in 1912. His
closeness to TalÃ¢t quickly allowed him to rise in rank, exemplified by
the fact that he was charged with organizing the Special Organization
His role in the persecution of the Armenians was pivotal. He was shot
dead in Berlin on 17 April 1922 by Aram Yerganian, an Armenian hitman.
Hikmet Cicek, Dr. Bahattin Å~^akir: Ä°ttihat ve Terakki’den
TeÅ~_kilatÄ± Mahsusa’ya bir Turk Jakobeni (Ä°stanbul: Kaynak, 2004).
74 Dr. NÃ¢zÄ±m was born in Salonica and joined the first CUP in
1889 during his medical education. He continued his study in Paris
where he met Dr. Bahaeddin Å~^akir and worked with Ahmet RÄ±za to
unite the CUP with the ‘Ottoman Freedom Committee’ in 1907. After
1908 he too became a member of the Central Committee, and even made
it to Secretary-General of the CUP. His role in the persecution of
the Armenians was as covert as it was profound. In 1918 he became
Minister of Education but fled the country before the armistice. He
was executed in 20 Along with aligning bureaucratic organs, the
CUP ordered the conduct of detailed research on the demographic and
ethnological characteristics of the targeted ethnic and religious
groups.75 This was initiated on 14 March 1916 by the IAMM, renamed to
‘General Directorate for Tribes and Immigrants’ (AÅ~_Ã¢ir ve MuhacirÃ®n
Muduriyet-i UmÃ"miyesi, AMMU).
These investigations were carried out by CUP specialists, continued
during and after the war, and consisted of both field work and careful
examination of previous research. Thus, Baha Said was assigned with
researching KÄ±zÄ±lbaÅ~_ and BektaÅ~_i communities, Mehmed Tahir and
Hasan Fehmi with researching Ahi communities. Esat Uras conducted
research on the Armenians, while Zekeriya Sertel concentrated mainly
on Kurdish-Alevi tribes. Habil Ã~Bdem was assigned with mapping out
details on Kurdish and Turkoman tribes.76 Zekeriya Sertel, who worked
at the Tribes division of AMMU, later wrote in his memoirs that the
purpose of these research programs was "to gather information in
order to act accordingly".77 Though most of this research was ordered
by Å~^ukru Kaya, it becomes clear from Ottoman documents that in
several instances TalÃ¢t personally requested detailed information
like lists and maps, often covering even the village level.78 In the
end, the CUP research program produced thousands of pages of detailed
expertise on the targeted ethnic groups.
>From the summer of 1913 on, the CUP gradually but resolutely launched
extensive campaigns of Turkification on practically all domains of
Starting with geography, the CUP began turkifying place names. On 5
January 1916 Enver PaÅ~_a ordered the complete Turkification of all
Armenian, Greek, and Bulgarian names denominating provinces, districts,
counties, villages, mountains, and rivers.79 This way all traces of
non-Turkish cultures were wiped out, e.g. KÄ±zÄ±lkilise (‘Red Church’)
county in the Dersim district was changed into NazÄ±miye (after the
Ottoman politician NÃ¢zÄ±m PaÅ~_a).80 Although Enver PaÅ~_a’s law was
suspended until the end of the war, this CUP practice continued well
into the 1960s and changed tens of thousands of topographic names.81
Because societal Turkification was an other important CUP program,
it obliged all state organs (including all schools) to correspond and
communicate only in the Turkish language and began harassing businesses
in non-Muslim hands by forcing them to use Turkish in all corporate
transactions. The Minister of Commerce and Agriculture, Ahmed Nesimi,
admitted that this linguistic enthusiasm was in essence a method to
have more Muslims 1926 by the Kemalist government for his alleged role
in a plot to assassinate Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk). Ahmet Eyicil, Doktor
NÃ¢zÄ±m Bey: Ä°ttihat ve Terakki Liderlerinden (Ankara: Gun, 2004).
75 Fuat Dundar, "Ä°ttihat ve Terakki’nin Etnisite AraÅ~_tÄ±rmalarÄ±,"
in: Toplumsal Tarih, vol.XVI, no.91 (2001), pp.43-50.
76 Nejat Birdogan (ed), Baha Said Bey, Ä°ttihat ve Terakki’nin
Alevilik-BektaÅ~_ilik AraÅ~_tÄ±rmasÄ± (Istanbul: BerfÃ®n, 1995), p.9.
77 Zekeriya Sertel, HatÄ±rladÄ±klarÄ±m (Istanbul: GÃ¶zlem, 1977), p.82.
78 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54-A/51, TalÃ¢t to provinces, 20 July 1915.
79 Murat Koralturk, "Milliyetci bir refleks: Yer adlarÄ±nÄ±n
TurkleÅ~_tiri lmesi," in: Toplumsal Tarih, vol.19, no.117 (2003),
80 BOA, DH.Ä°D 97/1.
81 Koralturk, "Milliyetci bir refleks," [n.79], p.99, footnote 16.
21 employed in the Ottoman economy. This would serve the establishment
of the ‘national economy’ the CUP dreamed of.82 In 1914, most
businesses in the Aegean area were owned by Ottoman Greeks.
When persuasion didn’t cause the desired effect, the CUP took recourse
to more violent methods of Turkification of the economy. It sent
emissaries like Special Organization agent Kara Kemal to assist
Responsible Secretary Celal Bayar in turkifying the economy of
Ä°zmir.83 In the summer of 1914 this political and nationalist
persecution gained momentum as boycots and expropriations escalated
into kidnappings and assassinations of Greek businessmen and community
leaders, and even wholesale deportation and massacres of villages.84
The fact that after this terror campaign many Ottoman Greeks opted
to emigrate to Greece, abandoning their territory to the benefit
of Ottoman Muslims, was perceived by the CUP as an administrative
success. The program of Turkification was being translated into policy.
1.3 Diyarbekir province before World War I Reforming Ottoman
administrative units was an important aspect of the reform policy the
CUP carried out. At the turn of the century, the empire was organized
into provinces (vilayet) with governors (vali), districts (sancak or
liva) with district governors (mutasarrÄ±f), counties (kazÃ¢) with
mayors (kaymakam), and communes (nahiye) with directors (mudur). In
1914 the government revised its provinces and altered several borders
and names.85 Diyarbekir was a relatively large province (42,100 km2)
locked in between the Euphrates in the west, the Tigris in the east,
the Armenian plateau in the north, and the Mesopotamian desert in the
south. Its continental climate ensured mild winters and extremely hot
summers which at times paralysed social life. Historically, Diyarbekir
was an administrative center as it used to be the headquarters of the
16th century governorship (beylerbeyligi) from where large parts of
eastern Turkey were ruled.86 At the eve of World War I, the Second Army
was stationed in Diyarbekir city, which also harboured a courtmartial
and one of the largest prisons of the Ottoman Empire.87 Although there
were regional variations in the economic conditions of the province,
generally it thrived due to its favourable location on the ancient
Silk Road.88 There were copper mines in Maden county and the border 82
"Ticaret ve ZÄ±raat NazÄ±rÄ±yla mulakat," in: Turk Yurdu, year 1, vol.1
(21 February 1915), p.6, quoted in: Zafer Toprak, Turkiye’de ‘MillÃ®
Ä°ktisat’ (1908-1918) (Ankara: Yurt, 1982), p.80-81, footnote 26.
83 Bayar, Ben de yazdÄ±m [n.65], vol.5, pp.1606-11.
84 Yannis G. Mourelos, "The 1914 persecutions and the first attempt
at an exchange of minorities between Greece and Turkey," in: Balkan
Studies, vol.26, no.2 (1985), 389-414.
85 It is possible to interpret the Ottoman practice of redistricting
as an effort to reduce the demographic proportion of Christians
to the benefit of Muslims, although no systematic research has been
conducted with respect to this subject. Vahakn N. Dadrian, Warrant for
Genocide: Key Elements of the Turko-Armenian Conflict (New Brunswick,
NJ: Transaction, 1999), pp.139-44.
86 Martin van Bruinessen, "The Ottoman conquest of Diyarbekir and
the administrative organisation of the province in the 16th and 17th
centuries," in: Martin van Bruinessen & Hendrik Boeschoten (eds.),
Evliya Celebi in Diyarbekir (Leiden: Brill, 1988), pp.13-38. Alpay
Bizbirlik, 16. yuzyÄ±l ortalarÄ±nda Diyarbekir Beylerbeyligi’nde
vakÄ±flar (Ankara: Turk Tarih Kurumu, 2002). Nejat GÃ¶yunc, "Diyarbekir
Beylerbeyliginin Ä°lk Ä°dari TaksimatÄ±," in: Tarih Dergisi, vol.22
87 Paul Dumont & Francois Georgeon (eds.), Villes ottomanes a la fin
de l’Empire (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1992).
88 Ä°brahim YÄ±lmazcelik, XIX. yuzyÄ±lÄ±n ilk yarÄ±sÄ±nda DiyarbakÄ±r
(Ankara: Turk Tarih Kurumu, 1995); AbdulhalÄ±k BakÄ±r, "OsmanlÄ±
Oncesinde DiyarbakÄ±r’da Sanayi ve Ticaret," paper presented at
the conference Oguzlardan OsmanlÄ±ya DiyarbakÄ±r, Dicle University,
21 May 2004.
22 regions with Bitlis province were known for being oil-rich, though
no large-scale steps had been taken to exploit either. Like the rest of
the empire, Diyarbekir was a pre-industrial region where subsistence
farming and cyclic pastoralism were dominant economic occupations for
peasants and nomads in the countryside.89 In order to comprehend the
further internal societal structure of Diyarbekir province, a sketch
of the social characteristics of the region in the years before the
war is in order.
Diyarbekir province boasted a formidable diversity of ethnic and
religious groups, whether small or large, scattered or concentrated,
urban or rural. The Ottoman Muslims, later denominated ‘Turks’,
were the majority in urban residential areas because of the fact
that they had been occupying most administrative positions for a long
time. Armenians inhabiting the cities made their livings as merchants
or craftsmen and in most bazaars the majority of tradesmen were indeed
Armenian. Some of these Armenians were quite prosperous people,
having family members abroad and being active in politics. But the
bulk of Diyarbekir Armenians were peasants organized in large extended
families (gerdastans) in villages, most specifically in the Lice,
Silvan, BeÅ~_iri, and Palu districts.90 The Kurdish population of the
province can be divided in several categories: tribal versus non-tribal
Kurds, and (semi-)nomadic versus sedentary. The dozens of large and
powerful Kurdish tribes in the region were generally commanded by a
chieftain (aga) and de facto controlled extensive territories. All
were able to mobilize thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of
mounted warriors, often to combat each other in pursuit of power,
honour, and booty. Non-tribal Kurds could be powerless peasants
(kurmanc) or Kurds from noted clergy families (meÅ~_ayih). It is
important to point out that all peasants, irrespective of ethnic or
religious background, payed tribute and taxes to Kurdish chieftains
and landlords.91 The mere 1000 Jews of Diyarbekir province owned
one small synagogue and were generally an inconspicuous ethnic group
among the much larger Christian and Muslim populations. They mainly
engaged in small-scale trade and some horticulture.92 The Yezidis,
a peculiar monotheist religious group, inhabited villages in the
southeastern regions of the province. Ottoman state discrimination and
oppression against them pushed them into a marginal social status,
which caused them to frequently engage in organized brigandry.93
The KÄ±zÄ±lbaÅ~_ were both Turkoman and Kurdish heterodox Shi’ites,
and inhabited only a few villages in the province whereas others were
semi-nomads.94 The Zaza, an until recently unexplored ethnic group
socially close to the Kurds were villagers and occupied themselves with
agriculture and horticulture. Concentrated in 89 Hellmut Christoff,
Kurden und Armenier: Eine Untersuchung uber die AbhÃ¤ngigkeit ihrer
Lebensformen und Charakterentwicklung von der Landschaft (Hamburg:
dissertation University of Hamburg, 1935), pp.19-73.
90 Raymond H. KÃ©vorkian & Paul B. Paboudjian, Les ArmÃ©niens dans
l’Empire ottoman a la veille du gÃ©nocide (Paris: Editions d’Art et
d’Histoire, 1992), p.392.
91 Martin van Bruinessen, Agha, Shaikh and State: The social and
political structures of Kurdistan (London: Zed, 1992), chapters 2,
3, and 4.
92 A. MedyalÄ±, KurdistanlÄ± Yahudiler (Ankara: Berhem, 1992),
p.58; Walther J. Fischel, "The Jews of Kurdistan a hundred years
ago: A traveler’s record," in: Jewish Social Studies, vol.6 (1944),
pp.195-226; Erich Brauer, The Jews of Kurdistan (Detroit, MI: Wayne
State University Press, 1993).
93 Ralph H.W. Empson, The cult of the Peacock Angel: A short account
of the Yezidi tribes of Kurdistan (London: AMS Press, 1928).
94 Erdal Gezik, Dinsel, etnik ve politik sorunlar baglamÄ±nda Alevi
Kurtler (Ankara: Kalan, 2000).
23 the north, the Zaza in Diyarbekir province were and are Muslims,
and several important Muslim clerics emanated from them.95 The Arabs of
the province were also named Mahalmi because of the peculiar dialect
they spoke. Most of them lived in Mardin but also in the villages
in and around Midyat, though they numbered no more than several
thousands.96 The Syriacs (alternately named Assyrians or Arameans), an
embracing denomination including all Aramaic-speaking Syrian-Orthodox,
Syrian-Protestant, Syrian-Catholic, Nestorian, and Chaldean Christians,
inhabited many villages but especially the southeastern parts of the
province. The mountainous region around Midyat, also known as Tur
Abdin, was a Syriac stronghold with dozens of often exclusively Syriac
villages.97 A demographically and politically insignificant group
were the Gypsies, who lived in urban centers and were ostracized by
most other groups. In eastern Anatolia the Gypsies were named PoÅ~_a
or Kereci.98 Finally, there is both material and immaterial evidence
of the existence of Shemsi communities, although their numbers seem
to have shrunk dramatically by the late 19th century. These archaic
sun-worshippers were under the influence of the ancient Zoroastrian
religion and used to worship in several temples all over what was
now the Ottoman province Diyarbekir.99 All in all, the population
of Diyarbekir province had a very heterogeneous ethnic and social
For many of these ethnic communities the province bore more than
average importance because of the concentration of pivotal religious
locations and presence of the highest clerical authorities. Since
religion defined communal boundaries in the Ottoman theocracy,
this only added to the portentousness of Diyarbekir. For example,
the two main monasteries of the Syriac Christians, Mor Gabriel and
Deyr-ul Zaferan, were located in the Mardin district. These were not
only offices of bishops and patriarchs, but in general the heart of
Syriac religion, culture, and education in seminaries (madrashto).100
Diyarbekir city harboured the Syrian-Orthodox Virgin Mary Church,
the Chaldean church, the Armenian Apostolic church which was one of
the largest and most sophisticated churches in the Ottoman Empire,
a protestant church, and dozens of Armenian villages had churches and
schools.101 For the Diyarbekir province Muslims the many mosques and
seminaries (medrese) were important as places of worship, education,
Moreover, influential Islamic orders like the NakÅ~_ibendÃ®, KadirÃ®,
RufaÃ®, and KufrevÃ® were active all over the province among large
Zaza, Arab, but especially Kurdish families. These orders were 95
Karl Hadank, Mundarten der ZÃ¢zÃ¢, hauptsÃ¤chlich aus Siwerek und Kor
(Berlin: De Gruyter, 1932).
96 Hans-Jurgen Sasse, Linguistische Analyse des arabischen Dialekts
der Mhallamiye in der Provinz Mardin (Sudostturkei), Ph.D. Thesis,
Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munchen, Department of Semitics, 1970.
97 The Tur Abdin region was particularly famous for its strong
tribal cleavages. The two main tribes reigning in Tur Abdin were the
DekÅ~_uri and HevÃªrkan, the latter originating from the Botan emirate
that was violently dismantled in the mid-19th century. Both tribes had
hereditary chieftains of Muslim-Kurdish descent and both tribes treated
their Muslim and non-Muslim subjects (such as Syriac Christians and
Yezidis) alike. Tribal interests and loyalties were superordinated to
religious interests and loyalties. The continuous competition between
these two tribes often escalated into assassinations and plunder. Hans
Hollerweger, Turabdin (Linz: Freunde des Tur Abdin, 1999).
98 Sarkis Seropyan, "VatansÄ±z tek ulus Cingeneler ve Cingenelerin
ErmenileÅ~_miÅ~_leri Hay-PoÅ~_alar," in: Tarih ve Toplum, vol.33,
no.202 (2000), pp.21-25.
99 Horatio Southgate, Narrative of a Tour through Armenia, Kurdistan,
Persia and Mesopotamia (London: Bradbury and Evans, 1840), deel 2,
100 Gertrude Bell, The churches and monasteries of the Tur
Abdin and neighbouring districts (Heidelberg: Carl Winter’s
24 lodged in large medreses even in small counties, where students were
taught on religion, language (Arabic, Persian, Kurdish, Ottoman), and
history. Some of these were quite famous for their quality education,
such as the Red Medrese (Medreseya Sor) of Cizre, the Hatuniye,
Zinciriye and Sitti Radviye medreses of Mardin, and the Mesudiye and
Sitrabas medreses of Diyarbekir city.102 Furthermore, local saints
and cults (ziyaret), visited by people of all religious groups, were
scattered all over the province. One example is the Sultan Å~^eyhmus
cult, located at the Å~^eyhan caves between Diyarbekir and Mardin.
Westerners too lived in the province. Diyarbekir had a French
consulate and a British vice consulate (that were revoked when the
Ottoman Empire declared war on France and Britain) and an American
Protestant mission. The German government considered the deployment
of a vice consulate because of the possibility that Diyarbekir
could become a hub along the Baghdad railway, but decided to found
consulates in Mosul and Aleppo.103 Several dozens of American, German
and French, both Protestant and Catholic missionaries were active in
education and health care in the province. However, due to its rugged
and inaccessible terrain like most eastern provinces of the Ottoman
Empire, most of the province was terra incognita for western observers.
The West also exerted its presence through former Ottoman subjects
who possessed western passports. Mostly these were Christian notables
who became Russian, French, or British subjects to evade high taxes
and derive benefit from the political immunity western citizenship
offered in many instances.
It is very difficult to come to quantitative grips with Diyarbekir
province due to the absence of reliable demographic data on all
ethnicities inhabiting the province before the war.104 Figures from
various sources contradict each other, which has hampered academic
efforts undertaken to map out the demography of the province. According
to the 1913-1914 census performed by the Armenian Patriarchate of
Istanbul, the Diyarbekir province Armenians numbered 106,867 in 249
localities.105 According to a German consular report, the ethnic
distribution in Mardin district was as follows: 27,000 Muslims,
10,000 Armenian Catholics, 10,000 Syriac Christians, 1500 Syriac
Catholics, 1400 Protestants, 100 Chaldeans, summing up to a total of
50,000 inhabitants in the entire district.106 The Armenian Patriarchate
calculated the total number of Armenians in Mardin to be 14,547 whereas
according to the German consulate 101 Orhan Cezmi Tuncer, DiyarbakÄ±r
Kiliseleri (DiyarbakÄ±r: DiyarbakÄ±r BuyukÅ~_ehir Belediyesi Kultur
ve Sanat YayÄ±nlarÄ±, 2002).
102 Zeynelabidin Zinar, Xwendina medresÃª (Stockholm: PencÃ®nar, 1993).
Orhan Cezmi Tuncer, Diyarbekir Camileri (DiyarbakÄ±r: DiyarbakÄ±r
BuyukÅ~_ehir Belediyesi Kultur ve Sanat YayÄ±nlarÄ±, 1996).
103 Politisches Archiv AuswÃ¤rtiges Amt (German Archives Berlin,
hereafter cited as PAAA), R14078, Notes of Foreign Affairs
Undersecretary Zimmermann, 5 March 1913, enclosure no.2.
104 The study of early twentieth-century Ottoman demography demands
careful scrutiny as it is not only difficult to produce concrete and
reliable statistics, but it is also very often a political minefield in
which contemporary and present-day partisan scholarship plays a role.
Kemal H. Karpat, Ottoman Population 1830-1914: Demographic and
Social Characteristics (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press,
1985). Justin McCarthy, Muslims and Minorities: The Population of
Ottoman Anatolia and the End of the Empire (New York: New York
University, 1983). Levon Marashlian, Politics and Demography:
Armenians, Turks, and Kurds in the Ottoman Empire (Cambridge, MA:
Zoryan Institute, 1991).
105 KÃ©vorkian & Paboudjian, Les ArmÃ©niens dans l’Empire ottoman
106 PAAA, Botschaft Konstantinopel 170, Aleppo consul RÃ¶Ã~_ler to
special ambassador Hohenlohe-Langenburg (Istanbul), 27 September 1915.
25 they numbered no more than 11,400, assuming that all Protestants
were ethnic Armenians. An Armenian almanac estimated the pre-war
number of Armenians at 124,000.107 Johannes Lepsius, director of the
Deutsche Orient Mission, diverged from this calculation: Von seiner
GesamtbevÃ¶lkerung von 471500 Bewohnern waren 166000 Christen, und
zwar 105000 Armenier und 60000 Syrer (Nestorianer und ChaldÃ¤er)
und 1000 Griechen. Die ubrige BevÃ¶lkerung setzt sich zusammen
aus 63000 Turken, 200000 Kurden, 27000 Kizilbasch (Schi’iten)
und 10000 Tscherkessen. Dazu kommen noch 4000 Jesidis (sogenannte
Teufelsanbeter) und 1500 Juden.108 Ottoman archival material diverges
even further from these numbers: Table 1: Ottoman demographic data
for Diyarbekir province.109 Ethnicity Number Jewish 1954 Protestant
5417 Chaldean 4783 Greek Catholic 113 Greek 1815 Syriac Catholic
3582 Syriac 28,699 Armenian Catholic 9004 Armenian 51,405 Muslim
434,236 Total 541,203 According to this demographic classification,
Diyarbekir province in 1913 harboured 1954 Jews, 104,818 Christians,
and 434,236 Muslims. On the one hand, it is very likely that in this
table the demographic balance between Muslims and Christians is skewed
in the advantage of the Muslims, and on the other hand there is no
mention of marginal social groups such as Yezidis or Alevis living
in the province. All in all, the statistics clearly contradict each
other. For the bulk of the population it seems reasonable to contend
that for approximately one-thirds it was made up of Christians and for
approximately two-thirds of Muslims.110 107 Theodig, Mius Merelotzu:
Amenoun Daretzoutzu (Istanbul: n.p., 1921), p.261, quoted in: Mesrob
K. Krikorian, Armenians in the service of the Ottoman Empire 1860-1908
(London: Routledge, 1977), pp.19, 117 footnote 6.
108 Johannes Lepsius, Der Todesgang des Armenischen Volkes: Bericht
uber das Schicksal des Armenischen Volkes in der Turkei wÃ¤hrend des
Weltkrieges (Potsdam: Tempelverlag, 1919), p.74.
109 BOA, DH.EUM.MTK 74/51, 3 December 1913, enclosure on p.3. Justin
McCarthy rectifies an other official Ottoman figure of 73,226 to
89,131. Justin McCarthy, Muslims and Minorities: the population
of Ottoman Anatolia and the end of the empire (New York: New York
University Press, 1983), pp.69-70.
110 This is confirmed by Lepsius: "Die christliche BevÃ¶lkerung betrug
also reichlich 1/3, die muhammedanische 2/3 der Gesamteinwonerschaft
des Wilayets." Lepsius, Der Todesgang [n.108], p.74.
26 1.4 Social relations between the groups In his travel account of
1895, the English ethnographer Parry wrote about his experiences
in Diyarbekir province: It is most striking, when on first visits
the East, to find a mixed company thoroughly enjoying each other’s
society, which, when analysed, would be found to contain an Old Syrian
or two, a Protestant, half-a-dozen Moslems, and a substantial quota
of the Papal varieties. Yet they are all talking together in perfect
good-fellowship, smoking each other’s cigarettes, and discussing with
quite marvellous tact the latest political news.111 In Mardin city,
for example, serenity ruled when the British traveller and photographer
Gertrude Bell visited the citadel town, which she qualified as "more
splendid[ly] than any place I have ever seen." According to her, all
different ethno-religious elements peacefully coexisted in perfect
harmony.112 The British officer Mark Sykes, who had conducted fieldwork
and several studies on the Ottoman Empire, visited Palu in 1913 and
wrote that there was no trace of enmity between the local Zazas and
Armenians.113 Sykes also wrote that Ä°brahim PaÅ~_a (d.1909)114 of the
MÃ®lan tribe had encouraged Christians (Armenians and Chaldaeans) to
take refuge in the vicinity of Viranshehr, and established a bazaar
in that town, which rapidly increased in size. While other tribes
and chiefs plundered and massacred Armenians, Ibrahim protected and
encouraged Christians of all denominations. It is estimated that
during the great Armenian massacres he saved some 10,000 Armenians
from destruction.115 The British army major Soane, who was fluent in
Kurdish and had traversed the Diyarbekir region in native disguise,
commented two years before the war that the Diyarbekir Chaldeans "were
on excellent terms with their ferocious neighbours," referring to the
Kurdish tribes dwelling north of Diyarbekir city.116 Benevolent Muslim
notables wrote optimistic articles that in Diyarbekir Armenians and
Kurds had always gotten along well and that the Ottoman government was
to blame for any possible mutual distrust between these two peoples
that had 111 Oswald H. Parry, Six Months in a Syrian Monastery: being
the record of a visit to the head quarters of the Syrian church in
Mesopotamia with some account of the Yazidis or devil worshippers
of Mosul and El Jilwah, their sacred book (London: Horace Cox,
112 Gertrude Bell Archives (Robinson Library, University of Newcastle
upon Tyne) [hereafter cited as GBA], Gertrude Bell to her mother,
25 April 1911.
113 Mark Sykes, The Caliph’s Last Heritage: A Short History of the
Turkish Empire (London: n.p., 1915), p.366.
114 Ä°brahim PaÅ~_a was born into the MÃ®lan tribe in the Urfa area,
became chieftain in 1863, and managed to build a reputation for himself
by amassing tribal successes. When Sultan Abdulhamid II established
the mounted Hamidiye regiments in 1891 he joined them and acquired
even more respect from the population. He soon became the single
most powerful commander of the Hamidiye regiments in the eastern
provinces, boasting fortified headquarters and many thousands of
mounted warriors of the 41st, 42nd and 43rd regiments. When the CUP
wrested the 1908 revolution Ä°brahim repudiated the new cabinet and
declared his independence. The Ottoman army was deployed and Ä°brahim
was definitively defeated and forced to flee into the mountains south
of Urfa, where he died. M. Wiedemann, "Ibrahim Paschas Gluck und Ende,"
in: Asien, vol.8 (1909), pp.34-54.
115 Sykes, The Caliph’s Last Heritage [n.113], p.324.
116 Ely B. Soane, To Mesopotamia and Kurdistan in disguise: with
historical notices of the Kurdish tribes and the Chaldeans of Kurdistan
(London: J. Murray, 1912), p.66.
27 lived in "eternal brotherhood" (vifak-Ä± kadÃ®m) and even
"consanguinity" (yekdestÃ®).117 According to these views, pre-war
interethnic relations were peaceful and the atmosphere was congenial.
The interethnic and interfaith relations in Diyarbekir in the years
before 1914 may not have been as idyllic as some observers have
portrayed. In fact, they were frail due to the prolonged crisis that
afflicted the Ottoman Empire. The gradual expulsion of Ottoman rule
from the Balkans co-occurred with massacres perpetrated against Ottoman
Muslims in places like Crete,118 and conjured questions of loyalty
of Christian citizens to the Ottoman state. During the Abdulhamid era
massacres which struck Diyarbekir on 1 November 1895, the destruction
of human lives and property was massive and profound.119 Approximately
25,000 Armenians forcibly converted to Islam in all of Diyarbekir
province, 1100 Armenians were killed in Diyarbekir city and 800 or
900 Armenians in the outlying villages, while 155 women and girls
were carried off by Kurdish tribesmen. In Silvan county 7000 Armenians
converted and 500 women were carried off. In Palu 3000 and in Siverek
2500 converted to escape being massacred.
In Silvan, along with Palu (where 3000 Armenians converted), "7500
are reduced to destitution and 4000 disappeared: killed, died of cold,
etc., or escaped elsewhere".120 According to KÃ©vorkian and Paboudjian,
2000 houses and 2500 shops and ateliers were burnt down in the province
during the 1895 massacres.121 An unknown percentage of these converts
reconverted to their faiths, returned to their villages, reclaimed
their possessions, and rebuilt their homes and businesses once the
persecution was discontinued.
Still, the memory of the atrocities was very much alive among the
population of Diyarbekir.
Ely Soane wrote in his travel account: […] it is, among the
underworld of western Kurdistan and northern Mesopotamia, a common
subject of talk in the cafÃ©s how much the Sultan and the Government
paid the ruffians of the town to do their dirty work, and how much
the Kurdish Aghas presented to the authorities to be allowed to
finish unhindered the blood-feuds that existed between themselves and
Armenians sheltering in Diyarbekr and the towns of Armenia. A very
reign of terror overshadows the apparently peaceful and prosperous
town.122 The province was beset by tribal, ethno-religious, and
The heavily armed tribes of the province frequently engaged in armed
combat to overpower each other and spared very few when beating a
competitor tribe. In the Hazakh district (present-day Ä°dil) Serhan
II,123 117 Huseyin PaÅ~_azÃ¢de, "Kurdler ve Ermeniler," in: Kurd Teavun
ve Terakki Gazetesi, 30 January 1909, pp.3-6. Cf. Mehmed E. Bozarslan
(ed.), Kurd Teavun ve Terakki Gazetesi: Kovara KurdÃ®-TirkÃ® 1908-1909
(Uppsala: Deng, 1998), pp.431-4.
118 Justin McCarthy, Death and exile: The ethnic cleansing of Ottoman
Muslims, 1821-1922 (Princeton, NJ: The Darwin Press, 1995).
119 Gustave Meyrier, Les Massacres de Diarbekir: Correspondance
diplomatique du Vice-Consul de France 1894-1896 (Paris: L’Inventaire,
120 Blue Book Turkey, No.8 (1896), enclosure in document no.140, p.127.
121 KÃ©vorkian & Paboudjian, Les ArmÃ©niens [n.90], p.398.
122 Ely B. Soane, To Mesopotamia and Kurdistan in disguise: with
historical notices of the Kurdish tribes and the Chaldeans of Kurdistan
(London : J. Murray, 1912), pp.65-66.
123 Serhan II was a notorious Kurdish brigand, whose ruthlessness
was only matched by his greed. In the pre-war years his power
gained momentum as he succeeded his father as chieftain of the Mala
Osman. Fed up with his terror, a group of Tur Abdin Syriacs filed
a complaint against him at the Syriac Patriarchate in Istanbul,
requesting a parliamentary inquiry and prosecution of Serhan. Contrary
to their expectation, the case was neglected and no legal action was
undertaken. BOA, DH.MUÄ° 77-2/15, 9 August 1910.
28 chieftain of the Mala Osman dynasty of the HevÃªrki tribe perceived
a threat in the person of Khalife Meso of the Mala Meso dynasty of
the Å~^eroxan tribe. In 1913 tribesmen loyal to Serhan carried out
a raid against KÃ®wex village, where Meso, his brother Cercur, and
his nephew Kato were living. In the ensuing massacre 24 men including
young boys and 2 women were killed.
Although Serhan was a Muslim and Meso of Yezidi descent, there
were both Yezidis among Serhan’s adherents and Muslims among Meso’s
adherents, thus clearly rendering this a tribal conflict.124 An unknown
number of inhabitants were killed in the Syriac village of B’sorino in
1907 during a punitive campaign by Midyat Kurds who feared that the
local chieftains would become too influential. The church was burnt
down and the houses were destroyed, but inhabitants proclaiming loyalty
were allowed to work for the Midyat chieftains.125 When Gertrude Bell
toured Tur Abdin in the years before the war, she was robbed at night
in the village of Khakh.126 Since the theft was committed in the area
ruled practically autonomously by the very powerful Celebi dynasty
of the HevÃªrki tribe, their chieftain Ä°smail was brought in from
Mzizah village. Ä°smail was furious about the breach of cultural
norms of hospitality. Having no suspects, he arbitrarily rounded
up five men and the mayor of Khakh, a man named Melke, threatening
them with incarceration. Soon, it became known that tribesmen around
chieftain AbdÃ®kÃª HemzikÃª of the semi-nomadic Zakhuran tribe127 were
responsible for the theft.128 The Celebi chieftain used the opportunity
to settle tribal scores and join forces with local government forces
to assassinate AbdÃ®kÃª HemzikÃª, disperse the Zakhuran, and pillage
their villages seizing all of their cattle.129 The uncrowned master
of social banditry however, was AlikÃª BattÃª of the Haco dynasty of
the HevÃªrkan tribe, whose name alone struck fear and respect into
the hearts of the locals.130 In August 1913 AlikÃª BattÃª engaged in
a skirmish with gendarmes during an attempt to rob the Ottoman post
carriage in Nusaybin. The post was delayed for some time and the
brigand escaped into the Tur Abdin mountains.131 At the end of 1913
Ali and his accomplices were arrested and incarcerated but profited
from the general amnesty the government had granted.132 Although they
were threatened with re-imprisonment if they would 124 Omer Å~^ahin,
KomkujÃ® li hemberi EzidÃ®yan (Heidelberg, 2001), unpublished private
125 GBA, diary entry for 17 May 1909.
126 For details on Khakh village see: Hollerweger, Turabdin [n.97],
127 According to tribal myths, the Zakhuran were remnants of a huge
tribe commanding a vast area in Northern Mesopotamia, until they
split up and formed the two major tribes in the region: HevÃªrkan
Due to their conflicts with the Celebi core, they sided with Haco Aga
of the HevÃªrkan tribe and became active in Kurdish nationalism in the
Republican era. Their power crumbled, and in the 1940s they numbered
a mere 500 tribesmen. AÅ~_iretler Raporu (Istanbul: Kaynak, 2003,
second edition), p.250. Presently the Zakhuran are a relatively small
tribe, centered in Zakhuran village, 40 kilometres east of Midyat.
They own the villages of HarebreÅ~_, GundÃª KeportÃ®, OmerÃª Ahu,
SÃ®vok, SabrÃ®ka, Ä°stavran, GelÃ®ta, MÃªvenka, HirabehorÃ®,
Hirabegura, Hirabecibra, Calkagundo, Hasakor, Ancik, and
Hirabehala. For data on the Zakhuran tribe see: Cevdet Turkay,
BaÅ~_bakanlÄ±k ArÅ~_ivi Belgelerine GÃ¶re OsmanlÄ± Ä°mparatorlugu’nda
Oymak, AÅ~_iret ve Cemaatlar (Istanbul: Ä°Å~_aret, 2001), 146.
128 GBA, diary entries for 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29 May 1909.
129 This is confirmed by AbdÃ®kÃª HemzikÃª’s grandson. Interview
conducted in Kurdish with Aslan family (Zakhuran tribe), Midyat
(Mardin province), 28 July 2004.
130 AlikÃª BattÃª was relatively young when he became one of the most
charismatic and fierce chieftains in Kurdish tribal history. He avenged
his uncle Haco II by killing his murderer Cimo with his bare hands. He
waged a guerrilla war against the Ottoman government for two decades,
only to perish during a skirmish in 1919. For more on AlikÃª BattÃª
see: Mustafa Aldur, "1850-1950 yÄ±llarÄ± arasÄ± Turabdin’e HevÃªrkan
ve Mala OsmÃªn," in: Ozgur Politika, 15 September 2002; Public Record
Office (British Archives London, hereafter cited as PRO), Foreign
Office (FO) 371/107502, 149523, 163688, 3050.
131 BOA, DH.Ä°D 145-2/38, 13 August 1913.
132 BOA, DH.EUM.EMN 38/7, 1 December 1913.
29 continue their brigandage, after being released, they resumed
their criminal careers and were no longer sought after.133 Clashes of
tribal nature did not only occur in the Mardin district. The north
and east of Diyarbekir province were other peripheral regions with
influential Kurdish tribes competing for power. Most specifically,
the Xerzan (Garzan) valley in the BeÅ~_iri district was torn by
tribal warfare. The largest conflict was that between the ReÅ~_kotan
and EtmankÃ® tribes, which was settled through a victory won by the
former.134 The feud between the Elikan and PencÃ®naran tribes was an
other source of violence in the Garzan region.135 The latter conflict
was provoked by PencÃ®nar chieftain BiÅ~_arÃª Ceto, a loose cannon,
who had telegraphically expressed his joy over the 1908 revolution in
the hope of being left alone by the government.136 Together with his
equally trigger-happy brother Cemil Ceto they were known for extorting
Armenian, Kurdish, and Syriac villagers in the region.137 These two
brigands had been robbing and murdering at will but legal action was
suspended in July 1914 and the Ceto brothers evaded prosecution.138
There were also intra-tribal intrigues and power struggles, most
notably in the Reman tribe.
Its famous female chieftain PerÃ®xan, widow of Ä°brahim PaÅ~_a, had
six sons who competed for succession: Mustafa, Said, EmÃ®n, Abdullah,
Ä°brahim, and Omer.139 In order to succede their mother, the sons had
to outclass each other in absorption and exertion of power. In other
words, they had to express leadership qualities. Of all her sons, Omer
was particularly eligible for this fratricidal operation due to his
ferociousness. Before the war, Omer’s campaign of plunder, provocation
of government forces, and bravado did not go unnoticed. In the summer
of 1914, the government declared him persona non grata and ordered
him arrested and incarcerated. Omer escaped prosecution and retreated
into the Garzan region.140 Finally, the ZirkÃ® tribe in Lice had been
fighting off the aforementioned MÃ®lan tribe to gain control over
parts of the northern region of Diyarbekir province. Their chieftain
Aziz Sabri had aligned himself with the CUP when Ä°brahim refused to
submit to their rule.141 Ethno-religious conflict was an other form of
strife. Missionary activity among the various Christian churches was
one source of discontent and conflict. When a young Jacobite Syriac
convert to Catholicism dared to convert one of his fellow villagers
to Catholicism, he was first 133 BOA, MV 194/22, 8 November 1914.
134 "Li Ciyaye QÃ®re, Delana PaÅ~_o, Å~_erÃª ReÅ~_kotiyan Ã"
Etmankiyan: Å~^erÃª FilÃ®tÃª QÃ"to Ã" MamÃª ElÃª EtmankÃ®," in:
SalihÃª KevirbirÃ®, FilÃ®tÃª QÃ"to: SerpÃªhatÃ®, DÃ®rok, SosyolojÃ®
(Ä°stanbul: PÃªrÃ®, 2001), pp.59-75. In this war ReÅ~_kotan chieftain
FilÃ®tÃª QÃ"to gained a reputation for ferocity and fearlessness as
a warrior. His saga was immortalized in a long lamentation (kilam)
equally named "FilÃ®tÃª QÃ"to" by Kurdish folk singers such as DengbÃªj
Å~^akiro, KarapetÃª Xaco, and DengbÃªj ReÅ~_o. SalihÃª KevirbirÃ®,
"Deng Ã" Awaza Xerzan," in: Ozgur Politika, 3 January 2000.
135 "Å~^er Ã" kilamak ji herÃªma Xerzan: Å~^erÃª PencÃ®naran Ã"
Elikan," in: Ibid., pp.11-18. This conflict had been raging since the
1890s, when Hamidiye regiments had threatened the Elikan’s domination
in certain areas around Xerzan. Ä°smail BeÅ~_ikci, Dogu’da DegiÅ~_im
ve YapÄ±sal Sorunlar (GÃ¶cebe Alikan AÅ~_ireti) (Ankara: Sevinc,
136 BiÅ~_arÃª Ceto and 5 other chieftains to the editor, Diyarbekir,
28 December 1908, quoted as "TelgrafÃ¢t-Ä± Hususiye," in: Kurd Teavun
ve Terakki Gazetesi, 9 January 1909, p.26. Cf. Bozarslan, Kurd Teavun
ve Terakki Gazetesi [n.117], p.302.
137 BOA, DH.EUM.EMN 38/30, 6 December 1913.
138 BOA, DH.EUM.EMN 89/5, 28 July 1914.
139 "Ji birakujiya nava eÅ~_Ã®ran nimÃ"neyeke sosret: EmÃ®nÃª
3;ª – EvdilÃª BirahÃ®m," in: KevirbirÃ®, FilÃ®tÃª QÃ"to
140 BOA, DH.Ä°D 80/5, 8 August 1914.
141 Å~^evket Beysanoglu, AnÄ±tlarÄ± ve Kitabeleri ile DiyarbakÄ±r
Tarihi (DiyarbakÄ±r: DiyarbakÄ±r BuyukÅ~_ehir Belediyesi Kultur ve
Sanat YayÄ±nlarÄ±, 1996), vol.2: Akkoyunlular’dan Cumhuriyete Kadar,
p.773, footnote 17.
30 interned at Deyr-ul Zaferan. When the monks found out he wouldn’t
reconvert they beat him up and chased him out.142 A Protestant Armenian
remembered well that before the war, there were weekly brawls between
Catholic and Protestant Armenians in his town. On several occasions
even the clergy joined the fighting.143 In Lice, Syriacs and Armenians
squabbled over the Akkilise monastery which both communities aimed to
appropriate. The government mitigated the conflict and a compromise
was reached.144 However, the severest conflicts seem to have raged
between Muslims and Christians. When Gertrude Bell visited Diyarbekir
she noticed the nervous anxiety which is felt by both Christians
and Moslems – each believing that the other means to murder him at
the first opportunity – is in itself a grave danger and very little
is needed at Diarbekr to set them at each other’s throats. During
the 3 days that I was there tales of outbreaks in different parts
of the empire were constantly being circulated in the bazaars. I
have no means of knowing whether they were true, but after each new
story people went home and fingered at their rifles.145 These ethnic
tensions may have also well been conflicts based on economic interests,
since there was an ethnically organized labour market. While Armenians
occupied most positions in the Diyarbekir trade world, together with
Syriacs they had also monopolized the cloth production.
Kurds controlled the livestock trade.146 Due to the Abdulhamid era
massacres, no love was lost between the Christian and Muslim merchants
in the pre-war years. Muslim shopkeepers, outnumbered by Christian
tradesmen, fostered jealousy and hate towards their colleagues.147
This opportunism was reported by the German vice consul in Mosul,
Holstein, as follows: Im allgemeinen bekummert sich der Kurde
in der Gegend von Diarbekir nicht viel um die Politik einzelner
Kurdenscheichs, er profitiert nur von der Gelegenheit, sich durch
Raub und Plunderung zu bereichern und erblickt in der manchmal damit
verbundenen Ermordung einiger Armenier weiter kein Verbrechen. So
erklÃ¤rte mir ein Kurdischer Holzhacker in Diarbekir, auf meine
Frage, wieviel Armenier er schon auf dem Gewissen habe, ganz naiv:
Genau kÃ¶nne er es nicht sagen, aber rund ein halbes Dutzend wurden
es wohl schon sein.148 Possible palliatives and mitigations were
dismissed. When Suleyman Bey of the noted CemilpaÅ~_azÃ¢de dynasty
urged the Muslim marketers of Diyarbekir to treat the Armenians with
respect and bury their hatchets, he was met with resistance and
ridicule, and experienced great frustration.149 The Armenians, on
their turn, boycotted all Muslim-owned shops at Christmas 1908.150 The
Diyarbekir bazaar faced far graver situations when Muslim merchants
were simply allowed to snatch Christian property. During the great
fire of August 1914 the grain market of 142 Yves Ternon, Mardin 1915:
Anatomie pathologique d’une destruction (special issue of the Revue
d’Histoire ArmÃ©nienne Contemporaine, vol.4, 2002), p.163.
143 James Sutherland, The adventures of an Armenian boy (Ann Arbor,
MI: The Ann Arbor Press, 1964), p.33.
144 BOA, DH.Ä°D 162-2/51, 16 August 1913.
145 GBA, Gertrude Bell to her mother, 6 June 1909.
146 Alphons J. Sussnitzki, "Zur Gliederung wirtschaftlicher Arbeit nach
NationalitÃ¤ten in der Turkei," in: Archiv fur Wirtschaftsforschung
im Orient, vol.2 (1917), pp.382-407.
147 Beysanoglu, Diyarbekir Tarihi [n.141], pp.760-1.
148 PAAA, Holstein to Bethmann-Hollweg, 22 May 1913.
149 GBA, diary entry for 30 April 1909.
31 Diyarbekir became the scene of mass plunder as many Muslim
merchants joined hands in seizing the opportunity to loot the stores
of Christians. Soon it became known that the police chief, Memduh Bey,
had "allowed Kurds and Muslims to pillage Armenian stores" (Kurtlerle
muslumanlarÄ±n Ermeni magazalarÄ±nÄ± yagma etmelerine musaade
olundugu).151 According to Mihran Boyadjian, an Ottoman-Armenian civil
inspector, Memduh had started the fire himself to create opportunities
for pillage.152 Not only was the involvement in the pogrom massive,
the apathetic attitude of local government agents to the violence
implied tacit approval.
Political conflicts were usually conflicts between political factions
on the one hand, and the Ottoman state on the other. The Armenians of
Diyarbekir were generally anti-Russian and many adhered to the Dashnak
party, that desired Armenian autonomy. Concretely, its program aimed at
more freedom and more decentralization in the Ottoman administration
of the eastern provinces, the introduction of Armenian as educational
and official language, and an end to injustice, usurpation, and
expropriation committed mostly by Kurdish tribes against Armenian
peasants.153 Chief editor of the Armenian publishing organ Azadamart
was Rupen Zartarian, a noted Armenian revolutionary who hailed from
Diyarbekir. Kurdish nationalism, though not as organized and settled as
its Armenian counterpart, also existed in the province. On 19 September
1908 Muftu SuphÃ® Efendi founded the Diyarbekir office of the ‘Kurdish
Assistance and Progress Society’ (Kurt Teavun ve Terakki Cemiyeti)
in Diyarbekir. Prominent members were Dr. Mehmed Å~^ukru (Sekban),
former mayor of Diyarbekir PirinccizÃ¢de Arif, MirikatibizÃ¢de Ahmed
Cemil (Asena), Mehmed Tahir, and Halil HayalÃ®.154 According to its
statutes, it aimed to observe the constitution, pursue the notion
of Ottomanism, end tribal warfare, and maintain "harmony and good
relations between their compatriots the Armenians, Nestorians, and
other Ottoman subjects".155 The Bedirxan dynasty, a remnant of the
omnipotent 19th-century Botan tribal confederation, were involved in
explicitly Kurdish-nationalist politics.156 An adherent of Kurdish
nationalism was DerwiÅ~_ Aga of Celik village, south of Midyat,
who allied himself with the Bedirxans as a means to protest against
misrule and corruption by lower Ottoman officials.157 However,
there were also ideologically-driven politicians such as Hasan Bey
of Cizre, a cousin of the noted nationalist Abdulrezzak Bedirxan,
whose brother MÃ®ran chieftain Suleyman Bey was shot dead by Ottoman
gendarmes near Cizre. Hasan explained to the vice consul Holstein that
he had no doubts that Russia would logistically assist the Kurdish
national movement in liberating Kurdistan from the "Turkish yoke"
and establishing a Kurdish nation state.158 150 GBA, diary entry for
9 February 1909.
151 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 44/234, Emniyet-i UmÃ"miye Muduriyeti (Ali Munif)
to Diyarbekir, 13 September 1914.
152 Vartkes Yeghiayan (ed.), British Foreign Office Dossiers on
Turkish War Criminals (Pasadena, CA: AAIC, 1991), p.480.
153 PAAA, Holstein to Bethmann-Hollweg, 22 May 1913. For a history
of the Dashnaks see: Louise Nalbandian, The Armenian Revolutionary
Movement (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1963),
154 Tunaya, Turkiye’de Siyasal Partiler [n.57], vol.1, pp.430-4.
155 Kurt Teavun ve Terakki Cemiyeti Nizamnamesi (Istanbul: Kasbar,
1324), p.1, article 1.
156 MalmÃ®sanij, CÄ±zira BotanlÄ± Bedirhaniler ve Bedirhani ailesi
dernegi’nin tutanaklarÄ± (SpÃ¥nga, Sweden: Apec, 1994).
157 PAAA, Holstein to Bethmann-Hollweg, 22 May 1913.
32 It is quite difficult if not impossible to describe the
relationships between the dozens of ethno-religious and political
communities in Diyarbekir province with one adjective. Claiming that
‘everything was fine,’ or that ‘the religions did not get along’ would
oversimplify the complex relationship between Kurds and Armenians,
or between Syriacs and Arabs. Very often the relationship depended
on local conditions. Nevertheless, it is possible to state that the
absence or very feeble presence of a state monopoly of violence in
rural areas allowed for the maintenance of many conflicts, be it
tribal or ethno-social. Therefore, living conditions were relatively
insecure, with arbitrary exertion of (mortal) violence by certain
powerful tribes and state agents.
This only added to the general atmosphere of distrust and sectarianism
among the inhabitants of the province.
33 Chapter 2: Persecution of Christian communities, 1915 2.1
Mobilization and war The Committee of Union and Progress had not
remained idle in Diyarbekir province before the war. The first CUP
office in Diyarbekir was opened on 23 July 1908 by ZiyÃ¢ GÃ¶kalp, who
after all was a native of the region, and also was its representative
in the party’s Central Commitee.159 GÃ¶kalp began publishing
the newspaper Peyman, which adopted a relatively modest tone and
emphasized coexistence of the various Ottoman subjects.160 After
the catastrophic defeats of the Balkan wars, the atmosphere changed
as relations polarized. The CUP dictatorship exerted its influence
in this province through a network of mainly Kurdish members. The
most influential CUP members in Diyarbekir were those related to the
wealthy and powerful Kurdish PirinccizÃ¢de dynasty, who owned large
estates in the province, including the rice fields west of Diyarbekir
city.161 One of their kinsmen was deputy Aziz Feyzi (1879-1933), who
was known for his coarseness and fanatic patriotism. He was the son
of PirinccizÃ¢de Arif, who passed away in 1909 and had adhered to the
Kurdish Assistance and Progress Society (see page 30). According to a
German report Feyzi had undertaken a study trip to Germany in 1911.162
On behalf of many other Kurdish notables, he vehemently protested
in the Ottoman parliament against the proposed government plan of
expropriating Kurdish landowners. Feyzi was a CUP hardliner. He
had held fierce and hostile discussions with Armenian member of
parliament Vartkes Serengulian (1871-1915) in which he accused
Vartkes of sinister Armenian separatist revolutionary designs.163
He became more and more fanatic in his anti-Armenian emotions, and
reportedly had Ohannes Kazazian, a Catholic Armenian from Mardin
and his political rival in the elections, assassinated in 1913.164
At the outbreak of the war, Mihran Boyadjian travelled to Diyarbekir
and encountered an energetic Feyzi on the way: Chemin faisant, nous
parlions souvent politique en voiture. Feyzi Bey ne manquait pas de
glisser, dans ses conversations, quelque pointes de menace contre
mes coreligionnaires. "Les ArmÃ©niens," rÃ©pÃ©tait-il, avec amerture,
"se sont mal conduits a notre Ã©gard, pendant la guerre balkanique dans
nos jours de dÃ©tresse. Le patriarche Zaven le Catholicos d’Etchmiazine
et Nubar one [sic] cherchÃ© a recourir a l’intervention Ã©trangÃ¨re;
cela vous coÃ"tera cher, mon ami, votre avenir est en danger".165 159
Å~^evket Beysanoglu, ZiyÃ¢ GÃ¶kalp’Ä±n Ä°lk YazÄ± HayatÄ±: 1894-1909
(Ä°stanbul: DiyarbakÄ±r’Ä± TanÄ±tma Dernegi NeÅ~_riyatÄ±, 1956),
160 Up until the Balkan wars, GÃ¶kalp used to compare Ottoman society
to U.S. society as in both countries many different ethnic groups
coexisted under one denomination, Ottoman respectively American. In
fact, GÃ¶kalp even rejected Turkish ethnic nationalism as it
entailed nation-building based on blood bonds, which he considered
unreal. Mehmed MehdÃ®, "Turkluk ve OsmanlÄ±lÄ±k," in: Peyman, vol.II,
quoted in: Ibid., pp.99-101, 105.
161 According to one researcher of the period, the PirinccizÃ¢de
dynasty owned 30 villages in the vicinity of Diyarbekir
city. MalmÃ®sanij, Kurt Teavun ve Terakki Cemiyeti ve Gazetesi
(SpÃ¥nga, Sweden: Apec, 1998), p.41.
162 PAAA, R14084, Mutius to Bethmann Hollweg, 14 June 1914.
163 Meclisi Mebusan ZabÄ±t Ceridesi, first election period,
ninety-ninth sitting, third session, p.2894.
164 Jacques RhÃ©torÃ©, Les chrÃ©tiens aux bÃªtes! Souvenirs de la
guerre sainte proclamÃ©e par les Turcs contre les chrÃ©tiens en 1915
(unpublished manuscript, BibliothÃ¨que du Saulchoir), pp.59-60.
165 Yeghiayan, British Foreign Office Dossiers [n.152], p.479. Given
his reputation, Aziz Feyzi’s assignment to Diyarbekir caused unrest and
anxiety among Armenian politicians in Diyarbekir. GaÃ¯dz F. Minassian,
"Les relations entre le ComitÃ© Union et ProgrÃ¨s et la FÃ©dÃ©ration
RÃ©volu tionnaire ArmÃ©nienne a la veille de la Premiere Guerre mondiale
d’aprÃ¨s les sources armÃ©niennes," in: Revue d’histoire armÃ©nienne
contemporaine, vol.1 (1995), p.90, footnote 27.
34 Finally he threatened: "Vous aller voir maintenant, ce que
c’est que de rÃ©clamer des reformes".166 Other CUP sympathizers in
Diyarbekir were PirinccizÃ¢de SÄ±dkÄ± (TarancÄ±), YasinzÃ¢de Å~^evki
(Ekinci), his brother YasinzÃ¢de Yahya (Ekinci), and MuftuzÃ¢de Å~^eref
(Ulug), among less prominent others.167 The CUP’s policy towards the
inhabitants of the eastern provinces varied between containment and
repression. The day after the Kurdish revolt of Bitlis, on 4 April
1914, the Central Committee of the CUP convened to review its policy
towards the eastern provinces.
Mithat Å~^ukru (Bleda) pointed out that Russia was gradually
tightening its grip on many Kurdish tribes in both the Ottoman
Empire and Persia. According to him an other danger were Armenian
revolutionaries, who were awaiting the right opportunity to revolt
and could at any time strike.
He concocted a divide-and-rule strategy and maintained that on
no account should Kurdish and Armenian politicians be allowed to
unite. He suggested that the CUP should now adopt a more sophisticated
stick-and-carrot strategy, enrolling potentially loyal chieftains
through rhetoric and bribery, while threatening potentially disloyal
chieftains with deportation and incarceration.168 The assassination of
Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 stirred up acute
international tensions. In the midst of this belligerent atmosphere,
the CUP sought to forge alliances with any of the Great Powers in
order for the empire to emerge from its diplomatic isolation. Cavid
Bey, the pro-British Minister of Finance, had appealed to Britain in
1911, but apart from Winston Churchill, the Foreign Office was not
interested.169 TalÃ¢t flirted with Russia on his trip to the Crimea
in May, where he spoke to the Russian Foreign Minister Sazonov about
a possible alliance. The Russians expressed ambivalence in judgement
but in essence were not interested.170 Cemal PaÅ~_a approached France
but left empty-handed, lamenting the negotiations with the French as
"a huge disappointment" (buyuk bir hayal kÄ±rÄ±klÄ±gÄ&#x B1;).171 On 24
July 1914 a general mobilization was issued by the Ottoman general
staff. On 28 July, the same day that Austria- Hungary declared war
against Serbia, Enver PaÅ~_a proposed a defensive alliance between
Imperial Germany and the Ottoman Empire to the German ambassador
Wangenheim. In the next days Grand Vizier Said Halim, Chairman of the
Parliament Halil, Enver, and TalÃ¢t launched intensive negotiations
with the Germans behind closed doors. Finally, on 2 August, one
day after the German declaration of war against Russia, a written
agreement was signed between the two 166 Ibid., p.480.
167 Like CUP structures at the national level (see footnote 53),
many of these people were related to each other: Aziz Feyzi was both
ZiyÃ¢ GÃ¶kalp’s and Å~^eref’s cousin, and SÄ±dkÄ± was related to both
of them on the maternal and paternal sides. MalmÃ®sanij, Kurt Teavun
168 Kamal Madhar Ahmad, Kurdistan During the First World War (London:
Saqi, 1994, transl. Ali Maher Ibrahim), p.73.
169 Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, vol.3: 1914-1916, The
Challenge of War (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971), p.189.
170 Sergej D. Sazonov, Les annÃ©es fatales: souvenirs de M. S. Sazonov,
ancien ministre des Affaires Ã~ItrangÃ¨res de Russie (1910-1916)
(Paris: Payot, 1927), p.182.
171 Cemal PaÅ~_a, HatÄ±ralar: Ä°ttihat ve Terakki ve Birinci DunyÃ¢
SavaÅ~_Ä± AnÄ±larÄ± (Ä°stanbul: CagdaÅ~_, 1977), p.141.
35 states.172 The discussions were top secret, and even Cemal PaÅ~_a
had no knowledge of them.173 Three days later Austria-Hungary joined
the Turko-German alliance and completed the Central Powers bloc,
whereas Russia, France and Britain united into the Entente Powers. The
Ottoman Empire was now officially allied to Germany and on account
of the treaty was inevitably obliged in this political constellation
to prepare for war. Following the succession of declarations of war
in August 1914, the Germans urged Minister of War Enver PaÅ~_a at the
end of October to act against Russia. Without a formal declaration of
war, Enver ordered the Ottoman navy to immediately bomb the Russian
shore, destroying oil tanks and sinking 14 vessels.174 Though
few politicians in Istanbul knew of Enver’s solo adventure, this
fait accompli triggered declarations of war by the Triple Entente
powers. From 11 November 1914 on, the Ottoman Empire was officially
at war with Russia, France, and Britain.175 World War I was nothing
that incidentally happened to the Ottoman Empire.
The CUP consciously headed towards a belligerent direction, and
by participating in the war it hoped to radically solve the many
problems of the Empire. From the first day of the war, its dictatorial
rule became more repressive towards oppositional groups. Discordant
behaviour was dealt with systematically and ruthlessly. On 6 September
1914 TalÃ¢t ordered the Ottoman security apparatus to closely "follow
and observe" (takib ve tarassud) the local leaderships of Armenian
political parties who, according to TalÃ¢t, had been engaging in
"agitation and disturbance" (mefsedet ve melanet) against the notion
of Ottomanism all along.176 An other perceived problem were the
foreign capitulations, a set of legal concessions under which foreign
subjects enjoyed privileges, such as exemption of Ottoman taxes. The
CUP regarded the capitulations as humiliating177 and did not wait long
to confront them: all capitulations were unilaterally abrogated on
17 September.178 The CUP’s bold policies did not only directly cause
the ranks to close, it also led to an indirect form of turkification
as government functionaries voluntarily left office. On 12 November,
Minister of Commerce Suleyman Bustani, a Syriac Protestant, resigned
from his cabinet portfolio out of protest over what he considered
ongoing CUP aggression.179 This trend allowed the CUP to fill these
administrative positions with nationalists.
Meanwhile, the mobilization did not go unnoticed in Diyarbekir
province. The city streets swarmed with soldiers of the Second Army
Corps, led by Ahmet Ä°zzet PaÅ~_a, which was partly 172 For the eight
articles of this treaty see: Å~^evket S. Aydemir, Makedonya’dan Orta
Asya’ya Enver PaÅ~_a (Ä°stanbul: Remzi, 1972), vol.2 (1908-1914),
173 Cemal, HatÄ±ralar [n.171], pp.142-43.
174 Paul G. Halpern, A naval history of World War I (Annapolis, MD:
Naval Institute Press, 1994), p.76.
175 John Keegan, The First World War (New York: Vintage, 1998), p.217.
176 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 44/200, TalÃ¢t to provinces, 6 September 1914.
177 In the parliament, CUP members had dubbed the capitulations
"satanic angels". Meclisi Mebusan Zabit Ceridesi, 3rd election
period, 4th sitting, 60th session, p.1028. In his memoirs Cemal PaÅ~_a
confessed they wanted to "tear them apart". Cemal, HatÄ±ralar [n.171],
p.438. The annulment of the capitulations "was received euphorically
as a military success." Tunaya, Turkiye’de Siyasal Partiler [n.57],
178 "Ä°mtiyazat-Ä± Ecnebiyenin (Kapitulasyon) Ä°lgasÄ± HakkÄ±nda
Ä°rade-i seniyye," in: Takvim-i Vekayi, no.1938, 17 September 1914.
Together with the capitulations, the reform plan for the eastern
provinces Russia had designed in 1913 mainly to curb abuses against
Christians, was also de facto cancelled. Roderic H. Davison, "The
Armenian Crisis, 1912-1914," in: The American Historical Review
36 lodged in large mosques such as the Nebii Mosque.180 On 3 November,
the mayor of Diyarbekir held a public speech, explaining the conduct
of the war to an exclusively Muslim crowd. Upon hearing that the
Russian army was pushing into the provinces of Van and Erzurum,
the frantic crowd yelled "Praise to Mohammed! Death to the Russians
and their allies!" The non-Muslims of the city, frightened and
cautious because of this outbreak of mass rage, did not leave their
homes in the following days.181 The army began requisitioning goods
from the population and drafting men into the army. Daniel Thom,
a missionary in Mardin, summarized these acts and wrote that "the
Govt. has robbed the city, and the country around, of its men, of
its animals, of its money," leaving the people "pennyless, shops
all closed".182 Gradually, the Armenian elite of Diyarbekir was
targeted and persecuted. Coinciding with his earlier order, on 29
November TalÃ¢t ordered the arrest of Thomas Muggerditchian, the former
interpreter of the British consulate in Diyarbekir. Muggerditchian was
accused of espionage for the Entente Powers and would be sent to the
court-martial.183 He escaped arrest, fled to Egypt and subsequently
wrote his memoirs.184 From November 1914 on, the CUP began drawing up
formations of irregular brigands in order to invade Russia and Persia
to provoke war. This secret military organization was integrated into
the existing ‘Special Organization’ (TeÅ~_kilÃ¢t-Ä± Mahsusa).185
The cadre of these new guerrilla bands (cetes) was to be made up
of convicts, Kurdish tribesmen and Muslim immigrants, and were to
be led by the same gangsters the CUP had used in the Balkan wars
and in prior political competition. The convicts, named "savages and
criminals" even by CUP officials,186 were very often Kurdish tribesmen,
or local outlaws and bandits who had committed crimes of theft or
manslaughter. According to an Ottoman bureaucrat, they were drilled
in Istanbul for one week before being deployed in various regions.187
The entire operation was led by Dr. Bahaeddin Å~^akir and was kept out
of control of the Ottoman army as much as possible.188 On 18 November
TalÃ¢t personally ordered the drawing up of lists of names of "those
convicts who were able to exert influence on tribes".189 A week later,
the Special Organization was put together in Diyarbekir.
Among the members enlisted in the paramilitary organization were the
Zaza brigand Alo,190 as 179 Feroz Ahmad, "Unionist Relations with
the Greek, Armenian, and Jewish Communities of the Ottoman Empire,
1908-1914," in: Bernard Lewis & Benjamin Braude (eds.), Christians
and Jews in the Ottoman Empire: The Functioning of a Plural Society
(New York: Holmes & Meier Publishers, 1982), vol.I: The Central
180 Ali EmÃ®rÃ®, OsmanlÄ± VilÃ¢yÃ¢t-Ä± Å~^arkÃ®yyesi (Ä°stanbul:
DÃ¢r-ul HilÃ¢fe, 1918), p.34.
181 Ishaq Armalto, Al-Qousara fi Nakabat an-Nasar (Beirut: Al-Sharfe
Monastery, 1970, 2nd edition). This detailed chronicle was written
in 1919 in Arabic by the Syriac priest Ishaq Armalto and provides a
very valuable account of Diyarbekir province before and during the war.
The book has recently been translated into Swedish: De Kristnas
Hemska Katastrofer: Osmanernas och Ung-turkarnas Folkmord i norra
Mesopotamien 1895 / 1914-1918 (Stockholm: Beth Froso Nsibin, 2005),
translated by Ingvar Rydberg. This author has used an unofficial
Turkish translation by Turan KarataÅ~_ (Sweden, 1993), p.22.
182 Daniel Thom to William Peet, 16 August 1914, quoted in: Hans-Lukas
Kieser, Der verpasste Friede: Mission, Ethnie und Staat in den
Ostprovinzen der Turkei 1839-1938 (Zurich: Chronos, 2000), p.336.
183 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 47/243, TalÃ¢t to Diyarbekir, 28 November 1914.
184 Thomas Mugurditchian, Dikranagerdee Nahankee Tcharteru, Aganadesee
Badmoutiun (Cairo: Djihanian, 1919). This book is alternately titled
Dikranagerdee Nahankin Tcharteru yev Kurderou Kazanioutounneru
185 A. Mil, "Umumi Harpte TeÅ~_kilÃ¢tÄ± Mahsusa," in: Vakit, 2 October
1933 up to 18 April 1934, republished as: Arif Cemil (Denker), I.
Dunya SavaÅ~_Ä±’nda TeÅ~_kilÃ¢t-Ä± Mahsusa (Ä°stanbul: Arba, 1997).
186 Ibid., p.196.
187 Ahmet Refik (AltÄ±nay), Kafkas YollarÄ±nda: Ä°ki Komite, Ä°ki
KÄ±tal (Ä°stanbul: Temel, 1998 ), p.157.
188 Denker, TeÅ~_kilÃ¢t-Ä± Mahsusa [n.185], pp.236-38.
189 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 47/70, TalÃ¢t to provinces, 18 November 1914.
190 Tarihi Muhakeme (Istanbul: Kitaphane-i SÃ"dÃ®, 1919), p.14.
37 well as the Chechen criminal Hamid and his group of loyal
warriors. Hamid was recruited by CUP Responsible Secretaries,
who cabled the following notification to the Central Committee in
Istanbul: The courageous bandit Chechen Hamid, resident of the town
of ReÅ~_adiye in the Bergama district, has requested help to assist
the army with some of his comrads and if allowed, form a significant
corps in Diyarbekir. Since we hope that aforementioned gentleman is
able to serve in this way, their dispatch will benefit the homeland. We
would like to request a telegraphic answer on whether their patriotic
venture will be necessary or not, and present our compliments, dear
brothers.191 During the winter of 1914, the brigands began penetrating
into Russian and Persian territory to incite the Muslim populations to
rise in rebellion and join the Ottoman forces. In this guerrilla war,
Special Organization operatives such as Yenibahceli Nail, Deli Halit,
and Topal Osman, also attacked Armenian villages, plundering, raping,
and killing with impunity.
Ambassador Wangenheim wrote to the German Chancellor that their
anti-Russian actions across the Erzurum border frequently escalated
into "Ubergriffen und Ausschreitungen" against Armenian villagers.192
The war on the eastern front gained momentum when warmonger Enver
PaÅ~_a, driven by expansionist designs towards the east, on 29 December
attempted to attack the Russian army in SarÄ±kamÄ±Å~_. Against
all military advice from German and Ottoman strategists, Enver
insisted on waging an encirclement campaign through the rugged Kars
mountains. However, the Russian general Yudenich anticipated the
outflanking manoeuvre, outsmarted Enver and delivered a heavy blow
to his forces. Enver’s attack failed miserably, and as a result the
Third Army was effectively wiped out. Of the 90,000 soldiers that
engaged in the SarÄ±kamÄ±Å~_ battle, approximately 78,000 perished,
mainly through frost.193 The CUP leadership was convinced that the
disastrous defeat had been caused by "treacherous Armenian elements".
Retreating Ottoman soldiers took revenge on Armenian villagers,
massacring many and pillaging their goods.
After returning from the front, Enver wrote a letter to the Armenian
patriarch of Konya, expressing his respect and admiration for
the courage the Armenian soldiers had shown in the SarÄ±kamÄ±Å~_
battle. Enver gave the example of sergeant Ohannes who had received a
medal for valor.194 This may not have been how Enver really felt. In
a personal discussion with publisher Huseyin Cahit, Enver bitterly
blamed the Armenians for the fiasco and proposed their deportation to
somewhere they wouldn’t cause trouble.195 The defeat triggered a new
wave of persecutions, especially in the front line provinces Erzurum,
Bitlis, and Van. On 26 December 1914 TalÃ¢t ordered "the dismissal
of all 191 Quoted from internal CUP correspondence, 23 November 1914,
quoted in: Tunaya, Turkiye’de Siyasal Partiler, [n.57], vol.3, p.349.
192 PAAA, R14085, Wangenheim to Bethmann-Hollweg, 29 December 1914.
193 Edward J. Erickson, Ordered to die: a history of the Ottoman
army in the first World War (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000),
pp.51- 74. For a detailed account of the SarÄ±kamÄ±Å~_ disaster see:
Alptekin Muderrisoglu, SarÄ±kamÄ±Å~_ DramÄ± (Ä°stanbul: KaÅ~_taÅ~_,
1997), 2 volumes.
194 Lepsius, Der Todesgang [n.108], pp.161-2.
195 Huseyin C. YalcÄ±n, Siyasal AnÄ±lar (Ä°stanbul: Turkiye Ä°Å~_
BankasÄ± Kultur YayÄ±nlarÄ±, 1976), p.233.
38 Armenian police officers, police chiefs, and government employees,
and the deportation of anyone who opposes these measures."196 This
official notice marked an acceleration in CUP suspicion towards
Armenian loyalty to the Ottoman state.
For the population of Diyarbekir, there was little to celebrate
between Christmas and New Year’s Eve 1914. The news of Enver’s losses
reverberated in Diyarbekir and had a detrimental effect on the morale
of the locals. The war was experienced closely and emotionally,
since both Muslims and Christians had been drafted into the army,
and many of them had perished in the SarÄ±kamÄ±Å~_ campaign. The bad
news distressed the communities and strained their relationships,
sparking suspicion and enmity. The Saint Ephraim church was vandalized
and property was stolen, whereas gendarmes beat up a Syriac village
headman.197 The governor also prohibited the use of all non-Turkish
languages in some of the province’s institutions, such as the American
hospital or the French mission.198 In February 1915 the government
initiated arms searches in Christian houses in Diyarbekir. During
these violent searches the inhabitants were accused of treason and
espionage, and hiding guns in secret arms stores. On 18 February 12
young men of the large Syriac village of Qarabash were convicted to
death under charges of alleged desertion.
Four of them were hung publicly in the central square in Diyarbekir in
order to deter potential deserters.199 When their compatriot villagers
protested against the execution, gendarmes clubbed two men to death
and dispersed the group.200 March also saw the disarming of Armenian
soldiers and their recruitment, together with many other Christian
men, into labour battalions.201 The cadre of these battalions were
deemed disloyal elements, as an official decree proscribed them "at
all costs" from taking up arms in the regular Ottoman army.202 The
labour battalion conscripts were deployed in road construction under
dire circumstances in and around Diyarbekir. Irrespective of weather
conditions, every individual, including teenagers, was forced to
carry a daily load of 55 kilogram. They were escorted by two dozens
of soldiers. Many conscripts in the labour battalions perished of
exhaustion, exposure, and maltreatment. On 5 March 1915 a Syriac native
of Diyarbekir, Abed Mshiho, was conscripted in a labour battalions
numbering 1100 men, and assigned to work on 196 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 48/166,
TalÃ¢t to the provinces of Erzurum, Bitlis, and Van, 26 December
1914. TalÃ¢t PaÅ~_a’s involvement in the dismissal of Armenian
government officials typifies his qualities as a micro-manager.
In February he urged local officials to keep him abreast of the
developing situation with regards to the Armenian civil servants. BOA,
DH.Å~^FR 50/3, TalÃ¢t to the provinces of Erzurum, Van and Bitlis,
14 February 1915. When he got the impression that the firing wasn’t
proceeding quickly enough, he personally had police chief Krikor and
police officers Armenag, Boghos, and Å~^ahin of the Van police squad
removed from their offices and deported to Mosul. BOA, DH.Å~^FR 50/179,
TalÃ¢t to Van province, 6 March 1915. For the official declaration
sanctioning the dismissal of all Armenian and Greek police officers
see: BOA, DH.EUM.MEM 80/63, 21 November 1916.
197 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], pp.26, 27.
198 Ibid., p.26.
199 Abed Mshiho Na’man Qarabashi, Vergoten Bloed: Verhalen over de
gruweldaden jegens Christenen in Turkije en over het leed dat hun
in 1895 en in 1914-1918 is aangedaan (Glanerbrug, The Netherlands:
Bar Hebraeus, 2002, translated by George Toro and Amill Gorgis), p.60.
This important diary was originally written in Aramaic under the title
Dmo Zliho ("Shed Blood") by Na’man Qarabashi, a native of the village
of Qarabash. During the war Qarabashi was a theology student at the
Syriac monastery Deyr-ul Zaferan. Along with Armalto’s account it is
one of the very few survivor memoirs.
200 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], p.27.
201 Raymond KÃ©vorkian, "Receuil de tÃ©moignages sur l’extermination
des amele tabouri ou bataillons de soldats-ouvriers ArmÃ©niens de
l’armÃ©e Ottomane pendant la premiÃ¨re guerre mondiale," in: Revue
d’Histoire ArmÃ©nienne Contemporaine, vol.1 (1995), 289-303.
202 See the official order in: KÃ¢muran Gurun, Ermeni DosyasÄ± (Ankara:
Bilgi, 1988), p.276.
39 the Diyarbekir-Aleppo road. According to his account, the
maltreatments increased every other day, bastinado and other beatings
becoming commonplace, the violence escalating in sporadic murders of
individual conscripts by late March.203 March 1915 was perhaps the
most fateful month for the future development of the Ottoman Empire in
general and of Diyarbekir province in particular. The naval attacks
upon the Dardanelles straits and the Russian move towards Van cast
panic into the hearts and minds of the CUP leaders.204 This reinforced
their established fear of a nightmare scenario in which potential
Armenian disloyalty would pave the way for an Allied incursion into
Anatolia. This ‘wishful suspicion’ lead to a series of meetings
of the Central Committee in Istanbul in mid-March. As a result of
these gatherings, Dr. Bahaeddin Å~^akir was delegated substantial
authority to deal with "the inner enemies". The Special Organization
was reorganized, expanded, and placed under his jurisdiction.205 The
army was given more autonomy on TalÃ¢t’s orders to "turn to the Third
Army for the application of measures aimed at Armenian actions."206
Four days later he imposed total censorship on the Armenian newspaper
Azadamart and sent Osman Bedri, police commissioner of Constantinople,
to confiscate their presses.207 This radicalization at the center
metastasized into the periphery as Diyarbekir saw the appointment of
its new governor: Dr. Mehmed ReÅ~_id.
2.2 The ‘reign of terror’ begins On 25 March 1915 the governor of
Diyarbekir, Hamid Bey, was relieved of his duty and replaced by
Dr. ReÅ~_id. Mehmed ReÅ~_id (Å~^ahingiray) was born in a Circassian
family in Russian Caucasia on 8 February 1873. When the Tsarist
government intensified its campaign against the Circassians in 1874,
his family fled to the Ottoman Empire. ReÅ~_id grew up in Istanbul,
where he enrolled in the Military School of Medicine and joined other
students to found the kernel of a secret political party that would
later adopt the name CUP. In 1897 the Abdulhamid regime exiled him
to Tripoli for his politically recalcitrant activities. Having made
career in the army and risen to the rank of major, he wrote a book
on the CUP revolution in 1908. However, he was never influential in
the CUP core and his power did not match up to that of party bosses Dr.
Bahaeddin Å~^akir or Dr. NÃ¢zÄ±m. In 1909 he relinquished his
employment in the military and became district governor and mayor
in several provinces between 1908 and 1914. During his professional
path ReÅ~_id gradually radicalized and scapegoated the Christians as
the reason for the Empire’s erosion and wretched condition. By 1914
he was thorougly convinced that the Ottoman 203 Qarabashi names nine
Armenians who were lead away and killed. Qarabashi, Dmo Zliho [n.199],
204 In case the Entente navy would penetrate the Straits, TalÃ¢t
promised they would blow up the Aya Sofia and retreat into the
Anatolian heartland, from where they planned to resist and repel
the Entente. TalÃ¢t laughed at Morgenthau’s protests by saying that
not even six men in the CUP would care about the building. Henry
Morgenthau, Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story (Ann Arbor, MI: Gomidas,
205 For a detailed reconstruction of this decision-making process
see: Taner Akcam, Ä°nsan haklarÄ± ve Ermeni sorunu: Ä°ttihat ve
Terakki’den KurtuluÅ~_ SavaÅ~_Ä±’na (Ä°stanbul: Ä°mge, 2001),
pp.260-65, especially p.264.
206 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 51/15, TalÃ¢t to the provinces of Erzurum, Van,
and Diyarbekir, 14 March 1915.
207 Heinrich Vierbucher, Armenien 1915: Die Abschlachtung eines
Kulturvolkes durch die Turken (Bremen: Donat & Temmen Verlag, 1985
40 Christians were abusing their ostensibly privileged positions
and therefore were to blame for the Empire’s depressed economy. He
was delegated the task of secretary-general of the international
reform plan for the eastern provinces which was annulled when the
CUP engaged in war. In 1915 he became governor of Diyarbekir and
in 1916 he was appointed governor of Ankara. When the war was over,
he was arrested and incarcerated in Istanbul. With the assistance of
his former henchmen, he escaped from prison and lived incognito at
various Istanbul addresses. Fed up with being forced to evade the law,
and fearing arrest and possible execution, he committed suicide when
a police chief tracked him down on 6 February 1919.208 When ReÅ~_id
acceded to the governorship of Diyarbekir province, he brought with
him 30 mainly Circassian Special Organization operatives, such as
Cerkez Harun, Cerkez Å~^akir, and Cerkez Aziz.209 They were joined
in Diyarbekir by more troops released from the local prison.210 This
way, ReÅ~_id absorbed more effective power than the average Ottoman
governor. For ReÅ~_id, it was certainly true that "[i]n the provinces
party bosses of one kind or another often exercised substantial
control, amounting in some cases, […] to virtual autonomy".211
Upon arrival in Diyarbekir, ReÅ~_id and his men faced a poor rule
of law, a serious desertion problem, and an anxious population. The
bazaar, for example, was buzzing with rumors that the Russians had
invaded Istanbul.212 The Muslims feared an invasion of Diyarbekir
by the Russian army, whose reputation as a valiant fighting corps
had preceded its offensive into the south. The Christians were torn
between fear and hope: whereas one moderate group (such as the clergy)
was terrified that a Russian incursion may trigger reprisals, an other,
discordant group (such as nationalists) expressed audacious beliefs
that it was possible to defend themselves against the brutal policies
of the CUP dictatorship.213 The concerns of many young men were of
a pragmatic nature. They wanted to avoid the possibility of being
conscripted into the Ottoman army and to be sent off to an almost
certain death, at the front or in the labour battalions. Therefore,
some had actually gone into hiding in the complex web of rooftops of
Xancepek, a neighbourhood with a large concentration of Armenians. Some
of these draft evaders had acquired weapons.214 Dr. Floyd Smith, an
American doctor of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign
Missions (ABCFM), witnessed that at the end of February, the Armenian
bishop Tchilgadian finally "went upon the roofs and lectured the men,
telling them that they were bringing ruin upon themselves and the
whole Christian quarter.
208 Hans-Lukas Kieser, "Dr. Mehmed Reshid (1873-1919): A Political
Doctor," in: Hans-Lukas Kieser & Dominik J. Schaller (red.), Der
VÃ¶lkermord an den Armeniern und die Shoah: The Armenian Genocide
and the Shoah (Zurich: Chronos, 2002), pp.245-80.
209 Mehmed ReÅ~_id, MulÃ¢hazÃ¢t (Ä°stanbul, 1919), transliterated
in: Nejdet Bilgi, Dr. Mehmed ReÅ~_id Å~^ahingiray’Ä±n hayatÄ± ve
hÃ¢tÄ±ralarÄ± (Ä°zmir: Akademi, 1997), p.89, footnote 28. According
to Abidin NesimÃ®, son of the then mayor of Lice, Huseyin NesimÃ®,
the number of volunteers ReÅ~_id employed was 20. Abidin NesimÃ®,
YÄ±llarÄ±n Ä°cinden (Ä°stanbul: GÃ¶zlem, 1977), p.39.
210 Yeghiayan, British Foreign Office Dossiers [n.152], p.151.
211 Alexander L. Macfie, The End of the Ottoman Empire, 1908-1923
(London: Longman, 1998), p.128.
212 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], p.28.
213 Ibid., p.28.
214 Mustafa Ã~B. Tutenk, MahsÃ"l-i LeyÃ¢lÃ®-i HayatÄ±m (Diyarbekir,
1918, unpublished memoirs), fourth notebook titled "The Armenian
Affair in Diyarbekir" (Diyarbekir’de Ermeni HÃ¢disesi), pp.21-23,
quoted in: Beysanoglu, Diyarbekir Tarihi [n.141], pp.787-88.
41 As a result quite a number surrendered."215 Still, there were
a number of both Muslim and Christian deserters when Dr. ReÅ~_id
In a post-war booklet titled "Reflections" (MulÃ¢hazÃ¢t),216 ReÅ~_id
defended and sought to legitimize his wartime policies as governor
of Diyarbekir. These memoirs, composed of two of his four wartime
notebooks (the other two notebooks were lost), bear extraordinary
importance as they allow a close look at his line of thought when he
was appointed governor. From the moment he set foot in Diyarbekir,
ReÅ~_id found confirmation of his prejudices of a conspiracy of
disloyal Christians. He wrote: My appointment to Diyarbekir coincided
with a very delicate period of the war. Large parts of Van and
Bitlis had been invaded by the enemy, deserters were transgressing,
pillaging and robbing everywhere. Yezidi and Nestorian uprisings in
or at the border of the province required the application of drastic
measures. The transgressive, offensive and impudent attitude of the
Armenians was seriously endangering the honor of the government.217 In
his memoirs ReÅ~_id especially targeted the Armenians. He accused them
of "high treason" (hÄ±yÃ¢net-Ä± vataniye) and of "pursuing the goal of
an independent Armenia" (mustakil bir Ermenistan gayesini takib).218 In
his paranoia and animosity ReÅ~_id ignored the many Muslim deserters,
and imagined an army of Armenian deserters whereas they may not have
been as countless and organized as he visualized. He believed that
the Armenian draft dodgers on the rooftops were all "formidably"
(mudhiÅ~_) organized revolutionaries, and that their amount numbered
more than one thousand. Moreover, according to ReÅ~_id "there was
not a single Armenian in the province that was not participating in
this national endeavour".219 In order to deal with these perceived
problems, ReÅ~_id organized a committee for the "solution of the
Armenian question". This council was named "Committee of Inquiry"
(Tahkik Heyeti) and had its own "Militia Unit" (Milis AlayÄ±) at
its disposal.220 According to a German charity worker the committee,
drawn up of a dozen CUP loyalists, was "ein Scheinkomitee zur LÃ¶sung
der armenischen Frage" and served only one purpose: to eliminate the
Henchak and Dashnak parties.221 It was headed by Colonel Mustafa Bey
(CemilpaÅ~_azÃ¢de), and consisted of deputy Aziz Feyzi, postal clerk
Ä°brahim Bedreddin,222 Majors RuÅ~_du Bey and YasinzÃ¢de Å~^evki
215 Floyd Smith to James Barton, 18 September 1915, ABCFM Archives,
Houghton Library (Harvard University), ABC 16.9.7, reel 716:436,
quoted in: Kieser, "Dr. Mehmed Reshid" [n.208], p.264.
216 The booklet was alternately titled "Persistence" (Sebat).
217 ReÅ~_id, MulÃ¢hazÃ¢t [n.209], p.24.
218 Ibid., pp.95, 99.
219 Ibid., pp.103, 106.
220 Suleyman Nazif, "Doktor ReÅ~_id," in: Hadisat, 8 February 1919.
It is possible that the establishment of these provincial committees
was an empire-wide undertaking. There is evidence that in other
provinces similar organizations were set up. Yale University Library,
Ernst JÃ¤ckh Papers, file 49, folio 1354, "Anlage Abschrift".
221 PAAA, R14087, director of the Deutscher Hulfsbund fur christliches
Liebeswerk im Orient (Frankfurt am Main) Friedrich Schuchardt to the
AuswÃ¤rtiges Amt, 21 August 1915, enclosure no.6.
222 On 2 September 1914 Ä°brahim Bedreddin (Bedri for short) became the
postal clerk of Diyarbekir province. Previously he had held this office
in Basra and Mosul. After the defeat of the Balkan wars of 1912-’13,
he had coordinated the CUP-sponsored deportation of the Ottoman Greeks
of Biga (a town between Canakkale and Bursa). On 12 September 1915
he was officially appointed district governor of Mardin, which he
remained until 11 December 1916. On 24 January 1917 he was assigned
to the governorship of Diyarbekir, which he occupied until 24 November
1918. Yeghiayan, British Foreign Office Dossiers [n.152], pp.69-70.
42 (Ekinci), his brother YasinzÃ¢de Yahya (Ekinci), Ä°AMM
representative and director of the Diyarbekir branch of the ‘Society
for National Defense’ Veli Necdet, police chief Memduh Bey, militia
commander Å~^evki Bey, and Å~^eref Ulug (son of the muftu).223 On
orders of ReÅ~_id they selected the following civilians and appointed
them Captain: ZazazÃ¢de HacÄ± Suleyman (a Zaza butcher by profession
in the Diyarbekir bazaar), Halil (a butcher as well), CercisagazÃ¢de
Abdulkerim, DirekcizÃ¢de Tahir, and PirinccizÃ¢de SÄ±dkÄ± (TarancÄ±).
The following volunteers were nominated Lieutenant: HalifezÃ¢de Salih,
GanizÃ¢de Servet (Akkaynak), MuhtarzÃ¢de Salih, Å~^eyhzÃ¢de Kadri
(Demiray), PirÃ¢nÃ®zÃ¢de Kemal (Onen), YazÄ±cÄ±zÃ¢de Kemal, Zaza
Alo Efendi, and HacÄ± BakÄ±r.224 At that time, a certain HacÄ± Zeki
of Lice, a fanatic activist incited the locals of Mardin to take up
arms against the Christians. Zeki convened groups of Muslims at his
house in Mardin city where he held inflammatory political speeches,
openly calling for pogroms.
The district governor of Mardin, a moderate man by the name of Hilmi,
was displeased by Zeki’s aggressive vilification.
Since the outbreak of the war Hilmi had been showing consistent
efforts to restrain conflict, and maintain relative stability and
moderate rule. He reprehended Zeki and expelled him from Mardin. Zeki
then took off to Diyarbekir where he found willing partners among
the CUP elite that were just consolidating their rule in the
provincial capital.225 On 6 April 1915 TalÃ¢t ordered ReÅ~_id to
"appoint a capable, loyal, and devout Ä°ttihadist for the vacant
position of mayor" in Diyarbekir.226 ReÅ~_id immediately fired the
relatively mild CemilpaÅ~_azÃ¢de Dr. Fuad Bey and replaced him with
the rabidly anti-Armenian SÄ±dkÄ±.227 Police chief Dersimli Huseyin
Bey was replaced by Ä°AMM boss Veli Necdet, who had previously had
occupied the office of provincial secretary.228 All the key positions
in Diyarbekir were now occupied by CUP loyalists.
In Diyarbekir, ReÅ~_id now embarked on a relentless campaign to find
and punish deserters.
On 1 April he issued a proclamation demanding the surrender of all
arms to the police.229 When this failed to produce the results he had
expected, he brutalized the arms searches from 5 April on. Aided by
his gendarme commander, Major RuÅ~_du, he personally supervised and
participated in the warrantless searches of churches and houses.230
Whereas district governor Hilmi in Mardin visited the Christian clergy
to congratulate them on Easter,231 ReÅ~_id’s roundups of Armenian men
became more and more arbitrary and categorical. As he wrote: "On a
certain day I had the 3 or 4 most important streets in the Armenian
neighbourhood barricaded and ordered surprise searches 223 A muftu
(mufti) is a Muslim jurist who is versed in Islamic religious law
(the shari’a) and provides binding advice on its application.
224 Beysanoglu, Diyarbekir Tarihi [n.141], pp.793-94; Bilgi, Dr. Mehmed
ReÅ~_id [n.208], pp.26-27. See also: Joseph Naayem, Shall this nation
die? (New York: Chaldean Rescue, 1921), pp.182-83. Reverend Naayem
was a Chaldean priest of Urfa, where he witnessed the killing of his
father and the persecution of the Christians. Disguised as a Bedouin
Arab, he narrowly escaped with his life.
225 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], pp.29, 34.
226 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 51/220, TalÃ¢t to Diyarbekir, 6 April 1915.
227 ReÅ~_id, MulÃ¢hazÃ¢t [n.209], p.112. Right after the appointment
of SÄ±dkÄ±, a wave of violence swept over the labour battalions as
two supervisors came to inspect the workers, yelling "You’re not here
to play, come on, I want to see blood on those rocks!" Qarabashi,
Dmo Zliho [n.199], p.65.
228 Yeghiayan, British Foreign Office Dossiers [n.152], p.48.
229 Floyd Smith to James Barton, 18 September 1915, quoted in: Kieser,
"Dr. Mehmed Reshid" [n.199], p.265.
230 Qarabashi, Dmo Zliho [n.195], pp.63.
43 on every single house in the early morning, arresting more than 500
armed deserters".232 By 15 April ReÅ~_id had already had more than
600 Armenian notables and artisans arrested and put in jail. There
he had them tortured to exact confessions on the locations of hidden
The prisoners were beaten, burnt with hot irons, had their nails
pulled out with pliers, and suffered prolonged bastinado.233 Even so,
ReÅ~_id was not satisfied with what had been accomplished and wired
Istanbul twice to request the deployment of more manpower to assist
his force of 300 gendarmes and policemen. The Interior Ministry did
not comply with his requests, frustrating and galvanizing him into
more severe measures.234 A peculiar aspect of the operation was the
hunt for "recalcitrant" books and other texts, generally written in
non-Ottoman languages. In CUP jargon this material was branded "harmful
documents" (evrÃ¢k-Ä± muzÄ±rre) and needed to be confiscated.235 As
Floyd Smith wrote: "Books and papers were sure to bring condemnation
to a household."236 On 22 April ReÅ~_id’s men went from door to door
in the Xancepek and FatihpaÅ~_a neighbourhoods to find books.
The Syriac tailor Habib had warned the inhabitants to hide their books,
especially books in the French and Armenian languages. The militia
also paid a visit to the Armenian bishop Tchilgadian and accused him of
hiding arms in secret niches in the large Armenian church St. Sarkis.
They raided his room, took away all his books and documents, and sent
them to ReÅ~_id for examination. The next days the books were burnt
publicly.237 Vahram Dadrian was a young boy when he was deported
with his family from Corum. After many trials and tribulations they
arrived in the Syrian desert and met an Armenian man named Pakrad
who had just escaped from Diyarbekir.
Pakrad related them that his father Abraham got caught up in the books
searches. A corporal took two of their books and walked out, facing a
frantic crowd of Muslims: The corporal gestured to the crowd to shut
up. "Listen! Look here. Look what we found in his home," he yelled,
lifting a geography book into the air. "You don’t know how to read,
so you don’t know how dangerous this book is. But I won’t have to say
much before you can draw your own conclusions. In the hands of our
enemies this book is a more terrifying weapon than all the guns and
cannons of the army. This book gives the locations of all the cities,
villages, rivers, and roads in Turkey. All of them meticulously
portrayed. Anybody who goes through this book can find not only the
plan of every city, but also the location of every house and whether
it belongs to a Christian or a Muslim. They have marked each one with
a cross or a crescent, so that one day when they rebel it will be
easy for them to tell a Muslim 231 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.170], p.29.
232 ReÅ~_id, MulÃ¢hazÃ¢t [n.201], pp.105.
233 Qarabashi, Dmo Zliho [n.195], p.127. Fa’iz Al-Ghusayn, an Ottoman
bureaucrat hailing from Damascus, was arrested for his opposition
against the CUP and put in the Diyarbekir prison, where he witnessed
the tortures inflicted on the Armenian notables. He later fled to
Bombay and wrote his memoirs in Arabic. Fa’iz Al-Ghusayn, Martyred
Armenia (London: C.A. Pearson Ltd., 1917).
234 ReÅ~_id, MulÃ¢hazÃ¢t [n.201], pp.103, 104.
235 In World War I, the CUP confiscated and destroyed an unknown but
undoubtedly large number of non-Turkish language works. A striking
example is the fate of the books at library of the Armenian school
of Sivas. In October 1916 TalÃ¢t was disturbed by the idea that
the library kept "important volumes on the condition of the Ottoman
Empire in French, German, English, Russian, and Kurdish," and ordered
"the immediate seizure of these books and their dispatch to Istanbul
by post." BOA, DH.Å~^FR 69/75, TalÃ¢t to Sivas province, 23 October
1916. Five months later, when the books still weren’t sent, he repeated
his order, requesting the books to be sent "urgently". BOA, DH.Å~^FR
76/243-14, TalÃ¢t to Sivas province, 24 May 1917.
236 Floyd Smith to James Barton, 18 September 1915, quoted in: Kieser,
"Dr. Mehmed Reshid" [n.208], p.264.
237 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], p.29. Patriarch Rahmani, Les dÃ©gÃ¢ts
causÃ©s a la nation syrienne (prÃ©sentÃ© devant la confÃ©rence de la
44 household from the others." Grumbling from the mob – arms into the
air in defiance! "Oh, oh, oh… clobber him, kill him, let him rot,
"Please, calm down. Not so fast," the corporal ordered with authority,
"I haven’t finished yet. Look.
Here’s an other book." He held up an other book – a physics text. "It
tells you all you need to know about how to make gun-powder, bullets,
and dynamite. These conspirators’ homes are filled with books like
this Both the young and the old read these books and learn what to
do to destroy our country.
But thank God and the Sultan that we have been vigilant and were able
to uncover their plot at the last minute. Now it’s we who will destroy
their homes and put their children to the sword." The policemen had
a hard time clearing a way through the violent crowd. They finally
succeeded and, pulling and pushing their victim, they took him off
to jail.238 Pakrad’s father Abraham died in jail, where changes
of escape or survival were very slim. As the city prison was now
swarming with prisoners, ReÅ~_id ordered the large caravanserai of
Diyarbekir evacuated. Every day several dozens of prisoners were
locked up and tortured in that khan.239 The violent persecutions were
not limited to Diyarbekir. In April a gradual shift occurred from
discerning between combatants and non-combatants, to not discerning
between them anymore. This momentum is exemplified by the crucial
battle of Van, which had very high stakes for all parties. The Van
front saw mutual indiscriminate massacring of Muslims by the joint
Russo-Armenian forces and of Christians by Ottoman forces.240 The
anti-Armenian measures at the national level now became more and
more categorical as well. Moreover, inspired by the brutalizing war
in Persian Azerbaijan and in Transcaucasia, they were also gaining
‘total’ traits: more and more violence was applied. Fear of Allied
landings on the western coasts added fuel to the fire. As a result,
the CUP began incarcerating dissidents and assailing the Armenian
community all over the Ottoman Empire. Beginning on 24 April 1915,
the political and cultural elite of the Ottoman Armenian community
was targeted for arrest and deportation to the interior. With very
few exceptions, these men were tortured to death in the next months.
Simultaneously, deportation convoys to the interior were rerouted to
Der el-Zor in the Syrian desert. The persecutions soon increased in
intensity and were extended to larger parts of the Ottoman Empire.241
In Diyarbekir, ReÅ~_id had not been distinguishing at all ever since he
arrived. His intensive arms searches of the first three weeks of April
had delivered some results for his militia as many arms were found. The
scope of armament and the extent of its organization were blown out
of proportion and photos were taken of the arms and the culprits.242
On 27 April ReÅ~_id wired an elated telegram to TalÃ¢t summarizing and
evaluating his work in Diyarbekir: 238 Vahram Dadrian, To the Desert:
Pages from my Diary (London: Gomidas Institute, 2003), pp.64-65.
239 Qarabashi, Dmo Zliho [n.199], pp.82, 128. This famous caravanserai,
a large inn providing shelter to travelling businessmen or pilgrims,
was also known as "guest house" (misafirhane) or simply "khan" (han)
and is presently known as the Deliller HanÄ± near the Mardin Gate.
After restoration in the 1990s, it became the 5-star Hotel Kervansaray.
240 Anahide Ter Minassian, "Van 1915," in: Richard G. Hovannisian
(ed.), Armenian Van/Vaspurakan (Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda, 2000),
241 Donald Bloxham, "The Beginning of the Armenian Catastrophe:
Comparative and Contextual Considerations," in: Kieser, Der VÃ¶lkermord
242 Beysanoglu, Diyarbekir Tarihi [n.141], p.789. A similar method
was applied in Mardin, where Memduh Bey had been sent. Ara Sarafian,
"The Disasters of Mardin during the Persecutions Of The Christians,
Especially the Armenians, 1915," in: Haigazian Armenological Review,
vol.18 (1998), p.263.
45 For ten days, the pursuit of deserters has been carried out with
utmost severity. As a result of yesterday’s purges a significant
amount of explosives, fifty bombs, lots of ammunition and various
arms, and a great deal of dynamite powder was found. 120 leaders
and operatives of the villages were taken into custody. Until now,
only in the city more than 1000 deserters of different regions
were apprehended, many of whom are party members. Searches and
pursuit are continuing.243 Having incarcerated the bulk of the
political elite of the Diyarbekir Christians, ReÅ~_id’s militia now
targeted their religious leaders. Blanket arrests of priests and
monks were carried out and their houses were ransacked. In Mardin,
where ReÅ~_id’s persecutions had not yet started, the news from
Diyarbekir nevertheless caused fear. The Armenian Catholic Bishop
Ignatius Maloyan had become anxious about the worsening situation
and seems to have written a letter to his coreligionists, in case
something would happen to him. Maloyan urged his parish to remain calm
and loyal to the government, and wrote: "Above all, never lose your
faith in the holy trinity." The letter was sealed and entrusted to
the Syriac Orthodox Bishop Gabriel Tabbuni on the first of May.244
While the war was raging in all intensity on the eastern front,
the CUP began questioning the loyalty of the Ottoman Armenians even
more. On 5 May 1915 TalÃ¢t authorized the Third Army to disarm all
Armenian gendarmes in Diyarbekir.245 This way, even loyal Armenians
were categorized as disloyal and treated as such. The next day the
Directorate for Employment and Supplies of the Ministry of Economy
ordered all its offices to fire their Armenian staff and "deport those
of whom it is necessary to areas where there are no Armenians".246
After ReÅ~_id had already arrested these men in Diyarbekir, he
proceeded to persecute the city’s clergy and extend the arrests to
the villages. On 9 May he summoned the Chaldean priest Hanna Soha
in Mardin to come to Diyarbekir for interrogation. Upon arrival, the
militia publicly maltreated him before killing him in broad daylight
in the streets.247 The absence of constraints in his murder emboldened
the militia and triggered a new wave of arrests and violence, this
time targeting the surrounding villages as well. The predominantly
Christian villages Kabiye, Qarabash, and Qatarbel, all situated on
the plain of Diyarbekir, were subjected to brutal arms searches by
YasinzÃ¢de Yahya and PirinccizÃ¢de SÄ±dkÄ± between 10 and 20 May. The
village men were tortured with bastinado, and dozens were taken away
to the capital, filling the prison and the 243 ReÅ~_id to TalÃ¢t,
27 April 1915, quoted in: Husamettin YÄ±ldÄ±rÄ±m, Rus-Turk-Ermeni
Munasebetleri (1914-1918) (Ankara: KOK, 1990), p.57.
244 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], p.30.
245 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 52/234, TalÃ¢t to ReÅ~_id, 5 May 1915.
246 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 52/249, 6 May 1915, Ministry of Economy to the
provinces of Erzurum, Bitlis, Van, Sivas, Mamuret-ul Aziz, and
Diyarbekir. Since there were no other educated clerks available,
Syriac employees Aziz (son of Yakub) and George Meqdesi Nano of the
Diyarbekir office of the Ministry of Economy were allowed to continue
their work. The director of this office, Saib Ali Efendi, protected
these two secretaries all throughout the war. Armalto, Al-Qousara
[n.181], p.33. Most Armenian civil servants had already been fired
and replaced by Muslims at that time. Some were still in office at the
Ministry of Post. On 23 May this Ministry too took action, and ordered
the dismissal of all its Armenian clerks and the transfer of the
vacant functions to "trustworthy Muslims" (emin ve muslÃ®m kimselere).
BOA, DH.Å~^FR 53/89, Ministry of Post to the provinces of Diyarbekir,
Adana, Sivas, Ankara, Van, and Erzurum, 23 May 1915. For Haleb see:
BOA, DH.Å~^FR 53/90. The day after, the Ministry had to deal with
the replacement of the Armenian postal clerk responsible for the
deliverance of post beween Diyarbekir and Siirt. Although there were
no other qualified employees available, it warned that the appointment
of the new postal clerk should in no way be an Armenian. BOA, DH.Å~^FR
53/97, Ministry of Post to Bitlis, 24 May 1915.
46 caravanserai.248 German charity worker Schuchardt wrote: "zwischen
dem 10. und 30. Mai wurden weitere 1200 der angesehensten Armenier und
anderen Christen ohne Unterschied der Confessionen aus dem Vilajet
Diarbekir […] verhaftet".249 ReÅ~_id then imposed a death penalty
on any Armenian going outside the city walls.250 Diyarbekir had become
an open-air prison.
The persecutions also spread into the countryside, most notably Mardin
city, which was still ruled by Hilmi Bey, who had stalled and resisted
anti-Christian persecutions in his district.
On 15 May ReÅ~_id sent Aziz Feyzi to organize the round-up of the
Christian elites of Mardin.
During a secret meeting in which tens of Muslim notables participated,
a plan was laid out for the crack-down on the Mardin elite. However,
this was practically impossible because of Hilmi being in office.251
TalÃ¢t was still busy micro-managing the national persecution of
the Armenian political elite. On 19 May he ordered Henchak leader
Paramas court-martialled in the Diyarbekir prison and inquired on
the whereabouts of Krikor Nalbandian.252 On the 22nd he requested
information on Agnouni, Rupen Zartarian, and their colleagues.253 A
critical event in Diyarbekir was the first large massacre involving
the integral destruction of entire village populations. On the
morning of 20 May 1915 ReÅ~_id ordered Yahya and SÄ±dkÄ± to disarm
Qarabash, a village shortly northeast of Diyarbekir. The village
was invaded with 50 men and thoroughly disarmed, seizing even bread
knives. Its men incarcerated, its weapons confiscated, Qarabash
was now completely emasculated. That same evening Yahya and SÄ±dkÄ±
visited the neighbouring Kurdish villages, inciting them to attack
Qarabash and explicitly giving them fiat to plunder. Two days later,
on 22 May, the village was invaded by mounted Kurds, who massacred
its population with daggers, axes, and swords. Its two priests,
Paulus and Behnam, were trampled to death under the hooves of the
horses. The women were raped, the houses were burnt, and valuables
were seized.254 The few survivors fled to Diyarbekir, were some of
them were treated by Floyd Smith. Smith reported the arrival of the
Qarabash survivors as follows: May 21, 1915, there came to our compound
in Diarbekir from the village of Karabash, three hours to the east,
three or four wounded and the following day (May 22) over a score of
wounded Armenian and Syrian women and children. They, the villagers,
told of a night attack by the Kurds three days previous and that the
next morning the government had sent gendarmes who refused to allow
anyone to come to Diarbekir. Some managed to get away and finally
all who could walk or be carried came on the dates mentioned.
The wounds were practically all infected and I have classified them
as follows: […] (c) Wounds made by heavy cutting instruments,
probably axes. […] 247 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], p.32.
248 Qarabashi, Dmo Zliho [n.199], pp.81, 86, 92.
249 PAAA, R14087, director of the Deutscher Hulfsbund fur christliches
Liebeswerk im Orient (Frankfurt am Main) Friedrich Schuchardt to the
AuswÃ¤rtiges Amt, 21 August 1915, enclosure no.6.
250 National Archives, RG 59, 867.4016/77, Morgenthau to Secretary
of State, 20 July 1915 (enclosure no.3), in: Ara Sarafian (ed.),
United States Official Records on the Armenian Genocide 1915-1917
(London: Gomidas Institute, 2004), p.103.
251 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], p.33.
252 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 53/58, 19 May 1915, TalÃ¢t to ReÅ~_id.
253 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 53/74, 22 May 1915, TalÃ¢t to ReÅ~_id.
254 Qarabashi, Dmo Zliho [n.199], p.81.
47 2. Two children about seven and nine years and one woman; attempted
decapitations. Deep incised wounds of the nape of the neck (just below
the skull), 5-8 inches long and of a depth equal to the thickness of
the muscles of this region.255 On that same evening, the 160 families
of the village of Kabiye were targeted.256 The terrified villagers,
comprised of some remaining men but mostly women, children, and the
elderly, had taken refuge in the Mor Kiryakos church. SÄ±dkÄ± had
persuaded Omer, Mustafa, and EmÃ®n, three sons of PerÃ®xan, matriarch
of the Reman tribe (see page 29), to cooperate in the raid. They had
brought with them dozens of tribesmen, who combed the village for
hemp rope to tie the men together. On orders of SÄ±dkÄ± the men were
tortured with hot iron pins, while women and girls were raped in the
church. Within five hours, the militia and the tribesmen had hacked
the villagers to death with axes. Many were crammed into haylofts and
barns and burnt alive. After the massacre, the Reman brothers loaded
two saddle bags of money and gold and carried the goods away.257 The
few survivors escaped to Diyarbekir, where some were killed after
all by gendarmes. One survivor stated that she survived the massacre
"between the corpses of her relatives" (men bayn lashat herbo). When
she fled to Diyarbekir city, a Zaza family proposed to take her into
their home, but she refused out of fear. An other survivor, a boy,
had escaped death by hiding in a vinyard, which was overgrown by
that time of the year. He was the only male survivor of the Kabiye
massacre.258 In April, some Armenians had already sporadically
been deported from their native regions, though this was not an
empire-wide campaign. The deportation of the entire Armenian millet
was officially organized from 23 May 1915 on, when TalÃ¢t issued
orders for the integral deportation of all Armenians to Deyr-ul Zor,
starting with the northeastern provinces.259 That same day he urged the
Fourth Army Command to court-martial any Muslim who collaborated with
Christians.260 The Third Army had been put under command of General
Mahmud KÃ¢mil PaÅ~_a,261 who had issued a similar order. His orders
instructed "any Muslim who protected an Armenian hanged in front
of his house, the burning of his house, his removal from office,
and his 255 American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
(ABCFM) Archives, Houghton Library (Harvard University), ABC 16.9.7,
vol.25d, document 485, Floyd Smith to James Barton, 20 September 1919,
quoted in: James Barton (ed.), Statements of American Missionaries on
the Destruction of Christian Communities in Ottoman Turkey, 1915-1917
(Ann Arbor, MI: Gomidas Institute, 1998), p.92.
256 In the 1960s, Professor of Semitic languages Otto Jastrow travelled
to Diyarbekir and Beirut to conduct several very valuable interviews
with survivors from many villages. Jastrow uploaded these recordings to
an online archive (<;) and transcribed them
in both Aramaic, Arabic, and German. For the Kabiye massacre see:
Otto Jastrow (ed.), Die mesopotamisch-arabischen QE~Yltu-Dialekte
(Wiesbaden: Kommissionsverlag Franz Steiner GmbH, 1981), vol.II,
Volkskundliche Texte in Elf Dialekten, pp.309-71.
257 According to Qarabashi the amount of money stolen was 150 pounds.
Qarabashi, Dmo Zliho [n.199], p.89.
258 Jastrow, Die mesopotamisch-arabischen [n.256], p.310. Many
survivors of the Christian villages of the plain fled to the city
but were not received with open arms. Survivors and scared villagers
came pouring into the churches. A survivor girl related that upon
arrival at the Syriac Mother Mary church, she was chased away at the
door by a Syriac Orthodox priest, who cursed at her and did not even
give her a morsel of bread. Ibid., pp.324-25. According to the son
of an Armenian survivor from the village of SatÄ±kÃ¶y, this priest
was B’shero Abu Tuma, who had also been forced by ReÅ~_id to act as
an informer and betray houses where Armenians were hidden. Interview
with David Krikorian (aged 75) from SatÄ±kÃ¶y village (Diyarbekir
province), conducted in Turkish in Amsterdam on 16 December 2004.
259 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 53/91, 53/92, and 53/93, TalÃ¢t to provinces,
23 May 1915.
This is the single instance in which the empire-wide nature of the
deportations are reflected in one order at the most central level.
260 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 53/85, TalÃ¢t to Cemal PaÅ~_a, 23 May 1915.
261 On 12 February 1915 Mahmud KÃ¢mil replaced General HafÄ±z HakkÄ±,
who had died in a spotted typhus epidemic. Erickson, Ordered to die
48 appearance before a court-martial."262 These massive arrests
and persecutions prompted the Entente Powers to announce a
joint declaration on 24 May, denouncing CUP policies against the
Armenians. The declaration vehemently criticized these "new crimes of
Turkey against humanity and civilization" and promised "that they will
hold personally responsible […] all members of the Ottoman government
and those of their agents who are implicated in such massacres".263
The CUP leaders, especially TalÃ¢t, panicked and attempted to disguise
the deportations, requesting permission from the Grand Vizier on 26
May to issue a temporary deportation law. Although the deportations
had already begun, the Grand Vizier endorsed TalÃ¢t’s law on the 29th,
rushing the bill through parliament the next day. This legal cover was
the official inception of the deportation of Armenians to the Syrian
desert, authorizing the army to proceed with this fait accompli,
delegating its daily implemenetation to the Ä°AMM.264 2.3 ‘Burn,
destroy, kill’ At this stage, moral thresholds were crossed both on
the national and provincial level. TalÃ¢t had assumed supervision and
therefore responsibility of a very risky operation: the deportation
of an entire population. The murderous initiations on the plain of
Diyarbekir too, had crossed a boundary as entire village populations
were now targeted for destruction.
The relationship between these two developments remain a
chicken-and-egg enigma. However, it is possible to reconstruct at
least some elements of this momentum. Rafael de Nogales Mendez was
a Venezolean officer in German duty, serving in the Ottoman army as
a mercenary. In the spring of 1915 he had witnessed the massacres
against Christians in Van and Bitlis, committed by Halil PaÅ~_a and
Tahir Cevdet Bey.265 He visited Diyarbekir late June and had the
opportunity to speak to ReÅ~_id in private. According to Nogales,
TalÃ¢t had personally ordered Dr.
ReÅ~_id to unleash hell on Diyarbekir with a telegram containing a mere
three words: "Burn – Destroy – Kill" (Yak – Vur – Oldur). Although
this order was most probably destroyed (assuming it existed at all),
there was clearly no instruction for ReÅ~_id to desist. Moreover,
ReÅ~_id admitted himself that he had merely obeyed TalÃ¢t’s order, who
seemingly had confided to him: "j’assume la responsabilitÃ© morale et
matÃ©rielle".266 ReÅ~_id interpreted the order as connivance of his
policy, characterized by American consul Jesse Jackson as a "reign
of terror".267 262 Takvim-i VekÃ¢yi, no.3540, p.7.
263 PRO, FO 371/2488/51010, 28 May 1915; National Archives RG 59,
867.4016/67, 29 May 1915.
264 BOA, MV 198/163, 30 May 1915.
265 Halil (Enver PaÅ~_a’s uncle) and Cevdet (Enver’s brother-in-law)
swept through Van and Bitlis after their defeats on Persian
territory and in Van. During their retreat, they massacred the
Armenian inhabitants of Bitlis, Van, and the plain of MuÅ~_. For an
eyewitness account see: Grace Knapp, The Tragedy of Bitlis (New York:
Fleming H. Revell Co., 1919).
266 Rafael de Nogales, Four Years Beneath the Crescent (London:
Sterndale Classics, 2003), p.125. This book was first published
in Spanish as Cuatro aÃ±os bajo la media luna (Madrid: Editora
Internacional, 1924), later published in German as: Vier Jahre unter
dem Halbmond: Erinnerungen aus dem Weltkriege (Berlin: Verlag von
Reimar Hobbing, 1925).
See also his: Memorias del General Rafael de Nogales MÃ©ndez (Caracas:
Ediciones Abril, 1974).
267 National Archives, RG 59, 867.4016/77, Jackson to Morgenthau,
5 June 1915, in: Sarafian, United States [n.250], p.84.
49 Content with the results in Diyarbekir plain and emboldened with
TalÃ¢t’s approval, ReÅ~_id had Feyzi conduct arms searches in Mardin
on 24 May. These were equally brutal and categorical as those carried
out in the previous month in Diyarbekir. The next day he took it a
step further and ordered Hilmi Bey to arrest all Christian notables in
Mardin. Hilmi refused by answering he could not think of any reason
why he should carry out arrests in his city and openly disobeyed
his superior’s order. Nevertheless, Feyzi sidestepped bureaucratic
protocols and proceeded with the persecutions, backed by a group
of Muslim notables and the militia. Together they incarcerated
dozens of Christians in Mardin.268 The persecutions also spread to
the northern parts of the province, which were closer to Kharput,
capital of Mamuret-ul Aziz province.
Reverend Henry Riggs, a missionary in that city, wrote to the
American ambassador Morgenthau that the Armenian pastor of CunguÅ~_
(Tchunkoush) had "died a violent death in prison there." The same
fate had befallen preachers in Hani and Lice.269 By the end of May,
the entire Christian elite of Diyarbekir was in prison, where some
had already died under torture. Dr. ReÅ~_id administered the coup de
grace to the elite in the last week of that month. On Sunday 25 May
1915 Major RuÅ~_du cuffed 807 notables including Bishop Tchilgadian,
and lead them through the Mardin Gate. On the shores of the Tigris
the men were loaded on 17 large Tigris rafts (keleks)270 under the
pretext that they would be deported to Mosul.
Militiamen accompanied the notables on the rafts as they sailed one
hour downstream to the "intersection of two rivers" (serÃª du avÃª),
a violent torrent where the Batman creek joins the Tigris.
This area was the home of the notorious Reman tribe, south of
BeÅ~_iri. At this gorge, Major RuÅ~_du had all rafts moored by
the left bank of the river and ordered the Christians to write
reassuring letters to their families in which they were compelled
to write that they were safely underway to Mosul. The men were then
stripped of their clothes and valuables and massacred by RuÅ~_du’s
men. In carrying out the hands-on killing the militia was assisted by
Kurdish tribesmen loyal to Reman chieftain Omer, who had been induced
by Aziz Feyzi. All men were slaughtered and dumped in the river,
with the exception of Bishop Tchilgadian, who was forced to witness
the bloodbath as a form of psychological excruciation before being
lead back to Diyarbekir.271 After the massacre, Omer and Mustafa
were invited to Aziz Feyzi’s house, where they celebrated their
accomplishment. The men were later received at the governorship,
where ReÅ~_id congratulated them for their bravery and patriotism.272
ReÅ~_id also appealed to the Interior Ministry to have his militia
promoted and awarded medals for their outstanding performances.
268 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], p.33.
269 National Archives, RG 59, 867.4016/77, Morgenthau to Secretary
of State, 25 May 1915, in: Sarafian, United States [n.250], p.35.
270 According to Yusuf Halacoglu, these rafts were called
Shahtur. Yusuf Halacoglu, "Realities Behind the Relocation," in:
Turkkaya AtaÃ¶v (ed.), The Armenians in the Late Ottoman Period
(Ankara: Turkish Historical Society, 2001), p.117. Halacoglu ignores
the fact that the Armenians loaded on these rafts never arrived
anywhere, but were robbed, put to the sword and drowned.
271 Qarabashi, Dmo Zliho [n.199], p.128.
272 Ã~Ipisodes des massacres armÃ¨niens de Diarbekir: Faits et
Documents (Constantinople: KÃ©chichian Fr., 1920), pp.28-30.
50 His wish was granted by the Directorate for General Security and the
militia received financial benefits and was decorated with medals.273
On the 30th of May the ritual was repeated with 674 Christians and
This time, the murder was supervised by Veli Necdet and 50
militiamen. On arrival at the Reman gorge the victims were robbed of
a total of 6000 Turkish pounds and stripped of their clothes. They
were killed and thrown in the river as Omer’s tribesmen and the
militia lined up on both banks with their guns. Those that managed to
swim and emerge to the surface were shot dead. Back in Diyarbekir,
the militiamen sold the expensive clothing they had taken from the
victims on the market.274 Among those killed were Onnik Kazazian,
a wholesaler from Istanbul who happened to visit Diyarbekir, and his
friend Artin Kassabian, the former interpreter of the French vice
consulate. Other victims were the noted bankers Khatchadur Dikranian
and Tirpandjian.275 The same fate befell Mihran Basmadjian, graduate of
the Euphrates College in Kharput, Dikran Chakidjian, and Nalband Hagop,
all of them Dashnakists, as well as Hagop Ovasapian, the negotiator
Stephan Matossian, the former provincial interpreter and secondary
school teacher Dikran Ilvanian, member of the municipal council and
representative of Singer Missak Shirikdjian, all of them members of the
Ramgavar party.276 To the dismay of Holstein, the German vice consul
of Mosul, a week later the rafts arrived empty. Holstein had found out
that the Christian convoys had been "entirely slaughtered" (sÃ¤mtlich
abgeschlachtet) and had witnessed their corpses floating downstream:
"seit einigen Tagen treiben Leichen und menschliche Glieder im FluÃ~_
hier vorbei".277 Bishop Tchilgadian had been forced twice to watch
how his parish was slaughtered.
Although Ambassador Wangenheim later reported to Chancellor
Bethmann-Hollweg that "[d]er armenische Bischof von Diarbekir soll
aus Verzweiflung Selbstmord begangen haben," this was certainly not
true.278 After the second massacre he was lead back to Diyarbekir,
where he was ordered to sign a written declaration that the murdered
Armenians had died of natural causes.279 When he refused he was thrown
into prison, where he was tortured to death.
His teeth were knocked out, his beard was pulled out, he was forced
to squeeze boiled eggs in his palms, and his eyes were gorged
out. In the meantime, his wife was raped by several militiamen
before being slaughtered.280 Finally, a large nail was hammered
through Tchilgadian’s head before he was burnt 273 BOA, DH.EUM.MEM
67/31, 27 July 1915. Deputies Aziz Feyzi and Zulfu Bey, and militia
Major Å~^evki were decorated with honorary medals for their "great
achievements". BOA, DH.KMS 43/10, 11 January 1917. According to a
British intelligence report, "Deputy Feyzi was received by the Kaiser
and decorated with the Iron Cross". Foreign Office 371/4172/24597,
no.63490, folio 304.
274 PAAA, R14087, director of the Deutschen Hulfsbundes fur
christliches Liebeswerk im Orient (Frankfurt am Main) Friedrich
Schuchardt to the AuswÃ¤rtiges Amt, 21 August 1915, enclosure no.6;
Lepsius, Todesgang [n.108], pp.75-76.
275 Report of M. Guys to the French embassy, Istanbul, 24 July
1915, in: in: Arthur Beylerian (ed.), Les grandes puissances,
l’empire ottoman et les armÃ©niens dans les archives francaises
(1914-1918): recueil de documents (Paris: UniversitÃ© de Paris I,
PanthÃ©on-Sorbonne, 1983), p.48, document no.58; Yeghiayan, British
Foreign Office Dossiers [n.152], p.48; Krikorian, Armenians [n.107],
276 Ã~Ipisodes des massacres [n.272], pp.22-23.
277 PAAA, Botschaft Konstantinopel 169, Holstein to Wangenheim,
10 June 1915.
278 PAAA, Botschaft Konstantinopel 169, RÃ¶Ã~_ler to Wangenheim,
29 June 1915; R14086, Wangenheim to Bethmann-Hollweg, 9 July 1915.
279 National Archives, RG 59, 867.4016/77, Morgenthau to Secretary
of State, 20 July 1915 (enclosure no.3), in: Sarafian, United States
280 Vierbucher, Armenien 1915 [n.207], pp.61-62.
51 to ashes in front of the Melek Ahmed mosque by officer Resul
Hayri Bey. The other priests and monks were strangled to death with
thick ropes. All of this happened on orders of Aziz Feyzi.281 After
the elimination of the Armenian elite of Diyarbekir, ReÅ~_id quickly
expanded the violence to genocidal proportions. Having massacred the
bulk of the male elite, the rest of the Diyarbekir Armenians were now
targeted. On 1 June he had his militia evacuate 1060 Armenian men and
women of the Armenian neighbourhood Xancepek and escort them to the
Diyarbekir plain through the Mardin Gate. The people were gathered
and a proclamation was read out loud, offering the Armenians their
lives in exchange for conversion to Islam.
Although the decision was not unanimous, the victims refused,
whereupon they were stripped of their clothes and belongings. The
militia and local Kurdish villagers then massacred them with rifles,
axes, swords, and daggers. Many women were raped, some were sold as
slaves. The corpses were either thrown in wells or trenches, or left
on the plain to rot, "the men on their stomachs, the women on their
backs."282 It did not take long for TalÃ¢t to issue the following
deportation order for the Diyarbekir Armenians: "All Armenians living
in villages and towns of the province, will be resettled to Mosul,
Urfa and Zor, with no exceptions. Necessary measures will be taken
to secure their lives and property during the deportation".283 At
the same time, the Ä°AMM ordered the "documentation of the names and
places of the Armenian villages, the number of deportees, and the
abandoned property and plowland".284 Ä°AMM agent for Diyarbekir Veli
Necdet was charged with implementing TalÃ¢t’s orders.
The remaining Armenians were to be deported to the south and consisted
mainly of women, children, and the elderly. One day after her father
was tortured to death by ReÅ~_id’s militiamen, Aghavni Kassabian,
daughter of a noted Armenian merchant, was deported with her family:
Turkish gendarmes came to our house in the morning and told us that
we were going to be put on a deportation march. We were given little
time to gather a few things that we could pack on a donkey. We
gathered silverware, some clothes, two rugs, a Bible, soap, some
family photographs. We packed as much food and water as we could, but
we expected to be able to buy food when we needed more. We hid some
jewels on our bodies, and each had an allotment of money. […] By noon
we joined a long line of Armenians and were marched down the streets
to the Citadel Gardens, where we met up with thousands of Armenians.
Some had donkeys, some had ox-drawn carts, and most were on foot
carrying packs and small children and infants. The gendarmes began
cracking the whip and we began to move in a big mass toward the
New Gate from where I could see a long snakish line of Armenians
moving around the city walls going south. We were marched out past
the Citadel and around the black city walls wavering in the heat. By
the end of the day, we were sleeping on the ground somewhere on the
flat, hard plateau. The tributaries of the Tigris cut ravines into
the limestone ridges, and in their flanks were occasional huts built
out of the rock, where Kurds lived. There was nothing but dry ground
and sky and limestone ridges.
Nothing.285 281 Dadrian, To the Desert [n.238], p.66; Qarabashi,
Dmo Zliho [n.199], p.129; Yeghiayan, British Foreign Office Dossiers
[n.152], p.48; Ã~Ipisodes des massacres [n.272], p.26-28; Interview
with David Krikorian [n.258].
282 Edward W.C. Noel, Diary of Major E. Noel on Special Duty in
Kurdistan (Basra: n.p., 1919), part 1, pp.10-11.
283 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54/87, TalÃ¢t to the provinces of Trabzon, Mamuret-ul
Aziz, Sivas, Canik, and Diyarbekir, 21 June 1915.
284 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54/15, Ä°AMM to the provinces of Adana, Haleb,
Erzurum, Bitlis, Van, and Diyarbekir, 14 June 1915 285 Peter Balakian,
Black Dog of Fate: A Memoir (New York: BasicBooks, 1997), pp.217-18.
52 On the fifth day of the deportation, Aghavni’s mother had gone
delirious and died of exhaustion.
On the sixth day, all of their possessions were gone, either depleted
or stolen by gendarmes. One night she was raped by a gendarme. Hunger,
thirst, murder, and exhaustion had dramatically reduced the number
of deportees by the time her convoy had reached the desert. Aghavni
herself was abducted by a Kurdish nomad and bore him two children,
before she escaped to the remainder of her extended family in the
United States.286 Those that were marched further into the desert
often did not even make it to Rakka. A German named Greif, living in
Aleppo, reported that the convoys of Diyarbekir Armenians were nearly
reduced to non-existence in the desert. He wrote that "many raped
female corpses were laying around naked" (geschÃ¤ndete Frauenleichen
massenhaft nackt herumlagen), and added the following detail:
"Viele von ihnen hatte man Knuttel in den After hineingetrieben".287
The Ottoman deportation apparatus had already depopulated the
Armenian settlements of the northeastern regions of the Empire by
late June. Scores of deportees arrived at Diyarbekir, which was
designated by the Ä°AMM as one of the hubs where the Armenians
were to be concentrated. From there on they were deported to the
south. However, in practice the city was often the final destination
for many deportees. ReÅ~_id’s militiamen and Kurdish villagers robbed
and massacred them often before they reached the city gates. At the
end of July, a convoy from Kharput arrived in Diyarbekir. An eyewitness
summarized their fate as follows: In Diarbekir angekommen, bekamen sie
einfach nichts zuruck, blieben einen Tag in Diarbekir und mussten die
nÃ¤chste Nacht weiterreisen. Dort war es, wo junge Frauen und MÃ¤dchen
von Offizieren und Gendarmen entfuhrt wurden. Als sie aus Diarbekir
herausreisten, kam der Offizier, der sie bis dorthin begleitet hatte,
mit einigen Gendarmen und suchte sich mehrere hubsche junge MÃ¤dchen
und Knaben aus und liess die ubrigen mit 6 – 7 Gendarmen zuruck, er
selbst ging mit seiner Beute davon. Auf dem Weg nach Mardin nahmen die
Gendarmen den Ausgewiesenen ihre wenigen Habseligkeiten, ihr bischen
Brot und die wenigen ubrig gebliebenen Schmucksachen weg.288 Aurora
Mardiganian was a little girl when she was deported from Erzurum. On
arrival in Diyarbekir she witnessed the slaughter of a convoy and the
disposal of their bodies: In the meantime the Jews of Diyarbekir had
come out from the city, driven by gendarmes, to gather up the bodies
of the slain Armenians. They brought carts and donkeys with bags swung
across their backs. Into the carts and bags they piled the corpses
and took them to the banks of the Tigris, where the Turks made them
throw their burdens into the water. This is 286 Ibid., pp.218-23.
287 PAAA, R14093, Das Geheime Zivil-Kabinet des Kaisers (Valentini)
an den Reichskanzler (Bethmann Hollweg), 10 September 1916, enclosure
288 PAAA, R14087, RÃ¶Ã~_ler to Bethmann-Hollweg, 3 September 1915,
enclosure no.4 (23 August 1915). An other eyewitness related: "Als
wir nach Diabekir kamen, wurden alle unsere Lasttiere abgefuhrt und
eine Frau und zwei junge MÃ¤dchen von den Gensdarmen weggeschleppt.
24 Stunden lang sassen wir im Sonnenbrand vor den Mauern vor
Diabekir. Aus der Stadt kamen Turken und nahmen uns unsere Kinder weg.
Gegen Abend hatten wir uns zum Aufbruch bereit gemacht, als wir von
Turken, die aus der Stadt kamen, angegriffen wurden. Da liessen wir
alles, was wir noch an GepÃ¤ck hatten, im Stich und stoben auseinander,
um unser Leben und unsere Ehre zu retten. In der Nacht wurden wir
noch dreimal von Turken angegriffen und die MÃ¤dchen und junge Frauen
weggeschleppt." PAAA, R14093, Das Geheime Zivil-Kabinet des Kaisers
(Valentini) an den Reichskanzler (Bethmann Hollweg), 10 September 1916,
53 one of the persecutions the Jews were forced to bear. The
Mohammedans did not kill them, but they liked to compel them to do such
awful tasks.289 Those that did manage to slip through the murderous
meshes in Diyarbekir either committed suicide or were seized from
the convoys and absorbed into Muslim households.290 The Syriac monk
Qarabashi witnessed the deportation of a convoy of several thousands of
Armenians heading to Mosul. Between Diyarbekir and Mardin he discovered
a naked 10-year old Armenian girl who had become orphaned in the
preceding massacres. Deeply disturbed, Qarabashi fed the emaciated
girl bread, cheese, yoghurt, and a pickle. He decided she had to hide
in the bushes near the Tigris, for if she was found by militiamen she
would certainly be murdered. When he returned the next day to check
up on her, she was dead.291 A couple of days later Qarabashi met
three Armenian women in a nearby Kurdish village. The women had been
deported from Sivas and Erzincan and were serving as slaves in the
household of a Kurd named Sufi Hasan. When one of her became ill, Sufi
Hasan took her away and shot her dead.292 In several instances, local
authorities or gendarmes sold entire convoys to Kurdish tribesmen for
sums ranging between 500 to 1000 pounds. The tribesmen, aware of the
fact that the Armenians had brought along many movable assets, would
then strip the clothes from their backs and either leave the deportees
to die or kill them outright.293 The massacres and deportations quickly
spread out into the province. Whereas the Circassian militiamen were
sent to the north of the province, Aziz Feyzi and Memduh Bey were
assigned the south. This division of labour may have fluctuated
somewhat since ReÅ~_id deployed his militia wherever and however
he saw fit. ReÅ~_id removed the mayor of Cermik, Mehmed Hamdi Bey,
for not obeying his orders to destroy the Armenians living in his
district.294 TalÃ¢t later approved ReÅ~_id’s replacement of the mayor
of Maden by Dr. Osman Cevdet (Akkaynak).295 After the dismissal of
the mayors the evacuation of the Armenian villages and neighbourhoods
of Maden commenced. At first, the 35 richest families of Maden were
ordered to mobilize for deportation, followed by the rest of the Maden
Armenians, many of whom were miners. They were given very little time
to prepare, and on the first day of deportation the men were selected
and incarcerated in the large caravanserai of Maden. The convoy was
then marched off to Urfa 289 Aurora Mardiganian, The Auction of Souls
(London: Phoenix Press, 1934), pp.173-74. This survivor memoir, first
published in 1918 under the title Ravished Armenia: The story of Aurora
Mardiganian, the Christian girl who lived through the great massacres
(New York: Kingfield, 1918), has recently been re-translated into
Dutch: AndrÃ© Boeder, Door het oog van de naald: Het verhaal van
Aurora, een Armeens meisje (Houten: Den Hertog, 2003).
290 Ara Sarafian, "The absorption of Armenian women and children into
Muslim households as a structural component of the Armenian genocide,"
in: Omer Bartov & Phyllis Mack (eds.), In God’s Name: Genocide and
Religion in the Twentieth Century (Oxford: Berghahn, 2001), pp.209-21.
291 Qarabashi, Dmo Zliho [n.199], pp.73-74.
292 Ibid., p.76.
293 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], p.68.
294 This quarrel continued during ReÅ~_id’s Ankara governorship, when
ReÅ~_id wired to Hamdi: "The chaos and anarchy in Sungurlu reminds me
of your mayorship in Cermik I would prefer to forget. You should have
remembered how you were dismissed from there. This telegram bears
the quality of last warning. If you continue rule with anarchist
administrative customs and harm the government’s prestige and honour,
your dismissal as in Cermik is as sure as death." ReÅ~_id to Hamdi,
9 December 1916, quoted in: Tasvir-i EfkÃ¢r, 14 January 1919.
295 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 55-A/186, TalÃ¢t to ReÅ~_id, 9 September 1915.
54 via Diyarbekir. In the process, the supervising officer stole 300
pounds from them and stripped them of many private belongings.296
The Ergani-Maden district was a station for deportees arriving from
Kharput, north of Maden. When a convoy of 1500 people arrived in Ergani
after a march of 4 days, the officer in charge selected the men,
ostensibly to work in the mines. All men above the age of 11 were
taken away to the caravanserai, where they joined the native Maden
Armenians.297 The bulk of these men were not employed in the mines,
but pushed over the edge of the Maden cliff into its deep ravine. This
must have happened at least before 7 July, when Mariza Kejejian, a
deportee from Kharput witnessed "heaps of corpses" (Leichenhaufen) on
the road between Maden and Ergani.298 Three months after the massacre,
Mary Riggs, a missionary working in Kharput, was allowed to travel
south and saw "unmistakable signs of horrible cruelty".
Riding through the Maden gorge, Riggs looked down the canyon and saw
"countless naked bodies in positions showing how they had been hurled
from above.299 Four years later, Gertrude Bell visited the same khan
were the Armenian men had been held. A Chaldean carpenter in that khan
"described his escape from Mardin and showed me behind the Khan a deep
grave where hundreds of Armenians were buried".300 The destruction
of the Maden Armenians equalled the destruction of the Maden economy,
since the copper mines were rid of almost all of its miners. Whereas
Rafael de Nogales wrote around 26 June that "the Argana-Maden mines
continued normally," it did not take long for this to change.301 By
the late summer, the Austrian general Josef Pomiankowski travelled
through the region and lamented that because of the elimination
of the Armenians "wird das unschÃ¤tzbare Erzlager von Argana nicht
exploitiert, ist verlassen und liegt brach".302 The genocide struck
the adjacent region between Lice and Piran (renamed Dicle in the
Republic) around mid-June. The mayor of Lice, Huseyin Nesimi Bey, had
refused to implement ReÅ~_id’s orders to persecute the Armenians of
Lice. When ReÅ~_id intensified the violence, he orally communicated
an order to Nesimi to murder the Armenians of Lice. Shocked by this
explicit murderous desire, the mayor refused and demanded the order
in writing.303 ReÅ~_id ran out of patience, removed him from office
and sent Cerkez Harun to murder the disobedient mayor.
Nesimi was taken from his home and escorted to Diyarbekir but was shot
dead on the way by his 296 PAAA, R14087, RÃ¶Ã~_ler to Bethmann-Hollweg,
3 September 1915, enclosure no.4 (23 August 1915).
297 PAAA, R14087, RÃ¶Ã~_ler to Bethmann-Hollweg, 3 September 1915,
enclosure no.4 (23 August 1915).
298 PAAA, R14093, Das Geheime Zivil-Kabinet des Kaisers (Valentini)
an den Reichskanzler (Bethmann Hollweg), 10 September 1916, enclosure
299 Mary W. Riggs, "The Treatments of Armenians by Turks in Harpoot"
(10 April 1918), in: Barton, Statements [n.255], p.33, Inquiry
300 GBA, diary entry for 21 October 1919.
301 Nogales, Four years [n.266], p.124.
302 Joseph Pomiankowski, Der Zusammenbruch des Ottomanischen Reiches:
Erinnerungen an die Turkei aus der Zeit des Weltkrieges (Wien:
Amalthea-Verlag, 1928), p.210.
303 PAAA, R14087, director of the Deutscher Hulfsbund fur christliches
Liebeswerk im Orient (Frankfurt am Main) Friedrich Schuchardt to the
AuswÃ¤rtiges Amt, 21 August 1915, enclosure no.6: "Der Kaimakam von
Litsche hat die durch einen Boten des Walis mundlich uberbrachte
Ordre die Armenier umzubringen, zuruckgewiesen mit dem Bemerken,
er wunsche den Auftrag schriftlich zu haben."
55 company and buried by the roadside.304 The assassination did not
go unnoticed and ReÅ~_id was asked about Nesimi’s whereabouts,305
but ignored the request. The question was reiterated a month later
in a tone indirectly accusing ReÅ~_id of the murder. The Interior
Ministry wrote: "It is contended by the family of the ex-mayor of Lice,
Huseyin Nesimi Bey, that he was assassinated.
Please report whether he was murdered in the line of duty".306 ReÅ~_id
gave an affirmative answer but claimed that a "notorious Armenian
brigand" had put Nesimi to death.307 With the elimination of the mayor
ReÅ~_id had obviated the most important obstacle for his objective:
the destruction of the Lice Christians. He sent Ä°brahim Bedreddin to
supervise the killings in Lice. The men were arrested, tied together
with rope, lead away to a cave named GohÃª Gumho, stripped of their
belongings, and finally had their throats slit.308 "So many ropes
were required for the work that a public crier gave orders that the
townspeople were to provide a stipulated quantity." At the same time,
the villages of Lice were targeted. One by one, the villages were
surrounded by the militia and Kurdish tribesmen, either some hours
after dark or at daybreak. The village of Henne, a village of four
hundred Christian families, was invaded and rid of its male population
within a day. After the militia had finished the men they returned
to the village, where the terrified women had assembled together
in houses. They were raped, deported, or left to die in hunger and
misery. Similar events took place in the villages of FÃ"m, Å~^imÅ~_im,
CÃ"m, Tappa and Naghle.309 The vacant position for mayor in Lice
was occupied by Ä°lyas Nuri Bey, who left the Armenians alone and
allowed them to recover from the massacres.310 A number of Christian
families converted to Islam to survive the genocidal persecution and
indeed managed to live in Lice for several decades before migrating
to Diyarbekir city, Istanbul, or Western Europe.311 The example of
Lice was to be a model for other parts of the province. The genocide
took on recurrent systematic procedures. ReÅ~_id ruthlessly and
purposefully eliminated any opposition to the genocide. In July
he had his Circassian henchmen Aziz and Å~^akir assassinate the
vice mayor of BeÅ~_iri, Ali Sabit El-SuweydÃ® in a manner similar
to Huseyin Nesimi.312 After Sabit was eliminated, ReÅ~_id’s militia
and the Reman chieftains razed the BeÅ~_iri valley and massacred the
Armenians and Syriacs in that region. This time, TalÃ¢t personally
requested information on the 304 Huseyin Nesimi’s son wrote in his
memoirs that his family was very much aware of the fact that Nesimi
had been assassinated by ReÅ~_id’s men. Abidin Nesimi, YÄ±llarÄ±n
Ä°cinden (Ä°stanbul: GÃ¶zlem, 1977), pp.39-46.
305 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 56/361, Directorate for Employment to Diyarbekir,
12 October 1915.
306 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 58/46, Directorate for Employment to Diyarbekir,
17 November 1915.
307 ReÅ~_id, MulÃ¢hazÃ¢t [n.209], pp.86-87.
308 "FilehÃªn LicÃª," in: Amed Tigris, Lice (Stockholm: unpublished
forthcoming book, 2005), pp.40-44.
309 Naayem, Shall this nation die? [n.224], pp.199-207. The killings in
the neighbouring Piran district were routinely cruel. In that region
elderly Kurds remember morbid but vivid anecdotic information from
villagers who had participated in the massacres. According to them,
the perpetrators would assail the villages and dispatch of their
victims by slashing their throats wide open. As they operated with
axes, this often lead to decapitations. After the killing was done,
the killers saw that the insides of the victims’ windpipes were
black because of prolonged use of tobacco. Interview conducted with
Å~^. family (Hani district) in Kurdish in Diyarbekir, 15 July 2004.
310 ReÅ~_id, MulÃ¢hazÃ¢t [n.209], p.84.
311 Interview conducted with an anonymous Armenian family (Lice
district) in Dutch in Amsterdam, February 2003.
312 ReÅ~_id, MulÃ¢hazÃ¢t [n.209], pp.83 footnote 20, 89-90.
56 murders of Nesimi and Sabit.313 However, no form of litigation
followed against ReÅ~_id, who continued his work with ever more
zeal. He dismissed the mayor of Savur, Mehmed Ali Bey, an opportunist
who had profiteered from the persecution against the Christians.
Allegedly, Mehmed Ali was also involved in a series of gambling and sex
scandals, nota bene in the holy month of Ramadan.314 The next official
to be deposed was Ä°brahim HakkÄ± Bey, mayor of Silvan. According to
ReÅ~_id, he "distributed Armenian women here and there, stole Armenian
property, and exempted Armenians from deportation in exchange for
money".315 After his dismissal, ReÅ~_id appointed Adil Bey, brother of
deputy Zulfu Bey, as mayor of Silvan. The militia then cooperated with
the local Kurdish chieftain SadÄ±k Bey to carry out the killings in
the Silvan district.316 An even worse fate befell the mayor of Derik,
who had refused to carry out ReÅ~_id’s genocidal order, demanding a
direct order from Istanbul. The mayor was killed for his opposition
to the persecutions of the Christians in his district. Reportedly
ReÅ~_id personally went to inspect Derik, delegating the persecution
to Halil (son of Ä°brahim PaÅ~_a) and Hidayet Bey. This triggered a
wave of incarcerations, tortures, and summary executions.317 Finally,
the militia, headed by Tevfik Bey, began massacring the Christians
of Derik, they targeted the Yezidis too. A noted Yezidi chieftain
was decapitated and several Yezidi families in Derik were forced to
convert to Islam.318 In Derik, the Kurdish chieftains Seyid Aga and
Zulfikar Bey of Khirar village protected the Armenians and Yezidis in
the village.319 Those who could escape made for the caves northeast
of Derik, but ReÅ~_id sent his loyal militia leader Cerkez Harun
to massacre remaining Christians in the district.320 After these
dismissals and political assassinations, the last mayor still to
be resisting the genocidal violence to penetrate into his district
was the mayor of Midyat, Nuri Bey. ReÅ~_id first attempted to have
Nuri removed by appealing for a legal inquiry about his ‘negligence’
towards the Armenians. ReÅ~_id later claimed that Nuri had not been
dealing adequately with an alleged Armenian uprising in Midyat,
and wrote that the Armenians were targeting the Muslims with "the
organization of quite a terrible masacre" (gÃ¢yet mudhiÅ~_ bir katliÃ¢m
tertibÃ¢tÄ± ).321 Although this was a rather dubious assertion, ReÅ~_id
still used this pretext to recommended Halil Edib, criminal judge of
Mardin, for Nuri’s position. However, the Ministry refused twice and
stated that there was no need to replace Nuri as he had not acted
irresponsibly or incompetently as a mayor.322 An inquiry 313 BOA,
DH.Å~^FR 54-A/117, TalÃ¢t to ReÅ~_id, 27 July 1915.
314 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 57/97, Directorate for Employment to Diyarbekir,
24 October 1915.
315 ReÅ~_id, MulÃ¢hazÃ¢t [n.209], pp.83-84, footnote 22.
316 Interview conducted with Mecin family (Silvan) in Turkish in
Ankara, 19 June 2004.
317 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], p.81.
318 Interview conducted with Temel family (Derik) in Kurdish in Bremen,
21 March 2002.
319 Noel, Diary of Major E. Noel [n.282], p.8.
320 Jacques RhÃ©torÃ©, Les chrÃ©tiens aux bÃªtes! Souvenirs de
la guerre sainte proclamÃ©e par les Turcs contre les chrÃ©tiens
en 1915 (unpublished manuscript, BibliothÃ¨que du Saulchoir),
pp.43-44. RhÃ©torÃ© was a Catholic priest who was in Mardin until
1915. The text has been translated to Italian in: Marco Impagliazzo
(ed.), Una finestra sul massacro: Documenti inediti sulla strage degli
armeni (1915-1916) (Milano: Guerini, 2000), and recently published in
French as: Jacques RhÃ©torÃ©, Les chrÃ©tiens aux bÃªtes! Souvenirs
de la guerre sainte proclamÃ©e par les Turcs contre les chrÃ©tiens
en 1915 (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 2005).
321 ReÅ~_id, MulÃ¢hazÃ¢t [n.209], p.85.
322 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54-A/300, Directorate for Employment to Diyarbekir,
7 August 1915.
57 was started anyway,323 but when it did not produce the rapid results
ReÅ~_id had expected, he resorted to violence once again. Nuri was
assassinated and Midyat too was deprived of opposition against the
An other center of violence was the northern district of Palu. Of the
over 300 villages in Palu, 48 contained an Armenian presence. The
other villages were mainly inhabited by Kurds and Zazas, and many
villages were mixed.324 According to one survivor, the violence
engulfed the Palu villages on a day when the sun was eclipsed (10
August 1915), evoking images of apocalyptic doom among the Armenian
villagers.325 As in other districts of Diyarbekir province, the modus
operandi was first to immediately kill the men and then deport the
rest. The Armenian male population of Palu town were taken to the
bridge over the Murad river, had their throats slashed, and were
thrown in the river. Garabed Farshian, an Armenian boy who was
orphaned, was taken to a Turkish village and saw that "il y avait
du sang dans le fleuve".326 A recurrent action in the villages was
the requisitioning of rope to tie the men together and lead them
away. As Noyemzar Khimatian-Alexanian of Baghin village remembered:
"The soldiers went from house to house asking for rope. After that
they took the males, 15 and older and collected them. They used the
rope to tie their hands. The men and teen-aged boys were taken to
a distant field and stabbed to death".327 In an other village, the
militia rode in and collected all men into the church. The men and the
boys came back out with their hands tied behind them. They were taken
away to the banks of the Murad river and butchered with long knives.328
The militia then carried off pretty women and children for personal
use, and did not hesitate to throw babies in the river to drown.329
Finally, the decimated convoy was deported to the south. Some were
able to escape the convoys by bribing officers or villagers, or by
giving their children to benevolent local families.
For example, the little girl Heranush Gadarian from Habab village
was given to an Ottoman corporal and assimilated in his extended
family.330 The very few Armenian men that were still alive by this
time, were those working in labour battalions. On 1 April 1915 the
Interior Ministry ordered the Third Army to draw up a labour battalion
consisting of 4000 men.331 A week later, the Ministry of War issued
an other decree, ordering the conscription of more men in order to
cope with the shortage.
This time, it was authorized to enlist even women into labour
battalions.332 From 27 May on, the practice of 323 BOA, DH.Å~^FR
57/167, Directorate for Employment to Diyarbekir, 28 October 1915.
324 George Aghjayan, "The Armenian Villages of Palu: History and
Demography," paper presented at the conference UCLA International
Conference Series on Historic Armenian Cities and Provinces:
Tigranakert/Diarbekir and Edessa/Urfa, University of California
(Los Angeles), 13 November 1999, p.2.
325 Interview with Antanik Baloian, unpublished manuscript titled
"Antanik Baloian’s Story," by Nelson Baloian.
326 VahÃ© Mamas Kitabdjian (ed.), "RÃ©cit de Garabed Farchian,
nÃ© a Palou en 1906 ou 1907," reproduced in: Ternon, Mardin 1915
327 Interview with Noyemzar Khimatian-Alexanian by Linda
328 Interview with Katherine Magarian, as "Voices of New England:
Katherine Magarian," in: Boston Globe, 19 April 1998, p.B10.
329 Interview with Margaret Garabedian DerManuelian by George Aghjayan
in Providence, RI, February 1990.
330 Heranush’s story was related to her granddaughter Fethiye Celik,
who attempted to trace her Armenian relatives and found them in the
United States. Fethiye Celik, Anneannem (Ä°stanbul: Metis, 2004).
331 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 51/186, Ali Munif (Directorate for General
Administration) to Diyarbekir, 1 April 1915.
332 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 51/231, Ministry of War to Diyarbekir, 8 April 1915.
58 "quittance" (bedel), ensuring exemption from conscription was
prohibited by TalÃ¢t.333 The battalions became a death trap to the
conscripts as malnutrition, exhaustion and exposure had already begun
to decimate their numbers. However, the greatest threat to their
physical existence were not these hardships but outright massacres,
perpetrated by their Ottoman superiors. On the Palu-Diyarbekir
road, 1200 conscripts were massacred on 1 June.334 A week later
160 men working in the labour battalions near Diyarbekir city were
taken to the Devil’s Gorge (Å~^eytan dere) and battered to death by
SÄ±dkÄ± and Yahya. On 5 July an other 2000 soldiers were killed near
Diyarbekir.335 By the end of August, the few labour conscripts that
still remained alive in the province were serving in battalions near
Siverek. Terrified for a similar fate, they inconspicuously dawdled
over their work in order to postpone a potential massacre. When
that fateful day arrived, a few conscripts resisted by killing a
gendarme with a large stone, taking his rifle and shooting two others,
including an officer. The desperate men were finally overpowered and
massacred.336 The skirmish was reported to Istanbul, where TalÃ¢t
interpreted it as "Armenian men who killed and wounded some of their
superiors and Muslims". He then sent an order to all provinces to
"deal accordingly with this issue".337 After this event, the fate of
the Christian labour battalions was sealed: they were finished off
quickly. Even if the work was as yet unfinished, a wave of brutal
although selective massacres swept through the provinces. Thousands
of conscripts were dispatched mostly with knives and daggers, to
save ammunition.338 Travelling between Urfa and Diyarbekir, a German
officer saw an entire labour battalion, laying by the roadside with
their throats slit.339 An unknown number of Armenians remained alive
in the labour battalions, even after 1915.
The murderous violence against the Christian and especially Armenian
population of the Ottoman Empire had long reached genocidal dimensions
due to its organized, systematic, and categoric nature. While hundreds
of thousands of human lives were being destroyed, little was known
among the population, especially in the western provinces. Secrecy
and censorship were two important regulations to be observed by the
organizers of the genocide.
Nobody was to open his or her mouth about the events, and any news of
the massacres was to be suppressed. TalÃ¢t ordered the Trabzon-based
newspaper MeÅ~_veret closed down because it had published an apologetic
explanation of the "temporary deportation" of the Armenians.340
The government 333 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 53/131, TalÃ¢t to Mamuret-ul Aziz,
27 May 1915.
334 Noel, Diary of Major E. Noel [n.282], p.11.
335 Qarabashi, Dmo Zliho [n.199], p.70.
336 Jacob Kunzler, Im Lande des Blutes und der TrÃ¤nen: Erlebnisse in
Mesopotamien wÃ¤hrend des Weltkrieges (1914-1918) (Zurich: Chronos,
1999 ), pp.47-48. Kunzler was a Swiss missionary in Urfa during
the war and heard about this massacre from a Syriac conscript, who
had survived the killing.
337 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 55-A/11, TalÃ¢t to provinces, 1 September 1915.
338 Jacob Kunzler, Dreizig Jahre Dienst am Orient (Basel: Birkhauser
Verlag, 1933), p.54.
339 Germany, Turkey and Armenia: A selection of documentary evidence
relating to the Armenian atrocities from German and other sources
(London: Keliher, 1917), pp.80-85.
340 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54-A/181, TalÃ¢t to the provinces of Erzurum, Adana,
Bitlis, Urfa, Canik, and MaraÅ~_, 29 July 1915.
59 denied all national and international allegations and tried to
counter these with propaganda.341 For disinformation to be convincing
the CUP deemed some sort of visual material necessary. Since ReÅ~_id
had already displayed piles of guns he had found in Diyarbekir, this
formula was reapplied: [A]fter the gendarmes had killed a number of
Armenian men, they put on them turbans and brought Kurdish women to
weep and lament over them, saying that the Armenians had killed their
men. They also brought a photographer to photograph the bodies and the
weeping women, so that at a future time they might be able to convince
Europe that it was the Armenians who had attacked the Kurds and
killed them, that the Kurdish tribes had risen against them revenge,
and that the Turkish Government had had no part in the matter.342
In Istanbul, few people had reliable information of the horrors at
their disposal. When Huseyin Cahit inquired at the prestigious Cercle
d’Orient about the events, even the Armenian members of the foundation
knew nothing about the massacres.343 Only at a short distance from the
club, TalÃ¢t was engaged on a daily basis in organizing the dispersion
and isolation of the surviving Armenian intelligentsia.
The fate of two Armenian intellectuals indicates both TalÃ¢t’s and
ReÅ~_id’s direct involvement in their elimination: Vartkes Serengulian
(1871-1915), deputy for Erzurum and Krikor Zohrab (1861-1915),
author and deputy for Istanbul. On 12 May 1915 Vartkes dashed to
TalÃ¢t’s house to protest against the mass arrests of the Armenian
intelligentsia. TalÃ¢t, his personal friend for more than a decade,
calmly listened to Vartkes’ fulmination, but flatly answered: "This
is a question of the homeland, Vartkes. It does not allow appeals
to personal relations and friendships".344 Vartkes and Zohrab were
arrested in late May.345 Huseyin Cahit recalled how he was visited
early on a morning by Zohrab’s wife, Clara Yazidjian. The nervous woman
trembled and sobbed because of Zohrab’s arrest, and asked Huseyin
Cahit to implore TalÃ¢t to release her husband. Together they went
to TalÃ¢t’s house and woke him up from his sleep. Mrs. Yazidjian
begged TalÃ¢t to exempt her husband from deportation but the stoic
Interior Minister sat in his pijamas and listened to the woman’s
story quite indifferently. He then comforted her that Zohrab was
being sent to Diyarbekir for a minor legal affair and that she had
nothing to worry about. All pleas were in vain as both Zohrab and
Vartkes were deported. When they reached Adana, TalÃ¢t ordered local
officials to contact them on 17 June.346 The duo was deported to
Aleppo where they begged Cemal PaÅ~_a to intervene and save them from
being court-martialled. However, Cemal PaÅ~_a’s request was rebuffed
by TalÃ¢t, who insisted them to be sent to Diyarbekir. Finally,
341 See for example a book published in 1916 by the Turkish Ministry
for Foreign Affairs: Die Ziele und Taten armenischer RevolutionÃ¤re:
The Armenian aspirations and revolutionary movements: Aspirations et
mouvements rÃ©volutionaires armÃ©niens: Ermeni Ã~BmÃ¢l ve HarekÃ¢t-Ä±
Ä°htil&# xC3;¢liyesi, TesÃ¢vir ve VesÃ¢ik (Ä°stanbul: Matbaa-Ä± Amire,
1332). For the denialist campaign the CUP initiated in 1915, see:
Hilmar Kaiser, "Dall’impero alla repubblica: la continuita del
negazionismo turco," in: Marcello Flores (ed.), Storia, Verita,
Giustizia: I crimini del XX secolo (Milano: Bruno Mondadori, 2001),
342 Al-Ghusayn, Martyred Armenia [n.233], p.42.
343 YalcÄ±n, Siyasal AnÄ±lar [n.39], p.234.
344 Huseyin Cahit YalcÄ±n, TanÄ±dÄ±klarÄ±m (Istanbul: YapÄ± Kredi,
345 Beylerian, Les grandes puissances [n.275], p.40.
346 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54/48, TalÃ¢t to ReÅ~_id, 17 June 1915.
60 between Urfa and Diyarbekir the two were murdered by Cerkez Ahmed,
on orders of ReÅ~_id.
Cerkez Ahmed later confessed that he personally shot Vartkes dead
with a single bullet to his head and shattered Zohrab’s head with
a rock.347 The government spread the story that Zohrab had died
of a heart-attack. The German journalist Von Tyszka refuted this,
claiming that at least Vartkes was "jedenfalls kerngesund" but
nevertheless had not arrived in Diyarbekir either.348 Together with
these assassinations, witnesses to the explicit killing had to be
silenced in order for state secrecy to be tight. The CUP had lost
control over some of its Special Organization operatives, who did not
fully perform the program as they wished. These loose cannons would
for example brag about their genocidal accomplishments, or abuse
their license to kill by shooting people for fun. They had become
out of favor.349 When the CUP felt it did not require their services
any longer, local officials disposed of them by summarily executing
them, mostly in the autumn of 1915. For example, TalÃ¢t requested
the aforementioned Cerkez Ahmed to be sent to Istanbul as he and his
gang would affect security conditions in Urfa.350 When this did not
happen, TalÃ¢t issued a decree that his "elimination is required"
(izalesi vacip). Ahmed was deported to Damascus and hung by Cemal
PaÅ~_a.351 Yakup Cemil, one of the CUP’s most important gangsters,
had acquired so much power in the war that he figured he could get away
with practically everything. He went too far when he openly threatened
Enver PaÅ~_a, whereupon Enver had him arrested and executed in front
of a firing squad.352 The Reman brothers Omer and Mustafa were killed
in September 1915 by ReÅ~_id’s assistant Cerkez Å~^akir, who ordered
his Circassian militia to murder the tribesmen with daggers. A peasant
who happened to walk by coincidentally saw the violent settlement
and was killed as well, in order to silence potential witnesses.353
Militia member Zaza Alo was first deployed on the Syrian front but
deported to CankÄ±rÄ±, where he was later killed in a skirmish with
gendarmes.354 At the same time, Major RuÅ~_du of the Diyarbekir militia
was accused of corruption, embezzlement, and personal enrichment –
which was still forbidden, at least officially. He escaped elimination
and prosecution owing to protection offered by his superior ReÅ~_id
and continued his work in the province.355 A final problem that
was as yet unsolved was the question of the property taken from or
left behind by the victims. In the official decree for deportation
(30 May 1915) a clear stipulation for confiscation was included with
regard to the property. The Armenians were to bring along anything
they wished, and as for the immovables, the specification contained
clear instructions on how to handle the goods: "the type and value
and amount of the real estate are to be 347 Refik, Ä°ki Komite,
Ä°ki KÄ±tal [n.187], pp.175-76.
348 PAAA, R14088, Von Tyszka to Zimmermann, 1 October 1915, enclosure
349 One of the most infamous killers was Cerkez Ahmed, who vaunted
himself as follows: "I served this country. Go and look, I turned the
areas around Van into Kaaba soil. You won’t find a single Armenian
there today. While I’m serving this country, bastards like TalÃ¢t are
drinking ice-cold beer in Istanbul, and place me under arrest, no, this
is damaging my honour!" Refik, Ä°ki Komite, Ä°ki KÄ±tal [n.187], p.175.
350 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 55/132, TalÃ¢t to ReÅ~_id, 21 August 1915.
351 Refik, Ä°ki Komite, Ä°ki KÄ±tal [n.187], pp.176-77.
352 Mustafa R. EsatlÄ±, Ä°ttihat ve Terakki tarihinde esrar perdesi
ve Yakup Cemil nicin Ã¶lduruldu? (Ä°stanbul: Hurriyet, 1975).
353 Ã~Ipisodes des massacres [n.272], p.30.
354 BOA, DH.EUM.AYÅ~^ 24/2, 11 October 1919.
61 determined […] and its liquidation through auctions and its
equivalent rendered to the owners".356 However, these were rhetorical
pretexts as the unilateral expropriation of the Ottoman Armenian
community occurred simultaneous to or shortly after their murder.
Everything that they owned was automatically confiscated by
the government, which issued a decree for the establishment of
‘Commissions for Abandoned Properties’ (EmvÃ¢l-Ä± MetrÃ"ke Komisyonu)
in all provincial capitals. These committees were charged with
the allocation and liquidation of all Armenian property seized by
the authorities, and drew up detailed inventories of sequestered
property.357 As a rule, mobile goods were looted by officials who
had organized the killing of its owners, whereas the confiscated
real estate was transferred to the state, which needed the farms,
factories, and shops for Muslim settlers (see chapter 3).
Some immobiles were allocated to the army.358 As for Armenian
money, hard cash was looted by whoever killed its owner, and bank
assets fell into the hands of the CUP. The revenue of the genocide
was considerable: in 1916 the Ottoman Ministry of Economy moved 5
million Turkish gold pounds, representing about 30,000 kilograms in
gold, to the Reichsbank in Berlin.359 This was highly unusual for
an agricultural empire on the losing hand in a world war, facing
On 1 July, the CUP ordered the establishment of a Commission for
Diyarbekir, appointing NÃ¢zÄ±m Bey and ReÅ~_ad Bey as its directors.360
An additional order indicated that the local population was in no way
to meddle in the property affairs.361 The local commission, headed by
ReÅ~_id, coordinated the organized larceny from beginning to end. All
of the militia leaders were involved in the scheme. While the banker
Tirpandjian was tortured in prison, Veli Necdet occupied his house
and remained there throughout the war.362 Police chief Memduh Bey
reportedly gained 50,000 Turkish pounds in the persecutions.363
Ä°brahim Bedreddin, who became district governor of Mardin,
sent emissaries to retrieve valuable documents taken by Kurdish
chieftains. Since the illiterate tribesmen had no means to redeem bank
notes such as insurances, checks, and other valuables, these were
to be delivered to the authorities.364 Churches and houses of rich
Christians were converted to military hospitals, ammunition depots,
state orphanages, or 355 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 57/5, TalÃ¢t to Karesi province,
14 October 1915.
356 BOA, MV 198/163, 30 May 1915.
357 Gilbert Gidel, Confiscation de biens des rÃ©fugiÃ©s armÃ©niens par
le gouvernement turc (Paris: Massis, 1929). The government in Istanbul
requested detailed knowledge of Armenian-owned ploughland. For example,
on 5 July the Ä°AMM asks literally: "What kind of instruments and
machines are needed to harvest the crops on the farmland abandoned by
the Armenians?" BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54/301, Ä°AMM to the provinces of Sivas,
Diyarbekir, and Mamuret-ul Aziz.
358 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54-A/390 & 390-1, TalÃ¢t to provinces, 13 August
359 AndrÃ© Mandelstam, La SociÃ©tÃ© des Nations et les Puissances
devant le problÃ¨me armÃ©nien (Beirut: Hamaskaine, 1970 ),
360 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54/273, Ä°AMM to Diyarbekir, 1 July 1915. Four
days later, the Commission was established. BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54/307,
5 July 1915.
361 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54/106, Ä°AMM to the Presidency of the Commissions
for Abandoned Property of Erzurum, Diyarbekir, Zor, Aleppo, Ä°zmit,
Kayseri, and MaraÅ~_, 22 June 1915.
362 Yeghiayan, British Foreign Office Dossiers [n.152], p.42.
363 Edward Noel, Diary of Major E. Noel [n.282], p.11.
364 Arthur Beylerian (ed.), Marie-Dominique BerrÃ©, "Massacres de
Mardin," in: Haigazian Armenological Review, vol.17 (1997), p.98. For
similar methods applied in the Malatya region see: Hilmar Kaiser,
"’A Scene from the Inferno’: The Armenians of Erzerum and the Genocide,
1915-1916," in: Kieser, Der VÃ¶lkermord an den Armeniern und die Shoah
62 mosques. Inventories such as carpets, curtains, silverware,
clerical clothing, closets, and even sacraments were sold or carried
off by policemen and gendarmes.365 Although he denied everything in
his memoirs, blaming irregularities on his ignorance of provincial
conditions, and challenging his denouncers to prove their claims,
the evidence of Dr.
Mehmed ReÅ~_id’s personal enrichment in the expropriation campaign
is overwhelming.366 Even though he was ordered by TalÃ¢t to "return
the cash, jewellery, and other property to the Armenians who have
been attacked during their deportation",367 ReÅ~_id went as far to
even confiscate the property of the American missionaries.368 As
Fa’iz Al-Ghusayn witnessed during his brief arrest in the Diyarbekir
prison: You might see a carpet, worth thirty pounds, sold for five,
a man’s costume, worth four pounds, sold for two medjidies, and so
on with the rest of the articles, this being especially the case
with musical instruments, such as pianos, etc., which had no value
at all. All money and valuables were collected by the Commandant of
Gendarmerie and the Vali, Reshid Bey, the latter taking them with him
when he went to Constantinople.369 ReÅ~_id later objected to these
claims and asked the rhetorical question: "Have those who utter this
heinous slander ever thought of how it would have been possible to
carry and hide 200,000 pounds and so many valuables?"370 This was
possible. According to a Dr.
Hyacinth Fardjalian, Dr. ReÅ~_id had looted jewellery, precious stones,
a pile of carpets, and an assortiment of antiquities. Dr. Fardjalian
related: "I myself saw Rechid Bey arrive at Aleppo by a train bound for
Constantinople with 43 boxes of jewellery and 2 cases full of precious
stones".371 When ReÅ~_id was assigned to the governorship of Ankara in
March 1916, he had amassed a fortune from the expropriations. Convinced
that he could get away with the embezzlement, he responded to an
advertisement in the newspaper Ä°kdam for a house worth 9,000 pounds.
According to Minister of Education Ahmed Å~^ukru Bey, "it was
suspicious that ReÅ~_id had arrived in Diyarbekir with financial
straits but managed to buy that house only two years later".372
The practice of confiscation was in fact a concrete result of the
indistinct notion of the aspired ‘national economy’. On 6 January 1916
TalÃ¢t ordered an empire-wide decree about the factories confiscated
in the genocide. The order read: The movable property left by the
Armenians should be conserved for long-term preservation, and for the
sake of an increase of Muslim businesses in our country, companies
need to be established strictly made up of Muslims. Movable property
should be given to them under suitable conditions that will guarantee
the business’ steady consolidation. The founder, the management, and
the representatives should be chosen from honourable 365 Qarabashi,
Dmo Zliho [n.199], pp.130-31.
366 ReÅ~_id, MulÃ¢hazÃ¢t [n.209], pp.109-11.
367 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 56/315, TalÃ¢t to ReÅ~_id, 6 October 1915.
368 Kieser, "Dr. Mehmed Reshid" [n.208], p.265.
369 Al-Ghusayn, Martyred Armenia [n.233], p.30.
370 ReÅ~_id, MulÃ¢hazÃ¢t [n.209], p.109.
371 Foreign Office 371/4172/24597, folio 304.
372 For Ahmed Å~^ukru’s deposition on 12 November 1918 see: Osman S.
Kocahanoglu (ed.), Ä°ttihat ve Terakki’nin SorgulanmasÄ± ve
YargÄ±lanmasÄ± (Ä°stanbul: Temel, 1998), p.195.
63 leaders and the elite, and to allow tradesmen and agriculturists to
participate in its dividends the vouchers need to be half a lira or
one lira and registered to their names to preclude that the capital
falls in foreign hands. The growth of entrepreneurship in the minds
of Muslim people needs to be monitored, and this endeavour and the
results of its implementation needs to be reported to the Ministry
step by step.373 In Diyarbekir, one of the most telling examples
of this policy was the fate of the silk factory in Diyarbekir. The
factory was owned by Tirpandjian and used to provide work for dozens
of employees, mostly Christians. Silk was woven, dyed in various
colors, and processed into regional clothing, characteristic for
Diyarbekir. Lutfu Dokucu was the grandson of one of the employees.
His grandfather was killed in the genocide when the militia rounded
up the employees and executed them. MuftuzÃ¢de Huseyin, brother of
MuftuzÃ¢de Å~^eref, laid his hands on the factory and exploited it in
the decades after the war.374 By autumn 1915, the Christian population
of Diyarbekir province was thoroughly dispossessed, deported, and
critically reduced in numbers. On 18 September ReÅ~_id wired a telegram
to TalÃ¢t, reporting that "the number deported from the province
amounts to approximately one hundred twenty thousand".375 According
to Jacques RhÃ©torÃ©, during the persecutions of 1915-1916 a total of
144,185 Christians disappeared, of which 58,000 Gregorian Armenians,
11,500 Catholic Armenians, 10,010 Chaldeans, 3450 Catholic Syriacs,
60,725 Jacobite Syriacs, and 500 Protestants.376 A higher estimate
was calculated by Major Noel, who wrote that the total number of
victims was made up of 45,000 Gregorian Armenians, 6000 Catholic
Armenians, 7000 Chaldeans, 2000 Catholic Syriacs, 96,000 Jacobite
Syriacs, and 1200 Protestants, all in all summing up to 157,000 people
victimized.377 Whatever their precise numbers, the Christian population
of Diyarbekir province was all but eradicated. Entire villages,
neighbourhoods, parishes, and extended families were destroyed or
reduced to destitution in the genocidal persecution of 1915.
2.4 Center and periphery The identities of the organizers and
perpetrators of the genocidal persecution in Diyarbekir province
have been explored relatively well. There was little doubt that
the local CUP elite collaborated with certain Kurdish tribesmen
to achieve their aim of destroying the Armenian community of the
province. On the other hand, little is known regarding the scope of
victims targeted. The notion that official CUP policy targeted only
the Armenians contradicts clearly with 373 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 59/239,
Ä°AMM to provinces, 6 January 1916.
374 Interview with Lutfu Dokucu (aged 81) from Diyarbekir, conducted in
Turkish by Å~^eyhmus Diken in Diyarbekir (2003), published as: "Lutfu
Dokucu," in: Å~^eyhmuÅ~_ Diken, Diyarbekir diyarÄ±m, yitirmiÅ~_em
yanarÄ±m (Ä°stanbul: Ä°letiÅ~_im, 2003), p.49.
375 BOA, DH.EUM, 2.Å~^b. 68/71, ReÅ~_id to TalÃ¢t, 18 September 1915.
376 RhÃ©torÃ©, Les chrÃ©tiens aux bÃªtes! [n.164], p.241. For specific
numbers for Mardin district see: Ibid., p.243.
377 Noel, Diary of Major E. Noel [n.282], p.11.
64 the broad diversity of non-Armenian victims, especially in the
Mardin district.378 In other words, how Armenian was the genocide
supposed to be? The Mardin district can serve as a fitting backdrop
for an exploration of this discrepancy because of the district’s
religious diversity. The evidence, admittedly patchy, supports the
argument that Dr. ReÅ~_id amplified the anti-Armenian persecution into
an anti-Christian persecution, and by the time he was reproached for
this policy, it was too late.
Most Christian notables of Diyarbekir were incarcerated in May. By
this time, there hadn’t been much persecution in Mardin, the citadel
city south of Diyarbekir. As in other provincial towns ReÅ~_id had
ordered the mayor, Hilmi Bey, to arrest the Christian notables of
the city. Hilmi reportedly answered that the Armenians of Mardin
were Arabic-speaking Catholics, and had little in common with the
Gregorian Armenians. The mayor also added that they were unarmed and
honorable citizens, and that there was no reason at all to arrest any
other Christians either.379 ReÅ~_id was not interested in this reply
and sent Aziz Feyzi in May to incite Muslim notables to destroy the
Mardin Christians. Feyzi toured the region and bribed and persuaded the
chieftains of the DeÅ~_i, MÄ±Å~_kiye, Kiki, and Helecan tribes. From
15 May on, the scenario of Diyarbekir was repeated in Mardin. Memduh
moved into the house of the notable Syriac family Yonan and began
organizing the process of persecution. First he arrested dozens of
Armenian and Syriac men and tortured them to extract confessions of
disloyalty and high treason.
In the meantime he extorted large sums of money from the families of
the arrested men who offered Memduh financial compensation in exchange
for the release of their children.380 ReÅ~_id sent Ä°brahim Bedreddin
and militiamen Cerkez Å~^akir and Cerkez Harun to Mardin to organize
the physical destruction of the Christian population of Mardin.
Together they organized a militia of 500 men and placed them under
command of the brothers Nuri and Tahir El Ensari, both of them
Sheikhs of the Ensari family.381 While Hilmi was still in office, the
group bypassed standard bureaucratic procedures and began arresting
Christian notables, such as Anton Gasparian.382 However, ReÅ~_id
and his men probably considered the presence of an uncooperative
mayor an intransigent obstacle for the organization of a massacre,
a complex undertaking all the same. Therefore, ReÅ~_id attempted
to apply his tested method of having the mayor removed, but his
appeal only got the equally unwilling official Mehmed Å~^efik Bey
reinstalled to his old district Mardin. Moreover, TalÃ¢t suggested
Ä°brahim Bedri to be "assigned to a vacant office of district 378 For
a detailed study of the genocide in Mardin see: Yves Ternon, Mardin
1915: Anatomie pathologique d’une destruction (special issue of the
Revue d’Histoire ArmÃ©nienne Contemporaine, vol.4, 2002). One of the
most interesting but understudied regions still awaiting in-depth
research is the Tur Abdin district around Midyat. To do justice to
the complexity and multi-faceted nature of the wartime events in that
region, involving interethnic loyalties, Kurdish tribal machinations,
and armed Syriac resistance, one would have to conduct a separate,
multi-dimensional study. The Seyfo Center, based in the Netherlands,
is currently collecting Syriac Oral Histories that have been kept in
private hands until now and may prove very useful in an account of
the persecutions in Tur Abdin. See: <;.
379 Sarafian, "The Disasters" [n.242].
380 Ibid., p.263.
381 RhÃ©torÃ©, Les chrÃ©tiens aux bÃªtes! [n.164], p.65.
382 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], p.40.
65 governor".383 Having replaced Hilmi by Mehmed Å~^efik, ReÅ~_id did
not observe this new political constellation with district governor
Å~^efik either. He ignored Å~^efik and treated his emissary Bedri
as a shadow-official with the authority of a district governor. In
Mardin, Bedri was assisted by Halil Edib, who became criminal judge
on 17 June 1915. Bedri himself officially became district governor
only on 12 September.384 The Gleichschaltung 385 by the CUP had not
been implemented perfectly, but it was sufficient for the genocidal
designs to be carried out in Mardin.
On 3 June 1915, at eight o’clock in the evening, Mardin was surrounded
by ReÅ~_id’s militiamen, headed by Cerkez Harun. Memduh Bey arrested
the Bishop Ignatius Maloyan and his entire Armenian Catholic clergy and
locked them up in the Mardin castle, a fortress on top of the city. The
next days he arrested hundreds of Christian notables, according to a
French eye-witness, "tous pris dans les divers rangs de la sociÃ©tÃ©,
sans diffÃ©rences d’Ã¢ge, ni de rite, ni de condition".386 The men
were all taken to prison and severely tortured for a week by criminal
judge Halil Edib.
On 9 June a group of militiamen arrived from Diyarbekir with dozens
of sets of chains and galloped off to the fort. The prisoners were
explained that they were summoned by governor ReÅ~_id and would be
taken to Diyarbekir the next morning. The notables realized at this
point they were going to be killed.387 The treatment of the Mardin
notables was a copy of that of the Diyarbekir notables, who had already
been massacred in the Reman gorge by that time. The first convoy,
just over 400 Christians of all denominations, left Mardin on 10
June and was marched off to Diyarbekir by Memduh on horseback. After
having walked two hours in the burning heat, Memduh took away four
notables (Iskender Adem, his son August, Naum Cinanci, and Iskender
Hammal) and killed them.388 Three hours later, the convoy was halted
at the Kurdish village Adirshek, near the Sheikhan caves. Memduh
Bey gathered the convoy and read their death sentence out loud. He
added that conversion to Islam would avert death and gave those who
refused conversion one hour to prepare for their deaths. Memduh had
barely finished his words when Bishop Maloyan responded he would
never convert and preferred to die as a Christian rather than to
live as a Muslim. The great majority of the convoy agreed, whereupon
Memduh took 100 men, lead them away to the Å~^eyhan caves and had
them all murdered and burnt. After this first massacre he 383 BOA,
DH.Å~^FR 53/291, TalÃ¢t to ReÅ~_id, 8 June 1915. Hilmi was demoted
and assigned to a minor office in the Mosul province. Just as he
left for Mosul, ReÅ~_id sent out orders for him to be murdered. Hilmi
escaped assassination because the mayor that was assigned with this
task was a personal friend who procrastinated in carrying out the
order. In the meantime Hilmi crossed into Mosul province, out of the
jurisdiction of the Diyarbekir provincial authorities, and thereby
out of ReÅ~_id’s deadly reach. Sarafian, "The Disasters" [n.242].
384 Suavi AydÄ±n et al. (eds.), Mardin: AÅ~_iret-Cemaat-Devlet
(Ä°stanbul: Tarih VakfÄ±, 2000), p.242. Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181],
385 The German word Gleichschaltung (literally: "synchronization") is
a typical Nazi euphemism and describes the process by which the Nazi
regime successively established a system of authoritarian control and
tight coordination over all aspects of society between 1933 and 1939.
This included the purification of the state bureaucracy and amounted
to removal of officials without National-Socialist sympathies. Karl D.
Bracher, "Stufe totalitÃ¤rer Gleichschaltung: Die Befestigung der
nationalsozialistischen Herrschaft," in: Vierteljahrshefte fur
Zeitgeschichte, vol.4 (1956), pp.30-42; Volker Dahm, "Nationale
Einheit und partikulare Vielfalt: Zur Frage der kulturpolitischen
Gleichschaltung im Dritten Reich," in: Vierteljahrshefte fur
Zeitgeschichte, vol.43, no.2 (1995), pp.221-66. Contrary to the
NSDAP, the CUP did not have enough time and power to prepare,
implement, and consolidate this operation before the war, therefore
the Gleichschaltung of provincial bureaucracies was often fulfilled
impromptu during the war.
386 Hyacinthe Simon, Mardine: la ville heroÃ¯que: Autel et tombeau de
l’ArmÃ©nie (Asie Mineure) durant les massacres de 1915 (Jounieh: Maison
Naaman pour la culture, 1991), Naji Naaman (ed.), chapter 3, pp.17-18.
387 RhÃ©torÃ©, Les chrÃ©tiens aux bÃªtes! [n.164], p.70.
66 returned and took an other 100 men off to the Roman castle Zirzawan,
where he slaughtered them and threw them in large wells.389 Those
who agreed on conversion were taken away by the Kurdish villagers
to their shaikh and became Muslims. Only the next day, the rest
of the convoy was marched off further and halted four hours from
Diyarbekir. For the last time, Memduh turned to Maloyan and urged
him to convert. When he refused, Memduh pulled out his handgun and
shot the Bishop in his head.390 He then ordered the firing squad to
massacre the rest of the convoy.391 The work was finished and the
perpetrators rode to Diyarbekir and reported their accomplishment to
governor ReÅ~_id.392 Two weeks later TalÃ¢t asked ReÅ~_id about the
whereabouts of Maloyan.393 The killings in Diyarbekir province had
become so explicit that national and international political actors
freely began speaking about them. The genocide had definitively broken
through the circle of CUP secrecy. Apart from the Catholic clergymen
in Mardin, an other Western observer to the massacres in Diyarbekir
province was the German vice consul of Mosul, Walter Holstein. On
10 June he wired the German embassy, expressing his abhorrence of
When Holstein spoke to the governor of Mosul about the killings, the
latter responded "daÃ~_ allein der Vali von Diarbekir Verantwortung
trage".394 However, Holstein was not content with this evasive reply
and dispatched a second, more indignant telegram to the embassy two
days later: Die Niedermetzelung der Armenier im Vilajet Diarbekir wird
hier alltÃ¤glich bekannter und erzeugt eine wachsende Unruhe unter der
hiesigen BevÃ¶lkerung die bei der unverstÃ¤ndigen Gewissenlosigkeit
und der SchwÃ¤che der hiesigen Regierung leicht unabsehbare Folgen
herbeifuhren kann. In den Bezirken Mardin […] haben sich ZustÃ¤nde zu
einer wahren Christenverfolgung ausgewachsen. Daran trÃ¤gt zweifellos
die Regierung die Schuld.395 The well intentioned message made its
way through the German bureaucracy to TalÃ¢t and most probably to
ReÅ~_id too.396 What Holstein did not know was the preparation for a
second convoy of Christian notables in Mardin, the day after his cable.
388 Simon, Mardine: la ville heroÃ¯que [n.386], p.64.
389 RhÃ©torÃ©, Les chrÃ©tiens aux bÃªtes! [n.164], p.78.
390 Bishop Maloyan was later beatified by the Vatican: Ciliciae
Armenorum seu Mardinen: Beatificationis seu Canonizationis servi Dei
Ignatii Choukrallah Maloyan, archiepiscopi mardinensis in opium fidei,
uti fertur, interfecti (1915): Positio super vita, martyrio et fama
martyrii (Rome: Tipografia Guerra, 2000).
391 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], p.47.
392 PAAA, R14087, director of the Deutscher Hulfsbund fur christliches
Liebeswerk im Orient (Frankfurt am Main) Friedrich Schuchardt to
the AuswÃ¤rtiges Amt, 21 August 1915, enclosure no.6: "In Mardin
wurde der Mutessarif auch abgesetzt, da er nicht nach dem Willen des
Walis. Von hier hat man einmal 500 und dann wieder 300 der Notabeln
aller Konfessionen nach D. bringen lassen. Die ersten 600 sind nie
angekommen, von den anderen hat man nichts mehr gehÃ¶rt."
393 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54-A/178, TalÃ¢t to ReÅ~_id, 29 July 1915.
394 PAAA, Botschaft Konstantinopel 169, Holstein to embassy, 10
This telegram contains a footnote which reads: "Herrn Kap Humann fur
Enver". The note refers to Lieutenant Commander and Marine AttachÃ©
Hans Humann, a personal friend of Enver PaÅ~_a’s and a staunch advocate
of Ottoman expansion into the Caucasus. According to an intimate
observer, Humann had unfettered access to the CUP elite and held
"an outstanding position of extraordinary influence."
Ernst JÃ¤ckh, The Rising Crescent: Turkey yesterday, today, and
tomorrow (New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1944), p.119.
395 PAAA, Botschaft Konstantinopel 169, Holstein to embassy, 13
396 TalÃ¢t seemingly was not moved much by these protests. He listened
to the stories about the massacres and replied to an employee
at the German Embassy named Dr. Mordtmann, "daÃ~_ die Pforte den
Weltkrieg dazu benutzen wollte, um mit ihren inneren Feinden – den
einheimischen Christen – grundlich aufzurÃ¤umen, ohne dabei durch die
diplomatische Intervention des Auslandes gestÃ¶rt zu werden." PAAA,
R14086, Wangenheim to Bethmann-Hollweg, 17 June 1915. When KÃ¢mil
Bey, a member of parliament for Diyarbekir who opposed the 67 In
the meantime, the second convoy of Mardin Christians, 266 people
of all denominations, was sent off on 14 June. This convoy was lead
by militia commander Abdul Kadir (a subordinate of Cerkez Å~^akir)
and Tevfik Bey, who had eliminated the Armenians of Derik.397 As had
been done to the first convoy, the group was halted at the Sheikhan
caves where they were forced to pay tribute to the Sultan Å~^eyhmus
cult. The men noticed that Kurdish tribesmen, armed with rifles,
axes and spades, had surrounded them. The militiamen invited the
Christians to descend to the cave to drink from the cold spring
water, but those who went for a sip never returned. The killings
went on during the night and on the next day. More than 100 men were
killed at the Å~^eyhan caves, whereafter the convoy was marched off
to Diyarbekir. All of a sudden, the convoy came across three mounted
gendarmes approaching the convoy at high speed. The gendarmes reached
the convoy and proclaimed that the Sultan had pardoned the non-
Armenian Christians from persecution. Their hands were untied and
they were allowed to drink water and eat bread. The Armenians were
not fed and continued the deportation with their hands tied. The
convoy was marched off again and reached Diyarbekir on 16 June,
where they were sent to the caravanserai-prison.398 As in Diyarbekir,
after the elimination of the notables, the remaining Christians were
sent off to their deaths. These were mainly women, children, and
the elderly, although many men were still alive as well. On 2 July,
a convoy of 600 men was taken away and slaughtered just outside the
city walls. Before sending the victims down the Mardin road to the
valley, Ä°brahim Bedri and Memduh resorted to large-scale extortion. On
13 July, Memduh negotiated with the families of the Christian men
still in custody about considerable ransom, which amounted to several
hundreds of pounds per family. Having extorted the families, the men
were sent off and killed on the Diyarbekir road.399 After the men,
their families were targeted.
> > From late June to late October several convoys comprising hundreds
of women and children were lead away and destroyed. For example,
on 10 August, a convoy of 600 women and children were taken through
the Mardin plain further south. Some had already died of exhaustion
and sunstrokes when the convoy was halted in the district of the
Kiki tribe. After Kurdish tribesmen had finished selecting women and
children they fancied, the 300 remaining victims were massacred with
axes and swords. A small batch of survivors was able to flee and
hide in the desert caves.400 Within a month or two, the Christian
population of Mardin city had drastically been reduced.
The district of Mardin counted several large villages with large
numbers of Christian inhabitants. The largest among these were Q’sor
(Gulliye) and Tell Ermen, each harbouring massacres, traveled to
Istanbul to complain to TalÃ¢t about ReÅ~_id and Feyzi’s genocidal
campaign in Diyarbekir, TalÃ¢t threatened to have him assassinated
if he didn’t quiet down. Yeghiayan, British Foreign Office Dossiers
397 RhÃ©torÃ©, Les chrÃ©tiens aux bÃªtes! [n.164], p.83; Simon,
Mardine: la ville heroÃ¯que [n.386], pp.69-70.
398 Ishak Armalto was one of the survivors of this second convoy. Upon
arrival at the caravanserai in Diyarbekir, Armalto and a Joseph Paul
Keyip saw three woven baskets (zembils) filled with chopped-off ears,
noses, fingers, penises and gorged-out eyes. Armalto, Al-Qousara
[n.181], pp.52-53, 103.
399 Sarafian, "The Disasters" [n.242].
400 RhÃ©torÃ©, Les chrÃ©tiens aux bÃªtes! [n.164], pp.164-66.
68 several thousand souls. Tell Ermen had already experienced some
persecution and arrests by Memduh’s militia, but massive violence was
not applied until 1 July. On this day the militia and a large number of
Kurdish tribesmen invaded the village, where the terrified villagers
had nestled in the church. On orders of the militia commander and
with assistance from the village headman DerwiÅ~_ Bey, the church was
attacked and a massacre ensued. The killers used bland instruments
and did not distinguish between men and women, decapitating many
of the victims. Some were drawn and quartered, or hacked to pieces
with axes. A little girl who crawled out from under the corpses was
battered to death when she refused to convert to Islam.
Approximately 70 women were raped in the church before being put
to the sword. After the massacre Kurdish women entered the church
and used daggers to stab to death any survivors.401 The bodies were
disposed of by being thrown into wells or burnt to ashes.402 When
Rafael de Nogales visited the village a few weeks later, he met a few
severely traumatized survivors, and was shocked by "corpses barely
covered with heaps of stone from which emerged here and there a
bloody tress or an arm or leg gnawed on by hyenas".403 A German navy
officer visited Tell Ermen too and saw chopped-off children’s hands
and women’s hair.404 A week after the massacre, a Major Von Mikusch
reported to Consul Holstein he had met the militia, who had "related
about the massacre, beaming with joy" (freudestrahlend von Massacres
erzÃ¤hlt).405 The next day, on 2 July at 8 o’clock in the evening,
Memduh Bey ordered the attack on the village of Q’sor (Gulliye), a
predominantly Jacobite Syriac agricultural center on the Mardin plain.
The militia was headed by Sergeant Yusuf, son of Nuri Ensari, and
aided by chieftain Mohammed Aga of the Milli tribe. Kurdish tribesmen
of the DeÅ~_i, MiÅ~_kiye, and Helecan tribes, as well as some Arabs,
had come over to Q’sor to participate. The village was invaded and
the population was massacred. Children were thrown from roofs and
mutilated with axes. Many villagers were crammed together in the
house of the village headman Elias Cabbar Hinno, and burnt alive.406
After the massacre, the village was burnt down, a spectacle visible
from Mardin, where the inhabitants looked down in awe. According to
Hyacinthe Simon, Ä°brahim Bedreddin watched the bloodbath too, cheering
and applauding:407 Durant ce drame sanglant un homme Ã©tait assis au
balcone de sa terrasse, humant l’air frais du matin et contemplant une
rosace de feu piquÃ©e sur la plaine: c’Ã©tait le gouverneur de Mardine,
c’Ã©tait Bedreddin Bey. Les barbares Ã©gorgeaient et brÃ"laient ses
subordonnÃ©es, lui fumait sa cigarette.408 401 Armalto, Al-Qousara
402 PAAA, R14087, director of the Deutscher Hulfsbund fur christliches
Liebeswerk im Orient (Frankfurt am Main) Friedrich Schuchardt to the
AuswÃ¤rtiges Amt, 21 August 1915, enclosure no.5.
403 Nogales, Four years [n.266], pp.171-72.
404 Bundesarchiv (Freiburg), Reichsmarine 40/434, G.B. N. 8289,
Engelking to Fleet Command, 11 November 1915, quoted in: Hilmar Kaiser,
At the Crossroads of Der Zor: Death, Survival, and Humanitarian
Resistance in Aleppo, 1915-1917 (London: Gomidas, 2002), p.84.
405 PAAA, R14086, Wangenheim to Bethmann Hollweg, 9 July 1915.
406 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], p.102.
407 Noel, Diary of Major E. Noel [n.282], part 1, p.11.
408 Simon, Mardine: la ville heroÃ¯que [n.386], p.53.
69 Dozens of pretty women were raped and dozens more were carried off.
According to survivor Abdulaziz Jacob, Yusuf Ensari had kept at least
50 women in his home in Mardin for serial rape.409 The massive looting
went on for two more days and by the third day the once prosperous
village Q’sor had been reduced to a state of complete devastation.410
The massacres in Mardin were a major component of the ‘reign of terror’
that Dr. ReÅ~_id had pursued all over Diyarbekir province. It is
very probable that due to ReÅ~_id’s fanaticism, the CUP genocide in
Diyarbekir exceeded in efficiency, scope, speed, and cruelty any other
province of the Ottoman Empire. ReÅ~_id’s militia murdered without
mercy, without distinction, and without consequences. His bloody
rule obviously did not go unnoticed, since vice consul Holstein
had already denounced the governor’s policy. Other international
observers were disturbed of his campaign as well. A French report
noted about ReÅ~_id’s treatment of the Christians he imprisonned:
"Il est difficile de dÃ©crire ici en dÃ©tail les souffrances et les
tortures que ces malheureux ont subies en prison pendant tout ce
temps".411 Likewise, Aleppo Consul Jesse Jackson wrote on 28 June
that the persecution of the Armenians in his city intensified.
Jackson informed Ambassador Morgenthau specifically about "the horrible
things taking place in Diarbekir. Just such a reign of terror has
begun in this city also".412 Most protests emanated from German
officials, stationed in the eastern provinces. Aleppo Consul Walter
RÃ¶Ã~_ler wrote about Diyarbekir province that they received "die
schauerlichsten Geruchte, welche uns ganz an spanische Inquisition
erinnern".413 Ambassador Wangenheim forwarded to Berlin the news
about "das Vilajet Diarbekir, in dem die Armenier besonders grausam
verfolgt werden sollen".414 When Holstein received the news about
the Q’sor and Tell Ermen massacres, he wrote an even more indignant
telegram to Wangenheim: Der fruhere Mutessariff von Mardin, zur Zeit
hier, mitteilt mir folgendes: Der Vali von Diarbekir, Reschid Bey,
wute unter der Christenheit seines Vilajets wie ein toller Bluthund;
er hat vor kurzem auch in Mardin siebenhundert Christen (meistens
Armenier) darunter armenischen Bischof in einer Nacht durch aus
Diarbekir speziell entsandte Gendarmerie sammeln und in der NÃ¤he
der Stadt wie Hammel abschlachten lassen. Reschid Bey fÃ¤hrt fort in
seiner Blutarbeit unter Unschuldigen deren Zahl wie der Mutessariff
mich versicherte, heute zweitausend ubersteigt. Falls d. Regierung
nicht sofort ganz energische MaÃ~_nahmen gegen Reschid Bey ergreift,
wird muselmanische niedere BevÃ¶lkerung d.
hiesigen Vilajets gleichfalls Christenmetzeleien beginnen. Die Lage
hier in dieser Hinsicht wird tÃ¤glich drohender. Reschid Bey sollte
sofort abberufen werden womit dokumentiert wurde dass die Regierung
seine Schandtaten nicht billigt und wodurch allgemeine Erregung hier
beschwichtigt werden kÃ¶nnte415 409 Yeghiayan, British Foreign Office
Dossiers [n.152], p.229.
410 RhÃ©torÃ©, Les chrÃ©tiens aux bÃªtes! [n.164], pp.195-96.
411 Beylerian, Les grandes puissances [n.275], p.49, document no.156:
"Note du DÃ©partement sur les massacres armÃ©niens".
412 National Archives RG 59, 867.4016/92, Jackson to Morgenthau, 28
June 1915, in: Ara Sarafian (ed.), United States Official Records
on the Armenian Genocide 1915-1917 (London: Gomidas Institute,
413 PAAA, R14086, RÃ¶Ã~_ler to Bethmann Hollweg, 29 June 1915.
414 PAAA, R14086, Wangenheim to Bethmann Hollweg, 9 July 1915.
415 PAAA, Botschaft Konstantinopel 169, Holstein to Embassy, 10
70 The insistence pertaining to this message impelled Wangenheim to
take a stand about the reports.
The next day he replied to Holstein he would convey the content of
his message to the Sublime Porte. On 12 July 1915 Wangenheim slightly
adjusted the telegram, translated it to French, and sent it to TalÃ¢t,
who knew French. Wangenheim reproduced the exact wording of "wie Hammel
abschlachten lassen" as "Ã©gorgÃ© comme des moutons".416 After this
sequence of written communication, TalÃ¢t officially reproached ReÅ~_id
for ‘overdoing’ the carnage. Several instances of reprehensions are
especially significant as they contain intimations of the scope of the
massacres. On the same day TalÃ¢t received Wangenheim’s message about
the indiscriminate killings in Diyarbekir province, he dispatched the
following telegram to Dr. ReÅ~_id: Lately it has been reported that
massacres have been organized against the Armenians of the province
and Christians without distinction of religion, and that recently for
example people deported from Diyarbekir together with the Armenians
and the Bishop of Mardin and seven hundred persons from other Christian
communities have been taken out of town at night and slaughtered like
sheep, and that an estimated two thousand people have been massacred
until now, and if this is not ended immediately and unconditionally,
it has been reported that it is feared the Muslim population of the
neighbouring provinces will rise and massacre all Christians. It is
absolutely unacceptable for the disciplinary measures and policies
procured to the Armenians to include other Christians as this would
leave a very bad impression upon public opinion and therefore these
types of incidents that especially threaten the lives of all Christians
need to be ended immediately, and the truth of the conditions needs to
be reported.417 In this important telegram, TalÃ¢t not only literally
reproduced Holstein’s words "slaughtered like sheep," but also used
the euphemism "disciplinary measures and policies" to endorse what
ReÅ~_id had been doing correctly so far: destroying the Armenians
In July, ReÅ~_id’s excesses became notorious among anyone that even
came near his province as it was strewn with corpses. The governor of
Bagdad, Suleyman Nazif (1870-1927), a noted intellectual hailing from
Diyarbekir traveled to his hometown in this period. Nazif later wrote
that the pungent smell of decaying corpses pervaded the atmosphere
and that the bitter stench clogged his nose, making him gag.418
Nazif had seen the exception to the rule, because most bodies were
disposed of in the rivers Euphrates and Tigris. RÃ¶Ã~_ler wrote that
the "Vorbeitreiben von Leichen auf dem Euphrat" had been going on
for 25 days, adding: "Die Leichen waren alle in der gleichen Weise,
zwei und zwei Rucken auf Rucken gebunden".419 Cemal PaÅ~_a, in charge
of the Syrian region south of Diyarbekir, reproached Dr. ReÅ~_id
with an urgent and personal telegram on 14 July, complaining that
"the corpses floating down the Euphrates are probably those of the
Armenians killed in the rebellion, these need to be buried on the spot,
leave no corpses out in the 416 PAAA, Botschaft Konstantinopel 169,
Wangenheim to TalÃ¢t, 12 July 1915.
417 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54/406, TalÃ¢t to ReÅ~_id, 12 July 1915.
418 Kocahanoglu, Ä°ttihat ve Terakki [n.372], pp.522-23.
419 PAAA, R14087, RÃ¶Ã~_ler to Bethmann Hollweg, 27 July 1915.
71 open".420 Two days later ReÅ~_id answered Cemal by pointing out
that the Euphrates bore little relation to Diyarbekir province, and
that the floating corpses were coming from the Erzurum and Mamuret-ul
Aziz directions. ReÅ~_id noted that burials were exceptional and that
"those who were killed here are either being thrown into deep deserted
caves or, as has been the case for the most part, are being burnt"
(ihrak).421 Faiz El-Ghusayn was a witness to the burning of dead
bodies when he entered Diyarbekir province near KarapÄ±nar. He saw
hundreds of bodies burned to ashes. He also saw that there were many
women and children among the dead, consumed by fire.422 The rumors
of Diyarbekir having become an open-air cemetery reached TalÃ¢t,
who ordered ReÅ~_id on 3 August to "bury the deceased lying on the
roads, throw their corpses into brooks, lakes, and rivers, and burn
their property left behind on the roads".423 ReÅ~_id did not pay
much attention to, let alone seriously consider the wave of negative
feedback and his reputation grew more and more nefarious. The German
protests became much more explicit by the end of July. An employee at
the German embassy wrote to the German Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg a
most explicit report which read: "Seit Anfang dieses Monats hat der
Wali von Diarbekir, Reschid Bey, mit der systematischen Ausrottung
der christlichen BevÃ¶lkerung seines Amtsbezirks, ohne Unterschied
der Rasse und der Konfession, begonnen".424 As reports of massacres
poured into Mosul province, Walter Holstein became increasingly
enraged and wrote a bitter telegram to his colleagues in Istanbul:
Jedermann weiÃ~_ daÃ~_ der Vali von Diarbekir beispielsweise die
Seele der in seinem Vilajet vorgekommenen entsetzlichen Verbrechen
an der Christenheit ist; jedermann annimmt mit Recht daÃ~_ wir die
Greueltaten auch kennen und man fragt sich weshalb wir gestatten
daÃ~_ ein notorischer MassenmÃ¶rder unbestraft und weiterhin Vali
bleibe. Allein der Ausdruck unserer MiÃ~_billigung der Greuel durfte
kaum genugen den uns kompromittierenden verschiedenen Auffassungen
wirksam entgegenzutreten. Erst wenn wir die Pforte gezwungen haben
die in Diarbekir Mardin Seert etc. in Beamtenstellungen sitzenden
Verbrecher rucksichtslos zur Rechenschaft zu ziehen, und zwar
schleunigst, erst dann fallen die VerdÃ¤chtigungen gegen uns fort. Ich
las in verschiedenen deutschen Zeitungen turkische amtliche Dementis
der Christengreuel und bin erstaunt uber die NaivitÃ¤t der Pforte
daÃ~_ sie glaubt die Tatsachen der Verbrechen turkischer Beamten
durch krasse Lugen aus der Welt schaffen zu kÃ¶nnen. Die Welt hat
Greueltaten wie sie erweislich von Amtswegen im Vilajet Diarbekir
begangen worden sind und werden noch nicht erlebt!425 This report too
was forwarded to TalÃ¢t, who began losing his patience, since he was
forced to explain ReÅ~_id’s compromising and embarrassing actions to
German officials. ReÅ~_id obviously hadn’t taken any measures to act
according to his instructions a month ago. To clear things up, two
days after Holstein’s cable, TalÃ¢t sent a second telegram admonishing
ReÅ~_id that the persecution and massacre of all Christians in the
province was not permitted. He also urged him 420 Cemal to ReÅ~_id,
14 July 1915, quoted in: Ibid., p.519.
421 ReÅ~_id to Cemal, 16 July 1915, quoted in: Ibid., p.519.
422 Al-Ghusayn, Martyred Armenia [n.233], p.20.
423 TalÃ¢t to ReÅ~_id, 3 August 1915, quoted in: Kocahanoglu, Ä°ttihat
ve Terakki [n.372], p.519.
424 PAAA, R14086, Hohenlohe-Langenburg to Bethmann-Hollweg, 31
425 PAAA, Botschaft Konstantinopel 170, Holstein to Embassy, 14
72 to dismantle the militia, that caused the provincial authorities
to be held responsible for the killings.426 This was still not the
end of TalÃ¢t’s reprimands to his zealous subordinate. It had become
clear that ReÅ~_id had not only persecuted and murdered non-Armenian
Ottoman Christians, but also non-Ottoman Armenians. His indiscriminate
slaughter of ethnic Armenians without consideration of political
identity became a serious problem. One of these was Stepan Katosian,
an Armenian-American who had summarily been put to death in the
The execution probably caused a diplomatic riot since the Ottoman
Empire was not at war with the United States, in which case it still
would have been a legal violation.
TalÃ¢t therefore asked ReÅ~_id for information about Katosian’s
execution.427 To assure that this was the last instance in which
ReÅ~_id transgressed international law, TalÃ¢t ordered the consistent
screening of the political identities of Armenians from then on.428
The purpose of this order was for non-Ottoman Armenians not to be
persecuted. For example, an Iranian Armenian named MÄ±gÄ±rdic Stepanian
was allowed to leave for Persia via Mosul.429 Apart from specific
instructions readjusting ReÅ~_id’s extreme behaviour, TalÃ¢t released
several national decrees defining the categorical scope of those to be
persecuted and deported. At first, he excluded the Armenian converts
to Islam from deportation to the south.430 Most converts were not
persecuted anymore and, provided they kept their silence, were allowed
to continue living in their homes. Two weeks later he reincorporated
the converts into the deportation program. TalÃ¢t’s order read that
"some Armenians are converting collectively or individually just to
remain in their hometowns," and that "this type of conversions should
never be lent credence to". TalÃ¢t contended that "whenever these
type of people perceive threats to their interests they will convert
as a means of deception".431 On 4 August TalÃ¢t excluded the Armenian
Catholics from deportation, requesting their numbers in the respective
provinces.432 On 15 August the Protestant Armenians were excluded
too from deportation to Der Zor. Again, TalÃ¢t requested statistical
data.433 Besides these official directions, the general methodology
of the genocide consisted of killing the men and deporting those
women and children who were not absorbed into Muslim households. This
means that in general, Armenian women were not to be subjected to the
immediate on-the-spot killing as the men were.434 Finally, a specific
order 426 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54-A/248, TalÃ¢t to ReÅ~_id, 16 August 1915.
427 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 56/131, TalÃ¢t to ReÅ~_id, 24 September 1915.
428 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 57/50, TalÃ¢t to ReÅ~_id, 17 October 1915. TalÃ¢t
later specified the order and requested information on "Armenian
officials employed at consulates of allied and neutral countries". BOA,
DH.Å~^FR 70/152, TalÃ¢t to provinces, 30 November 1916.
429 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 57/57, TalÃ¢t to ReÅ~_id, 17 October 1915. Whereas
his superordinate TalÃ¢t was scolding him continuously, two days
later ReÅ~_id received an appreciative telegram from his subordinate
Halil Edib in Mardin. Edib expressed his praise on the Eid el-Adha
(kurban bayramÄ±), the important Muslim festival involving sacrifice
of cattle: "I congratulate you with your Eid, and kiss your hands
that have gained us the six provinces and opened up the gateways to
Turkistan and the Caucasus." Halil Edib to ReÅ~_id, 19 October 1915,
quoted in: Bilgi, Dr.
Mehmed ReÅ~_id [n.208], p.29, footnote 73.
430 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54/100, TalÃ¢t to provinces, 22 June 1915.
431 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54/254, TalÃ¢t to provinces, 1 July 1915.
432 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54-A/252, TalÃ¢t to provinces, 4 August 1915.
433 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 55/20, TalÃ¢t to provinces, 15 August 1915.
434 Katharine Derderian, "Common Fate, Different Experience:
Gender-Specific Aspects of the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1917," in:
Holocaust and Genocide Studies, vol.19, no.1 (2005), pp.1-25.
73 excluding the Jacobite Syriacs from deportation was issued for those
provinces with Syriac communities.435 2.5 Widening and narrowing scopes
of persecution There is contradictory evidence on the precise nature of
ReÅ~_id’s local implementation of TalÃ¢t’s national instructions. On
the one hand, ReÅ~_id observed the commands for exclusion of non-
Armenian Christians from further genocidal destruction; on the other
hand, he disregarded all narrowing of victim categories. According to
an other interpretation it is conceivable that the series of rebukes
compelled him to mitigate the persecution, even though the harm was
done. In other words, ReÅ~_id discontinued the persecution of the
non-Armenian Christian communities when they had already been largely
destroyed. These restrictions of time may have added to restrictions of
location. It is also possible that this turn of events only happened
in and around Diyarbekir city, since in Mardin Ä°brahim Bedri, Aziz
Feyzi, and Memduh Bey had taken over the district. The most compelling
example of selective persecution, steered from above is the causal
link between Holstein’s telegram of 12 June and the fate of the second
convoy of Mardin notables. In that chain of events ReÅ~_id indeed
seems to have followed orders and limited the scope of the genocide.
One of the first villages that had been thoroughly destroyed was
According to one survivor from that village, a group of survivors
from all over the Diyarbekir plain had assembled in Qarabash some
time after the massacre, probably around mid-June.
PirinccizÃ¢de SÄ±dkÄ± had drawn up a list of these survivors and had
the list read out loud in front of the group. Those with Armenian
names were carefully selected from those with Syriac names. SÄ±dkÄ±
declared that the Syriacs were exempted from persecution on orders of
the government. When a young man named Dikran was also placed into
the Armenian group he protested to SÄ±dkÄ±, pleading that he was
a Syriac Orthodox. Although he had spoken the truth, his protests
were futile as he was lead away with the rest of the Armenians and
butchered.436 The survivors of the second Mardin convoy had been
in prison for a week when Memduh Bey arrived one day and ordered
all cells opened. The cells were opened and the prisoners were led
outside, where Memduh addressed them: "Those of your who are Syriac,
Chaldean, and Protestant, raise your hands and state your names". The
Syriacs, Chaldeans, and Protestants were selected from the Armenians
and were allowed to go home.437 A similar selection was remembered
by a Syriac survivor from a labour 435 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 57/112, TalÃ¢t
to the provinces of Diyarbekir, Bitlis, Haleb, and Urfa, 25 October
1915. A year later, an even more lenient instruction was issued towards
the Syriacs, requesting information about their numbers and at the
same time allowing them to travel within the country for the sake of
trade. BOA, DH.Å~^FR 68/98, Mamuret-ul Aziz, Diyarbekir, Bitlis, Musul,
and Urfa, 23 September 1916. Although tens of thousands of Syriacs had
been massacred by that time, it did save a terrified and traumatized
remnant of the Syriac community to live in their native regions. Still,
their relative comfort was probably contingent on the appointment of
Suleyman Necmi, ReÅ~_id’s successor in Diyarbekir. The new governor
was very merciful compared to ReÅ~_id, and permitted the Syriacs
a breath before Ä°brahim Bedreddin became governor of Diyarbekir
province and launched a second attack against the Syriacs of Tur Abdin.
436 Jastrow, Die mesopotamisch-arabischen [n.255], pp.327-29.
437 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], p.54.
74 battalion working on road construction near AkpÄ±nar, between
Diyarbekir and Mardin. On 17 June SÄ±dkÄ± reportedly arrived at the
road-building site where he separated the Armenians from the other
Christians. An Armenian named Migirditch from Qarabash village was
moved to the Armenian side but claimed to be a Syriac Orthodox. Though
his identity was confirmed by a native of Qarabash, SÄ±dkÄ± did not
believe him and cursed at him: "Filthy dog, your name is Migirditch
and you are supposed to be a Syriac?!" The unfortunate man was
then sent off to his death with the other Armenians.438 A Syriac
conscript in a labour battalion working between Urfa and Diyarbekir
in mid-August related to the Swiss missionary Jacob Kunzler: Â"Am
AbendÂ", so erzÃ¤hlte der Syrer, Â"war aus der Stadt eine grosse Schar
gut bewaffneter Gendarmen gekommen. Sie ordneten sofort Trennung der
Armenier von den Syrern an.
Alsdann wurden die Armenier zusammengebunden und etwa eine
Viertelstunde weit weggefuhrt. Bald hÃ¶rte man viele Schusse. […] Es
war uns klar, dass unsere armenischen Kameraden jetzt abgeschlachtet
wurden. […] Als die Gendarmen ins Dorf zuruckkehrten, dachten
wir Syrer, dass nun die Reihe auch an uns kommen wurde. Wir hatten
uns mit Laternen zu versehen, und mussten in der Richting des
Abschlachteplatzes gehen. […] Wir mussten die getÃ¶teten Armenier in
einen tiefen Brunnen werfen. Es waren unter ihnen mehrere, welche noch
atmeten, einer konnte sogar noch laufen, er sturzte sich freiwillig in
den Brunnen. Als die Toten und Halbtoten alle versenkt waren, mussten
wir den Brunnen vermauern und Erde und Asche darauf hÃ¤ufenÂ".439 These
instances of selection of Armenians illustrate that ReÅ~_id delegated
the implementation of TalÃ¢t’s orders to SÄ±dkÄ±. After TalÃ¢t’s
telegrams, some form of selective killing seems to have been applied.
These telling examples notwithstanding, there is also evidence that
runs counter to ReÅ~_id’s ostensible pardon to non-Armenian Christians
after TalÃ¢t’s telegrams.
The case of the Q’sor massacre shows that orders for differentiation
between Christians were simply brushed aside.
Reportedly, the executioner of Q’sor, Nuri Ensari, had personally
proclaimed the "amnesty" (af) accorded to the Syriacs, while the
predominantly Syriac and Catholic village had just been exterminated
and was at that time still being razed.440 The same treatment befell
the Christian women and children, who were supposed to be excluded
from immediate massacre as routine. As early as in June, Aleppo Consul
Jackson reported about the village of Redwan that "they even killed
little children".441 A deportation convoy trudging to Mardin was halted
by ReÅ~_id’s militia at the village of GolikÃª, where dozens of women
were first raped and then killed.442 Reportedly ReÅ~_id himself "took
800 children, enclosed them in a building and set light to it," burning
the children alive.443 438 Qarabashi, Dmo Zliho [n.199], pp.69-70.
439 Kunzler, Im Lande des Blutes und der TrÃ¤nen [n.336], pp.47-48.
440 Yeghiayan, British Foreign Office Dossiers [n.152], p.230.
441 Jackson to Morgenthau, 8 June 1915, in: Sarafian, United States
442 Qarabashi, Dmo Zliho [n.195], p.72; Reportedly, Aziz Feyzi became
known for his idiosyncratic habit of collecting trophies from female
victims. On several occasions he had the militia retrieve a necklace of
women’s nipples and a rope of women’s hair. Ã~Ipisodes des massacres
[n.272], p.50; Yeghiayan, British Foreign Office Dossiers [n.152],
443 Morning Post, 7 December 1918, quoted in: Vahakn N. Dadrian,
"Children as Victims of Genocide: the Armenian Case," in: Journal of
Genocide Research, vol.5 (2003), pp.430, 436 footnote 24.
75 The few Greeks were not spared either. The wife of a Catholic Greek
citizen of Diyarbekir complained to German vice consul RÃ¶Ã~_ler she
hadn’t heard from her husband Yorgi ObÃ©gi ever since he, her daughter,
and four of her brothers had went into hiding with a Muslim colleague
in Diyarbekir. It became known that they were found and deported,
but shortly outside of Diyarbekir stripped of their valuables and
killed. The Greek Orthodox Priest of Diyarbekir had disappeared without
a trace, and was probably murdered as well. RÃ¶Ã~_ler was informed
by an Ottoman officer that the then police chief of Diyarbekir, most
probably Memduh Bey, had confessed the murder: "le commissaire lui
aurait dit qu’il les a tuÃ© lui mÃªme".444 In the Silvan district, 425
Greeks out of a total 583 were killed.445 The most compelling evidence
supporting the interpretation that TalÃ¢t’s orders were ignored are the
massacres organized in Nusaybin and Cizre. On 16 August 1915 Ä°brahim
Bedri sent militia officer Abdulkadir and chieftain of the DeÅ~_i
tribe Abdulaziz to Nusaybin.446 They incarcerated all Christian men
of Nusaybin with no distinction of denomination: Syriac Jacobites,
Chaldeans, Protestants, and Armenians. In the middle of the night
the men were lead away to a desolate canyon, butchered one by one,
and thrown into the ravine. Many were decapitated, and each victim
was urged to convert to Islam before being killed and hurled down
the abyss.447 Hanna Shouha, the Chaldean priest of Nusaybin, had
already been deported to Kharput and died on the road. His wife was
violated and killed, his family was sent to Mardin and Diyarbekir
and were eliminated either on the road or on arrival. Within two
days, the population of Nusaybin dropped from 2000 to 1200, as 800
Christians were destroyed. The Jewish community of 600 persons was
left unharmed.448 Almost two weeks later Cizre was targeted. On orders
of ReÅ~_id, deputies Zulfu Bey and Aziz Feyzi had toured the province
in April 1915 to organize the genocide.
They had also frequented Cizre and had spoken to local Kurdish
leaders.449 On 29 August, Aziz Feyzi lead a group of men including the
mufti of Cizre Ahmed Hilmi and Reman chieftain Omer in the attack.450
All Christian men were arrested and tortured under the pretext that
they had arms hidden in secret depots. They were then cuffed with ropes
and chains, and marched out the city, where they were stripped of their
belongings and murdered. The naked bodies were dumped downstream in the
Tigris, for an obvious reason: the killers did not want the victims’
relatives to see the corpses and panic. Two days later the families
were placed on kelek rafts and sent off, 444 PAAA, R14087, RÃ¶Ã~_ler
to Bethmann-Hollweg, 3 September 1915, enclosure no.2. Additionally,
Memduh seems to have murdered a Russian and a Brit. The murdered
Brit was probably Albert Atkinson, a missionary. TalÃ¢t later asked
ReÅ~_id questions on his whereabouts.
BOA, DH.Å~^FR 56/238, TalÃ¢t to ReÅ~_id, 30 October 1915.
445 Noel, Diary of Major E. Noel [n.282], part 2, p.1.
446 RhÃ©torÃ©, Les chrÃ©tiens aux bÃªtes! [n.164], p.220.
447 Hori Suleyman Hinno, Farman: Tur’Abdinli Suryanilerin KatliamÄ±
1914-1915 (Athens: n.p., 1993), pp.30-33.
448 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], pp.97-98. Qarabashi, Dmo Zliho
449 Ã~Ipisodes des massacres [n.272], p.14. On his way back to
Diyarbekir, Feyzi reportedly visited the Reman district and convinced
the brothers Omer and Mustafa that the time had come to destroy
450 PRO, FO 371/4191, 9 April 1919, reproduced in: Ahmet Mesut (ed.),
Ä°ngiliz Belgelerinde Kurdistan 1918-1958 (Ä°stanbul: Doz, 1992),
p.29. For biographical information on the then Muslim clerics of
Cizre see: Abdullah YaÅ~_Ä±n, Butun yÃ¶nleriyle Cizre (Cizre: n.p.,
76 after local Muslims had selected children. Their river journey
was short, as their vessels were moored at a Kurdish village shortly
downstream. Most women were raped, shot dead, and thrown in the
river.451 The pollution the decaying corpses caused to the Tigris
was of such a nature that the population of Mosul was forbidden to
drink from the river for a month.452 In Cizre, the only survivors
were four women absorbed in a Muslim household.
Three of them were killed after all. The other, Afife Mimarbashi,
bribed her kidnapper and fled to Mardin as the only survivor of the
Cizre massacre.453 A total of 4750 Armenians (2500 Gregorians, 1250
Catholics, 1000 Protestants), 250 Chaldeans, and 100 Jacobite Syriacs
were killed.454 A week after the mass murder, Holstein reported
to his superiors that "Banden von Kurden, die zu diesem Zwecke
von Feyzi Bey, Deputierten von Diarbekir angeworben waren, unter
Duldung der OrtsbehÃ¶rden und Teilnahme des MilitÃ¤rs die gesamte
christliche Einwohnerschaft der Stadt DjezirÃ© (Vilajet Diarbekir)
niedergemetzelt haben".455 It is evident that the indiscriminate
killings were by no means spontaneous outbursts of local popular
bloodlust. TalÃ¢t’s telegraphic reprimands had arrived late, and
were not taken into consideration. As the Interior Minister, he was
aware of this, as he was continuously being informed of this fact
by German officials in Istanbul, who noted "dass die Weisungen der
turkischen Regierung an die ProvinzialbehÃ¶rden infolge deren Willkur
zum grÃ¶ssten Teil ihren Zweck verfehlten".456 In the summer of 1915,
all Christian communities of Diyarbekir were equally struck by the
genocide, although the Armenians were often particularly singled
out for immediate destruction. As Norman Naimark wrote: "Protestant
and Catholic Armenians could be formally exempted from deportation,
even if in practice local authorities made no distinction among the
various Christian sects".457 Consul RÃ¶Ã~_ler’s reported that the
Ottoman government lost "die Herrschaft uber die von ihr gerufenen
Elemente".458 These ‘elements’, as RÃ¶Ã~_ler described the genocidal
measures, proved particularly ferocious in Diyarbekir province. Major
Noel was aware of this, as he remarked about the Syriacs: In Diarbekir
itself the Syrian Jacobites were scarcely molested. Of all the
Christian communities they know how best to get on with the Turks,
and when the massacres were ordered they were officially excluded. In
the districts, however, the Government very soon lost control of the
passions they had loose (if they ever wanted to keep them in control),
with the result that the Jacobites suffered there as much as anybody
else.459 451 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], pp.89-90.
452 Jean-Marie Merigoux, Va a Ninive! Un dialogue avec l’Irak: Mosul
et les villages chrÃ©tiens, pages d’histoire dominicaine (Paris:
Cerf, 2000), p.462.
453 Sarafian, "The Disasters" [n.242].
454 PAAA, Botschaft Konstantinopel 170, Hohenlohe-Langenburg to
AuswÃ¤rtige Amt, 11 September 1915.
455 PAAA, Botschaft Konstantinopel 170, Holstein to Embassy, 9
456 PAAA, R14093, "Aufzeichnung uber die Armenierfrage," Berlin,
27 September 1916.
457 Norman Naimark, Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in
Twentieth-Century Europe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
458 PAAA, R14087, RÃ¶Ã~_ler to Bethmann Hollweg, 27 July 1915.
459 Noel, Diary of Major E. Noel [n.282], part 2, p.14.
77 Contrary to RÃ¶Ã~_ler’s notion, ReÅ~_id had a firm control of his
murderous infrastructure. Especially in and around Diyarbekir district,
most instances of massacre in which the militia engaged were directly
ordered by himself. An exploration of the perpetrators involved,
the timing, scope, and methodology of the killings clearly reveals
ReÅ~_id’s will propelling them. Due to his personal disposition,
Dr. Mehmed ReÅ~_id gave a distinct shape to the genocide, configuring
the scopes of victims from the outset, even when TalÃ¢t modified them.
78 Chapter 3: Deportations of Kurds and settlement of Muslims The
winter of 1915-1916 was a harsh season in Diyarbekir province. The
Christians of the province had been effectively destroyed and dozens
of villages were desolate.460 Since the majority of the victims
were peasants, the genocide caused an unprecedented bad harvest in
the hinterland, causing the remaining people to starve. In many
villages people often ate plain grass or hay and even lacked the
means to bake acorn bread, normally the simplest staple food.461 They
were considered lucky as others had no other choice than to resort
to cannibalism. In Diyarbekir city, food was so scarce that people
were seen picking human flesh with knives out of the heaps of corpses
laying along the city walls. The desperate city dwellers often ate the
flesh without preparation.462 These conditions in Diyarbekir were not
regional but part of a national crisis.463 Governor ReÅ~_id seemingly
did not pursue any attempts to alleviate the people’s suffering. He
was removed from office and appointed governor of Ankara on 1 March
1916. The governor of Ankara, Suleyman Necmi Bey, replaced him as
governor of Diyarbekir.464 Health conditions were terrible and curable
illnesses quickly lead to death as medicine was scarce and prioritized
to the army.465 The corpses of the many who had died from persecution,
starvation, and illness were seldom buried but thrown into wells and
rivers, causing cholera, dysentery, and typhoid epidemics.466 Local
Muslims named these contagious diseases "the Armenian disease" because
Armenian convoys were dying as a result of them.467 The epidemic did
not only strike the persecuted population, unpersecuted locals were
often contaminated too.
Aware of the criminal nature of popular participation in the genocide,
the widespread outbreak was interpreted by Muslims as a "punishment
of God" for the massacring. In september 1916, the death toll of the
epidemic rose to 250 people every day, most of the victims being
soldiers, gendarmes, and refugees. In the same month 4000 people
perished of disease in Mardin, and in November, the body count numbered
an additional 850.468 According to Ishak Armalto, from 460 In 1916,
the majority of surviving Armenian deportees were concentrated in
several open-air concentration camps along the Euphrates river in the
Syrian desert. Tens of thousands were dying as a result of deliberate
exposure to epidemics and starvation. Still, TalÃ¢t’s faction resumed
the deportations with genocidal massacres in the spring of 1916,
setting off a ‘second phase’ of the genocide. Raymond KÃ©vorkian,
"L’extermination des dÃ©portÃ©s armÃ©niens ottomans dans les camps
de concentration de Syrie-MÃ©sopotamie (1915-1916), la deuxiÃ¨me
phase du gÃ©nocide," in: Revue d’Histoire ArmÃ©nienne Contemporaine,
vol.2 (1998), pp.7-61. The Syriac groups that had sought refuge in
the Tur Abdin mountains were met with a second military attack in
1917, and despite German pressure and armed self-defense small-scale
systematic massacring was carried out there. SÃ©bastian de Courtois,
Le gÃ©nocide oubliÃ©: ChrÃ©tiens d’Orient, les derniers aramÃ©ens
(Paris: Ellipses, 2002), pp.168-76.
461 Seyfo Center Archives (Enschede), transcript of an interview with
Abdallah Goge (approximately aged 110) of B’sorino village (Midyat
district, Mardin province), conducted by Sabri Atman in Aramaic,
in Gronau (Germany) on 17 February 2004.
462 Beysanoglu, Diyarbekir Tarihi [n.141], p.787.
463 American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief, The Most
Terrible Winter the World Has Ever Known (New York: American Committee
for Armenian and Syrian Relief, 1917).
464 BOA, MV 241/277, 1 March 1916.
465 Victor Schilling, Kriegshygienische Erfahrungen in der Turkei
(Cilicien, Nordsyrien) (Leipzig: J.A. Barth, 1921).
466 The sewer system of Diyarbekir is a refined network of cisterns and
drainages that regulates the aquatic infrastructure of the city. Water
is tapped from springs and the Tigris, flowing east along the city,
and directed into the city from the north, leaving the city from
the south through what the locals call "the forbidden stream" (haram
su). Due to the epidemics, the water became polluted, affecting its
health for years. Ä°brahim Halil, "SÄ±hhat Meseleleri: Å~^ehrimizin
SularÄ±," in: Kucuk Mecmua, vol.8 (24 July 1922), pp.18-20.
467 Interview with a Veli Dede (aged 90) of HolbiÅ~_ village (KÃ¢hta
district, AdÄ±yaman province), conducted on 22 July 1990 in Kurdish by
a HacÄ± Ä°brahim, published in: Kemal YalcÄ±n, Seninle guler yuregim
(Bochum: CIP, 2003), pp.371-76.
468 RhÃ©torÃ©, Les chrÃ©tiens aux bÃªtes! [n.164], pp.352, 367-76.
79 March 1916 to September 1917 the total amount of dead increased to
25,000, and an other 2000 died from October 1917 to autumn 1918.469
Regardless of these difficulties, the war raged daily on the different
fronts. For Diyarbekir province, the clashes with the Russian army as
well as the desert war with the British army bore significance due to
their proximity to the province. After the disaster of SarÄ±kamÄ±Å~_,
the Third Army was driven back and fought bitterly to defend Erzurum,
the gateway between Anatolia and the Caucasus. When that important
Ottoman city fell on 16 February 1916, it caused a shock not only
among Ottoman officials. A British military observer with the Russian
Army wrote about the fall of Erzurum: "Every bazaar from Shiraz to
Samarkand, from Konia to Kuldja, began talking of the great Urus, who
had taken Erzerum from the Osmanli".470 The Russian army steamrolled
over MuÅ~_ and captured Bitlis on 2 March. Diyarbekir now gained
military importance as the front was only 200 kilometres to the east
of the city. Enver PaÅ~_a personally visited Diyarbekir on 10 May
1916 to discuss the war with Ahmed Ä°zzet PaÅ~_a, commander of the
Second Army.471 Colonel Mustafa Kemal PaÅ~_a, the courageous hero
of the defense of Gallipolli, was put in charge of the 16th Corps
of that Army. Although he suffered heavy losses, he managed to repel
General Nazarbekov’s forces to the north of Lake Van. On 8 August 1916
Kemal PaÅ~_a humbly reported the recapture of Bitlis and MuÅ~_.472
The ensuing constellation was a form of stalemate and maintained the
status-quo for several months on the Russian front.473 The British
imperial army had landed in Basra and was advancing northwards,
threatening Bagdad and Jerusalem, while at the same time conducting
intelligence operations to persuade Arab elites to discontinue
any loyalty to the Ottoman government. The British Mesopotamian
Expeditionary Force suffered a serious setback at Kut Al-Amara, as
Halil PaÅ~_a’s veteran soldiers finally defeated General Townshend’s
forces on 29 April 1916.474 Nevertheless, the Allied military campaigns
were productive, and triggered the elaboration of existing plans to
divide the Ottoman Empire between the Entente Powers.
On 16 May 1916 the Sykes-Picot Agreement was officially concluded
by Sir Edward Grey and Paul Cambon. This agreement, unofficially
reached in January, stipulated the division of the Ottoman Empire into
areas of influence for Great Britain and France. It assigned France
control over modern Syria and Lebanon, whereas much of Palestine and
modern Israel was to remain under international control. There was
some mention of the possibility of cessation of land to establish
an Arab state in the Arabian peninsula, but in general France and
Britain were to remain in control of the key locations. Ultimately,
the western powers were in charge, either directly or through Arab
elites 469 Armalto, Al-Qousara [n.181], p.106.
470 Morgan Price, "The Russian Capture of Erzerum" (16 February 1916),
in: Charles F. Horne (ed.), The great events of the great war: A
comprehensive and readable source record (New York: National Alumni,
1923), vol.IV (1916).
471 Beysanoglu, Diyarbekir Tarihi [n.141], p.801.
472 Mustafa Kemal PaÅ~_a to Second Army Headquarters, 8 August 1916,
in: Usman Eti, Guneydogu (Ankara: Cumhuriyet, 1938), p.52.
473 William E.D. Allen & Pavel P. Muratov, Caucasian battlefields: a
history of the wars on the Turco-Caucasian border 1828-1921 (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1953), pp.421-29.
474 Charles V.F. Townshend, My campaign in Mesopotamia (London:
80 charged with the duty and invested with powers requisite to
carry out regulations. The crux of the matter was to secure all
kinds of freedoms and privileges for British and French commercial
interests. The conduct of railways, water supplies, oil fields,
port facilities, and customs tariffs were some of the elements
specified in the 12 articles of the covenant.475 In the Ottoman
parliament, which had become little more than the CUP’s clubhouse,
the imperial designs were furiously reviled. According to TalÃ¢t,
the Turkish nation was waging a war of "independence and liberation"
(istiklÃ¢l ve istihlÃ¢s).476 Other than waging war on many fronts,
the CUP elite proceeded implementing its program of modernization
and ethnic homogenization.
Throughout the year 1916 TalÃ¢t consolidated his dictatorship,
appointing his loyalists to key positions and purging ‘non-national’
elements. The Minister of Interior set the crown on his diligence when
he became Grand Vizier on 4 February 1917. Having risen to his new
position, TalÃ¢t initiated several judicial, administrative, cultural,
and social reforms. On 15 February he addressed the parliament and
read his cabinet’s program to the deputies: Gentlemen, we know that
our nation, in very tight interaction with European civilization,
is existentially connected by alliance to the Central Powers and
cannot remain indifferent to the necessities of civilization and
modernity. Victory in the war is necessary, both for national
security and for reform and innovation. We will walk toward
this goal with firm determination (applause).477 The modernizing
effort consisted for example of secularizing the religious courts
(Å~_er’iye) and its canonical laws. With restricted jurisdiction
they were placed under the Ministry of Justice, and Muslim clerics
disappeared from parliament. Women and girls were encouraged to
enlist in universities and primary schools, and participate in the
labour market. They also gained more legal rights, such as the right
to file for divorce.478 Along with secularization, the campaign also
saw elements of westernization. There were experiments with the Latin
alphabet, and in 1917 the Gregorian calendar was introduced.479 The
‘national economy’ was gradually beginning to display its contours,
a ‘National Bank’ (MillÃ® Banka) being established.
The CUP also began developing a tangent national culture: a ‘national
library’, ‘national music’, a ‘national tourism agency’, a ‘national
film industry’, a ‘national geography society’, and a ‘national museum’
were but few of the institutions the CUP began creating.480 In addition
to this construction of cornerstones of the new national identity, the
ethnic restructuring continued. Deportation and assimilation programs
were extended to the Muslim populations, one of these being the Kurds.
475 Marian Kent, Oil and Empire: British Policy and Mesopotamian Oil,
1900-1920 (London: Macmillan, 1976), p.122; Christopher M.
Andrew & Alexander S. Kanya-Forstner, The climax of French imperial
expansion, 1914-1924 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1981),
476 Tunaya, Turkiye’de Siyasal Partiler [n.64], p.605.
477 Cavdar, TalÃ¢t PaÅ~_a [n.17], p.390.
478 Niyazi Berkes, The Development of Secularism in Turkey (London:
Hurst & Co., 1998), pp.367-428.
479 Jean Deny, "L’Adoption du calendrier grÃ©gorien en Turquie," in:
Revue du Monde Musulman, vol.43 (1921), pp.46-49.
480 Tunaya, Turkiye’de Siyasal Partiler [n.57], p.66.
81 3.1 Deportations of Kurds, 1916 The CUP stance toward the Kurdish
population of the Ottoman Empire was of a complex and diverse
character. On the one hand, the Kurds were perceived to be Ottoman
Muslims, therefore not to be excluded out of the new ‘national’
order. After all, among the first founders of the CUP there were
several Ottoman-Kurdish intellectuals, such as Dr. Abdullah Cevdet
(1869-1932)481 and Dr. Ä°shak SukÃ"ti (1868-1902), the latter being
a native of Diyarbekir. Moreover, the godfather of CUP nationalist
ideology was none other than ZiyÃ¢ GÃ¶kalp, a Diyarbekir Kurd. In
addition to these influential politicians, local CUP elites were often
Kurds too, such as in Diyarbekir province. In the provincial capital,
the PirinccizÃ¢de dynasty had exhibited loyalty to CUP policy. In
Mardin city, tribal leaders of the DeÅ~_i and Kiki tribes used the
CUP (and vice versa) to push their agendas. Due to familial ties,
ideological conformity, but especially political opportunism these
Kurdish elites had for instance participated in and profited from
the genocidal persecution of the Christians in that province.482
Apart from regional administrative institutions, the Ottoman army
profited from Kurdish manpower as well. ReÅ~_id himself admitted
in his memoirs that without the support of the MillÃ®, MÃ®ran,
and Karakeci tribes, generally located in the west of Diyarbekir
province, it would not have been possible to provide the necessary
resources and requisitions for the Ottoman army.483 In his memoirs,
Commander of the Second Army Ahmed Ä°zzet PaÅ~_a detailed some of his
efforts to reach out to Kurdish tribal elites. According to Ä°zzet,
the stick-strategy had only alienated Kurdish tribesmen from the state,
thus not produced the desired results.
Therefore he had opted for the carrot-strategy to incorporate the
tribes. Interestingly, he also wrote that one of the most successful
Ottoman officials that had succeeded in gaining the Kurds was the
notorious Ä°brahim Bedreddin, district governor of Mardin. Bedri had
cajoled and bribed his way to strong personal friendships with several
influential Cizre chieftains.484 Taking this bond between the CUP
and Kurdish elites into consideration, the CUP seemingly had little
to worry about concerning the Kurds. However, this loyalty problem
was not as simple as it appeared at first sight. The key word was
trust. There was fear for collaboration of powerful Kurdish tribes
with the advancing Russian army, as well as with Armenian politicians.
The CUP also fostered suspicion about Kurdish-nationalist and
secessionist politics.485 The claims were not totally unfounded
as both desertion, Kurdo-Armenian alliances, and nationalism
existed. Therefore, the CUP remained on the look-out for of
which Kurdish families and tribes were potentially loyal to the
government and which ones were not. It then pre-emptively 481 Mehmet
Å~^. Hanioglu, Bir siyasal duÅ~_unur olarak Doktor Abdullah Cevdet
ve dÃ¶nemi (Ä°stanbul: Ucdal, 1981).
482 International Institute for Social History (Amsterdam), Hikmet
KÄ±vÄ±lcÄ±ml& #xC4;± Archive, inventory no.56, "Ä°htiyat Kuvvet Milliyet
(Å~^ark)" (unpublished handwritten manuscript, 1932), p.20.
483 ReÅ~_id, MulÃ¢hazÃ¢t [n.209], p.82.
484 Ahmet Ä°zzet PaÅ~_a, FeryadÄ±m (Ä°stanbul: Nehir, 1992), vol.1,
485 According to the German journalist Harry Sturmer, who had had
the opportunity to speak to CUP insiders during his two-year stay
in Istanbul, the CUP feared the Kurds. Harry Sturmer, Two Years in
Constantinople (London: Gomidas, 2004), p.7.
82 distrusted those they already suspected of disloyalty as a military
precaution, just in case the tribes in question indeed crossed sides
and joined the Russians. In that case, if a certain tribe was disloyal,
a threat would have been eliminated; if the tribe was loyal after all,
little was lost in CUP eyes. Obviously, their actions did not advance
Kurdish trust in and loyalty to the CUP either.486 A concrete example
of CUP distrust in local Kurdish elites for Diyarbekir province can be
found in Ahmed Ä°zzet PaÅ~_a’s memoirs. The accomodating and liberal
Ä°zzet was shocked by an anecdote Mustafa Kemal PaÅ~_a had related
him. When Kemal PaÅ~_a arrived in Hazro county to explore the region
for warfare conditions, the mayor of Hazro told him confidentially
that the local Kurdish elite was not to be trusted. The mayor suggested
that the families needed to be "exterminated root and branch" (kÃ¶kunu
kazÄ±mak) as soon as possible.487 There are manifold reasons why the
CUP engaged in large-scale deportations of Kurds.
First, there were direct political reasons, namely to thwart
off possible alliances between Kurdish tribes and the Russian
army. Second, there were economic considerations: most Kurdish tribes
were (semi-)nomadic and in order to tax them more effectively, they
needed to be forcefully settled. Nationalist assimilation was a third
concern the Ottoman Ministry of Interior fostered. In their efforts to
‘nationalize’, i.e. turkify the empire, the Kurds were targeted for
cultural and linguistic assimilation, and political absorption into
the Turkish nation.
The combination between a long-term ideological program and short-term
war exigencies drove the CUP to deport hundreds of thousands of Ottoman
Kurds. The Ä°AMM (renamed AMMU in 1916) supervised the deportation
of these people. Those Kurds that had fled west from the Russian
occupation were incorporated in the deportation program too.
The relationship between the Kurdish population of the Ottoman
eastern provinces and Tsarist Russia had a long history. In the 16th
century, the Ottoman government had waged war against Persia and
to command a reliable border guard system, it had established large
Kurdish emirates. In the Botan and Bitlis regions these functioned
as a buffer zone against possible Persian incursions. From 1839 on,
westernization and modernization saw the forced dismantlement of these
de facto independent emirates.488 By the end of the 19th century,
the Ottoman elite realized that their strong existence could have
proven useful against Russia. After all, for several decades before
the First World War, the Russian Empire had been encroaching on the
eastern, predominantly Kurdo-Armenian region of the Ottoman Empire.
Although Russian officials often iniated contact with Kurdish
tribesmen, "it should be mentioned that the Kurds were not
passive pawns, but that many Kurdish leaders eagerly sought Russian
intervention as a 486 Naci Kutlay, Ä°ttihat Terakki ve Kurtler (Ankara:
BeybÃ"n, 1992), pp.190-91.
487 Ä°zzet PaÅ~_a, FeryadÄ±m [n.484], pp.273-74.
488 Hakan Ozoglu, Kurdish Notables and the Ottoman State: Evolving
Identities, Competing Loyalties, and Shifting Boundaries (Albany:
State University of New York Press, 2004), chapter 3.
83 way to preserve their tribal privileges against a centralizing
Ottoman state."489 Ottoman intelligence quickly saw that the Russian
strategy toward the Kurds resembled the Russian attitude toward the
Cossacks. Russian generals recognized the martial aptitude of the
Kurds, and therefore approached them within a military context.490 One
of the Kurdish notables who sought collaboration with the Russian
government was Yusuf KÃ¢mil Bedirxan (1872-1934). KÃ¢mil was a
Kurdish nationalist who had participated in the organization of
the 1914 Bitlis revolt. In May 1914 he was arrested by the Ottoman
government for subversive activities. Just when the war began, he
fled to Tbilisi with the assistance of Russian official Yakuchev
and became an agent for Tsarist Russia. When its army occupied the
Bitlis region in 1916 KÃ¢mil functioned as an intermediary between the
Kurdish population and the Russian authorities.491 According to other
accounts the Russian government assigned him ‘assistant governor’
(Ð¿Ð¾Ð¼&#x D0;¾Ñ~IÐ½Ð¸Ð&#x BA;; namestnik) of Bitlis and Erzurum.492 After the
war he settled in Tbilisi where he gave lessons and wrote books
on the Kurdish language.493 KÃ¢mil’s nephew Abdurrezzak Bedirxan
(d. 1918) was equally in earnest about a Kurdish state under Russian
auspices. Abdurrezzak evaded the draft and deserted to the Russians,
assisting the Tsarist army in its Persian campaign. He was executed
by the Ottoman army when he was captured in 1918.494 Hasan Fevzi
was an other Bedirxan notable who had agitated against Ottoman rule
and had openly flirted with both Russia and England. In 1912 he had
founded a secret political party called Ä°rÅ~_ad (‘True Path’) and
disseminated propaganda among the powerful Kurdish tribes of the Garzan
region.495 Again, the CUP suspected him of recalcitrance and on 17
May 1916 TalÃ¢t wired an order to Diyarbekir, requesting information
on his political activities and prohibiting him to reside in that
province.496 TalÃ¢t apparently was not content with the information
he received, for he answered that "if his deportation is necessary,
he should be deported to an isolated county instead of Istanbul".497
A week later he ordered his deportation to Konya, adding that he
should be kept "in tight custody and under strict observation"
(sÄ±kÄ± bir nezÃ¢ret ve tarassud altÄ±nda).498 Local officials in
Konya were informed of his arrival and were admonished to hold him in
maximum security conditions.499 These members of the Bedirxan tribe had
openly disseminated their ideas in Istanbul or in the provinces before
the war. The CUP 489 Michael Reynolds, "The Inchoate Nation Abroad:
Tsarist Russia, Nation-Building, and the Kurds of Ottoman Anatolia,
1908-1914," paper presented at the third annual conference of the
Central Eurasian Studies Society, University of Wisconsin (Madison,
WI), 17-20 October 2002. See also his: The Ottoman-Russian Struggle
for Eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus, 1908-1918: Identity, Ideology,
and the Geopolitics of World Order (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation,
Princeton University, 2003).
490 Ä°srafil Kurtcephe & Suat Akgul, "RusyanÄ±n Birinci Dunya
SavaÅ~_Ä± Oncesinde Kurt AÅ~_iretleri Uzerindeki Faaliyetleri," in:
Ankara Universitesi OsmanlÄ± Tarihi AraÅ~_tÄ±rma ve Uygulama Merkezi
Dergisi (OTAM), vol.6 (1995), pp.249-56.
491 Mikhail Semenovich Lazarev, Pirsa Kurdan (1891-1917) (Stockholm:
Roja NÃ", 1999), p.352. This book is a Kurdish translation of its
Russian original: Kurdskij vopros (1891-1917) (Moscow: Akademija Nauk
SSSR, Institut Vostokovedenija, 1972).
492 Chris Kutschera, Le mouvement national kurde (Paris: Flammarion,
493 Hesen MizgÃ®n, "SerpÃªhatiya Gora Kamil Bedirxan BegÃª AzÃ®zÃ®,"
in: Armanc, no.121 (1991), p.5.
494 In 1960, Abdurrezzak’s unpublished memoirs were unearthed from
the Russian imperial archives in St. Petersburg, translated from
Russian into Kurdish by Prof. Dr. CelÃ®lÃª CelÃ®l, and published in
Istanbul. Ebdurrizaq Bedirxan, Autobiyografiya (Istanbul: PÃªrÃ®,
495 CelÃ®lÃª CelÃ®l, Jiyana RewÅ~_enbÃ®rÃ® Ã" SÃ®yasÃ® ya Kurdan
(di dawÃ®ya sedsala 19’a Ã" destpÃªka sedsala 20’a de) (Uppsala:
JÃ®na NÃ", 1985), p.155.
496 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 64/48, TalÃ¢t to Diyarbekir, 17 May 1916.
497 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 64/156, TalÃ¢t to Diyarbekir, 30 May 1916.
498 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 64/225, TalÃ¢t to Diyarbekir, 6 June 1915.
84 was aware of their activities, and when concrete intelligence
reports on them detailing their actions trickled into Istanbul,
the entire tribe was declared undesirable.
In June 1915 TalÃ¢t ordered "that the Bedirxan family cannot
be trusted, therefore the conscripts they recruit should not be
benefited from".500 A year later, HacÄ± Mirza, Kurdish chieftain of
the Haydaran tribe and friendly to Abdurrezzak Bedirxan was targeted
when his correspondence with Abdurrezzak was intercepted and Mirza
and his tribal entourage was deported from Silvan to western Anatolia
due to their "doubtful loyalty" (sadakati meÅ~_kÃ"k). Under strict
security conditions he was separated from his tribesmen and settled
in the west.501 An other situation the CUP feared was a possible
In March 1915 TalÃ¢t requested information on the chances of armed
Armenians and Kurds joining forces against the Ottoman government. In
the case this was indeed a fact, he ordered pre-emptive action against
possible cooperation between Armenians and Kurds.502 Armenian and
Kurdish nationalists were cognizant of the fact that their nationalist
claims and actions were contingent on the success of cordial relations
between Kurds and Armenians. These chances were slim, even though some
contemporary Armenian nationalists such as Garo Sassouni repeatedly
attempted to forge a Kurdo-Armenian coalition. In his monography on
the history of Kurdish-Armenian relations, Sassouni lamented that
"unfortunately, in this period Kurds and Armenians were unable to
to agree on rapprochement".503 According to the contemporary Kurdish
Nuri Dersimi, the unattainableness of a Kurdish and Armenian alliance
was most of all a function of the Ottoman-Russian war. Dersimi wrote
that Istanbul sought to use Kurdish tribes in the war and in the
genocide, whereas Moscow applied a similar strategy, forming Armenian
bands to keep the Kurds of Eastern Anatolia in restraint.504 The few
Kurds that did collaborate with Armenians were mercilessly persecuted
by the CUP. On 14 March 1915 TalÃ¢t ordered KÃ¶r Huseyin PaÅ~_a,
chieftain of the Haydaran tribe and captain of a large Hamidiye
regiment, surveilled because of his possible collaboration with
Armenians in Van province.505 Similar orders were issued to Mamuret-ul
Aziz province, where the CUP was aware of the modus vivendi between
several Dersim tribes and Armenian citizens of Kharput.506 These Dersim
tribes had sheltered and escorted Armenians north to Russian-occupied
Altogether, war exigencies, economic considerations, and assimilation
policies led Ottoman Kurds to be deported en masse. On 2 May 1916
TalÃ¢t PaÅ~_a issued the following order: 499 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 65/21,
TalÃ¢t to Konya, 17 June 1915.
500 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 53/344, TalÃ¢t to Diyarbekir, 13 June 1915.
501 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 69/249, AMMU to Diyarbekir, 13 November 1916.
502 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 50/210, TalÃ¢t to the provinces of Van, Bitlis,
and Erzurum, 9 March 1915.
503 Garo Sassouni, Kurt Ulusal Hareketleri ve 15. YuzyÄ±l’dan Gunumuze
Ermeni-Kurt Ä°liÅ~_kileri (Istanbul: Med, 1992), p.246. This book is
a translation of the Armenian original Kurd Azgayin Sharzhumnere ev
Hay-Krdakan Haraberutyunnere (Beirut: Hamazkayin, 1969).
504 Nuri Dersimi, Dersim ve Kurt Milli Mucadelesine Dair HatÄ±ratÄ±m
(Ankara: Oz-Ge, 1992), pp.44-45.
505 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 51/14, TalÃ¢t to Cevdet (governor of Van), 14
506 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 53/222, Command Headquarters to Mamuret-ul Aziz
province, 2 July 1915.
85 It is absolutely not allowable to send the Kurdish refugees to
southern regions such as Urfa or Zor. Because they would either Arabize
or preserve their nationality there and remain a useless and harmful
element, the intended objective would not be achieved and therefore
the deportation and settlement of these refugees needs to be carried
out as follows.
– Turkish refugees and the turkified city dwellers need to be deported
to the Urfa, MaraÅ~_, and Anteb regions and settled there.
– To preclude that the Kurdish refugees continue their tribal life and
their nationality wherever they have been deported, the chieftains
need to be separated from the common people by all means, and all
influential personalities and leaders need to be sent separately to
the provinces of Konya and Kastamonu, and to the districts of Nigde
– The sick, the elderly, lonely and poor women and children who are
unable to travel will be settled and supported in Maden town and
Ergani and Behremaz counties, to be dispersed in Turkish villages and
among Turks. […] – Correspondence will be conducted with the final
destinies of the deportations, whereas the method of dispersion, how
many deportees have been sent where and when, and settlement measures
will all be reported to the Ministry.507 The deportation of Kurds had
now begun, first of all targeting the Kurds deemed ‘disloyal’ by the
CUP. When a group of mounted Kurds from Ahlat attempted to defect
to the Russians, their deportation to Diyarbekir was ordered.508
Ahmed Ä°zzet PaÅ~_a tried to prevent these deportations, suggesting
to TalÃ¢t that "tribal cavalry units" (aÅ~_ayir suvari fÄ±rkalarÄ±)
should be established instead.509 His efforts had limited success as
the Ä°AMM improvised a makeshift solution. In May, it authorized the
temporary settlement of Kurdish chieftains and tribesmen in areas close
to the front. This was a local solution between deployment in the war
and deportation to the west.510 Since thousands of Armenian villages
were empty, Kurds perceived as more soundly loyal to the government
were to be settled immediately. In Diyarbekir, Kurds enrolled in the
tribal units were settled in the empty Christian villages around Mardin
and Midyat.511 Ä°AMM planners further authorized 280 members of the
ZirkÃ® tribe to settle with their families in empty villages in Derik
district.512 The socio-economic motivations of the deportations were
related to the CUP’s agricultural policy. Having destroyed hundreds
of thousands of (Armenian) peasants, the peasant population of the
country needed to be replenished. In 1911, Diyarbekir deputy Aziz
Feyzi had already suggested the tribes of the eastern provinces to be
settled, in order to raise the renevue of the land, and to circumvent
a possible German imperialist claim on that region.513 In the 1917
CUP congress an agreement was signed on (re)settling the tribes and
redefining the administration form of the settlements.514 From then
on, one would find specific references to agricultural policy in
the deportation orders. On 14 October 1916 the AMMU ordered Kurdish
tribesmen from Diyarbekir province deported to central Anatolia via
Urfa, specifying that on arrival, the settlers 507 BOA, DH.Å~^FR
63/172-173, TalÃ¢t to Diyarbekir, 2 May 1916.
508 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 57/275, Ä°AMM to Diyarbekir, 3 November 1915.
509 Ä°zzet, FeryadÄ±m [n.484], p.257.
510 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 64/80, Ä°AMM to the provinces of Erzurum, Sivas,
Mamuret-ul Aziz, and Mosul, 20 May 1916.
511 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 57/328, Ä°AMM to Bitlis, 7 November 1915.
512 Fuat Dundar, Ä°ttihat ve Terakki’nin MuslumanlarÄ± Ä°skÃ¢n
PolitikasÄ± (1913-1918) (Ä°stanbul: Ä°letiÅ~_im, 2002), p.143.
513 Meclis-i Mebusan ZabÄ±t Ceridesi 1327 (1911), first election
period, third sitting, hundred and fourteenth session, p.3537.
514 Tanin, 21 September 1917, quoted in: Tunaya, Turkiye’de Siyasal
Partiler [n.57], p.157.
86 were to be employed in the "farming industry" (zer’iyat
iÅ~_leri). They were to constitute between 5 and 10 percent of
the local (Turkish) population.515 Refugee-deportees who had fled
the Russian occupation and had arrived in Diyarbekir province were
supposed to work on the land too. The order read that the settlers
were to be provided with pack animals and ploughs, in order for
them to settle down and "begin agriculture immediately".516 Due
to shortages in Diyarbekir, the AMMU ordered potato seeds to be
imported from Elaziz.517 Yet most Ä°AMM/AMMU orders reveal that
nationalist assimilation was the propelling force behind the
deportations. German officials had understood what the CUP was
pursuing in the war, as a German teacher wrote in September 1916:
Dem Jungturken schwebt das europÃ¤ische Ideal eines einheitlichen
Nationalstaates vor. Die christlichen Nationen, Armenier, Syrer,
Griechen, furchtet er wegen ihrer kulturellen und wirtschaftlichen
Ueberlegenheit und sieht in ihrer Religion ein Hindernis, sie auf
friedlichem Wege zu turkifizieren. Sie mussen daher ausgerottet oder
zwangsweise islamisiert werden.
Die nicht-turkischen mohammedanischen Rassen, wie Kurden, Perser,
Araber usw. hofft er auf dem Verwaltungswege und durch turkischen
Schulunterricht unter Berufung auf das gemeinsame mohammedanische
Interesse turkifizieren zu kÃ¶nnen.518 When initiating the
deportations, TalÃ¢t personally paid attention to the efficiency
of the Turkification project. In January 1916 he requested specific
information on the Kurds living in more than a dozen provinces and
districts. TalÃ¢t wrote: "How many Kurdish villages are there, and
where? What is their population? Are they preserving their mother
tongue and original culture? How is their relationship with Turkish
villagers and villages?"519 In April he checked again, this time
asking how and where which convoys were being deported, and whether
the Kurdish deportees had begun speaking Turkish.520 These examples of
correspondence are clear evidence on the nature of the deportations:
they were a large-scale attack on Kurdish culture and language,
constituencies that could define the Kurds as a nation and therefore
pose a threat.
Again, Diyarbekir became a hub for deportation. The local Ä°AMM
officials were appointed by the Ä°AMM headquarters in Ä°stanbul but
were subject to the governors.
They enjoyed more rights than other officials as they had clearance
to send ciphers without prior authorization.521 Whereas in 1915
Armenians were concentrated in the city to be deported to the south,
in 1916 Kurds were sent off to the west. For the Diyarbekir Kurds,
the deportations were a one-way trip out of their native province
as no Kurd was allowed to (re-)enter the province. According to
historian Hilmar Kaiser, Diyarbekir became a ‘turkification zone’:
515 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 69/8, AMMU to Urfa, 14 October 1916.
516 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 69/235, AMMU to Diyarbekir, 12 November 1916.
517 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 72/180, AMMU to Elaziz, 8 February 1917.
518 PAAA, R14093, Das Geheime Zivil-Kabinet des Kaisers (Valentini)
an den Reichskanzler (Bethmann Hollweg), 10 September 1916, enclosure
519 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 60/140, TalÃ¢t to the provinces of Konya, Kastamonu,
Ankara, Sivas, Adana, AydÄ±n, Trabzon, and districts of Kayseri,
Canik, EskiÅ~_ehir, Karahisar, Nigde, 26 January 1916.
520 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 62/187, TalÃ¢t to Sivas, 16 April 1916; BOA,
DH.Å~^FR 62/278, TalÃ¢t to Adana, 9 April 1916.
521 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 72/222, AMMU to provinces, 13 February 1917.
87 Besides the ‘turkification’ of human beings, whole regions or
critical localities were targeted as a second major aspect of the
government’s program. Therefore, whole districts were designated
as a ‘turkification region.’ Consequently, Ottoman officials did
not allow Kurdish deportees arriving from the eastern borders
areas in the province of Diarbekir […] to remain there as
Muslims from the Balkans had been earmarked as settlers for these
regions.522 This strategy for Diyarbekir regulated a segregation of
refugee-deportees from Bitlis into ethnically Kurdish and Turkish. The
Kurdish refugees were not allowed to stay in Diyarbekir but forced
to march on westward, whereas the Turkish ones were immediately
settled in and around the provincial capital.523 The official order
for deportation of indigenous Diyarbekir Kurds fell on 20 May 1916,
18 days after TalÃ¢t’s guidelines for deportation. The AMMU ordered
"Kurdish tribes to be deported collectively to predetermined settlement
areas".524 First they were deported to Urfa,525 but after half a year
Urfa became too full and they were rerouted back to Diyarbekir and
settled around Siverek.526 For all Kurdish deportees the general rule
was applied that no one was allowed to return to Diyarbekir before
prior authorization from the Ministry. The settlements were to be
permanent.527 The conduct of the deportation of Kurdish tribesmen
and refugees stood in stark contrast with the Armenian deportation,
a year before. Jakob Kunzler witnessed convoys from Palu passing by
in Urfa: Die Behandlung dieser Kurden auf ihrem Deportationszuge
unterschied sich von derjenigen der Armenier sehr wesentlich. Es
geschah ihnen auf dem Wege kein Leid, niemand durfte sie plagen. Aber
das Furchtbarste war, dass die Deportationen mitten im Winter
erfolgte. Kam so einen Kurdenzug abends in einem Turkendorfe an, so
schlossen die Einwohner aus Angst vor ihnen schnell ihre Hausturen
zu. So mussten die Armen die Winternacht unter Regen und Schnee
draussen verbringen. Am andern Morgen hatten dann die Dorfbewohner
MassengrÃ¤ber fur die Erfrorenen zu machen.528 The deportees were
met with xenophobia by many Turkish villagers, who were not familiar
with Kurdish tribesmen and therefore feared them. In the cities,
the deportees were settled in the demolished Armenian neighbourhoods
where they had no means to support themselves. After all, most Kurds
were pastoralists and were not versed in agriculture and were often
hostile to city life. The Kurdish author YaÅ~_ar Kemal was a toddler
when his family fled from Van to Diyarbekir, 522 Hilmar Kaiser,
"The Ottoman Government and the End of the Ottoman Social Formation,
1915-1917," paper presented at the conference Der VÃ¶lkermord an
den Armeniern und die Shoah, University of Zurich, 7 November 2001,
at: < aiser.html>. The
settlement of non-Kurdish Muslims in Diyarbekir province will be
addressed in the next paragraph.
523 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 63/187, Ä°AMM to Urfa, MaraÅ~_, Antep, 4 May 1916.
524 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 64/77, Ä°AMM to the provinces of Diyarbekir,
Mamuret-ul Aziz, Sivas, Erzurum, Mosul, 20 May 1916.
525 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 69/7, AMMU to Diyarbekir, 14 October 1916. The
Swiss missionary Jakob Kunzler was stationed in Urfa and noted
"dass ich unter den Deportierten auch kurdische hÃ¶here Offiziere
sah, welche zu Anfang des Krieges mutig im Felde gegen die Russen
gekÃ¤mpft hatten, und die nun die Behandlung durch die Turken als
bittersten Undank empfanden." Kunzler, Im Lande des Blutes und der
TrÃ¤nen [n.336], p.101.
526 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 74/22, AMMU to Diyarbekir, 3 March 1917.
527 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 63/283, Ä°AMM to Mamuret-ul Aziz, 11 May 1916;
For example, deportees arriving in Nigde were ordered to immediately
register at the local population registry: BOA, DH.Å~^FR 77/188, Ä°AMM
to Nigde, 19 April 1917; BOA, DH.Å~^FR 85/262, AMMU to Diyarbekir,
28 March 1918.
528 Kunzler, Im Lande des Blutes und der TrÃ¤nen [n.336], p.102.
88 and was further deported from Diyarbekir to Adana. In his memoirs
he related the experiences of the child deportees: "Children were
swarming around, hungry, miserable, and naked. […] They were roaming
around like flocks".529 The Kurdish poet CigerxwÃ®n (1903-1984) was
deported from Mardin to the south of Urfa, where he became an orphan
when he lost his parents in the famine.530 A handful of missionaries
and relief organizations passionately tried to help the deportees,
appealing at consulates and local Muslim clerics, and providing food
and shelter. Even though they left no stone unturned, due to the
enormity of the deportation program their efforts were a bona fide
drop in the ocean.531 At that time, inflation was rampant and the
black market flourished.
Fraudulent CUP officials were massively embezzling funds designated
for the population.
Among them was Kara Kemal, who was fiddling under the cloak of
The misappropriation became somewhat of a sport among a privileged
few, creating a stratum living in unrestrained abundance. By the
end of the war, the critical press even grumbled of a ‘class’ of
officials who had become very rich and constituted a "war bourgeoisie"
(harb zengini).532 Among local AMMU officials too, corruption was
expanding. TalÃ¢t considered this utterly unacceptable because
it counteracted the deportations and undermined the assimilation
program. In November 1916 funds were appropriated for the local AMMU
branches: 30,000 pounds were sent to Diyarbekir, 7000 to Siverek,
and 7000 to Mardin.533 When the Ministry found out that the allotments
were illegally exhausted by police chief Å~^eyhzÃ¢de Kadri Bey and by
the vice district governor of Mardin, an investigation was ordered.534
An other corruption scandal was uncovered in Silvan, where the civil
servants had neglected their work, causing many refugee-deportees
to starve and live under conditions of utter misery.535 The AMMU
headquarters soon found out that it was conscription officer of Silvan
Salih Efendi and mayor of Silvan CemilpaÅ~_azÃ¢de Adil Bey who were in
charge of the embezzlements. They had appropriated the daily rations
unequally, leaving the deportees "in an outrageously miserable and
wretched state" (fevkÃ¢lÃ¢de sefil ve periÅ~_an bir halde).536 Mayor
Adil Bey was discharged when the Ministry proved he had been secretly
selling sacks of rice, designated for the starving deportees, to the
population of Silvan for usurious prices.537 At the end of 1917 the
culture of embezzlement and moral bankruptcy, combined with economic
exhaustion triggered a national famine that struck the deportees in
particular. Locally, prices for bread, meat, sugar, salt, rice, wheat,
fat, tea, and coffee quintupled. Even local products 529 YaÅ~_ar Kemal,
YaÅ~_ar Kemal Kendini AnlatÄ±yor: Alain Bosquet ile GÃ¶ruÅ~_meler
(Ä°stanbul: YapÄ± Kredi YayÄ±nlarÄ±, 1999), p.22. For an other account
of refugee-deportees see: YÄ±ldÄ±rÄ±m Sezen (ed.), Ä°ki KardeÅ~_ten
Seferberlik AnÄ±larÄ± (Ankara: Kultur BakanlÄ±gÄ± YayÄ±nlarÄ±, 1999).
530 CigerxwÃ®n, JÃ®nenÃ®gariya min (SpÃ¥nga, Sweden: APEC, 1995),
531 Hans-Lukas Kieser, "Zwischen Ararat und Euphrat: abenlÃ¤ndische
Missionen im spÃ¤tosmanischen Kurdistan," in: Hans-Lukas Kieser (ed.),
Kurdistan und Europa: Einblicke in die kurdische Geschichte des 19.
und 20. Jahrhunderts (Zurich: Chronos, 1997), p.137.
532 Refik Halit (Karay), "Harb Zengini," in: Yeni Mecmua, vol.2-42
(2 May 1918), pp.301-2.
533 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 70/149, Ä°AMM to Diyarbekir, 30 November 1916.
534 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 70/237, Directorate for Employment to Diyarbekir,
12 December 1916.
535 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 69/191, AMMU to Diyarbekir, 5 November 1916.
536 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 71/53, AMMU to Diyarbekir, 21 December 1916.
89 of which there had been a surplus for ages, such as Diyarbekir
rice and watermelons, became very scarce.538 Although the AMMU
ordered deportation officials to be cautious of shortages,539
only in exceptional situations were the deportations cancelled or
postponed. For example, only when an entire convoy from BeÅ~_iri
became ill was their deportation postponed.540 Nevertheless, because
TalÃ¢t insisted on deportation, the AMMU was often unable to provide
even a minimal amount of food for the deportees. In Urfa, many Kurdish
children died of starvation due to too late arrival of the designated
amount of flour.541 In Sivas too, due to negligence "hundreds of
children were wandering around hungry and wretched" (yuzlerce cocugun
ac ve periÅ~_an dolaÅ~_tÄ±klarÄ±).542 When there was no food at all,
deportees ate doves, street cats and dogs, hedgehogs, frogs, moles,
snakes, and organs of slaughtered animals.543 In some extreme cases
the deportees saw no other option than to eat their own relatives who
had died on the road.544 Starvation was but one side of the problem,
adequate shelter was an other. When an Arab and Kurdish convoy was
deported from Diyarbekir westward, nearly the entire convoy froze to
death in the desert night.
The few remaining survivors were distributed among the local
villages.545 Finally, a socially sensitive problem was the moral
collapse of Kurdish communities, deported away. An Ottoman army
officer noted that out of dire helplessness, Kurdish women saw no
other option than "selling their bodies".546 The Kurdish politician
Memduh Selim Bey lamented after the war that many lonesome Kurdish
women resorted to "alcoholism" (muzkirat) and had no choice but to
engage in "prostitution" (fuhÅ~_iyat).547 As in the Armenian case,548
in Kurdish culture prostitution was unheard of until the ravages of
the First World War.549 The deportees often feared that they would
be integrally killed like the Armenians.
According to popular beliefs, the CUP elite had ostensibly agreed upon
first destroying the "zo" (the Armenians), whereupon they proceeded
to annihilate the "lo" (the Kurds).550 These fears were most acute in
the maverick Dersim district, the south of which had actively opposed
the 537 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 87/345, Ministry of War (General Directorate
for Supplies) to Diyarbekir, 30 May 1918.
538 Ahmad, Kurdistan [n.168], pp.131-32.
539 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 74/258, AMMU to Diyarbekir, 26 March 1917.
540 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 68/91, TalÃ¢t to Diyarbekir, 23 September 1916.
541 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 78/237, AMMU to Urfa, 30 July 1917.
542 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 78/242, AMMU to Sivas, 30 July 1917.
543 Hasan HiÅ~_yar SerdÃ®, GÃ¶ruÅ~_ ve AnÄ±larÄ±m 1907-1985 (Ä°stanbul:
Med, 1994), p.139.
544 Mehmed E. Zeki, Kurdistan Tarihi (Ä°stanbul: Komal, 1977),
p.168. This book was originally published in Arabic in Cairo in 1936
by an ethnically Kurdish officer who had served in the Ottoman army
during World War I.
545 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 82/180, AMMU to Diyarbekir, 25 December 1917.
546 Rafiq Hilmi, Yaddasht (Tehran: Mohammed-i Saqiz, 1987), pp.30-31.
547 Memduh SelimbegÃ®, "Hewar! – Ä°mdad!," in: JÃ®n, 22 May 1919, p.5.
548 The war had caused a moral calamity for surviving Armenian women
too, many of whom were unable to sustain themselves and therefore
ended up in the prostitution business. This even affected children as
"there was rampant child prostitution and rape along Turkey’s railroads
during this period. Children eight years old and even younger were
prostituted in these regions." Hilmar Kaiser, "Children’s fate during
the Armenian genocide," lecture at Eaton Hall (Glendale, CA), 7 October
2004. Fahriye YÄ±ldÄ±rÄ±m (Fexo for short) was an Armenian girl from
Diyarbekir who was saved from death in the genocide and absorbed into
a Kurdish family, where she was continuously denigrated as "Christian
slut" (qahpÃª fillan). Because of her extremely low social status,
being both an orphan and of Armenian descent, she saw no other option
than to prostitute herself from a young age. In the 1950s she became
a phenomenon in Diyarbekir when she eventually assumed control of
the Diyarbekir brothel. Naci Kutlay, "AcÄ± Gercekler – 2," in: Ozgur
Politika, 5 November 2003.
549 As the British agent Noel wrote: "In Kurdish there is no word
for a prostitute. In the Eastern districts she is euphemistically
referred to as a Persian, in the North as a Russian, in the south as
an Arab, and in the West as a Turk." Edward Noel, "The Character of
the Kurds as Illustrated by their Proverbs and Popular Sayings," in:
Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, vol.1 (1917-20), p.85.
550 The words ‘zo’ and ‘lo’ are derogatory expressions in Turkish
culture, referring to colloquial utterances in the Armenian and
Kurdish languages, respectively. Firat CewerÃ®, Li Mala MÃ®r Celadet
AlÃ® Bedir-xan (Stockholm: NÃ"dem, 1998), pp.71-75.
90 genocide. In July 1915 rumors spread around Dersim that the
Ottoman government would destroy the Kurds right after their
anti-Armenian campaign. TalÃ¢t immediately ordered counterpropaganda
to be disseminated.551 When the Dersimites were indeed deported a year
later, they sang lamentations, praying to God for survival and accusing
the Germans of deporting them.552 The rumors spread over to other
provinces as well, impelling some deportees to attempt escape from
the deportation convoys. Kurdish tribesmen from Mardin and Karacadag
apparently overheard they were to be deported to the interior and tried
to seek asylum among the ViranÅ~_ehir, BeÅ~_iri, and Savur tribes. They
were tracked down, captured, and deported.553 But even when they were
deported to the western provinces, some deportees still managed to
escape. In July 1917 tribesmen of the Hasanan tribe were deported
from Siverek to Istanbul. Five out of nine deportees escaped from
the convoys and were lost without a track.554 On arrival the Kurds
were seldom provided with sufficient material to make a living. As
the German officer Ludwig Schraudenbach wrote, not without sarcasm:
Die Turken verpflanzten damals Tausende von kurdischen Familien aus
ihren Bergen nach Adana. Sie sollten dort ‘Ackerbau treiben’. Der
k.u.k. Oberleutnant Schalzgruber wusste leider zu berichten, dass
oben im armenischen Taurus die Strassen gesÃ¤umt seien mit solchen
verhungerten oder verhungernden Kolonisatoren. Auch am Bahnhof
MamourÃ© kauerte eine Schar von ihnen, die robusten KÃ¶rper in Lumpen
gehullt, SÃ¤cke voll Pelze und Teppiche schleppend, KochtÃ¶pfe auf
die verlausten KÃ¶pfe gestulpt. Wird bei Adana wirklich etwas zu
ihrem Empfang organisiert sein? Wird ihnen Land, Vieh und Werkzeug
Oder wird man sie elend verkommen lassen?555 The third question could
be answered affirmatively. The Ottoman directorate for deportation was
predominantly interested in whether there were signs of any progress
with respect to the assimilation project. When a convoy of Kurds
arrived in Konya, the directorate ordered them settled and a report
prepared including information on their native region, language,
profession, and numbers.556 Although no systematic longitudinal
research has been conducted on the fate of the Kurdish deportees, it
seems that for most Kurds the deportation project has not produced much
result. Well into the 1990s, Kurdish and Zaza communities, e.g. living
in the Konya basin, preserved their tribal identities and languages.557
The deportations caused many Kurdish children to be orphaned. Many
of them had already been half-orphans as their fathers had died in
warfare. Their mothers and aunts tried to protect them from disease,
hunger, and violence, thereby often sacrificing themselves. The
government 551 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54-A/128, TalÃ¢t to the provinces of
Mamuret-ul Aziz, Erzurum, Diyarbekir, Bitlis, 25 July 1915.
552 Apparently, the Dersimites were aware of the fact that the 1916
Dersim deportations were suggested and initiated by Ottoman Chief
of Staff General Bronsart von Schellendorf. The deportees lamented:
"German, oh German / Why have you issued a decree on us / May your
honour be defiled German / You have brought ruin on our men / May
your house burn down German / You have uprooted our men."
(Alamani Alamani / Te cima mera qenÃ"nek dananÃ® / Ar di mala te kevÃ®
AlamanÃ® / Te paÅ~_iya mÃªran mera anÃ® / Mala te biÅ~_ewite AlamanÃ® /
Te kokÃª mÃªran mera anÃ®). Dersimi, HatÄ±ratÄ±m [n.504], pp.80-81.
553 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 69/156, AMMU to Diyarbekir, 1 November 1916.
554 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 78/142, TalÃ¢t to Diyarbekir, 16 July 1917.
555 Ludwig Schraudenbach, Muharebe: Der erlebte Roman eines deutschen
Fuhrers im Osmanischen Heere 1916/17 (Berlin: Drei Masken Verlag,
556 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 77/45, Ä°AMM to Adana, 6 June 1917.
91 ordered the establishment of an orphanage in Urfa to lodge orphans
of the Haydaran tribe. The construction of an orphanage in Diyarbekir
was not possible due to ‘turkification regulations’: no Kurdish
deportees, not even orphans, were to remain in that province.558 Only
the strongest and luckiest orphans survived the deportations. In Palu,
orphans were concentrated and needed to be deported. The AMMU knew
their deportation would result in their decimation, but it decided to
deport them anyway, adding that they were allowed to be nourished from
the Elaziz army depots.559 The same order was issued for Diyarbekir:
the Ministry of War was assigned to provide for widows, orphans, and
orphanages.560 In Mid-April 1918, when it had already become clear
that an Ottoman defeat in the war was only a matter of time, orphans
from Harput, Dersim and Palu were still instructed to march barefoot to
MaraÅ~_ and Elbistan.561 Naturally, the Kurdish deportations too demand
at least some quantitative data, although it would require a separate
study to calculate meticulously how many were deported. According to
the Ministry of Economy the total amount of all refugee-deportees
numbered well over a million.562 Quantifying the deportations is
difficult because many Kurdish tribesmen were deported together
with Kurdish refugees from the border provinces Erzurum, Van, and
Bitlis. In most accounts, the total number of 700,000 is mentioned,563
though there are no reliable statistics. According to one researcher,
roughly half of these 700,000 deportees died.564 A concrete example can
shed light on the death rate of the deportees. Celadet Ali Bedirxan,
a Kurdish intellectual met a group of Kurdish deportees and asked
them how many had survived the death marches. The answer he received
shocked him: the leader of the group answered that out of 787 people
that were deported from the village, 23 had survived.565 It is even
more difficult to determine precisely how many Diyarbekir Kurds were
deported. Ä°AMM/AMMU correspondence surmises some details on the
magnitude of the deportations.
In October 1916 the amount of refugees that had fled the provinces
of Bitlis and Van into Diyarbekir was estimated at 200,000.566 On
17 October 1916 the AMMU ordered the deportation of 15,000 Kurdish
refugees to Konya.567 In November 800 people were deported from Palu
to Siverek, an intra-provincial deportation.568 On 15 July 1917 40,000
Kurds were ordered deported from Diyarbekir to Konya and Antalya.569
Two weeks later, 40,000 refugees from Mardin were sent off to the east,
even though they were infected with contagious diseases and there
was a shortage of 557 "Aksaray Kurtleri" and "PolatlÄ± Kurtleri,"
in: BÃ®rnebÃ"n, vol.1 (1997), pp.11-25.
558 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 69/195, AMMU to Urfa, 5 November 1916.
559 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 84/169, AMMU to Elaziz, 27 February 1918.
560 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 85/290, Ministry of War (General Directorate for
Supplies) to Diyarbekir, 31 March 1918.
561 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 86/46, AMMU to Third Army Commander, 13 April 1918.
562 BOA, DUÄ°T, 14/28-3, Ministry of Economy memorandum (undated).
563 Kutlay, Ä°ttihat Terakki [n.486], p.272; Soviet Academy of Sciences
(ed.), Yeni ve YakÄ±n Cagda Kurt Siyaset Tarihi (Istanbul: PÃªrÃ®,
1998, transl. M. Aras), p.96.
564 Arshak Safrastian, Kurds and Kurdistan (London: Harvill Press,
1948), pp.76, 81.
565 SerdÃ®, GÃ¶ruÅ~_ ve AnÄ±larÄ±m [n.543], p.140.
566 Justin McCarthy, "Muslim Refugees in Turkey: The Balkan Wars,
World War I, and the Turkish War of Independence," in: Isis Press
and the Institute of Turkish Studies (Istanbul: Isis, 1993), p.96.
567 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 69/35, AMMU to Fourth Army Command, 17 October 1916.
568 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 70/74, AMMU to Mamuret-ul Aziz, 22 November 1916.
92 carriages.570 In spite of the deportations further to the west,
in April 1920, 35,940 refugeedeportees in Diyarbekir still had not
been settled.571 These figures suggest that tens of thousands of
Diyarbekir Kurds must have been deported to the western provinces.
3.2 Settlement of Muslims, 1917 Along with deporting Kurds from
Diyarbekir, the CUP also ordered non-Kurdish Muslims deported to
that province. This two-track policy would expedite the Turkification
process. Most of these settlers were Bosnian Muslims, Bulgarian Turks,
and Albanian Muslims that had fled the war and persecutions in the
Balkans. An other group of settlers were refugees from Bitlis and
Van, the Turkish ones being filtered out for immediate settlement
in Diyarbekir. At first the settler-deportees were lodged in the
Sincariye seminary, where other poor and miserable Diyarbekirites
were temporarily housed as well.572 These settlers were to be housed
in the empty Syriac and Armenian villages, mostly on the Diyarbekir
plain. Some were moved north and settled in Palu, others were settled
on the Mardin plain. Beginning in the summer of 1915, the settlement
policy continued until the end of the war.
The settlers that were deported to Diyarbekir were Muslims who had
sought asylum in the Ottoman Empire after the Balkan wars. Many of
them had lived in Istanbul in shabby dwellings, impoverished and
traumatized. When the war broke out, the CUP activated its plan
for ethnic reorganization and the settlers were incorporated in
it. The Albanians were but one group to be deported and settled. In
June 1915 the Ä°AMM ordered their "scattered settlement in order
for their mothertongue and national traditions to be extinguished
quickly".573 The Albanians were to be settled all over the empire,
including Diyarbekir province.574 The Bosnian refugees were to be
settled in Diyarbekir as well. On 30 June 1915 the Ä°AMM ordered
181 Bosnian families temporarily residing in Konya deported to
Diyarbekir and settled in its "empty villages".575 The next day,
the deportation and settlement of ethnic Turks from Bulgaria and
Greece was ordered from Ä°AMM headquarters.576 In the meantime, the
genocidal persecution of the Diyarbekir Christians was raging in
full force. While the Armenians and Syriacs were being massacred,
the Muslim settlers were on their way. However, preparations were
needed in Diyarbekir in order to lodge the settlers successfully.
On 17 June 1915 the Ä°AMM headquarters reiterated its request for
economic and geographic data on the emptied Armenian villages of
Diyarbekir. In order to send settlers to the province, the 569 BOA,
DH.Å~^FR 78/128 and 78/129, AMMU to Adana and Diyarbekir, 15 July 1917.
570 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 78/253, AMMU to Diyarbekir, 31 July 1917.
571 "MuhacirÃ®n," in: Ä°leri, 10 Nisan 1920.
572 The Sincariye medrese presently serves as the ‘Museum of
Archaeology and Ethnography’ in Diyarbekir city.
573 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54/216, Ä°AMM to Konya, 28 June 1915.
574 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54/246, Ä°AMM to Diyarbekir, 6 June 1915.
575 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54/246, Ä°AMM to Konya, 30 June 1915.
576 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54/246, Ä°AMM to Diyarbekir, 1 July 1915.
93 local capacity to absorb immigrants had to be determined.577 A
week later it ordered educational commodities to be provided for the
settlers: It is necessary to appropriate the schools of the towns and
villages that have been emptied of Armenians to Muslim immigrants to
be settled there. However, the present value of the buildings, the
amount and value of its educational materials needs to be registered
and sent to the department of general recordkeeping.578 This national
order was a warrant for the seizure of all Ottoman-Armenian schools
and their conversion into Ottoman-Turkish schools. School benches,
blackboards, book cabinets, and even paper and pens were allocated to
the yet-to-arrive settlers. The Commission for Abandoned Properties
was assigned to carry out this operation in Diyarbekir.579 The CUP
intended the deportation and settlement of Albanians, Bosnians, and
Turks to be a one-way trip into Diyarbekir province. Whether coming in
from the west or east, non-Kurdish settlers were expected to turkify
the province. Turkish refugees from Bayezid and Diyadin (Ararat region)
were selected from mixed convoys and directly settled in Silvan.
Their livelihood was financed from the ‘abandoned property
budget’.580 When non-Kurdish Ottoman refugees arrived in Diyarbekir
from Bitlis, they were the only ones who were allowed to be settled
in the provincial hinterland. They were Turkophone Ottomans and were
earmarked as ‘Turks’ by the CUP. Only in exceptional situations were
the refugees to be sent forth to Urfa, Antep, and MaraÅ~_.581 For
example, TalÃ¢t personally took care that MuÅ~_ deputy Ä°lyas Sami
and Genc deputy Mehmed Efendi were settled with their families in
Diyarbekir city.582 The AMMU systematically set aside the ‘abandoned
property’ for these settlers. In September 1916 it ordered "abandoned
buildings in Diyarbekir assigned to Turkish refugees coming from Van
and Bitlis".583 The CUP probably considered it very important that the
settlers remained in the province considering they reiterated this over
and over. On 9 November 1916 the AMMU warned provincial authorities
"to prevent by any means that the Turkish settlers in the province
be moved to other regions".584 Four days later the order was repeated
"with special emphasis".585 Even after the Russian army had imploded
and retreated in 1917 and when the Ottoman army swept all the way
into Baku, Turkish refugees in Diyarbekir were not allowed to return
to their native regions. The order was repeated in March 1918 586 and
in April 1918.587 The German official Von Luttichau saw that 577 BOA,
DH.Å~^FR 54/39, Ä°AMM to Diyarbekir, 17 June 1915.
578 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54/101, Ä°AMM to provinces, 22 June 1915.
579 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 54/331, Ä°AMM to Diyarbekir, 7 July 1915.
580 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 59/7, Ä°AMM to Diyarbekir, 14 December 1915.
581 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 61/121, Ä°AMM to Diyarbekir, 26 February 1916.
582 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 61/139, TalÃ¢t to Diyarbekir, 28 February 1916.
583 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 67/174, AMMU to Diyarbekir, 3 September 1916.
584 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 69/219, AMMU to Diyarbekir, 9 November 1916.
585 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 69/248, AMMU to Diyarbekir, 13 November 1916.
586 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 85/262, AMMU to Diyarbekir, 28 March 1918.
587 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 86/46, AMMU to Third Army Commander, 13 April 1918.
94 those settlers that secretly attempted to return to their
native regions "unterwegs zu Hunderten umkamen, weil sie kein Brot
hatten".588 The information on the settlements of the Muslim settlers
in the districts and towns of Diyarbekir province is sparse. Little
fieldwork has been conducted as to whether the settlers remained
in the designated towns and villages, or if they migrated somewhere
else. An Armenian survivor recalled how in the late summer of 1915
Turks were settled in Palu.
Local officials saw to it that the settlers were given the best
houses of the deported Armenians.589 According to a native of Palu,
in the Republican period Palu town had a Zaza, a Kurdish, and a
Turkish neighbourhood. The latter neighbourhood was populated by
"immigrants" (muhacir), most of them Pomacs from Thrace.590 Three
weeks after the Qarabash massacre the Ä°AMM ordered "the settlement
of the immigrants, the confiscation of movables and pack animals,
and the reporting of the population settled in emptied Armenian
villages".591 Colonel CemilpaÅ~_azade Mustafa took control of Qarabash
as Pomacs and Kurds were settled in that village.592 In Kabiye, all
property of the autochtonous Christians was seized and assigned to
the settlers: vinyards, watermelon fields, agricultural implements,
and even the carrier pigeons. The few survivors who dared to return
to their village were chased out by the Muslim settlers.593 Q’sor
village, on the Mardin plain, became a command post for the German
army in 1917. The Germans demolished the Syriac Catholic church and
built houses with its solid stones, settling Kurdish refugees from
the Karahisar region in the village.594 The village of Tell Ermen,
the Christian population of which had been integrally massacred in
July 1915, was repopulated with Circassians and Chechens. Since
the settlers already had ploughs and oxes, all they needed for
subsistence farming was seed. The Ministry of War was ordered to
provide the requisite seeds, distributing 1000 cups of barley and
300 cups of wheat from storage depots to the settlers.595 When the
Chechen population surpassed Tell Ermen’s capacity, the construction
of a new village for the Chechens was ordered in September 1918.596
An assessment of the settlement of these communities in Diyarbekir
province would produce rather ambivalent results. On the one hand
they met with hardship as they had difficulties acclimatizing to
the hot Mesopotamian climate, on the other hand they were protected
and well-provided for by the Ottoman government, and later by the
Turkish Republic. It also seems that their ‘Turkificational efficacy’
was overestimated by the CUP. Ninety years after the deportations,
it seems that most of the Bosnian, Albanian, and Turkish settlers in
Diyarbekir 588 PAAA, R14104, Karl Axenfeld to Embassy, 18 October 1918.
589 Kitabdjian (ed.), "RÃ©cit de Garabed Farchian" [n.326], p.288.
590 Suleyman YapÄ±cÄ±, Palu: Tarih-Kultur-Ä°dari ve Sosyal YapÄ±
(ElazÄ±g: Å~^ark Pazarlama, 2002), pp.208-11.
591 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 53/242, Ä°AMM to Diyarbekir, 5 June 1915.
592 Qarabashi, Dmo Zliho [n.199], p.85.
593 Jastrow, Die mesopotamisch-arabischen [n.255], p.346.
594 Ternon, Mardin 1915 [n.142], p.162.
595 BOA, DH.Ä°UM E-26/9, 27 December 1916.
596 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 91/197, AMMU to Diyarbekir, 22 September 1918.
95 province kurdified themselves more than that they turkified the
Diyarbekir Kurds. Besides the demographic preponderance of the Kurds,
ethnic intermarriages and economic ties have undoubtedly contributed
to this result.
3.3 The aftermath of the war, 1918 In October 1918 the Ottoman
Empire suffered a catastrophic defeat when all of its frontlines
disintegrated, triggering a sudden implosion of the army. On 30 October
1918 a truce was signed between Minister of Navy Huseyin Rauf Orbay and
the British Admiral Calthorpe, sanctioning unconditional surrender.597
Paralyzed by panic and defeatism, that next night the inner circle
of the CUP burnt suitcases full of documents, disbanded the CUP as a
political party, and fled on a German submarine to Odessa. The seven
escapees were the triumvirate (Enver, TalÃ¢t, Cemal), the doctors
Bahaeddin Å~^akir and NÃ¢zÄ±m, and two others.598 The power vacuum was
filled by the new Sultan Mehmed the Sixth (Vahdettin), Grand Vizier
Damat Ferit PaÅ~_a, and the Freedom and Coalition Party, the CUP’s
sworn enemy. They ruled the Ottoman Empire during the interregnum
(1918-1923) as long as the Istanbul government had sufficient actual
leverage in Anatolia.599 At that time Diyarbekir was severely gripped
by famine and local unrest.
TalÃ¢t had prolonged martial law in May 1918,600 but in reality
chaos ruled the province. Ottoman soldiers who had not been paid in
months raided villages, pillaging goods, and engaging in skirmishes
with the locals.601 A German report paraphrased the condition of
most eastern cities: "Unendlich viele verhungern. In jeder Stadt des
Ostens wiederholten sich die unertrÃ¤glichen Bilder des Elends auf der
Strasse".602 War and genocide had destroyed the very economic fabric
of Diyarbekir. As Ahmad noted in his monography on Kurdistan during
World War I: One may conclude that the four years of the First World
War brought the Kurdish people, including a considerable number of
Kurdish landowners and merchants, and their homeland, nothing but
destruction, homelessness, disease and devastation. It would not be
untrue to assert that no other people of the Near and Middle East
suffered so much misery or misfortune as the Armenians, the Assyrians
and the Kurds of the war.603 The damage to the economy was of a
great scope. The persecution of the Christians had amounted to the
destruction of the middle class, eradicating entire professions. A
French report stated that "le dÃ©part massif des chrÃ©tiens dont la
plupart Ã©taient des artisans et des commercants, 597 John Keegan,
The First World War [n.175], p.415; Erik-Jan Zurcher, "The Ottoman
Empire and the Armistice of Moudros," in: Hugh Cecil & Peter H. Liddle
(eds.), At the Eleventh Hour: Reflections, Hopes, and Anxieties at the
Closing of the Great War, 1918 (London: Leo Cooper, 1998), pp.266-75.
598 Aydemir, Enver PaÅ~_a [n.172], vol.II, p.497.
599 TarÄ±k Zafer Tunaya, Turkiye’de Siyasal Partiler, vol.2, Mutareke
DÃ¶nemi (Istanbul: Ä°letiÅ~_im, 1997), pp.29-61.
600 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 87/278, TalÃ¢t to Diyarbekir, 25 May 1918.
601 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 89/38, TalÃ¢t to the provinces of Elaziz, Diyarbekir,
and Erzurum, 7 July 1918.
602 PAAA, R14104, Karl Axenfeld to Embassy, 18 October 1918.
603 Ahmad, Kurdistan [n.167], p.136.
96 avait crÃ©Ã© une crise Ã©conomique importante dans la region".604
Before the war, 230 copper smiths produced 65,000 to 70,000 kilos
of copper in Diyarbekir province on a yearly basis. "Six hundred
masters and workers, all of them Christian, earned their living in
this industry, which yielded a net profit of 25 to 30 percent." After
the deportations and massacres only thirthy smiths remained in all of
the province, and production dropped to five percent of its pre-war
volume.605 The wine production in the region experienced a dramatic
downfall: the Syriac and Armenian winegrowers had been eliminated and
failed harvests only contributed to the ruination.606 The production
of wine by autochtonous Syriacs and Armenians no longer exists.607
The same fate befell the popular Diyarbekir shawl (puÅ~_i), originally
woven wÄ±th red cotton cloth by Armenians and Syriacs, which obviously
disappeared with the disappearance of its producers.608 Today,
traditional shawl production too is an extinct craft.609 According
to one scholar of the period, these economic ravages were even
more far-reaching because they were not limited to one generation:
"eighty-six years after the 1915 genocide of the Armenians, lands that
were once highly productive lie barren in eastern Turkey".610 After 1
November 1918, the flight of the seven CUP leaders caused a massive
outburst of bitter invective against the CUP. Public opinion was
disenchanted and blamed the CUP for the country’s misery. Although
most Ottomans were relieved the war had finally come to an end,
the opposition launched a witch-hunt against CUP leaders and
loyalists. With censorship lifted, Armenian newspapers published
detailed accounts of the massacres, exposing some of the CUP’s most
esoteric outrages. When CUP bureaucrats denied the killings, the noted
Circassian liberal patriot Hasan Amca published an article titled
"Well who killed hundreds of thousands of Armenians then?" Hasan’s
article unequivocally condemned the genocidal persecution of the
Armenians, shedding light on shocking events the public considered
beyond belief.611 Kurdish intellectuals too vented their anger on
CUP policies. Kemal Fevzi lamented that Kurdish villages had been
reduced to "open, graveless cemeteries" and blamed TalÃ¢t and his
consorts for the 604 Centre des Archives Diplomatiques de Nantes,
Mandat Syrie-Liban, 1er versement, no.1782, Turquie, compte-rendu de
renseignements, no.55, 27 December 1924, Beyrouth, exemplaire no.19,
"Le retour des chrÃ©tiens" (SR HassatchÃ©, d’aprÃ¨s un commercant
venu de Diarbekir), quoted in: VahÃ© Tachjian, La France en Cilicie
et en Haute-MÃ©sopotamie: aux confins de la Turquie, de la Syrie et
de l’Irak (1919-1933) (Paris: Karthala, 2004), p.260.
605 Charles Issawi, The Economic History of Turkey 1800-1914 (Chicago:
The University of Chicago Press, 1980), p.305. Three weeks before the
Ottoman defeat, TalÃ¢t ordered all remaining craftsmen (some of whom
had been exempted from destruction because of their skills) deported
to Diyarbekir, where they were concentrated in the inner city: BOA,
DH.Å~^FR 92/47, TalÃ¢t to Bitlis and Diyarbekir, 5 October 1918.
Therefore, well into the 1940s there were still Christian merchants
and craftsmen in Diyarbekir: Seyfi Alpan, "DiyarbakÄ±r’Ä±n Ekonomik
HayatÄ±na Toplu bir BakÄ±Å~_," in: Karacadag, vol.2, no.17 (20 June
1939), pp.11-14. The Armenian author MÄ±gÄ±rdic Margosyan is a child
of one of these few surviving families in Diyarbekir’s Armenian
neighbourhood Xancepek. He sketches a very nostalgic picture of his
youth in the 1940s, when he used to work in his uncle Khachador’s
smithy: MÄ±gÄ±rdic Margosyan, GÃ¢vur Mahallesi (Ä°stanbul: Aras,
606 Gustav Bredemann & Jakob Kunzler, "Uber den Weinbau und die
Aufbereitung der Trauben zu Wein und Traubenkonserven in Nordsyrien
und Obermesopotamien," in: Archiv fur Wirtschaftsforschung im Orient,
vol.4, no.1/2 (Berlin, 1919), pp.25-54.
607 Other than the state-produced wines in ElazÄ±g (Buzbag), the only
indigenous wine left in the region was the Syriac brand Circis in
Mardin province. However, the last Syriac winegrower Circis Yuksel was
shot dead in Mardin by the Kurdish Workers Party (PartÃ®ya KarkerÃªn
Kurdistan, PKK) on 19 September 1992. Zur Lage der Christen im Tur
Abdin (Linz: Freunde des Tur Abdin, 1993), p.2.
608 Ahmet TaÅ~_gÄ±n, "DiyarbakÄ±r’da Geleneksel Bir Meslek:
PuÅ~_icilik," in: Folklor Edebiyat, vol.35, no.3 (2003), pp.65-73.
609 Interview with Fuat Ä°plikci (aged 76) from Diyarbekir, conducted
in Turkish by Å~^eyhmus Diken in Diyarbekir (2003), published as:
"Fuat Ä°plikci," in: Diken, Diyarbekir [n.374], pp.263-86.
610 Roger W. Smith, "Scarcity and Genocide," in: Michael N.
Dobkowski & Isidor Walliman (ed.), On the Edge of Scarcity:
Environment, Resources, Population, Sustainability, and Conflict
(New York: Syracuse University Press, 2002), pp.140-41.
611 Cerkez Hasan, "Peki yuzbinlerce Ermeni’yi kim Ã¶ldurdu?" in:
Alemdar, 5 April 1919.
97 suffering of the Kurdish deportees.612 The oppositional journalist
Refi Cevat wrote: "These men don’t even deserve the gallows. Their
heads should be ripped off and paraded around on wood blocks for days
as a lesson!"613 The CUP defended itself, denying the genocide,
claiming that massive Armenian losses had never been official
policy. Writing from Berlin where he had fled to, TalÃ¢t claimed in
his memoirs there hadn’t been any systematic massacres and blamed the
Armenians for everything that had occurred to them. In an interview
he gave to the British agent Aubrey Herbert after the war, TalÃ¢t
tried to absolve himself from blame, trivializing the atrocities and
juxtaposing them with Armenian revenge acts.614 Cemal PaÅ~_a wrote an
article for the Frankfurter Zeitung in an attempt to rehabilitate his
reputation. Cemal wrote about the execution of Cerkez Ahmed that he
had ordered him arrested and court-martialled, the very moment he had
heard they had committed atrocities against the Diyarbekir Armenians
and had assassinated Zohrab and Vartkes.615 Cognizant of the fact
that exhibiting knowledge of the killings may have an incriminating
effect upon himself, Cemal did not mention that he executed Cerkez
Ahmed on direct orders of TalÃ¢t.
ZiyÃ¢ GÃ¶kalp too, denied the genocidal nature of the crimes committed
during wartime and refused calling them a "massacre" (kÄ±tÃ¢l), rather
describing them as a "combat" (mukatele).616 It is noteworthy that
during the armistice the massacres were only denied by CUP advocates
whereas many non-nationalists had a propensity to denounce the crimes.
Conversely, in a personal discussion with CUP party boss Mithat
Å~^ukru Bleda some time before the end of the war, Dr. Mehmed ReÅ~_id
freely spoke his mind about the killings during his governorship. When
Bleda asked ReÅ~_id how he, nota bene as a doctor, had had the heart
to cause the deaths of so many people, ReÅ~_id answered: Being a
doctor could not cause me to forget my nationality! ReÅ~_id is a
doctor. But he was born as a Turk. […] Either the Armenians were to
eliminate the Turks, or the Turks were to eliminate the Armenians. I
did not hesitate a moment when I was confronted with this dilemma. My
Turkishness prevailed over my profession. I figured, instead of them
wiping us out, we’ll wipe them out. […] On the question how I, as
a doctor, could have murdered, I can answer as follows: the Armenians
had become hazardous microbes in the body of this country. Well, isn’t
it a doctor’s duty to kill microbes? 617 On Bleda’s question whether
he feared ‘historical responsibility’, ReÅ~_id had answered: "Let
other nations write about me whatever history they want, I couldn’t
care less".618 In the turbulent period after the Ottoman defeat,
the Istanbul press portrayed Dr. ReÅ~_id as a monster. Suleyman Nazif
emphatically wrote that Dr. ReÅ~_id had "destroyed thousands of 612
Kemal Fevzi, "IssÄ±z KÃ¶y", in: JÃ®n, 4 June 1919, pp.1-3.
613 Alemdar, 12 March 1919, quoted in: Sina AkÅ~_in, Ä°stanbul
Hukumetleri ve Milli Mucadele (Ä°stanbul: Cem, 1976), p.199.
614 Alpay KabacalÄ± (ed.), TalÃ¢t PaÅ~_a’nÄ±n AnÄ±larÄ± (Ä°stanbul:
Turkiye Ä°Å~_ BankasÄ± Kultur YayÄ±nlarÄ±, 2000), pp.49-79, 159-60.
615 Frankfurter Zeitung, 9 March 1919.
616 Kocahanoglu, Ä°ttihat-Terakki [n.372], p.41.
617 SalÃ¢hattin GungÃ¶r, "Bir CanlÄ± Tarih KonuÅ~_uyor," (part 3)
in: Resimli Tarih MecmuasÄ±, vol.4, no.43 (July 1953), pp.2444-5.
618 Mithat Å~^ukru Bleda, Ä°mparatorlugun CÃ¶kuÅ~_u (Ä°stanbul: Remzi,
98 humans from all groups and religions by massacre".619 Much to
ReÅ~_id’s chagrin, this vivid demonization was persuasive to the
Ottoman population. In Istanbul, the horrors of Diyarbekir province
became known and dreadful details of ReÅ~_id’s ‘reign of terror’ became
the talk of the town. On 5 November 1918 the ex-governor of Diyarbekir
was arrested and after a brief prearrest placed in the maximum-security
Bekiraga prison, along with other CUP loyalists suspected of having
participated in the persecution of the Armenians.620 In an attempt
to clear his name, the arrogant and proud ReÅ~_id agreed on giving an
interview two days later, only to find out that the reporter omitted
any allusions and confronted him very directly with the crimes he
had committed in Diyarbekir, asking: They say you massacred more than
50,000 women, men, children, innocent people including three mayors,
and seized 300,000 pounds worth of gold cash and an equal amount of
jewels from them. How exaggerated is all of this?
– Lies, it’s all lies!
Reportedly you employed a murderer named Major RuÅ~_du Bey as commander
of 30 Circassians he had selected from his clan, to have these helpless
– I don’t know.
It is said you had the mayor of Lice town GiridÃ® Ahmed NesimÃ® Bey,
a distinguished reporter also famous in the world of literature
and publishing, and the vice mayor of BeÅ~_iri, SuveydizÃ¢de
Sabit Bey of the Baghdad elite, graduate of the School of Civil
Service, assassinated when they refused to carry out your order for
massacre. What is your defense?
– It’s all slander. Aren’t newspapers the source of defamation and
After your predecessor ex-governor Hamid Bey left, it is said you
had the helpless people of Mardin massacred without distinction of
religion and sect. Were those involved in these events your gendarmes?
– I have no knowledge of these things. Excuse me, if it’ll be like
this, I’ll walk away! 621 In prison, ReÅ~_id, vexed by kidney stones,
gradually lost touch with reality and became a nervous wreck. His
growing isolation reinforced his paranoia of Armenian and English
conspiracies. He kept a diary and wrote his memoirs in response to the
public disclosures on his governorship in Diyarbekir. ReÅ~_id escaped
on his way to the bathhouse on 25 January 1919 and went into hiding
at a CUP sympathizer. The ensuing odyssey of hiding bolstered his
frustration with clandestine life. Underfed, bitter, and desperate,
he shot himself in the mouth on the verge of arrest on 6 February
1919.622 The British government, whose "greatest concern was to
punish officials responsible for mistreating British prisoners of
war," insisted on a trial for the dozens of CUP cadres who had been
arrested and incarcerated.623 On 5 February, a day before ReÅ~_id’s
suicide, the ‘Extraordinary Court-Martial’ was established in the
capital Istanbul. The military tribunal set about several series of
trials in which the CUP was accused of "deportation and massacre" (
ØªÙ~GØ¬Ù~JØ&# xB1; Ù~H ØªÙ~BØªÙ~JÙ~D ), specifically of 619 Suleyman Nazif,
"Doktor ReÅ~_id," in: Hadisat, 8 February 1919.
620 Mehmed ReÅ~_id, "Gunluk," in: Bilgi, Dr. Mehmed ReÅ~_id [n.209],
621 Hadisat, 7 November 1918.
622 Feridun Kandemir, "Ä°lk Ä°ttihatcÄ±lardan Dr. ReÅ~_it’in
intiharÄ±," in: YakÄ±n Tarihimiz, vol.II (1962), pp.339-41.
623 James F. Willis, Prologue to Nuremberg: The Politics and Diplomacy
of Punishing War Criminals of the First World War (Londen: Greenwood
Press, 1982), p.154.
99 "robbery of money and goods, burning of houses and corpses, mass
murder, rape, persecution and torture". The court noted that "these
were not sporadic incidents but prepared by the forces of a center
consisting of the abovementioned persons and whose implementation was
ordered through oral and secret orders and instructions," and that
"these militias were employed to murder and destroy the convoys that
were subjected to deportation".624 Despite the hostile milieu, for
about a year the court-martial and its inquiry commissions tried to
function as best as they could. "It was able to secure, authenticate,
and compile an array of documents, including formal and informal orders
for massacre, implicating the Ottoman High Command, the Ministers
of Interior and Justice, and the top leadership of the Ä°ttihad
Party".625 However, due to negligence and obstruction by pro-CUP
elements in the bureaucracy the last sitting was held on 9 February
1920 and the juridical proceedings were abrogated.626 The manhunt
for blacklisted CUP officials was extended to the provinces too.
One of the first massacrers of Diyarbekir to be arrested after ReÅ~_id
was the Circassian militia leader Cerkez Harun. Harun was arrested
in Diyarbekir city but managed to flee on the way to Istanbul, but
he was arrested again around Sivas.627 Upon arrival in Diyarbekir
on 14 May 1919, the Eighth Inquiry Commission ordered the arrest
of the militia commanders, at that time de facto in charge of the
city. When the police tracked down YasinzÃ¢de Å~^evki, HalifezÃ¢de
Salih, and PirinccizÃ¢de SÄ±dkÄ± in front of the telegraph office,
the latter opened fire on the police in broad daylight and fled to
the countryside.628 Å~^evki fled to Qitirbil village.629 MuftuzÃ¢de
Å~^eref was besieged in his house but refused to surrender, opening
fire on the police that set off a skirmish for four hours.
When his father mufti HacÄ± Ä°brahim heard of the encounter he
rushed to the scene and brokered a deal: the parties agreed that
Å~^eref would lodge a statement at the police station in exchange
for his release.630 The mufti of Cizre Ahmed Hilmi, one of the main
organizers of the Cizre massacre, was ordered arrested.631 However,
the influential mufti enjoyed the protection of several powerful
Kurdish chieftains of the Cizre region and the government was unable
to undertake serious action to arrest him.632 In the end, the pursuit
for the war criminals did not produce much result for the government.
When the British government realized too many CUP members were
escaping from the Istanbul prison, it decided to deport 150 of the
most important ones to Malta in May 1919.633 The citadel on the island
was furnished as a prison for three groups of Ottoman prisoners:
group 624 Takvim-i VekÃ¢yi, no.3604, enclosure dated 22 July 1919,
transliterated in: Kocahanoglu, Ä°ttihat-Terakki [n.372], pp.515, 519.
625 Vahakn N. Dadrian, "The Turkish Military Tribunal’s Prosecution of
the Authors of the Armenian Genocide: Four Major Court-Martial Series,"
in: Holocaust and Genocide Studies, vol.11, no.1 (1997), pp.28-59.
626 For a study on the court-martials see: Anette HÃ¶ss, Die turkischen
Kriegsgerichtverhandlungen 1919-1921 (unpublished dissertation,
University of Vienna, 1991).
627 Bilgi, Dr. Mehmed ReÅ~_id [n.209], p.130, footnote 73.
628 Å~^evket Beysanoglu, "Mutareke ve MillÃ® Mucadele YÄ±llarÄ±nda
DiyarbakÄ&#x B1;r ve DÄ±yarbakÄ±rlÄ±lar,& quot; in: Kara-Amid, vol.15 (1982), p.72.
629 Years later, Å~^evki died in an accident in that same village he
had massacred in 1915. When he tried to descend from his mule his foot
got stuck in the stirrup and the animal dragged him away, trampling
him to death against the rocks. Kutlay, "AcÄ± Gercekler" [n.548].
630 Beysanoglu, Diyarbekir Tarihi [n.141], pp.831-32.
631 BOA, DH.KMS 50-2/4, Interior Ministry to Diyarbekir, 4 May 1919.
632 PRO, FO 371/4191, 9 April 1919, reproduced in: Mesut (ed.),
Ä°ngiliz Belgelerinde Kurdistan [n.450], p.29.
100 A for officials accused of having perpetrated massacres, group
B for officials accused of having condoned massacres, and group C
for officials who were not directly involved in the massacres.634
Among the Malta deportees were some of the key responsibles for
the atrocities committed in Diyarbekir. Aziz Feyzi, after ReÅ~_id
the second most important man in wartime Diyarbekir was arrested on
15 January 1919 and deported with Diyarbekir deputy Zulfu Tigrel,
first to Egypt and then to Malta. On arrival at the island Feyzi
was placed in group A, where he spent two years.635 According to a
cellmate, Feyzi was the most optimistic captive on Malta, predicting:
"We will drive our enemies into the sea, clang clang, you’ll see".636
Ex-mayor of Mardin and Governor of Diyarbekir Ä°brahim Bedreddin was
deported to Malta in February 1919 where he was surprisingly placed in
group C. On 6 September 1921, Aziz Feyzi, Ä°brahim Bedri and 14 other
inmates escaped from Malta and fled to Anatolia, where they joined
the Kemalist shadow-government, at that time on a meteoric rise to
national power.637 The successful escape was a serious loss of face
for the British government, for whom the prisoners became a burden.
"Believing reconciliation with the Nationalists necessary, the British
government in early 1921 dropped much of its policy on war crimes".638
It exchanged all remaining Malta captives for British prisoners of war,
and accepted Mustafa Kemal as the (new) ‘national leader’ of Turkey.
The main political problem in the aftermath of the war was the
territorial integrity of the empire. It was not only the CUP
that categorically rejected any Greek and Armenian claims on
Anatolia. Therefore, the occupation of Ä°zmir by Greek forces on 15
May 1919 was a catalyst for igniting a massive nationalist protest
among all echelons of Ottoman society. After a series of meetings,
CUP insiders launched Mustafa Kemal PaÅ~_a to the Pontus region
on 16 May 1919 to organize the national resistance in Anatolia.639
Kemal was already a legendary general when he arrived in the port
city of Samsun on 19 May. From there he contacted civil servants,
army officers, and Special Organization operatives, most of whom
were sympathetic to CUP nationalism, and tried to gain them for the
nationalist resistance. Kemal then co-organized two conferences, one
in Erzurum (23 July to 7 August) and one in Sivas (4 to 11 September),
both of which articulated the nationalist message that the Ottoman
Empire was an indivisible country. All form of mandate was rejected.640
The local branches of the Kemalist movement were made up of existing
networks of the ‘Society for National Defense’, in the east renamed to
‘Society for the Defense of National Rights in the Eastern Provinces’
(VilÃ¢yÃ¢t-Ä&# xB1; Å~^arkiye Mudafaa-Ä± Hukuk-u MillÃ®ye 633 "Deportation
of Turkish suspects: Eventual trial by allies," in: The Times,
5 June 1919.
634 PRO, FO 371/4175/163689, document no.2279/R/1315D, De Robeck to
Curzon, 6 December 1919.
635 Bilal Å~^imÅ~_ir, Malta Surgunleri (Istanbul: Bilgi, 1985), p.218;
for an English translation of this book see: Bilal Å~^imÅ~_ir, The
deportees of Malta and the Armenian allegations (Ankara: Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, 2003).
636 Ahmed E. Yalman, YakÄ±n Tarihte GÃ¶rduklerim ve Gecirdiklerim
(Ä°stanbul: Pera, 1971) vol.1 (1888-1922), p.558.
637 PRO, FO 371/6531, document no.382, Geneva, 23 September 1921.
638 Willis, Prologue to Nuremberg [n.623], p.161.
639 Erik-Jan Zurcher, The Unionist Factor: The Role of the Committee
of Union and Progress in the Turkish National Movement, 1905-1926
(Leiden: Brill, 1984), pp.106-17.
640 Å~^evket S. Aydemir, Tek Adam: Mustafa Kemal (Ä°stanbul: Remzi,
1966), vol.2 (1919-1922), pp.22-23.
101 Cemiyeti).641 With the convention of the Kemalist parliament
on 23 April 1920, there were two governments now: one in Istanbul,
and one in Ankara, each advocating different policies, accusing
each other of treason, and ultimately even condemning each other to
death. Perhaps the clearest breach between the two power centers
occurred when Istanbul agreed on signing the Treaty of SÃ¨vres on
10 August 1920. The treaty provided for an independent Armenia, for
an autonomous Kurdistan, and for a Greek presence in eastern Thrace
and the Aegean region.642 The Anatolian resistance interpreted this
as high treason and pledged they would never accept the conditions
stipulated under the SÃ¨vres treaty. They declared war on the Greek
and Armenian armed forces, and began a campaign to marshal as much
support as possible for the movement.
The ‘War of Liberation’ had begun.643 3.4 The Kemalists take control,
1919-1923 Diyarbekir province faced two social and political problems
in the interregnum: the revival of the ‘Armenian question’, and a
nascent Kurdish activism. The situation in the provincial capital
and in the towns at that time was precarious as many inhabitants were
insecure about what the future would hold. The pro-CUP urban elite,
having enriched itself with Christian property only 4 years ago,
was bearing the burden of a guilty conscience. The militia leaders
understood very well they were sought because of their involvement in
the organization and implementation of the genocidal persecution of the
Christians. They were also cognizant of the utterly criminal nature of
their actions, for which their categoric denial and resistance against
litigation provides sufficient proof. The outbreak of anti-CUP emotion
in the imperial capital and the return of dozens of Armenian survivors
to the province amplified existing fears of the possible establishment
of an Armenian state in the eastern provinces. This fear in turn
exacerbated existing hatred of Christians. For Kurdish nationalism,
the conditions were very favourable during the armistice period,
and nationalist organizations and newspapers mushroomed. Kurdish
nationalism simmered throughout a small but active group of Diyarbekir
Kurds. They demanded full independence for a Kurdish state comprised
of more or less the same eastern provinces Armenian nationalists
aspired to rule. An account of the Armenian and Kurdish questions in
Diyarbekir needs to address the local dynamics, as well as the way in
which the governments of Istanbul and Ankara perceived the two issues.
The few surviving Armenian, Syriac, and other Christians of
Diyarbekir were destitute and traumatized after the 1918 Ottoman
capitulation. Their land had been seized, their stores had been
demolished, their churches had been sacked, and their children had
Mehmed VI’s government in Istanbul, hostile to the CUP, did not
persecute the Armenians, and 641 Yavuz Aslan, TBMM Hukumeti:
KuruluÅ~_u, Evreleri, Yetki ve Sorumlulugu (Ankara: Yeni Turkiye
YayÄ±nlarÄ±, 2001), p.141.
642 Treaty of Peace with Turkey: signed at SÃ¨vres, August 10, 1920
(London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1920).
102 senators promised to bring justice to the "brutally massacred
Armenians, the deported Arabs, the orphans and widows".644 These
words were put into practice as the government allowed the Christians
to return to their homes and tried its best to remedy the past
wrongs. Ahmet Ä°zzet PaÅ~_a, ex-commander of the Second Army in
Diyarbekir and now Minister of Interior, ordered all local authorities
"to deliver Armenian orphans to Armenian community organizations".645
A week later he ordered several national decrees for all land and
goods to be restored to their rightful owners in the case they had
returned to their homes and demanded their property.646 Where organized
Armenian life was weak, relief was offered by the American Committee
for Armenian and Syrian Relief, later dubbed Near East Relief.647 As
in other cities of the country, an orphanage was set up in Diyarbekir,
where Armenian and Syriac orphans were cared for.648 The government
also attempted to help the kidnapped girls and women who were held
against their will in Muslim households. An Armenian survivor named
Ohannes complained that his wife Populu (who had been converted into
‘Fehmiye’ in the genocide) was being held in the house of Butcher
Halil in Nusaybin against her will. Ohannes accused Halil of having
massacred his family and kidnapped his wife, thereby demanding his
wife to return to him.649 An Armenian girl named Lucia Alyanakian
had been living in the house of the Mardin notable HacÄ±gÃ¶zuzÃ¢de,
who had either saved her from death or converted her to an additional
wife. The Istanbul government found out her mother Zaruhi Tomasian
was alive in Diyarbekir and ordered Lucia delivered to her mother.650
Anyone in Diyarbekir who had committeed crimes against the Christians
was embarassed by the Sultan’s policy. Those who were utterly hostile
to the non-Muslims in the province, notably CUP remnants, now declared
loyalty to the Kemalist movement because of their mutual interests. The
Kemalists, too, needed to consolidate their position in Diyarbekir
and the existing CUP infrastructure proved ideologically congruent
and pragmatically useful.
Colonel Mustafa Bey of the noted Kurdish CemilpaÅ~_azÃ¢de dynasty
(an important actor in the Special Organization militia his supervisor
the late Dr. ReÅ~_id had organized in 1915) was a capable manager of
the intrigues and differences of opinion in the Diyarbekir elite.651
On 22 May 1919 he convened the first meeting of the notables in the
large salon of the town hall. The men agreed on founding a local
nationalist resistance faction named ‘Society for Defense of the
Nation’ (Mudafaa-Ä± Vatan Cemiyeti). Among its members were deputy
Zulfu’s brother Ä°hsan Hamid (Tigrel), mufti HacÄ± 643 Zeki SarÄ±han,
KurtuluÅ~_ SavaÅ~_Ä± Gunlugu (Ankara: Ogretmen DunyasÄ± YayÄ±nlarÄ±,
1982-1986), 3 volumes.
644 For excerpts of Senator Ahmet RÄ±za’s speech in the Ottoman senate
see: Tunaya, Turkiye’de Siyasal Partiler [n.64], p.199.
645 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 95/163, Ahmet Ä°zzet to provinces, 18 January 1919.
646 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 95/256, Ahmet Ä°zzet to provinces, 26 January 1919;
BOA, DH.Å~^FR 96/195, Ahmet Ä°zzet to provinces, 15 February 1919;
BOA, DH.Å~^FR 96/248, Ahmet Ä°zzet to provinces, 20 February 1919.
647 Near East Relief, Annual Report (New York: Near East Relief
Headquarters, 1920). The organization was later renamed Near East
Foundation, see: <;.
648 Robert L. Daniel, American Philanthropy in the Near East 1820-1960
(Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1922), p.169; Interview with Meryem
Krikorian (aged Â±75) from SatÄ±kÃ¶y village (Diyarbekir province),
conducted in Turkish in Amsterdam on 16 December 2004.
649 BOA, DH.EUM.AYÅ~^ 27/10, Governor of Diyarbekir Faik Ali to
Interior Ministry, 26 November 1919.
650 BOA, DH.Å~^FR 92/209, Directorate for General Security to
Diyarbekir, 15 June 1919.
651 Mahmut Gologlu, MillÃ® Mucadele Tarihi (Ankara: BaÅ~_nur, 1969),
vol.2 (Sivas Kongresi), p.123.
103 Ä°brahim (Ulug), ex-mayor of Maden Dr. Osman Cevdet (Akkaynak),
HacÄ± Niyazi (CÄ±kÄ±ntaÅ~_), Mustafa Ã~Bkif (Tutenk), PirinccizÃ¢de
SÄ±dkÄ± ; (TarancÄ±), and CemilpaÅ~_azÃ¢de KasÄ±m Bey.652 Out of protest
against the occupation of Ä°zmir and a possible Armenian state in
the eastern provinces, the group sent a telegram to the Istanbul
government, containing the following denunciation to Grand Vizier
Damat Ferit PaÅ~_a: "The eastern provinces are no inherited property
from your Albanian father for you to render to the Armenians".653 The
Diyarbekir Society had now taken a stance and had openly flirted with
It did not take long for an answer to dawn on the Kemalist shadow
government. On 1 June 1919 Mustafa Kemal asked the governor of
Diyarbekir, Faik Ali Bey, whether a local branch of the Society for
the Defense of National Rights in the Eastern Provinces had been
founded. Vice Governor Mustafa Nadir replied that no other party
than the Freedom and Coalition Party existed in Diyarbekir.654 The
Diyarbekir elite now knew enough: they unilaterally had their own
organization merge with the Kemalist mainstream and renamed it Society
for the Defense of National Rights in the Eastern Provinces, appointing
militia major YasinzÃ¢de Å~^evki leader of the Society. The Diyarbekir
elite was now allowed to send deputies to the Kemalist power center,
which willingly accepted the allegiance. The Society elected mufti
HacÄ± Ä°brahim (Ulug), NÃ¢zÄ±m (Onen), Bekir SÄ±dkÄ± (Ocak), and
CirciszÃ¢de Abdulgani (GÃ¶ksu).655 This political dichotomy between
Istanbul and Ankara caused confusion among local officials. Vice
Governor Mustafa Nadir, confronted with two governments giving
contradictory orders, on 21 June forwarded Mustafa Kemal’s orders
to the Istanbul government and requested instructions on what to
do. Istanbul answered: "Mustafa Kemal PaÅ~_a has been discharged from
office and his movement is illegal.
His orders need to be rejected. Immediately report the purpose of the
Erzurum congress".656 However, it was too late for words of reproach
since the symbiosis between the Kemalist resistance and the residual
CUP elite of Diyarbekir was realized.
Ankara needed the Diyarbekir elite to implement its policy on the
Armenians, which was marked by the equation of Armenian claims on
Anatolia with ‘western imperialism’. As Mustafa Kemal explained
in response to a question on the Armenians: "We cannot prohibit
individuals to enter the country. Apart from the Armenians, the
Chaldeans and Assyrians want this land too. If we have to provide
all of them a homeland there won’t be any left for us. That’s how
much land they are demanding".657 In response to Istanbul’s policy,
the Ankara government launched a new 652 Mustafa Ã~B. Tutenk, "1919
MayÄ±sÄ±nda DiyarbakÄ±r’da kurulan MillÃ® Cemiyet ve ToplantÄ±larÄ±,"
in: Kara-Amid, vol.2 (1957), p.327; Ataturk’un SÃ¶ylev ve Demecleri
(Ä°stanbul: Turk Ä°nkÄ±lÃ¢p Tarihi Enstitusu YayÄ±nlarÄ±, 1945),
653 Diyarbekir Society for the Defense of National Rights in the
Eastern Provinces to Interior Ministry, 22 May 1919, reproduced
in: Mustafa Ã~B. Tutenk, "Mutarekeden Sonra," in: Kara-Amid, vol.2
654 Mustafa Kemal to Diyarbekir, 1 June 1919, and Mustafa Nadir
to Mustafa Kemal, 8 June 1919, both reproduced in: Mustafa Kemal
(Ataturk), Nutuk (Ä°stanbul: MillÃ® Egitim BasÄ±mevi, 1973), vol.3
(Vesikalar), appended documents no.3 and 8.
655 Gologlu, MillÃ® Mucadele [n.651], pp.235-36.
656 Mustafa Nadir to Interior Ministry, 21 June 1919, Interior
Ministry to Diyarbekir province, 9 July 1919, and Governor Faik Ali
to Interior Ministry, 12 July 1919, all reproduced in: Yunus Nadi,
KurtuluÅ~_ SavaÅ~_Ä± AnÄ±larÄ± (Ä°stanbul: CagdaÅ~_ YayÄ±nlarÄ±,
1978), pp.95, 107-8.
657 Mustafa Kemal, EskiÅ~_ehir-Ä°zmit KonuÅ~_malarÄ± (1923) (Ä°stanbul:
Kaynak, 1993), p.114.
104 turkification campaign and gradually expelled genocide survivors
and returnees southward.658 Since efforts to prosecute the Diyarbekir
elite had failed, men like MuftuzÃ¢de Å~^eref and (after his escape)
Aziz Feyzi regained local power and were employed for this purpose.
The campaign began producing results in 1923 and culminated in the
expulsion of thousands of Syriacs and Armenians in the summer of
the following year.659 After this final blow, the number of Armenian
families still living in the city could be counted on the fingers of
one hand. Anything Armenian had largely been wiped off the political
and social map of Diyarbekir province.
The second problem the Kemalists faced was the much more serious
threat of Kurdish nationalism. In essence, Kurdish politics in the
interregnum was marked by competition between the Kemalists and the
British for the loyalties of local Kurdish elites.
British intelligence officers had noticed that this had led to the
creation of two Kurdish nationalisms in Diyarbekir province: one
‘genuine’ nationalist movement advocating an autonomous Kurdish state
under British protection, and an other, anti-Christian group allied to
the CUP and more and more to Mustafa Kemal.660 Whereas the first group
was made up of Kurdish tribesmen, some clergy, and European-educated
Kurdish intellectuals, the second group comprised "Turko-Kurds [who
are] convinced that if they shout loud enough, President Wilson
will hear and allow them to mismanage Diarbekir by themselves".661
A low-intensity struggle between these two factions had been raging
during the war, but with the capitulations the conflict came to the
surface. The parties understood their services were needed and did
their utmost to secure their interests by bargaining with the Istanbul
government, the British, and the Kemalists.
Besides this dichotomy, the Kurdish question was strategically
connected to the Armenian question and therefore it was in the interest
of both the CUP and the Kemalists to use the Kurds as a buffer against
a possible Armenia, and vice versa, for Armenian nationalists to use
the Kurds as a buffer against Ottoman territorial claims on their
national project.662 The Kurdish nationalist movement in the armistice
period was headed by the ‘Society for the Advancement of Kurdistan’
(Kurdistan TeÃ¢li Cemiyeti, KTC), a nationalist committee founded
in Istanbul on 17 December 1918.663 One of its most active members
was Ekrem Cemil (1891- 1974) of the Kurdish CemilpaÅ~_azÃ¢de dynasty,
who co-founded the Diyarbekir branch of the KTC. The CemilpaÅ~_azÃ¢de
were torn between pro-Kurdish and pro-Turkish politics, as his own
658 T.H. Greenshields, The Settlement of Armenian Refugees in Syria
and Lebanon, 1915-1939 (unpublished dissertation, University of
659 Tachjian, La France en Cilicie [n.604], pp.254-58.
660 PRO, FO 371/4192, document no. 106843, 24 July 1919, reproduced
in: Mesut (ed.), Ä°ngiliz Belgelerinde Kurdistan [n.450], p.66.
661 Noel, Diary of Major E. Noel [n.282], part 2, p.6.
662 According to one source, the Istanbul government had not only
allowed but actively stimulated the establishment of a Kurdish
nationalist club to counter Armenian-nationalist claims on Eastern
Anatolia. Ergun Aybars, Ä°stiklal Mahkemeleri: YakÄ±n Tarihimizin
Gercekleri (Ä°stanbul: Milliyet, 1997), pp.308-9. The Kemalist
government delegated the task of quelling Kurdish nationalism to
General KÃ¢zÄ±m Karabekir. After brief inspections Karabekir noted
that "the [Kurdish] question can be handled easily by threatening
that Kurdistan could become Armenia". KÃ¢zÄ±m Karabekir, Kurt Meselesi
(Ä°stanbul: Emre, 2000), p.172. Kurdish nationalists were not reluctant
to oppose Armenian claims either. Nuri Dersimi even went as far as
to depict KTC chairman Abdulkadir as a Turkish agent who allegedly
exploited Kurdish nationalism as an anti-Armenian instrument for
his own ends; Dersimi, HatÄ±ratÄ±m [n.504], p.104. Whether this was
exaggerated or not, the fact remained that in the interregnum it was
in the common interest of both the Istanbul government, the Ankara
government, and Kurdish nationalists to preclude the establishment
of an independent Armenia in the eastern provinces.
105 uncle Colonel Mustafa Bey was at that time active in the
pro-Kemalist resistance in Diyarbekir city. Ekrem began disseminating
propaganda among the Kurdish tribal leaders in the province,
founded a local branch of the KTC and began visiting chieftains
to convince them of the need to rebel against the state in favour
of an independent Kurdistan.664 The British government supported an
autonomous Kurdistan under British mandate and sent Major Edward Noel
to collect intelligence on the feasibility of a Kurdish state. Noel
met Ekrem in June 1920 in Diyarbekir and together they toured the
region, Ekrem showing Noel around in the hope the latter would foster
sympathy for the Kurdish national cause.665 The police department in
Kharput was disturbed by Ekrem’s activities in Diyarbekir and wired
a telegram to the Diyarbekir police, urging them to incarcerate Ekrem
and take precautions against the KTC.
Besides closing the local branch of the KTC in Diyarbekir, all
documents were to be confiscated.666 On the international level,
Kurdish nationalism was underrepresented in comparison to the
Armenians. The Ottoman army officer Å~^erif PaÅ~_a (1865-1951) took
on the task of representing the Kurds on the international arena of
nations. He signed a pact with the Armenian nationalist Boghos Nubar
(1851-1930) which was in essence an anti-Turkish agreement and an
attempt to create a joint Kurdo-Armenian lobby.667 Whereas Boghos Nubar
headed the Armenian national delegation, Å~^erif PaÅ~_a had declared
himself president of a future Kurdistan on 29 July 1919.668 Å~^erif
had published a memorandum for the national independence of Kurdistan,
presenting it at the Treaty of Versailles.669 On 31 August 1919,
the KTC in Istanbul wrote a letter to the British government. Their
chairman pleaded for the Wilson principles to be applied to the
Kurdish nation and formulated two concrete demands. First, the Kurdish
deportees "who have been victims of famine, destruction, and Turkish
assimilation", needed to be delivered to their native regions. Second,
the chairman urged the British government to put pressure on the
Ottoman authorities to lift sanctions on Kurdish societies and
political parties.670 All of this nationalist liveliness needed
to develop into serious action in order for the claims to be taken
seriously by adversaries and the great powers. A year before the KTC
launched its nationalist campaign, AlikÃª BattÃª of the HevÃªrkan tribe
rebelled against the government. On 11 May 1919 he opened hostilities
with a surprise attack on a group gendarmes, but he was isolated in a
barn in Medah village. On 18 August 1919 the (in)famous chieftain died
of a mortal wound incurred in the battle, and his body was hung in the
Midyat square to serve as a deterrent.671 The 663 Ä°smail GÃ¶ldaÅ~_,
Kurdistan TeÃ¢li Cemiyeti (Ä°stanbul: Doz, 1991), p.12.
664 Ekrem Cemil PaÅ~_a, Muhtasar HayatÄ±m (Brussels: Kurdish Institute,
665 Noel, Diary of Major E. Noel [n.282], part 3, p.2.
666 BOA, DH.EUM.AYÅ~^ 11/24, Elaziz Police Department to Diyarbekir
Police Department, 2 June 1919.
667 Rohat Alakom, Å~^erif PaÅ~_a: Bir Kurt DiplomatÄ±nÄ±n FÄ±rtÄ±nalÄ±
YÄ ±llarÄ± (Ä°stanbul: Avesta, 1998), p.98.
668 PRO, FO 371/4192, document no. 126007, 6 September 1919, reproduced
in: Mesut (ed.), Ä°ngiliz Belgelerinde Kurdistan [n.450], p.87.
669 ChÃ©rif Pacha, Revendications de la Nation kurde (Paris: Imprimerie
A.-G. L’Hoir, 1919).
670 KTC Chairman Memduh Selim Bekir to British High Commissioner, 31
August 1919, in: PRO, FO 371/4192, document no. E135258, reproduced
in: Mesut (ed.), Ä°ngiliz Belgelerinde Kurdistan [n.450], pp.95-97.
671 Kenan Esengin, MillÃ® Mucadele’de HÄ±yanet YarÄ±Å~_Ä± (Ankara:
Ulusal, 1969), pp.40-45.
106 next day the governor of Diyarbekir reported his death to
the Istanbul government.672 In May 1920, Cemil Ceto, brother of
the equally notorious brigand BiÅ~_arÃª Ceto and chieftain of the
PencÃ®naran tribe, rebelled against the Ottoman government. However,
conform the usual mechanisms in Kurdish tribal life, their rivals,
the ReÅ~_kotan tribe, opposed Cemil’s forces and the rebellion was
quashed in its incipient phase. Cemil surrendered with his four sons
on 7 June 1920.673 In that same month, the large MillÃ® tribe in the
west of the province rebelled when the French army attempted to regain
the city of Urfa in the southwest. Their chieftain Mahmud was not
really a Kurdish nationalist but had established contact with Major
Noel, who considered him an eligible candidate as Kurdish national
representative.674 Mahmud wanted to profit from the opportunity and
gain local control and power for his tribe. The MillÃ® attacked with
3,000 mounted tribesmen and shortly captured ViranÅ~_ehir, but the
rebellion was subdued and Mahmud’s men were repelled into the Syrian
desert.675 In the end, the Kurdish rebellions did not produce much
results due to little perseverance, tribal interests and cleavages,
and superior counterforce.
For the Kemalist movement, Kurdish nationalism was a strategic
liability and needed to be quelled. Due to their organic links with the
CUP, the Kemalists inherited their suspicion of Kurdish politics from
their predecessors, the CUP. Psychological warfare and disinformation
campaigns were one side of this policy, and cajolery and recruiting
of loyal chieftains the other.
After the CUP elite fled on a German submarine, the pro-CUP Ottoman
parliament issued a decree for the establishment of a committee,
relegated to "write brochures to prove the historical existence of
Turks and immigrants in Syria, Iraq, Aleppo,676 and Eastern Thrace,
and to collect information on the Kurdish element".677 Turkish
nationalists such as Dr.
RÄ±za Nur (1879-1942) and ZiyÃ¢ GÃ¶kalp (1876-1924) had already
proposed to squelch any sign of dissent and solve the Kurdish question
through assimilation and deportation. During the interregnum,
Dr. RÄ±za Nur was Minister of Health and Social Welfare in the
Kemalist government. He wrote in his memoirs: The Kurdish question
troubles me. There’s nothing going on yet but one day they will rise
for the national cause. They need to be assimilated. I commenced
my research. I requested books on assimilation methods. I located
books on Kurds. I sent money to Ziya GÃ¶kalp in Diyarbekir and had
him research the geographic, linguistic, ethnic, social situation of
the Kurds. He sent a report. It was my intention to solve the problem
at its roots before it became a Macedonia.678 672 BOA, DH.EUM.AYÅ~^
19/6, 19 August 1919, Governor of Diyarbekir to Interior Ministry.
673 KevirbirÃ®, FilÃ®tÃª QÃ"to [n.134], p.18.
674 Noel, Diary of Major E. Noel [n.282], part 2, p.4.
675 Ali E. Toksoy, MillÃ® Mucadelede Mardin (Ä°stanbul: Resimli Ay
MatbaasÄ±, 1939), pp.45-47.
676 Although Mosul has gotten attention from Turkish authors, the
case of Aleppo is touched upon by the eccentric Ottoman author Kadir
MÄ±sÄ±roglu. MÄ±sÄ±roglu was disenchanted when the Treaty of Lausanne
assigned Aleppo to the Arabs, claiming that Turkish culture was the
dominant culture in Aleppo since time immemorial. Kadir MÄ±sÄ±roglu,
Lozan zafer mi hezimet mi? (Ä°stanbul: Sebil, 1971), vol.2, pp.405-24.
677 BOA, MV 213/30, 26 November 1918.
678 RÄ±za Nur, HayatÄ±m ve HatÄ±ratÄ±m (Ä°stanbul: n.p., 1968),
107 GÃ¶kalp’s report on the Diyarbekir Kurds was titled "Sociological
Research on the Diyarbekir Tribes," numbered 99 pages, and was
partially published in his own journal Kucuk Mecmua. In this report
GÃ¶kalp used historical events as evidence for his claim that "as a
result of thousand years of common religion, history, and geography
Turks and Kurds have united both materially and spiritually".679
GÃ¶kalp further sought to prove that Kurdish was not a language in
itself but a dialect of Turkish, which lead him to conclude that the
population of Diyarbekir were Turkish.680 However, because it was a
glaring fact that most people in Diyarbekir spoke Kurdish, according
to GÃ¶kalp they needed to be forcefully assimilated: "When two nations
sharing religion live side by side, one of them will assimilate the
other. This is called assimilation (dÃ©nationalisation).
Assimilation appears when a nation eliminates an other nation’s
language and replaces it by its own language".681 GÃ¶kalp’s theories
served as a stepping stone for Kemalist policy toward the Kurds. It
is also important to note that again, Diyarbekir was singled out for
Turkification: in no other province there was a specific attack on
the Kurdishness of the region.
In order for these theories to be successful, they needed to be
translated into action. The Kemalists quickly took measures to
counter Kurdish nationalism, masking their real intentions and
secret agenda. Right after his emission to Samsun, Mustafa Kemal
wrote in a telegram to the Diyarbekir notables: I cannot endorse the
theory of Kurds breaking away from the state and forming a Kurdistan
under auspices of the English. Because this theory is undoubtedly
concocted by the English for the benefit of Armenia. […] I am a
staunch supporter of giving all necessary rights and concessions to
ensure that our Kurdish brothers have all resources for their freedom,
welfare, and advancement.682 British intelligence was aware of this
and reported to London that "despite their aversion against the
Turks, the establishment of an independent Armenia will drive the
Kurds into the arms of the CUP".683 Indeed, at least in Diyarbekir
the local Kurds did not seem to be a threat to neither the Ottoman
state nor the Kemalist entity. On 14 October 1919 the Diyarbekir
notables wired a joint declaration to the Interior Ministry, pledging
that the Kurdish nation had been loyal to the Ottoman sultanate and
caliphate for centuries, and rejecting separatism.684 However, Kurdish
nationalists like Ekrem Cemil were carefully observed in the city, and
in January 1920 the local CUP elite had ordered the Diyarbekir police
department to prepare a report on Kurdish and Armenian nationalist
activity in the province. The police department sent the report to
the 679 ZiyÃ¢ GÃ¶kalp, "Turkler’le Kurtler," in: Kucuk Mecmua, vol.1
(5 June 1922), p.11.
680 ZiyÃ¢ GÃ¶kalp, "Millet Nedir?," in: Kucuk Mecmua, vol.28 (25
December 1922), pp.1-6.
681 In this article GÃ¶kalp refers to the French nation-building
process, using the example of the incorporation and assimilation of
the Gauls and the Gallic language to demonstrate that similar action
needed to be taken against the Kurds and Kurdish. His use of the French
term dÃ©nationalisation is derived from this analogy. ZiyÃ¢ GÃ¶kalp,
"Ä°stimlÃ&# xA2;l," in: Kucuk Mecmua, vol.29 (1 January 1923), pp.1-6.
682 Ataturk’un Butun Eserleri (Ä°stanbul: Kaynak, 1999), vol.2
683 Major French to Headquarters, 3 October 1919, reproduced in:
Mesut (ed.), Ä°ngiliz Belgelerinde Kurdistan [n.450], p.99.
684 BOA, DH.EUM.AYÅ~^ 27/136, Diyarbekir clergy, middle class, and
municipality to Interior Ministry, 14 October 1919.
108 Interior Ministry and listed the names of Kurds involved in
separatist nationalism.685 Two months later the Diyarbekir elite
reasserted that "the population of Diyarbekir province will live and
die for the Islamic caliphate and Ottoman sultanate until eternity".686
A similar telegram was issued from Midyat, where a group of pro-CUP
notables vehemently protested against Å~^erif PaÅ~_a acting as a
Kurdish representative and collaborating with Armenian nationalists.
Like the Diyarbekir elite, the Midyat notables declared their
unconditional loyalty to the government and the sultanate.687
It seemed that Kurdish nationalism was too weak in Diyarbekir to
pose a serious threat to the Ankara government. Nevertheless, the
Kemalists were not satisfied and did not want to take any risks or
take Kurdish loyalty for granted. Mustafa Kemal contacted several
chieftains from the Silvan and Hazro regions and praised them for
their patriotism, promising them profit and glory in exchange for
loyalty. Men involved in the genocidal persecution of the Christians
such as the Kurdish chieftain SadÄ±k Bey were particularly interested
in further collaboration with the authorities and agreed on supporting
the Kemalists.688 The threat of Kurdish nationalism now no longer
needed to be considered with diplomacy. Therefore, Mustafa Kemal
ordered Ekrem Cemil arrested and incarcerated in Ankara, where he
stayed until late 1922, when the Kemalists emerged victorious.689
The power the CUP elite and the Kemalists exerted over Diyarbekir
province was now total. This situation simmered for a couple of years
until Kurdish discontent with Kemalist policy boiled over and caused a
rebellion in 1925.690 The Ottoman interregnum was marked by the power
struggle between Istanbul and Ankara and the threat of independent
Armenian and Kurdish states. The CUP continued its mission to create
a homogeneous state and transmuted into the Kemalist movement. This
meant that the ‘War of Liberation’ was in fact the climax of a decade
of intensive Turkification by successive CUP governments. As has been
noted, already in 1914 there were plans to continue fighting in case
of a defeat, and in 1917 TalÃ¢t had literally called the war "a war
of independence and liberation". A breakthrough in this deadlock was
reached when the Kemalists ‘gained the right’ to form a nation state:
on the one hand they skillfully monopolized all means of violence,
on the other hand they were accepted by the western-led system of
nation states by virtue of their outward national presentation. Even
though all the CUP wanted was to retain what was left of the Ottoman
Empire, it had homogenized the country in the time span of a single
decade and laid the foundations of a unitary nation state, the Turkish
Republic. Neither the Armenian, nor the Syriac, 685 BOA, DH.EUM.AYÅ~^
29/104, Diyarbekir police department to Interior Ministry, 7 January
686 Meclis-i Ayan ZabÄ±t Ceridesi, 15th meeting, 1 March 1920,
687 BOA, DH.EUM.AYÅ~^ 33/74, Midyat notables to Interior Ministry,
1 March 1920.
688 For two telegrams sent by Mustafa Kemal to Kurdish chieftains in
Diyarbekir see: Beysanoglu, "Mutareke" [n.628], pp.79-80.
689 Cemil, Muhtasar [n.663], pp.57-58.
690 Hamit Bozarslan, "Kurdish Nationalism in Turkey: From Tacit
Contract to Rebellion (1919-1925)," in: Abbas Vali (ed.), Essays on
the Origins of Kurdish Nationalism (Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers,
109 nor the Kurdish question was considered a priority and thus,
not touched upon any longer. For Diyarbekir province it meant that
for the time being, the province had been successfully turkified.
110 Conclusion This thesis has addressed Ottoman state policy in
Diyarbekir province during the dictatorial rule of the Committee for
Union and Progress. From 1913 on, the CUP carried out several campaigns
of ethnic cleansing and genocidal persecution, the human cost of which
ran in the hundreds of thousands. The internal campaigns ran parallel
to the external war effort with the Great Powers, especially on the
eastern front against Russia. It was no coincidence that most of the
direct killing of non-combatant Ottoman Christians occurred in the
eastern provinces, where the threat of a Russian invasion backed
by ‘Armenian insiders’ was most immediate in the paranoid minds
of the CUP dictators. However, the deportations and persecutions
were mostly autonomous processes and only partly linked to the ebb
and flow of the war. The initiation and conduct of the persecutions
were generally in the hands of Interior Ministry civil bureaucrats,
not military personnel of the Ministry of War. The Ottoman province
Diyarbekir has served as a platform for exemplifying these policies
at the local level. For a compact overview of the essentials of this
thesis, a brief recapitulation of its main arguments is in order.
The two dominant paradigms in the historiography of the late
Ottoman Empire can be characterized as a nationalist paradigm and a
statist paradigm. According to the first paradigm, the phenomenon
of nationalism led to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.691
Centrifugal nationalism nibbled at the imperial system for several
decades until the empire crumbled into nation states. Due to their
relatively early acquaintance with nationalism, the main force behind
this nationalist disintegration was often located among minority
groups such as Ottoman Serbs, Albanians, Greeks, and Armenians.692
As a result of minority separatism in the Balkans and North Africa,
the Empire became more and more turkified in the 19th century.693
In this interpretation, the CUP too, was a nationalist movement
that from the 1900s reacted to the minority nationalisms by pushing
for the establishment of a stronger Ottoman state. In practice this
meant homogenizing the country by force: eliminating and assimilating
In 1923 it succeeded when a unitary Turkish nation state rose from
the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.694 Hence, the persecutions were a
self-fulfilling prophecy, induced by the CUP. This interpretation is
often backed by comparative considerations by juxtaposing CUP policy
with the Tsarist wartime policy of nationalization and deportation.695
In this campaign the Russian 691 Kemal Karpat, An inquiry into the
social foundations of nationalism in the Ottoman state: From social
estates to classes, from millets to nations (Princeton, NJ: Center
of International Studies, 1973); William W.
Haddad & William L. Ochsenwald (eds.), Nationalism in a nonnational
state: The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire (Columbus: Ohio State
University Press, 1977); Aviel Roshwald, Ethnic Nationalism and
the Fall of Empires: Central Europe, Russia, and the Middle East,
1914-1923 (New York: Routledge, 2001).
692 This has often led to moral accusations: SalÃ¢hi R. Sonyel,
Minorities and the destruction of the Ottoman Empire (Ankara: Turkish
Historical Society Printing House, 1993).
693 Selim Deringil, The well-protected domains: ideology and the
legitimation of power in the Ottoman Empire, 1876-1909 (London: I.B.
694 In Turkish textbooks this is reflected in the Kemalist motto
that "the Turks were the last people to break free" from the Ottoman
695 Karen Barkey & Mark von Hagen (eds.), After Empire: Multiethnic
Societies and Nation-Building (Boulder: Westview Press, 1997).
111 government sought to free itself from the alleged domination of
foreigners and ‘internal enemies’, aimed at Russifying the empire.696
Albeit not totally diametrically opposed to this paradigm, the statist
paradigm emphasizes the imperial and strategic context, claiming that
the CUP’s political agenda was dominated by retaining what was left
of the Empire and regaining formerly lost territory.
Therefore, the deportations were the CUP’s guarantee to have a Muslim
demographic majority just in case they had to negotiate over territory
after the war. By considering the problem from this angle, the ethnic
campaigns can be seen as the result of calculated plans to obviate
external meddling in Ottoman minority affairs by ‘abolishing’ the
minorities. The deportations and massacres were thus borne out of the
contingencies and exigencies of war and state security, and the CUP
merely improvised and reacted to external and internal pressures.697
Most of its decisions and measures ran counter to a purely nationalist
program and reveal a much more utilitarian approach, at times plain
Realpolitik. According to the statist paradigm, the CUP dictators
were by no means stalwart believers in ideologies of nationalism
or racism.698 This study has attempted to challenge both of these
paradigms by emphasizing that they are not mutually exclusive,
nor that all of their differences are completely reconcilable. The
paradigms have often developed out of multiple induction: by singling
out CUP policy toward one aspect of Ottoman society or one ethnic
group and theorizing from then on. When CUP leaders like TalÃ¢t and
Doctors Bahaeddin Å~^akir and NÃ¢zÄ±m monopolized the future of the
empire by applying their ideas, they not only expedited the political
and social modernization of the Ottoman state, but also conditioned
themselves to respond inventively to all future reactions.
When Ä°AMM/AMMU planners realized they bit off more than they could
chew by ordering an other mass deportation in 1916, that of the Ottoman
Kurds, they postponed the campaign in 1917 and left it to a later date
to sort it out. TalÃ¢t never lived to see the deportations of Kurds
in the 1920s and 1930s, but the snowball had started rolling. Besides
these arguments, it is also important to differentiate in the power
structure of the CUP dictatorship.
The totality of CUP internal policy suggests that it was driven
both by short-term political steering, and by unshakable long-term
convictions. The former, rational and calculated, often contradicted
the latter, irrational (both in the economic and in the popular sense)
and at times absurd. The Turkification of the Ottoman medical community
is a good example of this apparent contradiction: at the same time the
Interior Ministry began persecuting and liquidating Armenian doctors,
the War Ministry was trying to cope with severe lack of medical
staff for sick and wounded Ottoman soldiers at the 696 Eric Lohr,
Nationalizing the Russian Empire: The campaign against enemy aliens
during World War I (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003).
697 Donald Bloxham, "The Armenian Genocide of 1915-1916: Cumulative
Radicalization and the Development of a Destruction Policy," in:
Past and Present, no.181 (2003), pp.187-89.
698 Michael Reynolds, "Ottoman Strategic Objectives in World War
I and the Myth of Panturanism," paper presented at the conference
Ideologies of Revolution, Nation, and Empire: Political Ideas, Parties,
and Practices at the End of the Ottoman Empire, 1878-1922, Salzburg
(Austria), 15-17 April 2005.
112 front. This example of a self-destructive crisis situation is
not easily caught in either two paradigms. Part of the answer lays
in the tension between Enver PaÅ~_a and TalÃ¢t PaÅ~_a, who both had
their own agendas: Enver most of all yearned to win the war, whereas
TalÃ¢t set out to turkify the country with all the coercive power he
could muster. This leads us to the dynamics that center and periphery
played in the events of the period.
Most of the deportations were micromanaged by TalÃ¢t, others by his
subordinate Ali Munif. One would need to take a much closer look
at TalÃ¢t’s specific role and the nature of the power he exercised
with respect to the persecution of the Ottoman Armenians, which
accumulated to full genocidal proportions by the summer of 1915. Even
with the extant primary documentation on the secretive nature of the
bureaucratically organized destruction of the Armenians, one cannot
keep from seeking to unearth the ‘true’ intention behind the thousands
of telegraphic orders he issued, some of which are deceptive enough to
fool the historian. Even so, all such inconsistencies notwithstanding,
the sheer magnitude of the campaign doesn’t leave a shred of doubt
about the hostile intention of the policy.699 TalÃ¢t’s micro-managing
qualities and cunning intelligence, coupled with calculating tact
and extraordinary talent for political selfpreservation need more
research.700 Every other step in the radicalization of existing
measures was spurred by TalÃ¢t. Dr. ReÅ~_id’s appointment was a
vitalizing force underlying the existing program for mass destruction,
not as a palliative.
It is inconceivable to understand the persecutions without highlighting
the dynamics between national policy versus local agency For this
reason, TalÃ¢t’s relationship with governor Dr. Mehmed ReÅ~_id was a
question central to this thesis. It is an example of the evolution
of CUP policy against proclaimed ‘internal enemies’, notably the
When the persecution gained genocidal momentum, between 20 and 30
May 1915, it is likely that TalÃ¢t wired the doctor-governor one or
an other euphemistic order to ‘act ruthlessly’. He certainly did not
grant ReÅ~_id carte blanche to eliminate all Christians, considering
the future reprimands. The rabidly anti- Christian Ottoman patriot
Dr. ReÅ~_id interpreted the order as a license to kill all Armenians
and Syriacs living under his jurisdiction. It is interesting to note
that of all the Ottoman governors involved in the ethnic policies,
none were rebuked for their cruelty and fanaticism like ReÅ~_id was
– even if the persecutions ran more or less parallel in different
provinces.701 Therefore, TalÃ¢t’s telegraphic reprehensions unveil a
secret in the definition of the scope of the persecutions. The reproval
"do not destroy the other Christians" was basically synonymous to
the speech act "do 699 Ton Zwaan, Civilisering en decivilisering:
studies over staatsvorming en geweld, nationalisme en vervolging
(Amsterdam: Boom, 2001), p.202.
700 Comparative perspectives with other dictators can both
be a valuable tool in illuminating the power structure of the
CUP, and provide benchmarks for assessing TalÃ¢t’s role in the
persecutions. Cf.: Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler’s Germany,
Stalin’s Russia (London: Allen Lane, 2004).
701 Albeit on a much smaller scale, the example of SS Untersturmfuhrer
Max TÃ¤ubner is somewhat similar to Dr. ReÅ~_id’s story. TÃ¤ubner was
tried for conducting extremely cruel massacres of Jews in Russia,
sentenced to a total of ten years imprisonment, expelled from the
SS, and declared unfit for service. Yehoshua R. Buchler, "’Unworthy
Behavior’: The Case of SS Officer Max TÃ¤ubner," in: Holocaust and
Genocide Studies, vol.17, no.3 (2003), pp.409-29.
113 destroy the Armenians," and reveals TalÃ¢t’s tacit approval of
ReÅ~_id’s anti-Armenian actions.
Naturally, TalÃ¢t formulated his argument without compromising himself
in a written order.
The experiences of the various ethnic and religious groups in the
province have largely been ignored in late Ottoman history. This study
has also sought to counteract this negligence by directing attention to
the experiences of other ethnic groups in the Ottoman Empire, focusing
on Diyarbekir province, the piÃ¨ce de rÃ©sistance for CUP policies
of Turkification. Diyarbekir was a hub in the maze of deportations
of Armenians and Kurds, and saw some of the most brutal massacres in
the summer of 1915. It becomes clear that in the massive destruction
process during World War I, not all perpetrators were Turks and not
all victims were Armenians. Certain Kurdish chieftains, Arabs and
Circassians also joined in on the mass violence, whereas Yezidis,
Syriacs, and Kurds were subjected to persecution as well. In fact, the
first villages in Diyarbekir province to suffer wholesale massacres
were the Syriac villages on Diyarbekir plain. Then again, certain
Kurdish subtribes and several notable families were integrally deported
to central and western parts of Anatolia, where a substantial part
of them perished from lack of nutrition and contagious diseases. The
maelstrom of violence, counterviolence, and multiple victimization
arises out of a clear context.702 Contextualizing the deportations
and massacres of the Ottoman Armenians with respect to other victim
groups is important for understanding the bigger picture of CUP
ethnic policies. At least on paper one could compare the broader CUP
program of deportation and settlement, and the Generalplan Ost.703 In
this analogy, the Armenian Genocide was ‘merely’ part of the general
CUP plan of ‘internal colonization’ or ‘social engineering’, as the
twisted road to genocide of the Jews in Nazi Germany was ‘merely’
part of the Generalplan Ost.704 Men like Ä°AMM/AMMU director Å~^ukru
Kaya in the Ottoman Empire and Adolf Eichmann in Nazi Germany were
not only the supervisors of the deportation of Armenians and Jews,
respectively, but were also responsible for the settlement of ethnic
Turks and Germans, respectively.
The ethnic deportations followed a clear nationalist logic as they
geared into each other, pushing into a ‘total project’ toward the
utopia of a country free from non-Turkish cultures and peoples.
702 In the Ottoman border provinces that were occupied by the
Russian army, many thousands of Muslims were massacred by Cossack
and Armenian nationalist militias out of animosity and revenge. Mark
Levene, "The Changing Face of Mass Murder: An Ottoman Case Study,"
paper presented at the conference Violences extrÃªmes, Maison des
Sciences de l’Homme (Paris), 29-30 November 2001, p.9. A sensible and
dispassionate account, analysis, and contextualization of these acts
of mass violence still awaits inquiry. At the time the historiography
and memory of these instances of mass violence are mostly in the hands
of discursive communities advocating Turkish-nationalist arguments.
ArÅ~_iv Belgelerine GÃ¶re Kafkaslar’da ve Anadolu’da Ermeni MezÃ¢limi
(Ankara: Devlet ArÅ~_ivleri Genel Mudurlugu YayÄ±nlarÄ±, 1995),
4 volumes. Therefore, case studies of provinces such as Bitlis,
Erzurum, and Van are very much needed.
703 The Generalplan Ost was Nazi Germany’s grand utopia of the
ethnic reorganization of Eastern Europe. It envisioned the physical
extermination of all Jews and Gypsies, the Germanization and expulsion
of some 50 million Slavs (Poles, Russians, Belorussians, Ukrainians,
and others) over a period of two decades. German settlers would
then colonize extensive tracts of Central and Eastern Europe,
beginning in Poland. CzesÅ~Baw Madajczyk (ed.), Vom Generalplan
Ost zum Generalsiedlungsplan: Dokumente (Munchen: Saur, 1994);
Mechthild RÃ¶ssler, Sabine Schleiermacher & Robert Gellately (ed.), Der
‘Generalplan Ost’: Hauptlinien der nationalsozialistischen Planungs-
und Vernichtungspolitik (Berlijn: Akademie Verlag, 1993); Bruno Wasser,
Himmlers Raumplanung im Osten: Der Generalplan Ost in Polen 1940-1944
(Berlin: BirkhÃ¤user, 1993).
704 See also: GÃ¶tz Aly & Susanne Heim, Vordenker der Vernichtung:
Auschwitz und die deutschen PlÃ¤ne fur eine neue europÃ¤ische Ordnung
(Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe, 1991), translated as: Architects
of Annihilation: Auschwitz and the Logic of Destruction (London:
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002).
114 The key notion in this interpretation is the presence of elements
of construction, besides the obvious elements of destruction in CUP
population policy. The elimination of the Armenian population left
the state an infrastructure of Armenian property, which was used for
the progress of Turkish settler communities. The Kurdish deportations
too, were part of a plan to reconstruct the Kurds as Turks. The fate
of the local elite of Diyarbekir attests to this two-track approach.
There were two reasons why local beneficiaries of the genocide became
local elites in the new, reborn national state.705 First, because
they were supported by Mustafa Kemal on ideological and situational
grounds. Second, because there was simply no other elite left.
The pre-war Diyarbekir elite consisted of Christians and practically
all of them had been killed.
Until recently, researchers have only begun to scratch the surface
of the elements of construction and destruction in the Ottoman
provinces. It is known that Armenian traces on Diyarbekir culture
were wiped out, even through its music.706 Armenian, Kurdish, and
Syriac material and immaterial culture was appropriated by the Turkish
government and re-used for its ends.707 The perpetrators and their
families profited from the genocide. After 1923, entire generations
in Diyarbekir were educated and provided for by the starting
capital of Armenian property, acquired in 1915. The PirinccizÃ¢de
dynasty became even richer and are now one of the most influential
families in Diyarbekir city.708 However, at the present time there
is very little research on this transformative program of social
engineering, let alone systematic comparative studies with Nazi or
Soviet policies. These remarks are therefore tentative and only serve
to point in a new direction and open new avenues of research.
A final comment about the consequences of the ethnic policies is
Once the CUP set about it in the one-way street into the direction
of a nation state, it also adapted itself to the western-led global
order of nation-states.709 That mass political violence and state
terror had been utilized for this ends seemingly did not do Turkey
much harm, according to the perpetrators.
Retrospectively it even seemed that a Turkish nation state was
inconceivable without the genocidal persecution and expulsion of
the Christians, and the deportation, assimilation, and 705 Unlike
in the collapse of many dictatorships, the Ottoman Empire seemingly
never saw an empire-wide popular movement for a "day of reckoning"
(bijltjesdag, ‘axe day’), to punish everybody who had collaborated
with the criminal regime.
706 Hasmig Injejilkian, "’Es Kisher…’: How Did the Song Survive?,"
paper presented at the conference UCLA International Conference Series
on Historic Armenian Cities and Provinces: Tigranakert/Diarbekir and
Edessa/Urfa, University of California (Los Angeles), 13 November 1999.
707 For an analysis of this process in Urfa see: Kerem Oktem,
"Incorporating the time and space of the ethnic ‘other’: nationalism
and space in Southeast Turkey in the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries," in: Nations and Nationalism, vol.10, no.4 (2004),
708 Aziz Feyzi became very rich in the genocide, acquiring both movable
and immovable property. He had seven children, all of whom were highly
educated. His son Ali Fethi Pirinccioglu was educated at Robert
College in Istanbul and became correspondent for the semi-official
newspaper Cumhuriyet in the 1940s. Interview with Aziz Feyzi’s
granddaughter Yasemin Pirinccioglu, in: Cemal A. Kalyoncu, "Sultan
Suleyman’Ä±n torunu," in: Aksiyon (24 Å~^ubat 2001), p.325. Perhaps
the most notorious massacrer of the province, PirinccizÃ¢de SÄ±dkÄ±,
acquired a tremendous amount of wealth and could afford to send his
son Cahit to Paris for advanced study. SÄ±dkÄ± Jr. would then become
one of the most read Turkish poets in the Republican era, Cahit SÄ±tkÄ±
TarancÄ± (1910-1956). For selected poems see: Cahit SÄ±dkÄ± TarancÄ±,
"Poetry," in: The Literary Review, vol.5, no.1 (1961), p.86. Neither
Ali Fethi Pirinccioglu, nor Cahit SÄ±dkÄ± TarancÄ± ever reflected on
the criminal nature of their father’s careers, as opposed to others
such as Hans Frank’s son who bitterly condemned his father. Niklas
Frank, Der Vater: Eine Abrechnung (Munchen: Bertelsmann, 1987).
709 Mark Levene, Genocide in the Age of the Nation State (London: I.B.
Tauris, 2005), 3 volumes.
115 settlement of the Muslims.710 It was this very argument that was
used by the perpetrators to justify their policies in the first place.
710 Heather Rae, State Identities and the Homogenisation of Peoples
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).
116 Bibliography Archives American Board of Commissioners for Foreign
Missions (ABCFM) Archives, (Houghton Library, Harvard University).
BaÅ~_bakanlÄ±k OsmanlÄ± ArÅ~_ivi (Ottoman Archives, Istanbul).
Gertrude Bell Archives (Robinson Library, University of Newcastle
Ernst JÃ¤ckh Papers (Yale University Library).
Hikmet KÄ±vÄ±lcÄ±mlÄ&# xB1; Private Archives (International Institute for
Social History, Amsterdam).
Jacques RhÃ©torÃ© Private Archives (BibliothÃ¨que du Saulchoir, Paris).
National Archives (American National Archives, Washington).
Politisches Archiv AuswÃ¤rtiges Amt (German National Archives, Berlin).
Public Record Office (British National Archives, London).
Seyfo Center Archives (Syriac Oral Histories, Enschede, The
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130 Appendix 1: DH.Å~^FR 64/39 131 Translation coded telegram Sublime
Porte Ministry of Interior Directorate for the Settlement of Tribes and
Immigrants Department for Settlement General: 219 To the chairmanships
of the assortment commissions of the provinces of Urfa, Adana, Ankara,
Erzurum, Bitlis, Haleb, HudavendigÃ¢r, Diyarbekir, Sivas, Trabzon,
Mamuret-ul Aziz, Konya, the districts of Ä°zmit, EskiÅ~_ehir, Nigde,
Kastamonu, Kayseri, Urfa, Aynteb, MaraÅ~_, Karesi, Canik.
In order to preclude that establishments such as factories and stores
and workshops left by the Armenians are left unoccupied they should
be transferred to Muslim establishments under suitable circumstances,
and it has already been reported that facilities and support will be
given for this cause. These should be rented to Muslim aspirants and
required support should be given.
16 May 1916.
minister TalÃ¢t Explanation The Turkification or nationalization of
the Ottoman economy was one of the main components of wartime CUP
policies. All foreign-owned enterprises needed to be taken over by
Muslims, willingly or unwillingly. The genocidal persecution of the
Armenians facilitated the governmentsponsored confiscation of entire
branches of professions previously dominated by Armenians.
Having destroyed the Armenians, their economic infrastructure was
thrown open for exploitation by CUP loyalists. In this telegram TalÃ¢t
officially ordered a nation-wide decree for transferring previously
Armenian-owned establishments to Muslims. The telegram was also sent
to Diyarbekir, where Tirpandjian’s silk factory was confiscated by
132 Appendix 2: DH.Å~^FR 87/40 133 Translation coded telegram Sublime
Porte Ministry of Interior Directorate for General Security To the
provinces of Haleb, Diyarbekir, Musul, Mamuret-ul Aziz, Bitlis,
to the district of Urfa.
The immediate arrangement and dispatch of a report on the condition
of the number of Syriacs in the province/district and how many of
them have been deported together with the Armenians.
4 May 1918.
in name of the Minister, assistant clerk Ali Munif Explanation
This telegram is one of the few instances in which the Ottoman
government at the most central level was specifically interested in
the Syriacs. TalÃ¢t seems to have delegated the task of surveilling
the Syriacs to his direct subordinate Ali Munif. From 1917 on
they were even allowed to travel freely through the empire for
commercial ends. It seems that the CUP leadership did not perceive
the Syriacs as a threat, probably because the latter consisted mostly
of politically unorganized peasants and artisans. Their religious
leadership obeyed the government and avoided any conflict of interest
at all costs. Since there were no Syriac-nationalist equivalents of
the Dashnak and Henchak parties, the Syriac population was perceived
as sufficiently emasculated by the CUP.
134 Appendix 3: DH.Å~^FR 86/45 135 Translation coded telegram Sublime
Porte Ministry of Interior Directorate for General Security To all
provinces It is requested with special importance that a detailed
report is prepared and in any possible way sent on the names and dates
and manner of conversion and names of the family members and familial
relations to the head of the family of those converted Armenians
currently in the province/district and what kind work they have been
doing and their condition and movement before and after conversion
and how they are known in the locality. 3 April 1918.
minister TalÃ¢t Explanation As the war is drawing nearer to an end,
TalÃ¢t shows special interest in the fates of the Armenian converts and
orders them surveilled by local intelligence officers. The fact that he
requests very precise information from all over the Empire exemplifies
his micro-managing qualities. However, very little research has been
conducted on (forced) conversion during and after the genocide.
Important issues such as factual descriptions of the experiences of the
converts, provincial and local differentiation in their experiences,
their relationship with their Muslim neighbours and the government,
and persecution and discrimination in their afterlives still lay
136 Appendix 4: Family tree of Y.A.
137 Translation CÄ°NGÄ°L SONS (Jangulian family) NURI (ASTUR) –
ANNA (carpenter) Ziver village (central Palu) FINDIK FERIDE AZIME
SAIT ARMINEK (AGHAVNI) (DIKRANI) (GARABED) this means ‘dove’ he had
2 sons, one of whom was named after his uncle Arminek her husband:
Kamber Hasan – Halime Lutfiye – Mahmut Explanation This document
shows the family tree of the Jangulians from Palu. It was written
down by Lutfiye and Mahmut’s son Y.A. in the 1980s. When Y. set out
to research his family history he found out that some of his ancestors
bore two names: one Muslim name, and one Armenian name. They survived
the genocide by converting to Islam and seeking asylum among a Zaza
family, with whom they intermarried. At that time Y. realized he was
part Armenian. He is now interviewing his grandmother Feride (Aghavni)
and writing a detailed family history. The family tree clearly shows
converted Armenians as ancestors: Astor converted to Nuri, Aghavni to
Feride, Dikrani to Azime, and Garabed to Sait. It is only one example
of the hundreds of families that attempted to stay alive by converting
to Islam and seeking asylum among Muslim acquaintances. Very little
research has been conducted on their fates. Y. is now 32, married,
and works and lives in ElazÄ±g.
Out of privacy reasons his name was undisclosed.
138 Maps Map 1: Diyarbekir province in the Ottoman Empire Map 2:
Diyarbekir province and its towns 139 Map 3: Diyarbekir province and
some of its Kurdish tribes Map 4: Diyarbekir province: some major
massacre sites 140 Map 5: Diyarbekir city plan no.39: Melek Ahmed
Mosque no.44: Syrian-Orthodox Mother Mary Church no.46: Sincariye
seminary no.48 & 69: Caravanserai-prison, later Kervansaray Hotel
no.53: Cahit SÄ±dkÄ± TarancÄ± Museum no.54: ZiyÃ¢ GÃ¶kalp Museum