Christopher Hitchens: Telling the Truth About the Armenian Genocide

Roundup: Talking About History

[Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair and the Roger S. Mertz media fellow at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, California. ]

Even before President Barack Obama set off on his visit to Turkey this week, there were the usual voices urging him to dilute the principled position that he has so far taken on the Armenian genocide. April is the month in which the Armenian diaspora commemorates the bloody initiation, in 1915, of the Ottoman Empire's campaign to erase its Armenian population. The marking of the occasion takes two forms: Armenian Remembrance Day, on April 24, and the annual attempt to persuade Congress to name that day as one that abandons weasel wording and officially calls the episode by its right name, which is the word I used above.

Genocide had not been coined in 1915, but the U.S. ambassador in Constantinople, Henry Morgenthau, employed a term that was in some ways more graphic. In his urgent reports to the State Department, conveying on-the-spot dispatches from his consuls, especially in the provinces of Van and Harput, he described the systematic slaughter of the Armenians as "race murder." A vast archive of evidence exists to support this claim. But every year, the deniers and euphemists set to work again, and there are usually enough military-industrial votes to tip the scale in favor of our Turkish client. (Of late, Turkey's opportunist military alliance with Israel has also been good for a few shame-faced Jewish votes as well.)

President Obama comes to this issue with an unusually clear and unambivalent record. In 2006, for example, the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, was recalled for employing the word genocide. Then-Sen. Obama wrote a letter of complaint to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, deploring the State Department's cowardice and roundly stating that the occurrence of the Armenian genocide in 1915 "is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence." On the campaign trail last year, he amplified this position, saying that "America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that president."

For any who might entertain doubt on this score, I would recommend two recent books of exceptional interest and scholarship that both add a good deal of depth and texture to this drama. The first is Armenian Golgotha: A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide, by Grigoris Balakian, and the second is Rebel Land: Travels Among Turkey's Forgotten Peoples, a contemporary account by Christopher de Bellaigue. In addition, we have just learned of shattering corroborative evidence from within the archives of the Turkish state. The Ottoman politician who began the campaign of deportation and extermination, Talat Pasha, left enormous documentation behind him. His family has now given the papers to a Turkish author named Murat Bardakci, who has published a book with the somewhat dry title The Remaining Documents of Talat Pasha. One of these "remaining documents" is a cold estimate that during the years 1915 and 1916 alone, a total of 972,000 Armenians simply vanished from the officially kept records of population. (See Sabrina Tavernise's report in the New York Times of March 8, 2009.)...
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mustafa Ka - 4/9/2009

Another distortion of the truth is that the Armenians who lived in the Eastern Anatolia of Ottoman Empire and Turkey where is called ‘Western Armenia’ by the Armenians constituted the majority of the population, therefore these lands were theirs!

Here are evidences that refute this conventional Armenian claim:

1)The Armenian versus Muslim population in six Eastern provinces including Erzurum, Sivas, Diyarbakır, Harput, Van, Bitlis according to Ottoman statistics made in 1890: 636,306 Armenians versus 3,040,891 Muslims (Sonyel S. The Great War and Thr Tragedy of Anatolia, TTK, 2000, Ankara, p.24,25)

2)The Armenian versus Muslim population in six Eastern provinces including Erzurum, Sivas, Diyarbakır, Harput, Van, Bitlis according to Vital Guinet in 1892, which were regarded as ‘strictly impartial’ by PID Geographic Section of the British Foreign Office: 665,815 Armenians versus 2,687,748 Muslims!

3)In his book Russian general Prof Dr Nikolay Georgiyevich Korsun declared that the Armenians were concentrated in the (Eastern) provinces like Van, Bitlis, Erzurum, Harput, Diyarbakir, Sivas, Trabzon, Adana. In all these areas, population of Muslims (Kurds and Turks) was five times more than Armenian population.

The Armenian population in the Eastern Ottoman territory which was annexed by Russia before 1914-1918 War constituted the two thirds of the Armenian population.

However, even in this area the Armenian population was 25% of the total population and Muslim population was twice the Armenian population even in this area (Russian Armenia)

(N.G. Korsun, Turtsiya/Kurs Lektsii Po Voyennoi Geografii, Chitannıh V Voyennoy Akademi RKKA, p.37, Vısşii Voyennıy Redaktsionnıy Sovyet, Moskova, 1923)

4)Artaşes Balasiyeviç Karinyan (Gabrielyan), a prominent statesman and scholar in Soviet Armenia declared in his assay that ‘…after Russian victories, the volunteer Armenian troops felt jubilant and started to display their secret purpose.

To succeed this, they tried the method of eradicating the non Armenian population.


(A.B.Karinyan, ‘K Harakteristike Armyanskih Nationalistiçeskih Teçeniy’ Bolshevik Zakavkazya, No:9-10, p.65 vd, 1928)

5) In the report presented to Lenin in 1919 by Anastas Ivanovich Mikoyan who was another prominent leader of Soviet Armenia and Russia, it was stated that ‘IF THE ARMENIANS CONSTITUTED THE MAJORITY OF THE POPULATION, AT LEAST ONLY IN SOME AREAS, ……THEIR WAR FOR THEIR NATIONAL FREEDOM …….COULD HAVE BEEN PERHAPS JUSTIFIED….The chauvinist Armenians had been dragged by the immature dream of establishment of ‘Great Armenia’ on the area extending from Black Sea to Mediterrenean Sea, consisting of seven provinces, taking the support of imperialist Entante Powers and fanatic General Denikin. THE FACT THAT MUSLIMS WERE THE MAJORİTY DID NOT MAKE THEM ASHAMED….
(Russian Social Political History State Archive (RGASPI) fond 5, list 1, file 1202, sheet 8, 9 with front and back)

1) Sonyer Salahi. The Great War and The Tragedy of Anatolia. TTK, Ankara, 2000, p: 24,25.
2) Perincek Mehmet. Rus Devlet Arşivlerinden 100 Belgede Ermeni Meselesi. Dogan Kitap, 2007, p:55
3) 58,59
4) 129-132.

mustafa Ka - 4/9/2009

*English Marshal Allenby stated that when they beat the Turks in Şam, there were 8000 Armenian soldiers who were fighting together with them (The New Near East Vol 6, No:7: Genel No: 31, January 1920, p.28)

Now I want to ask the Armenian diaspora:

‘If all the scholars of the world, including the international scholars of genocide, support your thesis of genocide, then WHY HAVE YOU SPENT THIS EFFORT TO FALSIFY ALL THESE DOCUMENTS? WHY HAVE YOU NEEDED LIES? WHY ARE YOU AFRAID OF DOCUMENTS SO MUCH? What is the reason of your strict resistance to present your thesisin historical commissions made up of historians from both sides and other countries?

What kind of a truth are you seeking? The one which exists or the one you want to imagine?

And I want to ask the author and the world opinion:

Your sensitivity to condemn genocides, mass murders is appreciable. But while doing this, are you ready to be unbiased? Will you be able to discard all the prejudices the history has instilled you up till now? Will you be able to prefer scholar research rather than your prejudices?

Will you be able to acknowledge the great massacres inflicted on the Turks and Muslims by the Armenians before and after 1915? Will you be able to condemn the Armenians who slaughtered the Turks and Muslims and buried them into large holes and even threw alive children into these holes in the Eastern Anatolia?(see diary of Russian Lieutenant Colonel Twerdo-Khlebof 'I wittnessed and I Lived Through Erzurum, 1917-1918'; www.tsk.mil.tr/ermeni_sorunu/arsiv_belgeleriyle...). (Ahmet Refik Altınay. İki Komite ve İki Kıtal. İstanbul, 1919;p.71-72; 321-23).

mustafa Ka - 4/9/2009

7) The most dramatic lie is about the outcome of the Armenians who were relocated. Because the majority of these Armenians returned to their homes.
Because, on December 18, 1918, a law which let the Armenians return to their homes and claim their properties was issued by the Ottoman State. Here are non-Ottoman evidences:

*In a report prepared by the Armenian Patriarchate in 1921, the Armenians who lived on the Ottoman territory in Anatolia, Middle East and those who returned to their previous locations were shown as 644 900. It was added that the Armenians who became Muslim, who were hidden and who did not encourage to return their homes were not included but they were assumed to be 20 000 (US ARCHIVES NARA, Mikrofilm No.T1192, Roll8; Department of State Papers….,860).

*In an article published in Der Neue Orient Magazine, it was reported that the number of Armenians in Ottoman Armenia was thought to be 470 000 (including those who lived in İzmir and İstanbul but excluding the Armenians who escaped to Caucasia). Additionally more than 30 000 Armenians lived in Adana and 40 000 in Aleppo (Der Neue Orient May 1919, p.178)

*The Armenian population in Cilicia (Çukurova) was reported as 218 000 in a document dated July 1920 (US ARCHIVES NARA, Mikrofilm No: T 1192R 2;860J.01/395. Appendix. From Acting High Commissioner Dulles to the Foreign Minister).

* In a memorandum presented by Bogos Nubar Pasha, chief of the Armenian delegation in Paris Conference which started in December 1918, it was announced that 150 000 Armenians were given financial support and taken to Cilicia from Syria, by the French government (US ARCHIVES NARA T1192. Roll 4.860J.01/431).

*In a report presented to American Congress by Near East Relief (NER) dated December 31, 1921, it was reported that nearly 300 000 Armenians returned to Cilicia and they were protected by France and England. …However the poor Armenians had to escape after the French abandoned the region (US ARCHIVES NARA T1192. Roll 4.860J.01/431 and US ARCHIVES NARA M353 Roll 55. Report of the NER to the Congress for the year ending).

* In a report presented by Aneurin Williams, chief of English-Armenian Committee, to Lord Curzon it was reported that many immigrants who were forced to migrate in 1915 returned to Cilicia from Syria, Palastine and Egypt after the Mondros Armistice (UK ARCHIVES, FO 608/278).

* In a report presented by the English Black Sea Forces Intelligence Department to the War Cabinet, it was reported that the Armenian population in Anatolia including İstanbul and Edirne was 773 430 in 1914 and it was 658 900 in 1919, excluding that of Erzurum (UK ARCHIVES, WO 158/933, No:5796,1,s.3).

And here are evidences about the Armenians who returned to their houses: These Armenians cooperated with the French and English armies and fought in these armies individually wearing their uniforms. Here are archive evidences:

*Boghos Nubar Pasha: ‘In 1919 and 1920, when the Kemalists attacked to the French soldiers, the Armenians made war for France in Maraş, Haçin, Pozantı and Sis. The French succeeded to take back Antep, by the help of the Armenians. Therefore, the Armenians are an ally of France’ (USARCHIVES NARA T1192. Roll 4.860J.01/431).

*A decision made by The American Committee for the Independence of Armenia which was presented to the Lausanne Conference on January 16, 1923: ‘As the minister Bellet declared, the Armenian legionelles (lejyonerler) joined to France after being promised that autonomy would be introduced to Cilicia and therefore they occupied Cilicia in 1918 (carrying the flag of France) . (US ARCHIVES NARA T1192. Roll 4. 860J.01/562).

*Boghos Nubar Pasha: ‘Since 1918, 40 000 Armenians lost their lives’ while fighting together with the French (US ARCHIVES NARA, 8605.01/438).

*A list of the Armenians who fought in the French Army and died had been displayed under the title of ‘The Armenians who died for France’. In the list, the cities where these soldiers were born were also stated and nearly all of them were Ottoman Armenians (http://www.geocities.com/Paris/Palais/2230/ww2.html)

*’The Armenians informed the Allies that they would establish an army of 150 000 soldiers and attempt to establish an independent Armenia in the east (From Berlin November 6, 1917; vorzulegen z.G.K.:W.L.R.Nadolny. German Archives of the Foreign Ministry, Bd.48,R.14097, No.7169).

*’ Armenians massacred many Turks, in the district of Erzincan and surroundings where the Russian retreated’ (The telegram sent by Kühlmann, German ambassador of İstanbul to German Foreign Ministry. German Archives of the Foreign Ministry, Bd. 47, R.14096, No.7165, No.591).

*The report of Pallavici, İstanbul ambassador of Austria-Hungary, sent to Ottokor Grafen Czernin on February 9, 1918: ‘’The Armenian guerrillas (bands) who fought nearby the Russian armies in Caucausia, misbehaved the Turkish people and Turks in Platana (district between Erzincan and Trabzon) were mass killed’ (German Archives of the Foreign Ministry, No: 13/P.B, Konstantinopel. Wien).

*A news from Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, dated February 14, 1918: ‘The Armenian bands (guerrillas) have been misbehaving Ottoman people barbarously and brutally in districts where the Russian retreated in Caucasia (German Archives of the Foreign Ministry, Der Weltkrieg R. 20145, Bd.279; Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, 14-02-1918).

*A news from Germania Gazette, dated February 23, 1920: ‘English Commission Responsible For Armenia requested help of other states (allies) to arm the Armenians, especially the Cilicians and to protect them.

mustafa Ka - 4/9/2009

4)The cover photograph of the book of Tessa Hoffmann: German Greek scholar Tessa Hoffmann printed the painting of Russian artist Vasili Vereshchagin entitled ‘The Apotheosis of the Franco-Prussia War of 1871, depicting a mass of skulls which was probably painted after 1878, as if it were the photograph of 1915 Armenian genocide, in the cover of his book and had to admit his forgery during the trial of Doğu Perinçek held in Switzerland in March 2007, in which he was listened as a wittness.

5) Atatürk’s photograph: The large poster with ‘FACE OF DENIAL-DOES NOT LIE’ related to a conference given by Dr Vahram Shemmasian, Ardashes Kassakhian and Dr Levon Marashlian, at UCLA on April 14, 2005, organized by Armenian Genocide Commemoration Committee of Alpha Epsilon Omega, (http://www.genocideevents.com/cities/losangeles.html.

The photo depicts the founder of the Turkish Republic, Ataturk, sitting on a chair outside a house with the corpse of a young girl with her innards exposed to the elements. Soon, the original of this photo was found by the Turks: It was a photograph of Ataturk for his wife Latife Hanım as a souvenir, posing with some ‘cute dog puppies’ at his feet. Two photoswere printed in the July 1, 2005 issue of Hurriyet (http://webarsiv.hurriyet.com.tr/2005/07/01/665930.asp), as ‘a forgery scandal’.

It is another outstanding point that no dissenting comments were ever heard. What UCLA’s ethical committee did was to erase the handwritten note and doctor a photo of Armin Wengler in place of the puppies.

4)The cover photograph of the book of Tessa Hoffmann: German Greek scholar and a scholar of genocide Tessa Hoffmann printed the painting of Russian artist Vasili Vereshchagin entitled ‘The Apotheosis of the Franco-Prussia War of 1871, depicting a mass of skulls which was probably painted after 1878, as if it were the photograph of 1915 Armenian genocide, in the cover of his book and had to admit his forgery during the trial of Doğu Perinçek held in Switzerland in March 2007, in which he was listened as a wittness.

5) Atatürk’s photograph: The large poster with ‘FACE OF DENIAL-DOES NOT LIE’ related to a conference given by Dr Vahram Shemmasian, Ardashes Kassakhian and Dr Levon Marashlian, at UCLA on April 14, 2005, organized by Armenian Genocide Commemoration Committee of Alpha Epsilon Omega, (http://www.genocideevents.com/cities/losangeles.html.

The photo depicts the founder of the Turkish Republic, Ataturk, sitting on a chair outside a house with the corpse of a young girl with her innards exposed to the elements. Soon, the original of this photo was found by the Turks: It was a photograph of Ataturk for his wife Latife Hanım as a souvenir, posing with some ‘cute dog puppies’ at his feet. Two photoswere printed in the July 1, 2005 issue of Hurriyet (http://webarsiv.hurriyet.com.tr/2005/07/01/665930.asp), as ‘a forgery scandal’.

It is another outstanding point that no dissenting comments were ever heard. What UCLA’s ethical committee did was to erase the handwritten note and doctor a photo of Armin Wengler in place of the puppies.

6) A quote attributed to Adolf Hitler in which he purportedly responded to a query about his planned annihilation of European Jewry, by quipping: ‘Who, after all, speaks today of the extermination of the Armenians?’, on August 22, 1939, a few days prior to his invasion of Poland (Obersalzberg speeches).
Contrary to Richard Hovannisian and other Armenians, the Nuremberg transcripts through their preservation of U.S.-29 (798-PS), U.S.-30 (1014-PS), and the notes of Admiral Boehm (which are corroborated by the relevant passages from the diary of General Halder), in no way authenticate the infamous Hitler quote. On the contrary, by establishing the actual texts of Hitler’s Obersalzberg speeches they demonstrate that the statement is conspicuously absent from Hitler’s remarks. The assertion that Hitler made a reference to the Armenians in any context whatsoever is without foundation. (Heath W Lowry, The U.S. Congress and Adolf Hitler on the Armenians, Political Communication and Persuasion. Vol 3, No 2, 1985 Crane, Russak & Company Inc. http://www.tetedeturc.com/home/spip.php?article565

According to the Armenians the speech had been introduced as evidence to the Nuremberg Tribunal (L3 document, USA-28 document
(www/cwporter/com/gl3.htm.) which was defined as ‘forgery’ (David Irving, ‘Nuremberg: The Last Battle’, 1996, p.100).

A certificate dated, 25 June 1948 signed by Paul A Joosten, General Secretary of the International Military Tribunal states that L3, USA-28 Photostat document submitted as evidence has been withdrawn, in accordance with Rule 10 of the Tribunal but held in the National Archives.

Mr Carlos Porter, who found these documents made the following important warning:

‘’Note: This translation attempts to retain the style and punctuation of the original, which is not correct in German: full space before colons and commas, no full space before following word. The document contains not one single sharp S (§ ) a standard letter in the German alphabet. C.Porter.

mustafa Ka - 4/9/2009

The Armenians’ ‘ genocide thesis’ depend on forgeries, falsified documents and lies, so they want people to learn them as if they were reality, by reading only their documents. Here are a few of these forgeries and lies:
‘Armenian genocide thesis’ depend on forgeries, falsified documents and lies. Here are some of them:
1)The number of Armenians who were relocated:

The number of the Armenians who were relocated was reported as 600-700 thousand by Boğos Nubar Pasha who attended to the talks of Sevres Treaty as a chief of Armenians; however the number of relocated Armenians is given as 1.5 million by some Armenian sources and 2 and even 2.5 million by some others. However, the total number of Ottoman Armenians including those who live in the West Anatolia (therefore who were not relocated) was reported as 1.5 million in Encyclopedia Britannica’s 1910 edition which was edited by an English editor. It is another striking point that the total number of Ottoman Armenians was increased to 2.5 million in 1953 edition of the same encyclopedia which was edited by an Armenian editor.

2) Aram Andonian’s book (The telegrams which were claimed to have been sent by Talat Pasha to order the massacre of the Armenians which were pressed in the book of Aram Andonian in 1920, in three languages): It was proven by both the Turkish and foreign historians that these telegrams were fake too.
After these telegrams were published in Daily Telegraph in England, in 1922, the English Foreign Ministry made a scrutiny and denounced that they were prepared by an Armenian association.

3)Diary of American Ambassador Morgenthau published in 1918. Professor Heath Lowry, an American historian from Princeton University displayed that the events depicted in the book depended on lies or half true events, by comparing the information Ambassador Morgenthau sent to American Foreign Ministry, with those written in the diary, in his book entitled ‘The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story’, in 1990.

What’s more, after the Ottoman State was defeated in the 1st World War in 1918, the French and English invaders arrested 144 high level Ottoman veteran or civil officials including the ex-prime ministers, ex-deputies, governors and many newspapermen, and banished them to Malta Island, claiming that they were responsibles for the death of Armenians. The English seized all the Ottoman Archives and also all other archives in other cities, like those in Urfa Governer House.

No evidence could be found neither in the Ottoman and English Archives. The Americans, whom the English applied, failed to find any proof in American Archives and reports of American Orthodox church or missioners either. Nor could Damat Ferit Pasha, then the Ottoman Prime Minister who was in absolute collaboration with the English could find any evidence. And, they had to make all these 144 Ottomans free in 1921, since they could not find any proof to be able to verdict them.

Can you imagine a genocide planned by a government but no kind of proof can be found, even when the members of this government have been taken prisoners and when all her archieves are under control of the invaders and under the directory of an Armenian official?

If The Blue Book, the telegrams of Aram Andonian and the diary of Ambassador Morgenthau (which had already been published at that time) were reliable proofs, why did the English and French invaders and the Americans not accept them to give verdicts of those 144 Ottoman officials?

Additionally, during the trial in Berlin of the Armenian assassin Soghomon Tehlirian, who had murdered Talat Pasha in Berlin on March 15th, 1921, none of the Andonian documents was allowed to be entered into the court proceedings as evidence (Dashnakists’ book Justicier du Genocide, 1981, p.213).

elif karacasu - 4/9/2009

Father's Name: Yusuf
Mother's Name: Gülnaz
Place of Birth: Van
Date of Birth: 1900
Q: Can you tell us as best as you can remember what the Armenians did in Van and Gevas?
A: We lived in the same neighborhoods as the Armenians. We too lived in the Norsin neighborhood and got along well until the Russians intervened. In those days, Armenian youths established committees with Russian encouragement, and started causing trouble. They killed the superintendent of police and threw him in the park. They killed the postman in Hasbagž. They bombed a building now replaced by a bathhouse, and twenty people died in the explosion. When the constitutional monarchy was declared, the mufti and the priest shook hands and extolled the brotherhood of Muslims and Christians. The Mufti cried as he shook hands, but events developed against us. The committee members became increasingly out of control and the rebellion began. We fought the Armenians for 29 days in Hasbagž. We had no weapons. When the division went to Erzurum, we remained completely defenseless.
The Armenians who joined the army after the establishment of the constitutional monarchy used our weapons to shoot at us, and those who remained in the army hit our soldiers from behind. They also bombed the barracks. The young people and the elderly left in the Muslim neighborhoods would take turns guarding against the Armenians. Meanwhile, the Russians were sending them gold to finance their effort.
This struggle lasted 29 days until the arrival of the Russians. The elderly Armenians didn't want this fight because they were the wealthiest inhabitants of the area, and feared sacrificing their standard of living. Armenians owned up to 1,000 stores and sold European cloth in the old part of the city of Van. When these events broke out, inhabitants of nearby villages and towns all fled to Van, and those stores disappeared within two days.
Fifty vessels full of people left Van, three of which carried wounded soldiers. Cevdet Pasha saw the passengers off at the pier. We went to Adžr Island, where the Armenians were training underground. We stayed on the island for nine days. The waves destroyed some of the ships with wooden sails. The island had wells and two bakeries. No one brought any supplies from Van. We were hungry and distraught. My elder brother was an officer and came back wounded from Erzurum. My brother realized that the Armenians would cut us off. He convinced his captain, and ten ships left from there, but we couldn't go very far. Thank God we stayed close to shore. The next day we reached Tatvan, but under difficult circumstances. The day we left Van the Armenians had set everything ablaze. There were wounded soldiers from all parts of Turkey in Van, and the Armenians fired on apartments used as hospitals where they were staying. That is why Van is sacred ground with martyrs from 67 provinces [in Turkey].
My uncle, Terren Aga, was very old, and we couldn't take him with us when we left Van. His wife, daughter, and two grandchildren remained with him. Armenian hoodlums beat my uncle and the children with an ax and killed them. His daughter hid in an abandoned American school. When the Armenians found her, they killed her by throwing her from the second floor.
We went to Bitlis from Tatvan where we remained for nearly two months. When the Russians arrived, we again went on the road. We then went to Hizan and Diyarbakžr. After we left, the Gendarme commander -- who was crying like a baby -- brought my uncle (who was Deputy Governor Ömer Bey) a report. A soldier named Mansur was also present. When we asked him to explain, he said that three days after Van was emptied they went to pick up the bodies. Hundreds of elderly women were impaled on stakes. They still had their scarves on and looked as if they were sitting. When they got closer they saw that they were killed before being impaled. They saw a woman who was split in two and her unborn child was placed on her chest.
Muslims who witnessed these thousands of examples of inconceivable brutality tearfully reported the incidents to Ömer Bey, who then told Mustafa Kemal. When the Russians finally arrived, they were displeased with the savageness which resulted in the destruction of four-fifths of Van. In addition to those massacred by the Armenians, many people also died as they were fleeing. Many collapsed on the road from hunger and disease. No one was able to take anything with them when they left Van.
When we returned to Van from exile three years later we found the Muslim neighborhoods leveled to the ground, but the areas owned by Armenians were left undamaged. When we returned there were about 2,000 Armenians living in Van who fled to the islands when the Turks started returning. Two years later, the government sent them to Revan.
Q: Did you ever participate in the fighting or use a weapon?
A: No, I have never used a weapon. I didn't have a gun, plus they didn't give me one because I was too young and didn't know how to use it. Instead, I would bring food and water to the combatants.
Q: What kind of equipment were the Armenians using?
A: They had the latest equipment which was provided by Russia and England. They gave them weapons and had them fight us. The Armenians couldn't do anything to us, but when they were armed, the balance was upset.
Q: Did many people die in these and other clashes?
A: Of course, thousands of people died. After fighting for 29 days, the then-Governor Cevdet Pasha commanded us to leave Van when he heard that the Russian forces were approaching. Cevdet Pasha was actually a very courageous man, but we had neither guns nor ammunition, while the Russians were armed with top of the line weapons.
Q: Didn't the Ottoman state take any precautions against the Armenians arming themselves to this extent? Didn't word get around?
A: People knew, and the government knew. Yet the military was on the fighting front, and only a few gendarmes were left in Van. They couldn't do anything about it. The Armenians first shot Police Lieutenant Nuri Efendi, and blew up the Hamitaga barracks. Many soldiers were killed. Then they placed bombs in the Norsin Mosque and Hacž Naci Hodja Mosque. They blew up Hafžz Hodja along with his son. Our women were raped, and our children shot.
Q: How was the evacuation carried out?
A: We left from here on 50 ships. That day the weather was stormy and rainy, as if all hell broke loose. The ships ran into each other. They were unable to approach the pier for a long time. The weather hadn't warmed up yet -- I think it was April. We left before the Russians arrived. There were about 250 people in our group, and 60 died. Some died at the hands of the Armenian bandits, others from cholera, disease, and hunger.
My uncle, his family and children, were all cut into pieces with a hatchet under the mulberry tree in our neighborhood. They [Armenians] massacred all those that stayed behind when we left. We lived in the Norsin neighborhood at the time. They burned all of Van.
All of this was planned by the Armenian committees which treacherously manipulated the Armenian population.
Q: Do you remember the names of those committees?
A: Dashnak was the most prominent one. There were others as well, but I don't remember their names now. They received money and gold from Russia and England.
Q: Did the Armenians kill many women and children?
A: The elderly didn't bother much, but all of their young people were armed. They killed whoever they could corner. They killed them and threw them into the lake or into the fire. For example, a woman was baking bread in a nearby village, and had her young child was at her side. The Armenians went into her backyard and asked her what she was doing. When she answered that she was baking bread, they insisted she needed a kebab as well, and pierced her child and threw him into the fire and burned him alive.
What else can I tell you? God knows the extent of what went on. During our escape, we took off on the ships, and stayed around the islands for four days. We couldn't sleep at night because of the wails, crying, and screams we heard all night. These were the cries we heard from surrounding villages: Zeve, Bardakçž, Kalaç, and Molla Kasžm. I hope God ensures that we don't have to relive those days when these massacres took place.
Q: Where did you go after the islands?
A: From the islands we went to the Dervis village. It took us all day to get there. Ten ships were tied together at the edge of the lake. We were very frightened. In the morning we left toward Tatvan, and finally reached our destination. We were able to rest there, and later left toward Bitlis.
Q: Do you remember how many people were with you in your convoy?
A: There were between 10 and 20 thousand people in our convoy.
Q: Did many people from your convoy die in the exodus?
A: Of course.
Q: Could you tell us how they died?
A: The women couldn't take care of the children. Some would leave them in remote areas. Hunger and disease were rampant. For example, Ömer Efendi wrapped his child in rags and left him alive under a tree as we approached the Bitlis creek. There were many other children like this thrown into the Bitlis creek, or buried when they died. But Ömer Efendi regretted what he did, and a few days later went to retrieve the child and brought him back alive.
Q: How long were you a refugee?
A: Three years.
Q: What did you find when you returned to Van? How was Van, was there much damage?
A: I saw Van; it was completely destroyed and burned. When we were in Bitlis, the Deputy Governor Ömer Bey was there. He would regularly receive reports on the situation in Van. We would follow the situation of the Russians from there. One day a soldier, Mansur, came to Bitlis. He was from Halep and used to live near the Norsin Mosque. He was in tears as he told us the story of how they entered Van, and saw that the women were lined up in a row with their head scarves still on. As they approached, they saw that they were impaled and killed. They painfully removed them and buried them. The soldiers left all their work and buried them. They then went to another location where the women had been raped and then killed. There was blood everywhere.
A similar incident occurred in the Amik village which is close to here. The inhabitants took refuge in the castle and pulled up the ladder when the Armenians arrived. The Armenians approached and convinced them to let down the ladder because they were now friendly and there was no reason to be afraid. As soon as they ascended the stairs, they separated the children and men and threw them down the hill. Some of the women threw themselves from the castle, while the others were taken to an unknown location.
Q: Did you hear about similar incidents at the time?
A: Of course I did, but what else can I tell you? Dignity, chastity, and integrity all went out the window. We suffered so much, some people even resorted to cannibalism. But we were so compassionate that when we found Armenians hiding on the island, we didn't do anything to them.
Q: Were they the Armenians who stayed when you fled?
A: No, they were Armenians remaining on the island. During the exodus they brought many Turks to this island and killed them. The ship captains were Armenians. Many of our people were maliciously killed in this way on the ships. As I told you earlier, we couldn't sleep because of the wails in those days. When we left, Van was burning, and it was still burning when the soldier Mansur came.
Q: Will you tell us about your situation in Bitlis?
A: When we arrived in Bitlis as refugees, they were angry with us because we abandoned Van. Initially the people in Bitlis were not very kind to us, asking us why we ran away and did not fight the enemy. We answered that we had no other choice because we did not have guns or ammunition. Not long after, the population of Bitlis had to flee as well, and they understood our position. The heat was debilitating. There was no food or water. Cholera and disease were spreading. Many people died. One day we saw that vehicles from Elazžg were arriving. The army corps came with Armenian drivers to bring salt to Harput.
Q: Were the drivers Armenian?
A: Yes, Armenian soldiers who were carrying salt. There was a captain leading them, and my brother approached him and asked him to stay and send a telegraph to arrange for a truck to carry us. We obtained permission from Mustafa Kemal Pasha and they started to transport us toward Diyarbakir. There was neither food nor water on the way. Many people died from diseases. At that time, there was a landowner named Mehmet. He has since died, but he was unique. He had fed the army and its horses for a year, and had given the military the keys to his stables. One year later Mustafa Kemal Pasha came, sat across from him, and asked what they owed him. When he said "for what?", Mustafa Kemal explained that the army had depended on him for a year. He responded that they were welcome to the remaining food. Anyway, when he saw us, he gave the order to set up a feast right away. Bulgur rice, lentils, and meat were prepared and offered. Everyone ate to their heart's content.
Let me tell you another story. I saw many of the men who had been tortured by the Armenians with my own eyes. In some places they had no meat on their bones. From hunger they ate human flesh. There was a milkman called Faik whose father was carrying a child when we saw him. When I asked him what he was doing, he said if he didn't carry the child away, they would eat him too.
I hope God doesn't make us live through those days again. Hunger and disease left us with nothing. No dignity, chastity, nothing.
Father's Name: Halil
Place of Birth: Van-Zeve
Date of Birth: 1903
I am from the well-known Zeve village, site of the most rampant Armenian massacres.
Q: How old were you when the Armenians rebelled?
A: I had just turned 11 at the time.
Q: Were your parents alive at the time?
A: Yes, they were.
Q: Were they subjected to Armenian atrocities?
A: I will tell you all about that later. I first want to try to explain the Armenians' position.
We know how untrustworthy the Armenians and Russians were, and about their efforts to attack the Ottoman State from behind by forming bands of rebels. At that time, Russians were paying Armenians a stipend. However, the Armenians were paying the Ottoman State only one gold coin in taxes, while those unable to pay that much were paying five silver coins. There were certain changes during the rule of Sultans Hamit and Resat. They extended equal rights to the Armenians, declaring that they would be equal to Muslims, like brothers. They passed a law lifting the tax imposed on them, and made them equal to us. There was jubilation in the streets. Armenian priests and our religious leaders hugged and kissed. At this time it was also decided that Armenians would serve in the military with us and study in our schools. The Armenians were thrilled with these changes. As soon as they had the opportunity, they established committees and asked for money from France and England and arms from Russia. They figured they could cooperate with the Russians, receive military supplies from them, and attack the Ottomans from within while the Russians could advance from the outside.
What did the Russians do? They constructed storage bins out of the stove pipes and stove metal. These bins were three feet long and one and a half feet wide, and filled with arms and munitions. Some of our supplies including kerosene came from Russia at the time. The Russians delivered these military supplies to the Armenians by hiding them in the bins and covering them with kerosene containers. Having armed the Armenians in this way, the Russians sent a member of the secret revolutionary society from Russia. His name was Aram, and he was blind in one eye. A Russian Armenian, they named him Aram Pasha. Then they brought someone named Antranik to the Mus area, and called him Antranik Pasha. Plus, there was an Armenian revolutionary committee leader nicknamed sahin in the Karagündüz village of the Erçek region. They would set up committee organizations and head for the Turkish borders. They crossed into Turkish villages where they would attack and kill Turks, and then retreat. They carried weapons and bandits to Karagündüz on horseback.
Q: Do you remember the revolutionary committees in the region and the names of their leaders?
A: I named some of them a little earlier. I don't remember any other names. They armed themselves with the help of the Russians, and came with their horses. They created storage areas in the sisanus village, and moved to a lake village which was completely inhabited by Armenians who had moved into the village earlier. On the lake there were enormous ships which could carry 500-600 people. These ships would carry arms and ammunition to Adilcevaz, Ahlat, Ercis, and Gevas. Some would later be sent to Tatvan, Mus and Bitlis. The Armenians armed themselves well with these supplies, and started to form guerilla groups. More specifically, they organized fighters and hid them on the islands of Akdamar, Çarpanak, and Kadir. These fighters later scattered throughout the area, insulting and provoking the public. After a while, they decided to get along with the Russians. After the Russians declared war on the Ottoman Empire, all of our soldiers left the area. Some went to the Caucasian front line, while others went to the Iranian front line. The Armenian soldiers accompanied our soldiers. After the two sides started fighting, our soldiers noticed that they were being shot from behind. The doctors could not understand why soldiers who should be hit from the front were hit from behind. Then they realized that Armenian soldiers would kill ours whenever the opportunity arose. We lost perhaps thousands of our soldiers in this way, but it was too late when it was discovered. Some of the traitors were found, while some joined the Russian fighters. This war lasted two and a half years. Our soldiers were in terrible shape, and were forced to retreat. The Russian military started to advance. When they arrived at the Çald ran plains, they came across the Hamidiye regiment which was formed during the reign of Sultan Hamit and was composed of tribes. The Russians used the Hamidiye organization for their own means, telling them to provide soldiers to defend the area, while they would provide munitions and arms.
A soldier who heard that the Russians arrived in Çald ran ran to his village (Derebey) and told the village headman that it was futile to work in the fields since the Russians had already arrived in Çald ran, which meant they would be in the village either that day or the next. He told the villagers they would all be killed if they didn't flee. Hearing this, the villagers gathered together, took some food and whatever they could carry, and left toward Van. They first reached the Zorava village, which is Circassian. When the inhabitants asked them what was going on, they told them that they were headed to Van because the Russians had entered Çald ran and were advancing toward Muradiye.
Hearing this, the villagers in Zorava joined the refugees. Later there were eight villages which joined this caravan to Van; Hakis, Zorava, Derebey, s h Ömer, s hkara, s hayne, H d r, and Göllü. They had no idea that Van was emptied and that its inhabitants had migrated. When they arrived at the Everek plains, they saw some Armenians who asked them in Armenian: "Where are you mindless people going?" to which they answered, "We're going to Van. We will go wherever the inhabitants of Van go." To this the Armenians showered them with insults and added "Turks left Van over six or seven days ago, and are refugees. The era of Cevdet Pasha has been over for a long time. The Aram Pasha Administration has been formed. All of the wounded, hospitalized, women and children in Van were killed. Mosques were torched, barracks burned. We cut up all of the Muslims in Van. There were only 20-30 women remaining, and we gave them to Aram Pasha." To this, Circassian Ibo said that they would become prisoners, and proposed that they go to Zeve, which was very close to the lake. He suggested they could find a ship there and save the women and children.
By the time this group of refugees reached our village (Zeve), we saw that there were over 2,000 of them. When we asked them what happened, they responded, "We were fleeing to Van, but Armenians preempted us and told us that the inhabitants of Van had migrated, so we came here to acquire a ship in the hopes of saving our women and children."
It was spring, and it was not easy to settle the refugees in our small village, but we did our best. We settled them in homes, tents, and barns. There were more than 2,000 of them, and they stayed with our villagers, who numbered about 500. In addition, soldiers disbanded from the army came home to our village. You should have seen them. They had long beards, their uniforms were torn, they were full of lice. We settled them, too. One was my brother Necip, my cousin Mustafa, my brother-in-law Mehmet, my cousin Ilyas, Recep, son of saban, Mustafa's son Seyyat, and Emrah's son sükrü. They were emaciated -- just skin and bones. They took off their clothes and burned them and pulled off the lice. My uncle Yusuf was a good barber. After scrubbing their heads with hot water, he shaved them with a razor. Believe me, because of the lice, blood was dripping from their faces and eyes. They were somewhat more comfortable after that.
Two days had passed. On the third day, the village Hodja began his morning call to prayer. Those that wanted to pray went, others went to their jobs. There was a river in the middle of our village. It flows all the way from the Iranian border, and becomes a lake in the spring when the snow melts. But we were never sure exactly where this water came from. One day we heard a woman's voice from the other side of the river calling for someone to carry her to our side. On hearing this, my uncle grabbed his horse, followed the sounds, and what did he see, but Esma, the daughter of Ahmet. He was amazed when he saw Esma, who had married into the Molla Kas m village. She promised to tell her story after my uncle helped her cross the river. He helped her onto the saddle and brought her to this side of the river. At this time the villagers had finished their morning prayer and had gathered around them. She told them to fend for themselves, that Hamit, Molla Kas m, and Ayanos had been killed, and that the perpetrators would be in our village any day now. The Hodja addressed the crowd with "Friends, we are Muslims. It doesn't fit our religion for us to die needlessly. We have about 60 weapons, 2 chests full of ammunition, and eight or nine soldiers with guns and bullets. Let's defend our village. My father's cousin, Hodja Osman who served with Cevdet Pasha had sent 60 guns and the ammunition."
There were hills near our village, below the bridge. There were plains on the top, and grasslands below. The villagers took their positions on the top part of the hills, and waited for the Armenians to advance. When the Armenians surrounded the village on three fronts and attacked, our villagers were prepared. They fought the Armenians until noon. When our side charged them, the Armenians were startled. Some of them fled to Mermit village, while others went to Vadar village. After they fled they started to regroup. There were other Armenian villages such as the enormous Alay village comprised of 400 homes. They gathered together all of the Armenians, and again started a battle which continued until the end of the mid-afternoon prayer. After the mid-afternoon prayer, there were up to one hundred horses speeding down Erzurum Street which originated in Van. The villagers thought that they were Ottoman soldiers who came to their assistance after hearing gunfire, but soon saw that they were Russian Armenians who heard the gunfire and came to the village. The fighting started again, and our villagers started to run out of bullets. The Armenians saw this as an opportunity and entered the village by killing the Turks who were guarding it. The village was burning, and herds of people numbering two or three thousand started to flee. The Armenians were throwing small children in the air and piercing them with bayonets or sticking them in the stomach with bayonets. The children let out shrill cries and fell to the ground like baby birds. In desperation, some of the women and young girls threw themselves into the river, while others lit fire to bails of grass and threw themselves into the bonfire.
They captured Corporal Seyyat alive, laid him on the ground, undressed him, and skinned him alive. They also carved out his shoulders and carved into his sides, taunting him by saying that Sultan Resat promoted him and gave him a medal. The Armenians also set fire to the grass and threw some of our women and children into the fire and burned them alive. They sliced the throats of the rest of the survivors as if they were sacrificial lambs. Not one child survived. After massacring the entire village, they killed the five most attractive women; my cousin Seher, Esma, the headman's wife, a distant relative Hayriye, my aunt Ayse, and Güllü. Then they left. I'll explain to you how I survived even though the Armenians vowed to continue the massacres until we were all dead. My father was very well known, and he had extended much kindness to the Bardakç village. My father had once saved the life of K rbe, and his son Asvador was among the Armenians. Although at the time my father was in Iran as a reserve officer, Asvador came to us during the massacre. Asvador told the Armenians not to touch me, my mother, and one of my sisters and saved our lives. After the Armenians left, Asvador took us out of hiding. The wounded were moaning from pain, begging for someone to wrap their wounds or give them some water.
Asvador brought us to the Bardakç village where we stayed for some time. My cousin Sema in Bardakç would swear to us that in the evening the Armenians would come and pick out ten or eleven women out of the 150, and rape them until the morning. The women would be covered with blood, and after they were dropped off they were unable to even sit.
Meanwhile a Russian government was established in Van and Aram Pasha became its leader. Aram Pasha's government proclaimed that any refugees in need of food or water were welcome in Van. My father at this time was in the Haçik village where he and my uncles were on Halil Pasha's boat. From there they went to a village in the Hosap region. When my uncles heard the proclamation they went to Van. They were shocked to see that the city was burned and completely destroyed. The city used to be at the foothill of the castle. Everything was completely destroyed: the buildings, barracks, mosques, bathhouses, and government buildings.
My father was from the Haçbahan neighborhood where there were Armenian homes and stores. Coincidentally, Asvador ran into him on the street. After the customary greeting, my father asked him if he had any news about our village. Asvador responded that they had slaughtered all of Zeve, but that his younger wife, child and daughter were safe with him. He volunteered to hand us over to my father. My father acknowledged the favor by Asvador, but feared that the Armenians would kill him if he went to the village, so he suggested that Asvador bring us to him instead so that he could take us away. When Asvador came to see us that night, he told us that he ran into my father, and that we should prepare ourselves so that he could take us to him. In the morning he loaded us onto an ox cart, took us to Van, and delivered us to my father. I will never forget that day. My father took us to Hosap from there. We didn't stay long because the Armenians were raiding a village a day. Many people were fleeing either toward Iran, Mardin or Diyarbak r to save their lives.
Q: Mr. Ibrahim, can you tell us about what happened in Van. Apparently the first revolt took place there, where the castle was toppled by cannon fire, the city was completely destroyed, and an Armenian government was set up. Since you were in Zeve you may have seen the troubles in Van. Do you have any knowledge of the incidents in Van?
A: They used cannon fire to burn the castle. At that time we were in the village of Bardakç , and could see the fire in Van from there. Mosques, buildings and barracks were burned. After capturing the castle, they aimed some of the cannon fire downhill. The mosque near the castle also was burned and destroyed, as well as the Hamitaga barracks. They butchered almost all of the Muslims there &endash; only a few women survived. After the Russian government was established, these women complained to the Russians about the Armenians, and asked for protection because they trusted the Russians more. The Russians had the women guarded and did not violate their virtue, but the Armenians raped our women and massacred the children and elderly.
Q: Mr. Ibrahim, is it possible that one of the reasons that the Russian soldiers did not touch our women was the possible presence of Turks in the Russian army?
A: Yes. There were Crimean and Caucasian soldiers and officers. They protected our women because they too were Muslims. In fact, they even sent them back to their villages including the Molla Kas m village. During the massacres they could only send 30 of the 150 women. They planned to stay in the Molla Kas m village until the Ottoman military arrived. However, they were subject to even further hardships. When the Russians retreated, the Armenians stayed behind. The Armenians suggested that the Russians leave their weapons, ammunition, cannons, and supplies, so they could fight the Ottoman government. When the Russians left all of their equipment to them, the Armenians became even more ruthless and continued the massacres. When our army starting arriving from Bitlis to Gevas and clashing with these Armenians, the Armenians headed to Van toward Muradiye and Kars. They ultimately went to Russia and Iran. Only a handful of Armenians remained behind. They stayed on small islands in Lake Van such as Çarpanak.
Q: Were there any Armenians in your Zeve village?
A: No, none.
Q: Where were you at the time that the Armenians established an Armenian government with the Russians?
A: We were in Zeve at the time.
Q: How many people from Zeve survived?
A: In addition to myself, six women were saved from Zeve, and that was only because of a good deed my father had done earlier. Everyone else was murdered, including many women and children.
Q: They say that a mosque near the Van castle was burned. Was this mosque in Van or Zeve?
A: It was in Van, but mosques in Zeve were burned down as well. In Van they burned other mosques such as the Kayaçelebi, Ulu, and Hüsrev Pasha, as well as many smaller mosques. You can still see all of their traces.
Q: Were there any people inside the mosques in Van when they were burned down?
A: Without a doubt.
Q: How about in Zeve?
A: Many had gone into the mosque for protection. Among them were uncle Hamza, Dervis, and Derebeyli. I don't remember the names of the others except for a great personality in Zeve whose name you may have heard; Sultan Hac Hamza. He built the first dervish lodge in the area.
Q: Isn't it true that during the massacres the Turks sought refuge in the lodge thinking that they would not be killed?
A: They sought shelter in the tomb, not the lodge.
Q: They say that the Armenians burned down the tomb, is that right?
A: It is true. They set fire to the tomb too, and thought everyone inside had been killed, but three people survived. Unfortunately, mosques, tombs made no difference to them. They burned them down with everyone inside. I hope God will protect us from similar events in the future.

elif karacasu - 4/9/2009

Father's Name: Cimsid
Mother's Name: Fatma
Place of Birth: Van
Date of Birth: 1901
The Russians were providing weapons to the Armenians. With military assistance from the Russians and encouragement from England, France, and the United States, all of which had consulates in Van, Armenians increased their hostilities in the beginning of 1915. The Russians were secretly providing them with sophisticated arms hidden in food supplies sent from Russia to the port of Trabzon, and from there sent by caravan to Van. The goods on the caravans were distributed in the center of the old city, and the hidden ammunition was secretly distributed to the Armenian militants. The leader of the Armenian rebellion in Van was Aram Pasha, but I don't remember the name of the leader of the Dashnaks. They all had land claims, especially in Van. The 11th squadron was assigned to Van, but went to Erzurum to mobilize. The Armenian bandits were emboldened by this and started their campaign of terror against the Muslim inhabitants.
The militants were launching raids on the Muslim villages and neighborhoods. The only thing we had to fight them with was a militia led by IImam Osman, composed of those either too old or too young to join the army.
Let me tell you a story which I will never forget. I went to a school located near the government mansion. Armenians studied at the same school. Some of the students in the Armenian underground went to get a Muslim student named Rüstü from his home on the pretext of studying. They took him to the Isžtma bridge near the industrial park. After insulting him, they raped and killed him, leaving his body for his family to find the next day. The family later composed a ballad to honor his memory.
I can remember the beginning of the skirmishes between the Muslims and Armenians. Our militia, which would meet in the Mahmut Aga barracks across the street from the Van State Hospital, was on duty a day before the war with the Armenians started. The Armenians prepared the night before and positioned themselves well. They had dug holes in the State mansion, and when our militia was preparing for morning prayer at a fountain nearby, the Armenians showered them with bullets. Many of our soldiers were killed. The fighting between local Muslims and Armenians had begun. Everyone took to the streets, and mass confusion ensued. Despite this, we got up and went to school. We had two teachers, one from Selanik, one from Edirne. They said "Come on kids, let's all forgive each other, we might not see each other again," and suggested we use the side streets to avoid Armenian bullets. I left school with some friends, but decided to take our regular route. We saw that weapons and munitions were being distributed in front of a munitions storage area for protection against the Armenians. We then noticed a few Armenians creeping up from behind, and notified the man distributing the weapons. He threw down the munitions in his hand and fired on them, and they ran away.
The wars started on April 2-3, 1915. In 1914, the Russians had not been able to penetrate the front line, but they surrounded our soldiers from behind by passing Çaldžran-Bahçesaray, and established a headquarters in the Molla Hasan village.
It was difficult to provide our soldiers with military supplies since the young students and elderly people carrying the equipment could not go further because of the cold weather. Many of them died.
We couldn't go anywhere either. But in the spring the Armenians went completely crazy. On May 10, 1915, the Russians were moving toward Van. On Governor Cevdet's orders we evacuated Van, taking with us what we could carry. During the war, Armenian brutality had reached a stage that no one, including the old, sick, captive, women, or children, could escape. The atrocities reached the degree that even the Armenians' main supporters, the Russians, were trying to prohibit their actions.
My grandmother Mihri couldn't flee with us because one of my uncles was paralyzed from the waist down. Unable to speak because of the shock of what happened in our absence, she later used sign language to explain what had transpired. They shaved my uncle's mustache along with his flesh, and then took them to a house which they used as a detention center and tortured him and the other captives until the Russians arrived.
When we became refugees there were 23 members of our family. We lost most of our family on the road to Bitlis and Urfa. Only two of us returned to Van. Our first stop on the road was Bitlis where we arrived in 11 days, and then went to Siirt, where we had relatives with whom we stayed for a few months. When we heard about the Russian advance, we again fled to Diyarbakžr. Our convoy consisted of 250 people. We suffered from hunger and thirst on the way. We went through Kurtalan and Diyarbakžr and the village of Kebir, where we didn't stay long, and again took the road to return to Van. When we reached Kurtalan, we learned that the Russians had entered Van again and went to Siirt. In the spring of 1916 we went to Baghdad, but fled to Mardin when the English advanced. In 1917 we arrived in Urfa. The French who entered Urfa started tormenting the Muslims by bringing the Aleppo Armenians to the city. This time we fought for 22 days.
We had left Van in 1915. When we were finally able to return, only two people remained from the 23-member family. Van was totally destroyed. The Armenians burned and demolished everything except for the Armenian-owned homes. In fact, when the Turkish army entered Van, around 2,000 Armenian artisans, expecting retaliation for their repression of the Turkish population, sought refuge on the island of Adžr. The Turkish government instead ensured their safe passage to Revan.

elif karacasu - 4/9/2009

Dear Author,
Was it a genocide? If it were a genocide were it the Armenians or Muslims/Turks who committed it? ASK THE OWNERS OF THESE TESTIMONIES from
Testimonies of Witnesses
Father's Name: Abdullah
Mother's Name: Habibe
Place of Birth: Van
Date of Birth: 1900
I was a young student at the Dar'ül-Muallimin school, around 15 or 16 years old during the Armenian massacres, and remember what happened quite well. Before the First World War, we had good neighborly relations with the Armenians (whose population was said to be approximately 17,000).
With the declaration of the constitutional monarchy in 1908, they started to exploit the principles of independence, equality, and justice to their benefit. Their leader in Van, Aram Pasha, was in the delegation that notified Sultan Hamit that he would have to leave his throne. The Armenians set up an underground organization in Van, and dug tunnels which extended from near the Great Mosque (Büyük Cami) all the way to the old section of town. It was even possible to go through these tunnels on horseback. One day the tunnels were inadvertently discovered when a section caved near a guard. Even though Aram Pasha was detained near the Great Mosque based on the intelligence provided by an Armenian after the discovery, he was released without punishment due to the political sensitivities of the time.
In short, the Armenians were very well organized. Already well established in commerce, they were doing very well financially. After the Armenians and Jews were permitted to join the military, groups of Armenians joined the military during the retreat of the Van division. The Armenians entered the military prepared -- with their own weapons. Our soldiers were carrying German-made primitive weapons that after firing four shots, would drop the fifth bullet. According to what we had heard from Mr. Hacž Latif and others who later returned to Van, the Armenians in the Van division were shooting our soldiers in the back. There were also several cases of Armenian doctors and nurses poisoning our wounded soldiers who were hospitalized in Van after returning from the eastern front.
Regarding the situation in Van, the Russians were approaching from three fronts, Muradiye, Özalp, and Baskale. The Armenians in the city were rebelling and continued an aggressive campaign against the Muslim population for 29 days. We had three barracks, Hacž Bekir, Aziziye, and Toprakkale. Ten soldiers would guard each one. They raided these barracks and slaughtered the soldiers like sheep by slicing their throats. Ali Çavus was also martyred there. While our weak militia were digging trenches to try to fight, the Armenians made holes in the walls and were firing shots with machine guns, pouring cans of kerosene, lighting fires, and escaping through the deep tunnels. This brutal attack lasted 29 days. The decision to flee was finally made so that the Muslim population would not suffer any more deaths. Those with carts used them; those without were under desperate conditions, but we all joined the exodus. People left their children on the road, others died from hunger and disease.
It should be remembered that the Armenians not only committed large massacres in Van, but in the villages as well. The homes in the villages of Tžmar, Baskale, and Özalp were stuffed with hay and set on fire. Those that tried to escape were killed with bullets and bayonets. The inhabitants of a few villages in Zeve organized and fought the Armenians, but almost all of them -- from seven different villages -- were killed. Mass graves are still being uncovered in these villages and a memorial was built.
Of the twelve ships that carried the Muslim refugees from Van, four of them carried government employees and their families. All of the sailors aboard the vessels were Armenians. The Armenian bandits, aided by these sailors, forced the four government employee boats to dock at the Adžr island, and killed all of the passengers. As for those in the other eight boats, they were taken to another island near Tatvan where Armenian bandits were waiting, but were able to escape with few casualties because they were armed.
When we left Van, we first went to Bitlis, and later to Diyarbakžr. We witnessed the Armenian savagery along the way. Finally, I will tell you about what we saw and heard upon returning to Van. The Armenians applied all types of torture to the inhabitants, God bless their souls. They paraded Isa Hodja, who was over 100 years old, on a donkey through the village, raided and looted homes, and gathered women and girls into Mr. Ziya's home where they repeatedly raped them. They threw the bodies of the dead into wells, and even filled the well of our mosque with their victims' bodies.
When General Cevdet entered Van for the first time, he asked the gendarmes to escort 130 women whose husbands were at the front to Diyarbakžr. They had been stranded in Van because they did not have any transportation. About 30 of them stayed in our house. They spun wool to survive. They were also given military rations. They told us that there was no end to the torture and cruelties they suffered at the hands of the Armenian bandits. The Armenians skinned the men, castrated them, and raped and impaled the women.
We returned to Van four years later. We stayed two years initially, but were forced to flee again when the Russians arrived. This time we went as far as Siirt. When we returned 200-250 Armenian families were seeking refuge on the Çarpanak island. They were hoping that the Turks would leave, and that they would resettle in Van. Most of them were artisans. A short time later, a new decree was issued, and they were sent to Revan under the protection of the government. However, Van, raided seven times by the enemy, was completely destroyed except for the Armenian quarters. We had to rebuild the city.