Armenian's Tale of Horror
Butchery of Christians by the Turks
Bishop Who Was Shod Like a Horse
By Capt. C. E. W. BEAN
(Official Press Representative with the Australian Forces in the Dardanelles.)
The other day there was captured an Armenian. He said that at the beginning of the war he was fighting in the Caucasus against the Russians. Alter a battle lasting a week he became ill, and after protracted illness was allowed, with his brother, who was also at the front, to go home on leave. Their way home took them through the country of the persecution—every village teemed with evidence of it—often with the actual sight of it.
"The bishop of Sivas," said the prisoner, "was arrested and exiled to a distant place. The Governor-General gave orders to shoe his bare feet just like a horse, saying sarcastically, "He is an old man and the head of the Armenians of this district; so, as an honour to his office, and out of respect for his old age, we must see to it that he does not go barefooted." I was eye-witness of this cruel deed. Of course the unhappy bishop could not even move, and was thrown in prison."
When the narrator and his brother reached their home things began to happen which forced the two brothers to go into hiding in the cellar of a friend, where for a week they used to hear daily of the horrors happening in the town.
"On the following day, at about dusk," He says, "we emerged from our underground hiding place to go we knew not where. We were literally alone in the world. Even our so far hospitable friend could no longer protect us. Run away—yes—but where to? There was no safer place. Yet go we must, so we turned our steps towards a village where lived an old uncle."
AN UNBROKEN TRAGEDY
Leaving his brother for the time being, the narrator pushed on alter an hour's rest to another Armenian village. He asked them if it were safe to go to a certain village, and they gave him the name of a good-natured effendi who would be sure to help him. This good man dressed him up in a white turban as a Moslem mullah. His brother afterwards joined him, and both, dressed as mullahs, made their way in safety through country which it seemed they could have crossed safely by no other means. All the way there was enacted before their eyes one unbroken tragedy.
"Wherever Armenians, singly or in groups of four or five or more, were found by Turkish reservists or Bashi Bazouks they were attacked by them and killed outright. Farmers returning from their fields or even men who had delivered their tithes of the crops to the Government and were returning home were killed in cold blood." At last they arrived at the garrison town which was the object of their journey, went to the barracks and enlisted under feigned names.
"After we had been two days at our new quarters an officer came to the barracks and ordered all the men to be lined up in the yard. Then he said: "I want a hundred men skilled in the use of bayonets." More than a hundred at once came forward. We among them. We were then taken to a big building in the city and wore the uniform of gendarmes. We were then divided up into batches of eight or ten and began to patrol the town. While engaged in this duty we saw two priests and about forty Armenians dragged by policemen towards the prison house."
"THE BEST BAYONETERS"
"Then the police began to enter the shops and turn the tenants into the streets, handcuff them, and take them to the prison house. All day long this business was kept up. At the end of the third day the major came and said: "I want forty of the best bayoneters for a special business." I took the hint and did not move. The forty went up, but returned the following day. Next day the same officer said: "I want forty men, this time different ones." The officer noticed our apathy and bawled out: "You blockheads, you ought to be ashamed of you big bodies. Line up quick, else I will break your heads." We had no choice but to obey. He also said that a signal by whistling would be given at midnight.
Sure enough at midnight the whistle was heard, clear and sharp, and we immediately came forward and lined up. We marched through the streets and at last halted at a big building, and as the gates opened and the poor unfortunates came out four abreast and tied together with a rope, one of the long line of gendarmes stepped out to escort each four until all eight hundred were out and each of us had his share of prisoners to look out for. We marched them through the dimly-lit streets out into the open air. At sunrise we reached a place where we found six or seven policemen, a few gendarmes, and an officer. After some consultation with our own officer we saw the ground swarming with gendarmes. How they came there and why I did not see them at first is a mystery to me."
When he came to this point in his story the man broke down and could not for a time go on. Afterwards he continued:—
"What I saw was about one hundred human wolves plunge among about ten times as many defenceless beings, also human, tearing them to pieces with bayonets. The Armenians were unable to run away—they were tied together four by four and were utterly exhausted. The assassins simply nailed them to the ground. There was no shooting.
Two days after this for a whole day and a half some twenty carriages were kept busy conveying women and children to the railway station. They were placed like so many cattle in an enclosure with guards all round. Great crowds gathered about the place. An officer made a speech to the effort that these women and girls were now public property. Half a dozen policemen got inside the enclosure, separated the boys, and carried them to the public garden. The younger girls were also brought back to the city, while the marriageable ones were placed for exhibition in the great building before mentioned. Married women were sent to a prison house. I left the town soon after, but I presume they did not fare any better than their sisters of Zileh."
This last sentence refers to what happened to the women of another town through which the two brothers passed.
"While my brother and I were hiding here, a friend brought us news of what was happening in the city. He said most of the men had already been massacred. As to the women, these, with their children, were placed in ox carts and turned out of their homes with very few clothes, and carried to a plain two hours distant. Day after day, night after night, they were exposed to hunger and cold until it was thought they would accept a change of condition on any terms.
They were approached and reasoned with by their captors in the following strain: "Now your husbands have all been killed, if you will accept the true religion you will be allowed to go home with your children. But if you refuse you shall follow your husbands." The captives without an exception chose the latter fate. The chief officer gave orders to separate the young and put them in carts. While these were torn from their mothers a company of gendarmes who were in ambuscade came out of their hiding-place and bayoneted their mothers before the eyes of the little ones.
Then a town crier went forth announcing that "Now Allah has been so good as to hand over to them these Giaours, it is both a virtue and a privilege to go and have a look at these girls and pick for himself." The Governor himself went and picked up two of them for his sons. Day after day the unhappy girls were there like so many sheep for sale in the market."
That is the story from the inside. There is no question that these things are going on. The Turks are trying to exterminate one of their subject races. The Germans could stop it—as they could have stopped this war—by raising a little finger.