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The Argus, 22 januari 1916
Bron: National Library of Australia

Armenian Massacres

WOMEN AND CHILDREN BURNED

"The Times" received from Lord Bryce extracts from evidence which has reached him of the atrocities committed by the Turks in Armenia. In an accompanying letter Lord Bryce says that the first part of the evidence had been communicated to him "by the Committee of Inquiry in the United States, including men of the highest authority," and that it came to them from sources in which they place the fullest confidence. The second part of the evidence comes from an Armenian gentleman in Tiflis, who recieved it from refugees.

One witness writes from Mersina:—

The number of Armenians sent from this city now totals about 25,000 and this is in addition to the many thousands coming from the north that pass through. The misery, suffering and hardships endured by these people are indescribable. Deaths are innumerable. Hundreds of children are constantly being abandoned by their parents, who cannot bear to see them suffer, or who have not the strength to look after them. Many are left by the roadside. Petty cruelties by police and officials increase the sad plight of these people.

Another writes from Aleppo:—

Since August 1, 20,000 have so far arrived in Aleppo. They all relate harrowing tales of hardships, abuse, robbery and atrocities committed en route, and there were few if any adult men, girls over 10 years, or young married women among them. Travellers from the interior have related to the writer that the beaten paths are lined with the corpses of the victims. Between Ourfa and Arab-Pounar, a distance of about 25 miles, there were seen more than 500 unburied corpses along the highway.

Cautious and cool-headed persons, well informed on the question, place the total loss of life up to August 15 at over 500,000. The territory affected includes seven provinces, from which the Armenians have already been practically exterminated, leaving Aleppo and Adana to be completed, where indeed the same work is already in rapid progress.

The next testimony comes from a resident at Konia:—

At Eski Shehir there are from 12,000 to 15,000 exiles in the fields, evidently in great need and distress. The majority of them are without shelter, and what shelter they have consists of the flimsiest kind of tents, improvised out of a few sticks covered with rugs or carpets in a few instances, but often with only cotton cloth, absolutely no protection from the heavy autumn rain which will soon be coming...

There is no provision made for feeding them. They seem to have little or nothing in the way of supplies. About 30 to 40 deaths were taking place daily.

BUTCHER BATTALIONS

The following extracts are from the narratives of thee Armenian correspondent at Bitlis:—

Towards the end of May, Djevdet Bey, the military governor, was expelled from Van. Djevdet Bey fled southwards, and entered Sairt with some 8,000 soldiers, whom he called "butcher" battalions (Kassab, Tabouri). He massacred most of the Christians of Sairt, of the details of which nothing is known. On the best authority however, it is reported that he ordered his soldiers to burn in a public square the Armenian bishop, Eghishe Vartabed, and the Chaldean bishop, Addai Sher...

On June 25 the Turks surrounded the town of Bitlis and cut its communications with the neighbouring Armenian villages. Then most of the able bodied men were taken away from their women by domiciliary visits. During the following few days all men under arrest were shot outside the town and buried in deep trenches dug by the victims themselves. The young women and children were distributed among the rabble, and the remainder, the "useless" lot, were driven to the south and are believed to have been drowned in the Tigris. Any attempts at resistance, however brave, were easily quelled by regular troops. Such Armenians, after firing their last cartridges, either took poison by whole families or killed themselves in their homes in order not to fall into the hands of the Turks... In this fashion the Turks disposed of about 15,000 Armenians at Bitlis.

At Mush, early in July, the authorities demanded their arms from the Armenians and a large sum in ransom. Notables of the town and headmen of the villages were subjected to revolting tortures. The female relatives of the victims who came to the rescue were outraged in public before the very eyes of their mutilated men. The shrieks and the death-cries of the victims filled the air; yet they did not move the Turkish beast.

EVERY MAN KILLED FIGHTING

In the town of Mush itself the Armenians, under the leadership of Gotoyan and others, entrenched themselves in the churches and stone-built houses, and fought for four days in self-defence. But the Turkish artillery, manned by German officers, made short work of all the Armenian positions. Every one of the Armenians, leaders as well as men, was killed fighting, and when a dead silence reigned over the ruins of churches and the rest the Moslem rabble made a descent upon the women and children, and drove them out of the town into large camps which had already been prepared for the peasant women and children.

The shortest means employed for disposing of the women and children concentrated in the various camps was by burning. Fire was set to large wooden sheds in Alijan, Mograkom, Khaskogh, and other Armenian villages and these absolutely helpless women and children were roasted to death. Many went mad and threw away their children; some knelt down and prayed amid the flames which were burning their bodies, others shrieked and cried for help, which came from nowhere and the executioners who seem to have been unmoved by this unparalleled savagery, grasped infants by one leg and hurled them into the fire, calling out to the burning mothers, "Here are your lions." Turkish prisoners who apparently watched some of these scenes were horrified and maddened at remembering the sight. The stench of the burning human flesh, they say, permeated the air for many days to come.

MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN FIGHT

In the hill country of Sasoun the 1,500 surviving warriors found themselves surrounded at close quarters by 30,000 Turks and Kurds. Then followed one of those desperate and heroic struggles for life which have always been the pride of mountaineers. Men, women, and children fought with knives, scythes, stones, and anything else they could handle. They rolled blocks of stone down the steep slopes killing many of the enemy. In a frightful hand-to-hand combat women were seen thrusting their knives into the throats of Turks... When even warrior had fallen, several young women who were in danger of falling into the hands of the Turks threw themselves from the rocks, some of them with their infants in their arms.

Colofon