Sir G. Lowther to Sir Edward Grey, (Received August 16.)
I HAVE the honour to forward herewith a despatch from His Majesty's vice-consul at Adana giving further details as to the causes of the recent massacres there.
Vice-Consul Doughty Wylie to Sir G. Lowther.
I HAVE the honour to submit the following report on the recent events at Adana. The report is based on my diaries written at the time and amplified from information which has come into my hands since then.
Nearly no one in Adana was really satisfied. The Turks hated the idea that they were no longer masters. The Armenian wanted to rush into Home Rule. The Greek mistrusted the constitution because he had not made it himself and because under it he seemed likely to lose certain facilities he had enjoyed under the old venal system. There were also electoral irregularities, and he felt uneasy about the privileges of the cherished patriarchate and the Hellenistic schools.
Among the fiercier professors of Islam resentment grew. Were God’s adversaries to be the equals of Islam? In every café the heathen were speaking great mouthing words of some godless and detested change. Where the Hodja had of old met with at least respect there was now (the shame of it!) derision.
Some of them, such as the Maftizade of Hajin, are accused of speaking with hatred of the constitution as a Christian invention and contrary to the sacred law. He was said to have preached that without blood Islam could not come to its own again. When three Armenians had their throats cut near Kars last autumn the murderers were supposed to have been instigated by this man. He was imprisoned, and it was given out that he had been deported. But in reality he was realeased on bail and remained in the country.
And in their clubs the Armenian orators, drunk with their own verbosity, talked ad nauseam. They never seem to have thought of the possible consequences of wild words. Natives of the country, they should have known its dangers, but with the word liberty they forgot them all.
Under the constitution all men might bear arms. From the delightful novelty of the thing, many thousands of revolvers were purchased. Even schoolboys had them and, boy-like, flourished them about. But worse followed. The swagger of the arm-bearing Armenian and his ready tongue irritated the ignorant Turks. Threats and insults passed on both sides. Certain Armenian leaders, delegates from Constantinople, and priests (an Armenian priest is in his way an autocrat) urged their congregations to buy arms. It was done openly, indiscreetly, and, in some cases, it might be said wickedly. What can be thought of a preacher, a Russian Armenian, who in a church in a place (not in the province, however) where there had never been a massacre, preached revenge for the martyrs of 1895. Constitution or none, it was all the same to him. “Revenge,” he said, murder for murder. Buy arms. A Turk for every Armenian of 1895.” An American missionary who was present got up and left the church. Bishop Mushech, of Adana, toured his province preaching that he who had a coat should sell it and buy a gun. His apologists say that he foresaw the massacre and wished his people only to defend themselves; his accusers, that the hope of a beylik was in his head, that he saw himself in the old cradle of the race in the future as Prince of Armenia. It is immaterial now which, if either, of these things is true. What the bishop must surely have known was that his words would carry far and wide by the incurable loquacity of his race, and the effect upon the Turks - whom he knew to be savage, ignorant, and fanatical - would only be dangerous. A man who believed that a massacre was coming, would he not have made a secret rather than an open propaganda in favour of self-defence. The Armenian deputy, Babikian Effendi, urges for the bishop that he not only clearly foresaw the massacre, but warned the local government of it. [Footnote: Since writing the above on Bishop Mushech I got another view of him and his conduct, which may be of some interest. I was urging on one of the delegates of the patriarch the necessity of finding some modus vivendi between the two races. In the forefront of his conditions for peace, he placed the pardon of this bishop. “He has done nothing,” he said, “nothing at all. It is true that he took bribes from Bahri Pasha. It is true that he was in the arms trade, and sold the people bad arms for good money. It is true that he preached to them to buy arms, and thereby made much money. It is true that he made foolish speeches. It is true that he used to go to the vineyards with a rifle and bandolier on his shoulder. It is true that he had himself photographed in the costume of the old chiefs of Armenia. But what of all that? It is nothing - nothing at all.” I did not know so much about Bishop Mushech before, and do not know that he appears so very estimable a prelate even on his friends’ showing.]
But all this talk of arming made the Moslems believe that they were to be attacked, thereby enormously strengthening the hands of the muftizade and the fanatics on his side. From this arose the widespread fear of fedais, and there is nothing more cruel than fear.
Quarrels arose and were followed by murders. The local government and the administration of justice were alike in feeble hands. If the police arrested anyone, even red-handed, he was at once released. No wonder that the police became discouraged. They even at one time refused to go on duty, saying that they had become a common laughing-stock.
Djevad Bey, at that time vali of Adana, a man of weak character, applied at the last Bairam, when there was talk of massacres, for troops. A battalion of Arab troops from the fifth army corps was sent to him. Adana is the headquarters of a general of a division of the reserve. The holder of this office was Mustapha Remzi Pasha.
The Arab battalion shared in the increasing dislike of Christians. Stories were diligently put about of an approaching massacre. Some say it was the arm-sellers spread them in order to sell their goods. The battalion could have been held and used by a good officer, but such a man was lacking. The ferik was an old man incapable of action. He has been accused of abetting the massacres, and it has been pointed out that he was in command at Marash at the time of the massacre there in 1895. His staff officer was in my opinion useless. Whether it is true or not that they abetted the massacre their incapacity and inaction rendered it possible.
It is natural to think that on a place so prepared the seed of the counter revolution at Constantinople did not fall fruitless. The counter revolution began on the 13th April, the Adana massacre on the 14th April. I have heard many stories of the League of Mahommed and of their secret meetings. Various names have been mentioned in connection with them, noticeably those of Abdul Khadri Effendi Baghdadi and his son Abdur Rahman Effendi, but at present there are no proofs. Still less is there any proof of any direct orders from Constantinople, from the late Sultan or Izzet Pasha. If such there were (and I very much doubt it), they might have been given through this same League of Mahommed. Babikian Effendi, the Armenian deputy sent by the Parliament to Adana, declares that he can prove from certain documents which he holds that the massacre was planned many weeks beforehand. The Turkish deputy, Yussouf Kemal Bey, his colleague, denies this, and says that there were no orders given and no League of Mahommed in any dangerous form. On the contrary, he suggests that among the Armenians there was a secret agitation in favour of the ideas of Prince Subaeddin, whose gospel was decentralisation.
Kemal Bey thinks that the Armenians, or rather their leaders, wished to make some sort of a demonstration not amounting to an armed revolution, which should call the attention of Europe to their grievances, and overthrow if it were possible at once Abdul Hamid and the Committee of Union and Progress. He declares that in the streets of Adana was killed an emissary of Prince Subaeddin, and that Bishop Mushech had preached that the time was coming when the Armenian nation would be kissing the feet of Subaeddin.
The theory of an armed revolution on the part of the Armenians is now generally discredited with the more intelligent people. [Footnote: The reasons of this briefly are as follows: It is plain that had the Armenians really wished to revolt in arms they would have retired to Zeitoun or to some other natural fortress, of which there are several in their country, where they could have made a dramatic defence, and by it appealed to the sympathies of Europe, the thing of which the Turks are always thinking. They would not have left their sons and brothers scattered widely through the province for harvest without arms, without any hope of escape. Nor, armed for the most part with shotguns and revolvers, would even the Armenians have thought their few thousands an easy match for the regular Turkish army without the help which a fortress would give them. When I say that the idea of an armed revolution is generally discredited among the more intelligent people, I do not mean the great majority who still firmly believe in it. But little by little they will change. Some of the intelligent, while admitting that there was no idea of revolution in April, say that the troubles took the Armenian leaders by surprise, and that, if left to themselves, there would have been a revolution in the autumn.] An agitation in favour of some form of decentralisation is more credible. It would conceivably have led up to the larger policy.
Such a policy as that of the Liberals in Constantinople would have many attractions for a thinking Armenian.
That the massacres were encouraged by reactionary feeling, if not directly caused by it, there is ample proof. Many Christians were killed with these words: “That for your liberty!” The arch outside the konak put up to commemorate the constitution was pulled down. Cheers were given for Sultan Abdul Hamid. He had set the fashion of massacres.
As the party of reaction base themselves on the Sheriat, so it would be natural to find that the ulema and hodjas of Adana were forward in the massacres. There appears to have been a difference of opinion.
From one minaret it was cried to kill the Christians; from another rifle fire was maintained. When the American missionaries were killed, a hodja was seen among the five men who fired the volley. In the villages hodjas were often the leaders. After the killing of the Christians at Baghshe the Moslems, lead by Muftizade Ismail with a banner, advanced on Hassan Beyli. At Islahia the attacking party, turned back by a Kurdish chief, were led by a mullah with a banner. The kadi at Islahia prayed publicly for the success of the faithful fighting for Islam. I give these stories for what they are worth. In Adana it is said that some sort of fetwa was given by the mufti. The story goes that the late kadi of Adana, a man of the enlightened sort, declared this to be the case. I saw the mufti myself on the first day of the massacre, having asked the vali to send for him. He declared to me that he had given orders to all the religious to stop the killing. He is an old man. I may have been wrong, but he did not give the idea of any very violent condemnation of what was then going forward.
On the other hand, during the fight itself I found a hodja in the street who was certainly busy trying to calm the crowd. He came to my stirrup and asked me for soldiers to keep clear a street out of which I had just driven a mob of ruffians. On the third day of the massacres a well-known and much-respected hodja named Hadji Osman Bey, himself led a body of troops on a peace-making mission into the Armenian quarter. He worked honestly and sincerely to stop the massacre. After the second massacre, when it became necessary in order to save them from being burnt, to take over 2,000 terrified people through the Moslem quarter by narrow lanes - when troops were very few - I appealed to a hodja, whom I took to be the imam of the great mosque, under the shadow of which the crowd defiled, for protection for them. It was given. In those crooked alleys it was impossible to be everywhere, and nearly all those wretched people might have been killed. But the imam gave his word, and none were touched.
Those who in normal times only have known the Turkish peasant, a kindly, honest and hospitable man, wonder by what devilry he can be suddenly changed into a cruel killer of unarmed men and even in some cases of women and children. He has two masters whom he never disobeys, the religion and the Government. When he is told that the religion is in danger, and that he must rise and kill, that the women and the goods are lawful plunder, when the Government distributes arms or by remaining inactive gives at least a tacit consent - with the hodja and the yuzbashi he kills the Armenian with the horrible thoroughness with which Samuel and Saul killed the Amalekites. As to the distribution of arms, even the officers of the court-martial find, I believe, that arms were distributed nominally to redifs, but practically to all that asked. There was a real terror among the Moslems. The word went round that the Armenians were in arms and had massacred the Turks. I was told many times of 500 fedais on horseback led by one Guerkderelian. They were here, they were there - they had burnt Tarsus - they were going to assault the Konak. So fast was this last believed that when I was going out of the Konak with 50 soldiers by the gate towards the town, officers tried to turn me back saying that if they opened the gate there would be a rush of fedais. Of course I had the gate opened, and neither at that time nor at any other did I see any fedais at all. But none the less they were certainly believed in. The fear of bombs and dynamite, and of subterranean passages by which the fedais were going to blow up the Konak, had, I think, something to do with the terror of the governor and the reluctance of the military chiefs to leave the Konak, or to allow the soldiers to leave it either.
Plunder to all mobs is a lure irresistible. To loot a rich city like Adana, to kill God’s enemies and have their goods; to be rich in this life and to be in Paradise in the next, these were the thoughts in the heads of many. And even to men of other faiths looting becomes an absorbing passion.
To recapitulate, the massacre seems to me to have been remotely caused by the talk of equality, by the extreme orators of both religions, and by the feeble Government, and to have been more nearly caused by the killing of two Turks by an Armenian, by the victory of the league of Mohammed at Constantinople, by the inaction of the ferik with the distribution of arms to so-called redifs, and by the idea that it was lawful to kill and plunder. I cannot find that there was any insurrection on the part of the Armenians, and consider that the Government could both have foreseen and prevented the outbreak. This, however, is not to say that the Government, except by feebleness and incapacity, aided and abetted.
Then came the killing of two Turks by an Armenian. It was said that they had threatened him and he shot them both with a revolver. The murderer was never caught. It seems that he was demanded from the Armenian community. I have never found the reason why the police should not have followed the regular course and have arrested him themselves. The Armenian community either could or would not give him up, and feeling ran very high. The funeral of the murdered men was made the scene of a great demonstration. Mr. Chambers, as head of the American Mission, went to the vali on Monday night, the 12th April, the day of the funeral, to point out to him the unrest in the quarter in which these men had lived. The vali gave him all possible assurances, and declared that nothing could possibly happen.
The conduct of the chief of police during these last few days is of interest. He was a Turk of the best family in Adana (they were of old the beys of the place) named Khudri Bey, and a good man. This Khudri Bey had for long been asking for more help from the Government and been bewailing the lack of official support. He now tried to warn the Armenians through the Union and Progress Club of which many of them were members. On Saturday he visited a notable Armenian, Zachariah Bizdikian, who was afterwards a refugee in my house. Khudri Bey talked of impending danger, but he did not say anything definite. Bizdikian thought that nothing would happen. On Tuesday Khudri Bey tried again. He sent for Zachariah Bizdikian to come to his house. Bizdikian went at the wrong hour and found the house full of Turkish notables. Khudri Bey, however, took him on one side and again warned him of danger. Bizdikian again thought that there was nothing particular in it.
Some information which a Greek telegraphist gave me later throws light on this conduct of Khudri Bey. The Greek who was either crazed with terror or pretended to be crazed, came to me one day to ask for asylum. He said that he would be hanged. On the Saturday before the massacre he had gone to Khudri Bey and asked for police protection. On being asked the reason of this, he had said that he knew of 700 fedais among the Armenians who were going to burn the town and the konak. This wretch who was employed in the konak declared on Wednesday morning that he had seen fedais in the konak, thereby causing the deaths of several perfectly innocent people who were then in it. Khudri Bey on getting this news on the Saturday seems to have disbelieved it. He knew that the man was a spy. But the chief of police would, of course, have been able to estimate the danger of such stories, and after refusing the protection asked for and laughing at the Greek, he went to warn Bizdikian. The Greek was probably bribed to tell his story, and Khudri Bey would think of the men behind him.
On Tuesday night it would be likely that some news of the counter revolution in Constantinople should have reached the vali.
According to an account by Abdurrahman, the son of Abdul Khadir Effendi Baghdadi, the vali sent for his father before the morning prayer on Wednesday while it was still dark. The son went with his father and says that the vali asked Baghdadi's advice. In the night he (the vali) had heard that the Turks were planning a massacre. Baghdadi asked how the vali knew this thing, and was answered that the konak had been besieged by a crowd in the night, entreating the vali to give the order to kill. The vali had refused, but was afraid that they might still kill in spite of him. Baghdadi advised that at morning prayer they send to every mosque men to forbid the massacre. This was done, but the men returned saying that by some chance on that morning there were but very few worshippers, and that so the prohibition would scarcely reach everybody’s ears. Baghdadi then advised that there was nothing to do but wait and say no word of massacre lest the word should bring the thing. Thus his son.
That the vali was visited by several persons on that night is, I believe, true. I do not know at what time the news from Constantinople came, nor who got the telegrams.
Tuesday is market day in Adana, and many villagers would have heard of trouble coming, of fedais, of dynamite, and of armed revolution in which the Moslems were to be killed. Possibly they were told something of the fight for the Sheriat in Constantinople and to be ready to defend the faith. Near the konak on that night a crowd on their way to see, or coming back from seeing, the vali, killed an Armenian whom they met by chance.
On Wednesday morning, the 14th, the Christian shops opened as usual, but were quickly closed again in the face of a great and growing crowd armed with clubs and hatchets. The heads of communities and Mr. Chambers, and I believe some of the foreign dragomen went to the konak to beg the vali for protection. Some of the Moslem notables were there also, among them Baghdadi and his son. The vali gave the Christians all assurance of safety. There was, he said, no thought of massacre or any danger at all. Everybody was to open their shops; the Armenian bishop and the notables should go through the bazaar; the soldiers were ready and the crowd should be dispersed.
I do not think the vali was wrong to hide the knowledge of danger which he must have had at that time. If he had sent troops under a good officer into the bazaar at that time with orders to clear out everyone who was armed and to strike at the first sign of disorder, he might have saved his town easily enough. A braver man might have gone round the town himself.
Mr. Chambers left the konak and went with his nephew, Mr. Lawson Chambers, into the bazaar. They found there an ugly menacing crowd. Two wounded Armenians were taken past as prisoners towards the konak. They did what they could to induce the shopkeepers to open, relying on the Vali’s promise, but the crowd was too threatening, and they went to their house in the Armenian quarter. Lawson Chambers, with Mr. Gibbons, an American missionary, who had come to Adana like several others for the annual missionary meeting, went to the station to meet a friend, who happily did not come. On the way they were stopped by a crowd who were going to search them for arms. Finding that they were foreigners the crowd let them go, saying that there was nothing against foreigners, but that every Armenian should be killed. On reporting this to Mr. Chambers he sent them into the bazaar again to see what was going on. They saw the beginning of the outbreak and the firing of the first shots. At that time the ferik was coming into the bazaar with troops, but at the noise of shooting he turned about and went back to the konak, troops and all. The first shots seem to have been fired by some young Armenians into the air as a sort of warning or signal. They formed themselves into a band to cover the general retreat into the Armenian quarter. There measures of defence were at once taken. Certain houses were occupied, some of which were not Armenian at all. The inhabitants were told to leave. This shows, I think, that some plan of defence had been decided upon, and it was very well that it was so.
About this time Mr. C. Trypani, British dragoman, who was flying with his wife for refuge to his brother’s house near the station, was nearly killed by the mob. They rushed at his carriage, and a man with a reaping hook caught his sleeve to pull him out. But the coachman, a Turk, whipped up his horses, and luckily the sleeve tore.
The Trypanis had sent me a letter by the morning train telling me of unrest in Adana, but they said nothing of the events of the night before, and indeed at that time did not know of them. I decided at once to go to Adana where, though I had no idea of a wholesale massacre, I had for some time been expecting troubles. I went to see the French consul to tell him what I was going to do, and to ask him for news. He had none.
The ferik had called up the reserves, and it is interesting to find in the report by the court-martial that they attribute the massacre in great measure to this. The reservists, loose in the town without uniform and without officers or discipline, made every ruffian believe that the Government had ordered a massacre, and that the time to kill and plunder had arrived. The ferik’s or the vali’s telegrams to the villages and outlying districts to call up the redifs, were the signal in every case for the most horrible outbreaks. The last restraint was gone, except in the few places where the local officials had the character and the courage to face and resist the mob.