From the news from East Anatolia it is obvious that the relations between the Turkish Muslim population and the Armenians, which were already tense beforehand, have worsened even more in the course of the past few months. The mutual mistrust is growing and dominating the people and official circles, both in the interior as well as in the capital.
The complaints about the alleged and actual persecution which the Armenians are suffering as a result of the war are increasing in number and volume; on the other hand, they are being accused of sympathising with the Empire’s enemies, of maintaining highly treasonable relations with them and openly revolting against the authorities of the country in individual places. The ill feeling towards the Armenians is being enflamed by the news of the attitude of the Armenians abroad; thousands of them are said to be joining the Russian army voluntarily, not only from the Caucasus but also from the United States, Bulgaria and other countries, and there are rumours that the Russian section of the Dashnaktsutiun Party is demanding the destruction of the Muslim population in those areas which are to be relinquished by Turkey, in case the war ends unfavourably for that country. Finally, the reports about the behaviour of the Armenian soldiers in the Turkish army during the campaign in the Caucasus are particularly serious: they are said to have repeatedly turned their weapons against the Turks, a fact that is even being confirmed by German officers who were present during those combats.
Each side is revoking the accusations of the other party as unfounded, or the blame for such events is being put on the others. There only seems to be agreement on one point: that the Armenians have given up their ideas of a revolution since the introduction of the Constitution and that there is no organisation for such a revolt.
Without doubt, excesses and acts of terror have taken place against the Armenians in eastern Anatolia and, in general, the events have probably been related correctly by the Armenian side, even if they were somewhat exaggerated. In many cases they have been sparked by the distress and suffering that every war, even in industrialised countries, brings with it; however, in other cases, the blame was actually on the Armenians, and one can only accuse the authorities of not taking the necessary precautions in good time and of taking unnecessarily rigorous measures afterwards instead.
The material made available to me from an Armenian source (Patriarchate and reports by Dr. Liparit Nasariantz) refers mainly to the actual theatre of the war (Vilayet Erzurum) and the bordering areas (Vilayets Van and Bitlis).
For the events in these areas, the following are being made responsible by the Armenian side:
1. The irregulars and bands of marauders organised in military fashion and bearing the title Militia; these are being blamed for numerous plunders, murders, for robbery and other acts committed against the Armenian population of the country.
2. The clubs affiliated with the Comité Union et Progrès, in which many dishonest elements are said to be present. It is said that these clubs, in particular the one in Erzurum, have set up formal proscription lists, and a series of political murders which were committed on various respected Armenians since December of last year are attributed to their activities. It is added that the Ministry of the Interior is said to have been warned some time ago by the Armenians about the activities of these clubs which had already played a disastrous role during the events at Adana in 1909.
3. Various civil servants, in particular the governor of Mush (Vilayet Bitlis) and the Vali of Van. It is stated amongst other things that some 2000 Muslim families from the Russian occupied district of Alashgerd, who are hardly in a position to pay for their own keep, have been accommodated in the Armenian villages of Mush; the Armenian farmers were being used like draft animals to transport ammunition and provisions and many of them died from this inhumane treatment; the least of them, it is said hardly a quarter, returned to their villages. In two districts of Van formal butcheries took place under the connivance of the Kaymakams.
In the provinces which are further away from the theatre of the war, the situation of the Armenian population seems to be fairly bearable, although even from there we have received individual complaints; but on the whole these are only cases of minor importance, such as house searches for prohibited weapons and deserters, whereby occasionally there are said to have been excesses and similar occurrences.
More notice should be taken of two incidents in the Vilayet Adana, about which the Imperial Embassy has already been closely informed in consular reports.
At the beginning of March, after Englishmen from the fleet had repeatedly landed and made some purchases undisturbed, there were two Armenians staying in the Armenian town of Dört Yol who originated from that area and who were acting on behalf of the English. One of these emissaries fell into the hands of the Turkish authorities and was executed in Adana. A further consequence was that the whole of the male population of Dört Yol was enlisted and led to the Vilayet Aleppo where they were set to building roads; three individuals, because they tried to flee, were shot down. Another fact was that at the time of these occurrences numerous deserters were in hiding in Dört Yol; also, it had not been forgotten that the townspeople had defended themselves against the Turks with their weapons in their hands during the massacre of 1909.
We have already reported on the events in Zeitun, which were aroused by the resistance of the Armenians to the enlisting; also in this case no other accusation can be made against the authorities except that they did not intervene in time.
With reference to the circumstances described above, the request has been expressed by the Armenian side that the Imperial Embassy and our consulates should exercise their influence on the Turkish authorities in order to put a stop to the further persecution of the Armenians in the parts of the country in question. Mentioned as particularly important is the appointment of Valis and Mutessarifs for the provinces involved who are experienced in Armenian affairs. Also, it is believed that the presence of German Consuls in Van, Bitlis, etc. would suffice to prevent the worst excesses.
Here, as well as in the interior, such a utilisation of our influence in their favour is regarded by the Armenians as a “nobile officium” for us as a great Christian European power and expected as a natural result of our alliance with Turkey, because it is in Turkey’s own interest, and therefore also in ours, to protect the Armenian element and retain its sympathies; it is emphasised that the Armenians – a fact which, one might note, is contested by the Turks – despite all the suffering they have been subjected to, are behaving loyally and correctly, but at least passively. However, under a continued, systematic persecution it can be feared that this peaceful attitude may take a turn to the contrary; the parties loyal to the government, such as the Dashnaktsutiun, would no longer be able to hold back the masses and there would be a danger that, if the Russians advanced, not only the Armenians in the invaded area would go over to the side of the enemy, but also possible insurrections would be aroused behind the backs of the Turkish Army.
The appeal to the nobile officium of the German representation in Turkey is understandable following the development of the Armenian question, but especially now when, as a result of the war, the Triple Entente is eliminated as protectors. But an attempt at complying with this appeal and taking on the role that England after the Berlin Congress, and most recently Russia, have played as protector of the Armenians, would be regarded by the Porte as an unjustified and annoying intervention in their internal political affairs. The moment is even less suitable since the Porte has just made the effort to eliminate the protective rights, which other foreign powers have exercised over Turkish subjects. The Porte must also have respect for the national awareness of the Turkish elements, which has drastically increased over the past few years.
As far as the considerations otherwise presented by the Armenian side are concerned, they deserve serious attention. I have, therefore, previously taken the repeated opportunity before the Porte, as well as with the Patriarchate, of urging a conciliatory policy and an upkeep of good relations to each other. In doing so, the further consideration was foremost that our enemies will not fail to make us responsible for the injustice done to the Armenians and to stir their animosity towards us. But the present atmosphere in government circles, which is most unfavourable for the Armenians, is putting even narrower limits on the use we have for them and reminds us that particular care should be taken. Otherwise there is a danger that, through our defence of a perhaps hopeless matter, we are putting at stake more important interests which are of greater significance for us. For this reason I also believe that the increase in the number of German consulates in the so-called Armenian provinces, initiated in this connection, would not fulfil its purpose. It is probable that the Porte would see in this the attempt on our part to have their own authorities supervised, similar to how England in former times and more recently Russia tried to control the carrying out of the Armenian reforms in those parts of the country by appointing consular representatives; a procedure of this kind would have the consequence of setting the authorities against the Armenians even worse than ever and, therefore, of achieving results of just the opposite kind.