I respectfully forward to you copies of a letter from Deacon Kuenzler dated the 20th and a letter from Karen Jeppe, a missionary from the German Orient Mission, to my wife dated the 18th of this month. Both deal with the conditions in Urfa or further into the interior and were delivered to me by couriers.
Mr. Kuenzler, who was recuperating after a serious illness in a vineyard outside the city of Urfa and only occasionally entered the town, had from there paid special attention to Armenian matters.
The only report concerning a Kurdish revolt in the North of Urfa is that submitted by Ms. Jeppe. One can only gather from it that the Circassian volunteers, who are regarded as government troops, met with stiff Kurdish resistance against their plundering, so that the Kurds where convinced that they were defending themselves against government troops. Mr. Kuenzler did not experience personally the march of the Circassian volunteers through the town which lasted only two days.
In Diyarbekir, as Mr. Kuenzler describes, the most gruesome things have taken place against the Armenians, and indeed as a consequence of the stance of the Vali. We have been in possession of reports concerning this since the beginning of June. I had put off writing a report about this as I had hoped to receive a letter from Diyarbekir. The letter never materialised. I deduce from an occasional remark made to me by the local Vali, Djelal Bey, including a reprimand from the Vali of Diyarbekir, that something terrible must have happened. The insurrection in Diyarbekir, which in the meantime has been reported, is therefore probably a result of the mistreatment of the Armenians.
Atrocities have also occurred in other places, as has been reliably reported to me. Just above Rumkaleh, a well-known Swiss national here, who was on a journey to buy wood fuel for the Baghdad Railway, saw six pairs of corpses tied together back to back floating down the Euphrates. Furthermore, he writes that he saw other terrible things. The prisons were overcrowded, but overnight the prisoners disappeared. This concerns the Mutesarriflik Malatia (Vilayet Harput) - Rumkaleh itself still belongs to the Vilayet Aleppo, an area in which up until now total calm has predominated.
The local Vali had even accomplished that, during the settling of Armenians, every 20 families could stay together as long as this was carried out in villages in the Vilayet Aleppo.
I am sending the same report to the Imperial Embassy in Constantinople.
The events here and in our surroundings force me to write again in order to keep you well informed.
In the meantime you will have received my postcard, in which I informed you about the arrest of our reliable chemist, Abraham, who has always been loyal to the Ottoman government. Mr. Eckardt and I went indeed on the same day to the governor to obtain temporary release and if necessary to act as guarantors, but alas without success. The governor said that charges had already been made against him. On this day 50 Armenians have been arrested. These remaining leaders [Some had been arrested previously and taken to Rakka. They have been treated well.] of the Gregorian-Armenian and Protestant-Armenian community are mostly very calm and nationally loyal elements.
Last night an imprisoned Armenian merchant was given 100 strokes of a stick whereby he almost met his death. The governor denied this in front of the Armenian prelate, who asked him how it was possible that corporal punishment had been used. Two days later I visited the governor again. I took the liberty of telling him that I feared that the Armenian question would end in such a way that the German ally would be disgraced if the innocent among the Armenian people should continue to be punished alongside the guilty and if they should suffer or even die, as is thought to have happened in the entire area of the Vilayet Dyiarbekir. This outburst affected him visibly. Despite this I repeated it to the Chief of the Gendarme who swallowed it like bitter medicine. I have not heard anything more about further beatings; in the end, the reward for my efforts. The day before yesterday the governor requested the presence of the Armenian prelate and advised him that the Armenians should deliver all weapons; otherwise the entire Armenian population would be dispersed and like the other Armenians from other areas and cities, resettled in other parts of this vast empire. The prelate did not deny that weapons were in their possession. But he said that they were not in their hands to be used against the war or against the government, but against the ever-growing threat of a massacre by the heavily armed Muslim population. Today, two wagons full of weapons are said to have been delivered, but the government wishes even more. The Armenians are extremely scared. In 1895, they were also pressured into giving up their weapons with the official promise that they would be protected. And what protection was given? The slaughter of 7,000 people!
I could not find out why the whole city was blocked by soldiers for 3 hours yesterday.
The most terrifying rumours are coming from the Vilayet Diyarbekir, which quite reminds us of the Spanish Inquisition. In many places, the merciful bullet has been delivered only after torture. A particularly favourite method is said to have been the pulling out of finger nails. Unfortunately, concerning the incidents there, we are dependent on the accounts of the inhabitants, Christian and Moslem. The reports coming out of this area do indeed rather concur. Following these reports massacres have taken place in cities and villages.
The situation in Van is reported by a Moslem coming from there as follows:
“In Van, Kurds from the surrounding areas came into the city and began killing Armenians. The Armenians defended themselves. But immediately the soldiers stationed there came to the aid of the Kurds, whereupon after a bloody fight the Armenians put both the Kurds and the soldiers to flight and took control of the city. They blew up a few public buildings and brought about a great blood bath out of revenge against the Moslem inhabitants.”
Also very sad is the clearance of entire Armenian towns and their relocation to infertile, death-bringing areas. Almost every day, throngs of Armenian people come through here from the cities of Zeitun, Hadjin, Albistan, etc. All of them are in the most pitiful condition. The sick and dying are left to their own fate along the way. I saw myself an eighty-year-old man who had been paralysed by a stroke left lying there.
The government has decided to give no help to these Armenians in any sort of way. And where should these poor people go? They are expected to settle in the unfertile and waterless Djebel Abdul Aziz! What sacrifice of human life will all this demand of innocent men, women and children!
Yesterday, the Armenian prelate of Urfa gave information to the government that there were heavily armed Armenians from Severek and Diyarbekir in the mountains surrounding the Armenian village of Garmudj near Urfa. People who had indeed given up their lives, but wanted to defend themselves against the Turks, who again martyred and murdered many of their brothers in their towns. These revolutionaries had now begun to incite the people of Garmudj and Urfa. The government sent six police officers there for the purpose of reconnaissance. As they approached the village they were received by shots. One policeman fell dead immediately and four others were wounded; one fled back to Urfa. Now two hundred soldiers were sent to those mountains. Twelve of the rebels were killed and the rest fled.
Highly esteemed Consul, when I view the situation of the Armenian people and then remember the words of the famous Turkish major, Nafis Bey, who said that after this war we must eliminate the Armenian people or force them to emigrate, then I fear that the duration of this war will be used for the purpose of decimating, as much as possible, this people, although tainted with many faults, but no doubt intelligent. It is my opinion, considering the deep friendship and the very strong alliance of the Central Powers with Turkey, that a subtle sign of the former to Turkey to deal with the Armenian people in the most just way possible would bring about unpredictable blessings. Justice enhances a nation! The Central Powers should be a bulwark of freedom and against any form of suppression. Here is an area of fertile activity!
How traps are set!
On the occasion of a newly reported victory, Turkish musicians went through the market playing music. An unwise Armenian youth took the liberty of asking if the news of the victory was really true. Immediately, the youth was beaten up good and proper by the musicians and afterwards taken to prison by the police, where he still is, although more than a month has passed.
… The Circassian volunteers, who are at present marching through here, are behaving quite like the Cossacks and do not respect the government at all. From reliable sources it is known that they even struck the commander of the regular forces. What else has happened here I do not wish to mention, but you can imagine for yourself. The worst thing which has come to my notice which, although not official, I am inclined to believe, is that these bands encouraged a Kurdish revolt further north. At any rate, one has been killed not too far away by the Kurds and we hear terrible rumours. This would certainly be the end of the matter. If the Kurdish revolt spreads from Van to here, then it will not be long before we have the Russians here. The Kurds do not understand that the government is as much in despair about the behaviour of these people as they themselves are. They believe that the government gave the orders. The Armenians in this area, on the other hand, understand this quite well. They have always remained loyal to the government and it would be a great mistake to continue mistreating them as has been the case during the last few weeks.
The strong protests of the local better-educated Turks gave sufficient evidence of this and, in my opinion, the central government in Constantinople should have taken this more into consideration. They have become resentful after all and who knows whether that would not come to the surface if the Kurdish revolt should extend to here. In any case, I believe that it would be absolutely essential to prevent more of this rabble coming through here. Otherwise, we can truly prepare ourselves for the worst.
Our Mutesarrif is, I believe, a well-meaning man; if he is up to dealing with this difficult task remains to be seen. In any case, in my opinion, the local population is not to blame if things go wrong, neither the Christians nor the Moslems. It is the poor leadership of those above in Constantinople. Why incite, for example, the Christian population through persecution when nothing has ever happened before and all have lived together in peace? Why send such unruly bands through the Kurdish areas when there are enough other problems? Truly, such a thing is ridiculous.
So now I have poured out my heart to you. It may be possible for the Consul to place a word in the right quarters. He will also be annoyed to find that the Russians had been given encouragement. It was Mr. Eckart who told me that the Commander had been struck and he is really not someone who speaks loosely. So many rumours are circulating, that one really does not know what to believe. I will try to confirm the incident by tonight as it is the worst abuse which could happen. After this it is of little significance to explain more.
It goes without saying that, as a matter of course, they break into houses, plunder shops, violate women. In fact, the most astonishing thing is that they have respected our property. The Mutesarrif was unable to retrieve a horse, which they had unjustly commandeered; they refused to give it back. But they put our horse back into the stall on the strength of the Armenians’ word that it belonged to the Germans, long before any of us arrived.
The story about the Commander has been sufficiently confirmed; a policeman who saw it with his own eyes has just told us.
The Mutesarrif has requested military help and three units should arrive today. …