(Received June 21.)
SINCE writing my despatch No. 420 of the 8th instant I have received little additional information with regard to the condition of affairs at Adana. On the 2nd June His Majesty’s vice-consul telegraphed that the town was quiet and that the bolder people among the inhabitants were going out to harvest. The deputies who arrived on the 3rd ultimo on the Parliamentary Commission seem to have created a good impression on the natives. They were horrified to see the ruin to which the town had been reduced. It is to be hoped that their presence may do some good, for, though the Commission have no direct powers, and do not attend the meetings of the court-martial, they hold a watching brief for Parliament, and receive and take note of all complaints made.
The attitude of the Vali has improved of late in his interviews with Major Doughty-Wylie, but the latter is still altogether unable to commend his activity or that of the Ferik of Konieh. Only the other day the two latter officials allowed a battalion of redifs to be mobilised by the Kaïmakam of Bozhir to withstand a purely imaginary attack of 1,500 Armenians; the kaïmakam was demanding further reinforcements from Konieh when it transpired that the whole story was an invention of some fifty tsiganes who were themselves intent on plundering. The deputies, who had heard the tale when passing through Konieh, expressed much disgust at the futile conduct of the Konieh authorities in allowing the matter to go so far unchallenged and uninvestigated. A day or two later a man rode in from Konieh and paraded the streets for half an hour shouting out that the Armenians had sacked all the villages and it was high time to rise and kill them. The Vali eventually had him arrested and imprisoned for the space of two hours, and he was hardly safely locked up when another rumour was spread abroad that English soldiers were on the point of entering the town. Altogether Major Doughty-Wylie's view of affairs was that, with such weak men as Nazim Pasha at Konieh, where some unrest evidently prevails, and the present Vali at Adana, general anarchy would be reigning in those two districts were it not for the iron hand held upon them by the system of martial law.
On the 8th, as a prelude to the executions that were soon to follow, a proclamation was issued by the general officer commanding stating that the inhabitants of the villages round Adana would be held responsible to the court-martial for the protection of life and property.
On the 10th six Armenians and nine Turks were publicly hung, and two days later I was informed that the numbers of persons in prison amounted to 150 Turks and seventy-four Armenians, but, though the country still remains quiet, Major Doughty-Wylie seems very doubtful as to the justice of the executions which have taken place; while most of the condemned persons were men of no importance, most of the notorious criminals are still going free, and have not been arrested.
From the district round Adana I have received one or two interesting accounts of events; among them the report enclosed herewith of the disturbances which took place at Payas and Alexandretta, drawn up by Mr. J. Catoni, who was acting as British vice-consul at the latter place at the time. Attached to this report is a copy of a memorandum by the Rev. S. H. Kennedy giving a description of the siege and relief of Durtyol.
Mr. Catoni's view that the disturbances described were the result of the work of the secret agents sent to inflame Moslems against the Armenians is supported by the fact, which I believe is acknowledged by the Moslems and Christians alike, that the massacres at Antioch and Kessab and the slaughter of eighteen Armenians at Marash were the outcome of the machinations of certain agents provocateurs who were amply furnished with funds for the mission entrusted to them.
Mr. Fontana has presented to the governor-general a copy of the annexed list of persons who are alleged to have taken a prominent part in the massacres in the Alexandretta district. He informs me that he learns on all sides that the tact and courage displayed by Mr. Catoni during all that time was greatly appreciated by the Christian population.
You will notice that Mr. Catoni states that the deposition of Abd-ul-Hamid has not produced a good impression amongst the civil authorities and the Moslem population of his district, who seem to be in the majority reactionaries.
Acting Vice-Consul Catoni to Consul Fontana.
WITH reference to my various telegrams, I now have the honour to submit herewith, for the information of His Majesty's Ambassador, a report upon the massacres which have recently occurred in the districts of Payas and Alexandretta:
District of Payas. Payas is on the coast and, although in the Vilayet of Adana, is within 15 miles north-east of Alexandretta. I am mentioning first this district, as it is from there that, after Adana, massacres have started. The scenes of disturbance have been the three Armenian villages of Uzerli, Odjakli, and Chokmerzemen (or Durtyol). The two former villages were on the 16th April last attacked, plundered, and set on fire by bands of Turks, Circassians, and Kurds, and the villagers fled to Durtyol, where heavy fighting was reported on that very same day and the day after.
Durtyol. To give an account as complete and correct as possible of the very sad events which occurred at Durtyol, I beg to enclose herewith in original a memorial drawn up by Rev. S. H. Kennedy, of the Alexandretta English Mission, who, at my request, has been kind enough to visit frequently the said village with a view to watch closely and report to me the movements of the conflicting parties.
Durtyol is at present under martial law, and the situation apparently is quiet, but the question of disarming the Armenians is causing yet a certain anxiety, owing to the fact that the gangs of Kurds, Circassians, and Turcomans who were surrounding and assaulting the village, although dispersed, are still armed, and at any moment may return and resume their interrupted work of destruction and extermination of Armenians and Armenian property. Moreover, as nothing has been done, thus far, on the part of the Turkish authorities to arrest and inflict condign punishment on the Mussulman authors of recent massacres, I consider the condition of the Armenians at Durtyol still critical. I must add that the Turkish authorities are now endeavouring, “as in 1895,” to hold the Armenians responsible for the disturbances. As an evidence I may mention the fact that five prominent Armenians of Dortyol, who came to Alexandretta on business, have lately been arrested and put in prison without trial, on a charge of conspiracy, &c.
Village of Payas. As reported in my telegram of the 19th April, the prisoners, about 400 in number, who were confined for life in the old fortress of Payas, have been released by the officials in charge of the fortress at the urgent request of the mob, on the understanding that all Mussulmans amongst them were to join their co-religionists in the extermination of the Armenians. This statement has been made secretly by two Bulgarians (Christians), who were themselves in the fortress at the time, and who fled away on the same occasion. The casualties amongst the Armenians in the district of Payas are as follows:
At Ayass. It is also reported that at Ayass pay seventy-two Armenians have been massacred, and the widows and orphans have been rescued and brought over to Alexandretta by the Russian gun boat “Uraletz.”
Alexandretta. The excitement caused by the massacras at Adana, which were followed by the disturbance in the district of Payas, has spread rapidly through the Turkish villages surrounding Alexandretta, and it became even a very dangerous thing for a Christian to go out of the town. The prevailing anxiety among the Christians turned soon into a general panic, when on the night of the 16th April three Armenian farms within 2 miles of Alexandretta were looted and set on fire by bands of Turks. On the same day all Moslem villagers of this district rushed into the town and, under the pretence of defending themselves against an attack from the Armenians, they summoned arrogantly and repeatedly the local authorities to furnish them with Martini rifles and ammunition. The military acting commandant, Sadick Bey, having refused to comply with their demand, they declared that, unless satisfaction is given to their request, they would plunder the military stores. In front of such a threatening attitude on the part of the villagers, the military authorities ordered 200 troops to guard the stores. In the meanwhile, the said ruffians were walking in the streets of Alexandretta wearing white turbans on their head and armed with long knives (“yatagans”) and revolvers, looking at the Christians with apparent hostility. Unhappily Sadick Bey’s refusal to give them arms and ammunition did not last long, as under the pretext of arming the redifs they practically armed all the Moslem villagers, including even boys 16 years old.
On the 17th April a few Circassians were seen at Alexandretta having long meetings with the villagers in the mosque. On the afternoon of the very same day some more Circassians were marauding round Alexandretta with the result that through their presence two other farms in the vicinity of the town have been looted and set on fire.
In consequence of these facts, the Christian population of Alexandretta, having been seized by a feeling of terror and having lost all confidence in the Turkish authorities, they poured into the consulates, the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, and into the various warehouses near the consulates. A large number of families left Alexandretta on the same evening by the Austrian mail steamer for Cyprus; many others have passed the night in the lighters and boats.
On the following day, the 18th April, the panic increased on seeing new bands of Circassians passing on the main north-east road which from Payas leads to Alexandretta. The Prince Line steamer “Imperial Prince,” which on that day was at anchor in this port, has therefore been crowded with refugees. I have not failed to draw repeatedly the attention of the kaïmakam, Rifaat Bey, to the existing danger due to the presence of bands of Circassians, Kurds, and Turcoman villagers in the town and its neighbourhoods. He candidly confessed having no sufficient troops to compel them to retire.
On Monday evening, the 19th April, all the Mussulman population of Alexandretta, including boys 5 years old, appeared in town with white turbans on the head, walking insolently in the streets. On that very same night, at 9:30 P.M. (European time), I was informed that tins of petroleum have been transported secretly into the Armenian quarter by Turks, and that the mot d'ordre was passed to follow the example of the faithful Moslems of Adana and those of the district of Payas in massacring and plundering the Armenians.
Seeing that the position had become really very critical, I called at once, at 10 P.M., on the civil governor and on the military commandant of Alexandretta, to whom I made the necessary representations, urging them to take immediate and energetic measures to prevent disturbances. The former, Rifaat Bey, denied systematically the facts, declaring that everything was quiet in town; while the latter, Sadick Bey, confessed that in fact he was aware of the presence at Alexandretta of a few ringleaders who were trying to incite the Mussulman population of this district to cause troubles, but that be was doing his best to maintain order. At my urgent request he had reinforced the patrols on that night.
Early on the following morning, the 20th April, His Majesty’s ship “Diana” arrived at this port, and her presence annihilated the infernal plans of the Mussulman populace. Sadick Bey, the military commander, fearing an invasion of Circassians and Kurds, asked Captain Kemp, of His Majesty’s ship “Diana,” to kindly assist him in the protection of the town by keeping a watchful eye over the main roads which convey to Alexandretta, and if absolutely necessary, at his (Sadick Bey’s) request, to bombard the invaders on their way to Alexandretta, should they come in large numbers and attempt to assault the town. With his consent the “Diana” landed on that evening fifty bluejackets and two Maxim-guns to protect British subjects and the consulate, which was crowded with refugees.
The Christian population, seeing that the local authorities could not dispose of any regular troops, except about 200 redifs, who were unable to protect the town, and on hearing that refugees were daily massacred on their way to Alexandretta, declined to return to their homes.
This critical situation lasted until the 24th April. Considering the apathy of the civil authorities, who disregarded all orders transmitted to them by the military .commander, considering also that they were unable to control the town, we met together with my French and Italian colleagues in order to discuss whether it would be advisable to have again men landed from the men-of-war to assist the authorities in patrolling Alexandretta.
In the meanwhile 300 regular troops arrived from Beirout, and we therefore did not interfere in their internal arrangements, the military commander having declared himself to be now in a position to protect the town.
The casualties in this consular district may be summed up as follows:
The general situation may be considered quiet at present, but unluckily the late massacres at Adana have been the cause that the Christian population have no more confidence either in the civil authorities nor in the troops.
The deposition of Sultan Abdul Hamid and the accession to the throne of Mohamed V has not produced a good impression amongst the civil authorities and the Mussulman population of this consular district, who seem to be in majority reactionaries.
I beg to forward herewith a list of persons who took an active part in the recent massacres which occurred in this vice-consular district, where now about 900 refugees are homeless and in urgent need of relief.
Memorandum by the Rev. S. H. Kennedy respecting the Siege and Relief of Durtyol
List of Persons who took an active part in the recent Massacres in the Alexandretta District.
(1 ½ hours south of Alexandretta.)
It is reported that the following inhabitants of the village have provoked and started the massacres:
Taher Oglou Mustafa.
Tcholak Oglou Osman.
Abdalla Oglou Ahmed.
Alidjanin Oglou Mohamed.
(Neighbourhoods of Beylan, 2 hours south of Alexandretta.)
(A station on the Aleppo road, 5 hours south-east of Alexandretta.)
It is also reported that twenty-five Armenians have been massacred by order of Mursel Zadé Mustafa Pasha, a prominent Mussulman of Amuk. Four zaptiés, forming the guard of Kirikhan, were present at the massacre, namely:
Bekir Chawish, of Antioch.