The deportation of the Armenians reached a certain highpoint around the middle of October enabling an overview of its extent and offering the appropriate moment to submit a concise summary. Vice-Consul Hoffmann has begun this task, with my permission, and will dispatch it from Alexandretta upon completion.
It did not seem inappropriate to me that another observer from the locality other than myself also gave his views. I will continue for my part with the description of several incidents, but allow myself to make a general observation in advance. Ranke said in his world history in reference to the policies of Charlemagne against the Saxons, ”One may not deny that severity of laws must evoke resistance against them. In intrigues of this kind it always occurs. The course of action which one seizes in order to prevent the eruption of the opposition is also suitable to awaken it.”
This sentence may be applicable to the policies of the Turkish government which have been followed more or less continuously against the Armenians, allowing for fluctuations, since the massacres in the year 1895. It may seem especially applicable to the latest events. The Government had taken preventive measures, to a degree of severity seldom seen in history, against the Armenians and thereby evoked resistance in three places: in Fundadjak, in Suediye and in Urfa.
I reported about Fundadjak earlier. The fighting in Suediye (from 4 villages in the vicinity of Antiochien) ended whereby the rebels embarked onto a ship, in a hidden bay, under covering fire of an enemy warship. According to the Armenian side the number of women and children came to 6000. If one calculates with this rural population the very high percentage of 10% as being able to bear arms, then one arrives at 600 who now will possibly be called to arms in an enemy army.
Despite this fact and despite the finally contrived connection to an enemy cruiser, there is no evidence whatsoever that the district had previously thought about an uprising. They were more likely driven to resistance by their imminent deportation.
For the Armenian uprising in Urfa it is also unnecessary to assume the influence of outside forces. Immigrants from Van and Diyarbekir could have stirred up things and hade made themselves leaders. However the government’s preventive measures, the deportations and, therefore, the inherent destruction of their people and each individual was foremost in their minds and was enough for the people of Urfa to reach the decision to put up resistance.
The Armenians themselves were to blame for causing the outbreak of fighting. In detail the events took the following path, whereby I rely on Major Count Wolffskeel who accompanied General Fakhri Pasha on the suppression of the uprising in Urfa.
Nothing else has happened since a patrol was shot down on 19 August and the consequent massacre, not even an investigation against the murderers of the patrol. At the end of September another shoot-out took place in the Armenian quarter; no further information is known about this, not even about whom the attack was directed at. The next day, when the government sent out a gendarme patrol in order to investigate the incident, part of the patrol was shot down. The Armenians then barricaded their city quarter.
At first the area was surrounded by the roundabout 60 or 80 gendarmes available in Urfa. During the first days of October days a battalion arrived: on 4 October Fakhri Pasha with Count Wolffskeel, and on 5 October a second battalion with two fieldguns. An order for the Armenians to surrender was rejected. It was estimated that the number of defenders amounted to 2000. On 6 October the fighting began, which was mainly directed at three of the defenders’ positions. The narrow and twisted building style of the city of Urfa, whose houses of stone often stand on old cave dwellings, was adapted for defence with great skill by the Armenians, and this made capture more difficult. The Armenians were armed with rifles and equipped with hand grenades, for the production of which dynamite was used that had been stolen during the building of the Baghdad railway. In contrast they were not, as was mistakenly claimed, in possession of Russian or other machine guns. On 12 October a third battalion with two 12cm howitzer was deployed. On the 14th, the church was stormed; on the 15th, the American mission. This was occupied by the Armenians much against the will of the missionary, Mr. Leslie and it was converted into a strong building equipped to be a major base. Leslie was held hostage by the Armenians in the hope that a building in which he was in would not be bombarded.
The Turkish demands for his release were rejected by the Armenians. He was only freed by the conquering troops. Turkish losses amounted to 50 dead and 120 to 130 wounded. The search afterwards in the caves and wells, due to isolated shots from hidden defenders, cost a number of soldiers’ lives. A court martial investigation has opened. A commission will decide upon further measures against the Armenians in Urfa.
Incidentally, the deportations are continuing in the most vigorous manner and with the most terrible results. Starvation and epidemics are driving numerous to their deaths. The death rate is extraordinarily high among the expelled in the city of Aleppo. Whereby up until the arrival of Djemal Pasha the necessary sanitary facilities were lacking, more about him will be reported below.
About the middle of October, a new place of burial was designated outside the city. But before things were far enough there to begin with the burials, corpses had been dumped in piles and had been lying out in the open for several days. Under these conditions it is not surprising that typhus fever has spread among the town dwellers and that a severe general epidemic has broken out. The number of deaths reported every day amounts to between 150 and 200.
By chance, I have recently been able to gain for myself an impression of a road which the deported are using. On 21 October, between Afrin and Aleppo, a stretch of road about 60 km long, I saw four corpses lying directly on the street, two had already been half-eaten by animals. After sighting the first of these corpses I went to the first khan and demanded of the owner that he send someone against payment to bury them. He smiled, but did as I wished.
When I asked him as to why he had smiled he replied, ”If you wish, I will have this corpse buried, but why do you lay so much value on this particular one? If you only knew how many are lying here in each and every gully, then you would refrain from having this particular one, which is visible from the road, buried.” If this can happen on the very busy high road from Alexandretta, without the passing soldiers and gendarmes reporting the incident, one can only assume that the situation on the less accessible roads in the interior will not be much better.
I have not yet mentioned the numerous animal carcasses contaminating the air. The concentration camp near Katma portrayed an indescribable view of insufficient hygienic facilities. The wanderers were at all stages of health and mobility: from the barefooted walker and the almost starving, who with great effort stumbled along, to the confused and silent, who just sat down on the road, to those who possessed well-kept footwear or pulled carts with various household articles. The difference can be explained by the distance which each had accomplished.
The conditions have become so bad that this stretch of military road from Bonzanti to Aleppo is totally contaminated. Only after Colonel Baron von Kress had succeeded in pointing out the military necessity of hygienic measures for this stretch of road did the Commander-in-Chief of the 4th army, Djemal Pasha, arrange for a visit to Aleppo. Before he arrived, Djemal Pasha had received a telegraphic answer from the Head of the Military Roads Inspectorate, Weli Pasha, that there had not been one single case of dysentery or any other contagious disease. Only when Djemal Pasha received the report from Rayak that three corpses had been found on a train from Aleppo did he decide to undertake the journey.
He has issued wide-ranging directives here. Compulsory registration of cases of typhus has been introduced. Hospitals have been set up. Transport wagons to transfer the sick are to be made available and the municipal cleansing department is to be reorganised. The town has been divided up and for each part a doctor has taken over its supervision with the right to visit any house. The cleansing of the town will be reorganised.
Orders have been issued and now their implementation is being awaited. A German military doctor responsible for hygiene has been requested.
In view of the importance of this area from which armies are to be sent either to Iraq or Egypt, serious attention must continue to be given to controlling this epidemic. The personal involvement of Baron von Kress is a guarantee that what is possible will be carried out.
The same report will be dispatched to the Imperial Embassy in Constantinople.