Death’s End: the General Massacre of Christians in Diyarbekir

Deep inside the forbidding black basalt city walls, the vast and age-old bazaar of Diyarbekir was burning. It burned for three days and nights, from around midnight on 19 August until 21 August 1914. The chief of police, Mehmed Memduh, a brutal thug, hindered the merchants from putting out the fire or even to save their merchandise. The new vali, Mehmed Reshid Bey, installed only the week before, refused to intervene and was generally assumed to have masterminded the arson. Behind the scenes soldiers carried stolen goods to secret storehouses. When all was over 1,578 shops and warehouses smoldered in ruins. The burned and plundered shops belonged mostly to Christians, who were Armenians or Syrians adhering to various faiths. The Christians suspected and had some evidence that the local officials had instigated the fire and they complained to Istanbul.[1]

In peacetime, this act was blatantly intolerable and the central government intervened. A new vali was appointed on August 23 and three weeks later Reshid moved off to Basra and the more conciliatory figure of Hamid Bey was installed in government house. About the same time Memduh was transferred to Adana. However, the bazaar fire was a literal sign of worse times to come, as half a year later on March 25, 1915 Reshid was reinstated as vali and Memduh came back again as provincial chief of police.[2] Then, under the cover of wartime the anti-Christian activities, which horrified contemporaries by the all encompassing scale and bloody-minded nature, began in great intensity, reaching a highpoint in the following summer. By the end of Autumn 1915, very few Christians were left living in the province and over 100,000 persons were dead. Those who remained were chiefly women and young children who were held captive in Muslim households or families who managed to survive in a handful of defended villages of Tur Abdin.

In Europe World War I was already well underway by late summer of 1914, but the Ottoman government was split and hesitated to choose side officially, although it had begun general mobilization on August 2 just in case. Able-bodied males between 20 and 45 were enrolled, and beginning with the youngest they were conscripted and sent in all directions. In Diyarbekir and Mardin the army requisitioned or seized enormous amounts of supplies and transport animals of all conceivable varieties, horses, donkeys, mules and camels. The call-up came at a bad time for villagers who were basically subsistent farmers in the middle of the harvest season. Villages were emptied of the young males. Urbanites observed that everyday new contingents of troops arrived, only to be sent on the next day. The air vibrated with rumors of European battles won or lost. Mobilization encompassed citizens of all classes, ethnic backgrounds and religions, for the Ottomans just like the other combatants prepared for total war and demanded total loyalty and sacrifice of the citizens. At first the Christian conscripts were placed even in fighting units, but as the war progressed they were disarmed and placed in slave-labor battalions building roads or serving as beasts of burden. Few of these soldiers survived the war as most of the labor battalions were systematically liquidated. Citizens were required to register to get identification cards, and Armenians and Syrians were strangely classified generically as khiristiyan without the distinct terms for the different religions. Quite a large number of young men hid to avoid conscription and many others deserted once they had their first taste of army life. Authorities had great problems and had to give attention to catching the deserters particularly if Christians, who soon became the scapegoats for the military setbacks. 

After initial hesitation, the Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary by opening hostilities in late October and after formal declaration of war in early November 1914. From that moment on the already precarious position of the non-Muslims started to erode rapidly. Of all provinces in Anatolia, Diyarbekir was probably the region where Christians of whatever faith, had the smallest chances of surviving the war. As the last stop before the desert, the roads and pathways of this province also became the killing fields where caravans of deportees expelled from the north were attacked and massacred. In the provinces of Van and Erzerum a number of Armenian and Assyrians managed to flee across the Russian frontline to the Caucasus region. But throughout the war Diyarbekir province was far from any frontline. In terms of general military strategy, this province lay outside the prime goal of the Russian army. It was the far target of a British thrust from the Persian Gulf. However, the British became trapped in Iraq and by war’s end they were nowhere near Diyarbekir.

It is hard to judge the quality of Muslim-Christian relations at the outbreak of World War I. European travelers often stated that relations among individuals of different confessions were friendly. However, there was much structural tension on a group level. Population increased, but most of the province was an economic backwater of subsistence farmers with poor hope of improvement. The Christians dominated the merchant houses, caravan outfitters, the shops, and the crafts. Only the trade in livestock could be said to be in Muslim control. The population of the province was increasing. Supported by the government Kurdish tribes were moving in from the outside. The Christian population also grew and had begun to spread south to settle the fertile region bordering on the desert east of Nisibin, which had previously been infested with bandits.

Inter ethnic economic rivalry and jealousy was thus present. This erupted into a large number of pogroms, the so-called Hamidiye massacres, which began in the autumn of 1895 and lasted into 1896. After growing inter-religious tension throughout the year, in Diyarbekir popular violence and plundering began on November 2. The French vice-consul calculated 119 assaults on villages that had been plundered and burned resulting in the loss of more than 30,000 Christian lives. In the town of Diyarbekir itself 1,000 Apostolic Armenians had been killed along with 10 Catholic Armenians, 150 Syrian Orthodox, 3 Catholic Syrians, 14 Chaldeans, 11 Protestants, and 3 Melchites [non-Greek members of the Greek Orthodox Church]. In total, close to 2,500 shops had been plundered and burned, as well as 1,700 private homes had been broken into and plundered. The property lost was estimated to two million Turkish pounds.[3] The pattern of massacres revealed a split among the Muslim population. Among the Kurdish notables in the city of Diyarbekir there was great support for the massacres – particularly the mayor Arif Efendi was identified as the foremost ringleader. However the Ottoman authorities used troops (although with varying degrees of enthusiasm) to stop the pogroms and protect Christian lives and property. In the Mardin sandjakMuslim protection was very effective, except in a few places. During the widespread massacres of Christians some of the Kurdish tribes like Ibrahim Pasha’s Milli, the Mardin tribes of the Mishkeviye and Mandalkaniye, and the Huverkan confederation actively protected the Christians against attacks by other Kurdish tribes. Afterwards, Christians moved to Ibrahim Pasha’s town of Viranshehir because of his protective reputation.


There are comparatively many sources that deal with massacres of Christians in the Diyarbekir province. Many clerics inside monasteries composed chronicles over the events that affected the Christians, sometimes they collected verbatim testimony of survivors who sought sanctuary in the monasteries, sometimes they also copied documents and some of the more ambitious attempted to calculate the number of victims and speculate about the reasons for the slaughter.

The most complete and detailed chronicle is that of Ishaq Armalto, the secretary of the Syrian Catholic vice patriarch in Mardin, Gabriel Tappouni. Starting in July 1914, Armalto kept a diary like journal in Arabic language throughout the war years. As the vice-patriarch’s secretary, he participated in many discussions about the fate of the Christians and had sporadic contact with local Ottoman officials. Without revealing his name, he published this journal under the title “The Calamities of the Christians” in Lebanon just after the war. Armalto’s work is particularly valuable as it gives insight into the rising fear and awareness of coming catastrophe among the Christian leadership before the massacres and deportations began.[4]

In December 1914 three French friars, who had previously been working in the Dominican mission in Mosul arrived in Mardin, where they were interred under house arrest in a building belonging to the Syrian Catholic Church. They stayed here until November 1916. All three of them  made use of their time, to chronicle the events going on about them. The most important of the reports is that of Jacques Rhétoré, an elderly priest who was a noted linguist and Syriac scholar. His long manuscript “Les Chrétiens aux Bêtes!” was deposited in the Dominican archives in Paris. Unfortunately one chapter on the massacres of Tur Abdin is now missing, although it is named in the list of contents. Rhétoré was meticulous in establishing testimony about the perpetrators and the circumstances before and during the attacks, he also provided statistical information.[5] Hyacinthe Simon was another Dominican who wrote a chronicle over events in the Mardin area. His manuscript was completed in June 1916. His work is particularly valuable for the long chronological lists of massacres of towns and villages and attacks on deportees as well as the many obituaries over priests who perished.[6] The head of the Mosul mission, Marie-Dominique Berré wrote a short report in January 1919, which included statistics and discussed the role of the provincial government in the genocide.[7] Armenian Catholic Bishop Jean Naslian published sections from these reports in his book over the political and religious conflicts of the war period.[8] As Catholics all of the French chroniclers have much to say about the situation of the Armenian Catholics, who dominated Mardin and some other large settlements in the south of the province. After the war ended Efram Rahmani, patriarch of the Syrian Catholics, presented a memorandum to the peace conference and this gave a chronology and some new details, but as he resided in Lebanon it also contains inaccuracies about dates and events and is therefore not a very reliable source.[9] In addition there are two anonymous reports which although short do have additional information.[10]

A teenage novice residing in the Syrian Orthodox monastery of Zafaran, Abed Mishiho Na’man Qarabash, kept a chronicle for the year 1915. This gives information that is similar in content to that of the other chronicles, but the geographic coverage of Orthodox villages is more complete. Na’man hailed from the village of Qarabash near Diyarbekir and he presented unique information about the events that took place in that region.[11] Another testimony that is focused on Syrian Orthodox communities in Tur Abdin is the oral history collected and edited by the priest Süleyman Hinno from refugees who were living in Syria. He collected information from survivors and attempted to document the massacres in as many villages as possible in the Tur Abdin. Due to the nature of the witnesses some descriptions are very short, while others are relatively detailed.[12] A unique source is the diary of Yusuf Shahin the Syrian Catholic village priest of Azakh (now Idil). This manuscript details the siege of the village during 1915.[13]

Use of these sources can be difficult since the chronicles of Catholic origin used the modern system of giving dates, whereas Turkish and Syrian Orthodox documents used the old style and were 13 days behind. There are also difficulties in the transcriptions of names written in Ottoman, Arabic, Syrian language and handwriting. Place names have also been Turkified, so in a few cases is hard to identify exact locations. Altogether these are not insolvable problems but sometime it is hard to identify isolated caves, gulches, gullies, quarries, and pits that were used as execution sites.

Some memoir literature gives insight into the thinking from the Ottoman side. The vali of Diyarbekir, Reshid Bey prepared a written defense of his activities that was partially autobiographical. Long excerpts from this document, published as Mülâhâzat as well as other official documents are printed in the biography written by Nedjet Bilgi.[14] The son of an Ottoman official in Lije who Reshid liquidated, became a Turkish politician and wrote a book which included much information about the circumstances of his father’s death.[15] An unpublished manuscript gives the modern history of the Kurdish Rama tribe, which was omnipresent in the Diyarbekir massacres. This manuscript tells of the negotiations between the leaders, who were the author’s uncles, and Reshid.[16]

Differences Between the Christian Faiths

Full-scale arrests, killings and massacres began in Diyarbekir long before any formal order of deportation was sent to Reshid. These actions encompassed Christians of all faiths. One of the reasons that so many local officials early on refused to arrest the Christians was that there was no official government decree and they, therefore, demanded written orders while Reshid preferred verbal commands.

Ultimately, Talaat sent a telegram on June 21/July 2 to the valis of Diyarbekir, Trabzon, Mamuret-ul-Aziz, Sivas, and Canik commanding “All Armenians living in the villages and towns of the province will be resettled to Mosul, Urfa, and Zor, with no exceptions. Necessary measures will be taken to secure their lives and property during the deportation.”[17] By that date killing had been going on for more than a month, but the order certainly intensified activities and made it nearly impossible for local officials and Muslim notables to oppose the anti-Christian measures. However, this order only named Armenians and this caused confusion since up to that moment Christians of all denominations were being massacred. In many places all the prominent Armenian and Syrian Catholic men had already been murdered so the deportation caravans from urban areas were composed of women and children. In rural areas like the Hawar valley, Beshiri, and Tur Abdin most villages had already been attacked. In medium sized towns like Dara, Derike, Hasankeyf, Ma’sarte, and Viranshehir the Christians had already been annihilated.

The confusion over just what Christians were to be targeted resulted in new telegrams with new orders. Various decrees from the summer of 1915 indicated that the policies of forced re-settlement only concerned the Armenians belonging to the Apostolic Church. On June 29/July 12, 1915 Talaat, sent a telegram to the valiof Diyarbekir.

It has been reported to us that the Armenians of the province of Diyarbekir, along with other Christians, are being massacred, and that some 700 Armenians and other Christians, were recently slaughtered in Mardin like sheep after having been removed from the city through nightly operations. The number of people slain through such massacres is estimated to be 2,000. It is feared that unless these acts are stopped definitely and swiftly the Muslim population of the region may proceed to massacre the general Christian population. The political and disciplinary measures adopted against the Armenians are absolutely not to be extended to other Christians as such acts are likely to create a very bad impression on public opinion. You are ordered to put an immediate end to these acts lest they threaten the lives of the other Christians indiscriminately.[18]

On July 21/August 4, 1915 Talaat sent a ciphered telegram to various quarters to cease the deportations of the Catholic Armenians and to send him statistics of their number.[19] On August 2/15 he sent a similar telegram stopping deportations of Protestant Armenians and demanding statistics.[20] The content of these telegrams was ambiguous. On the one hand it demarcate that the target population was the Apostolic Armenians, on the other hand it asked for statistics on the number of Catholics and Protestants and it was known that the government had a ceiling of 5 to 10 percent for any given minority population in any area.

The background to Talaat’s July 12 telegram was a protest from Germany. The telegram even takes some of the exact wording from a message sent on July 10 by Walter Holstein, the German consul in Mosul, to ambassador Wangenheim in Constantinople.

The former mutasarrif of Mardin, who is presently here, gave me the following information: the valiof Diyarbekir, Reshid Bey, is raging like a crazed bloodhound against the Christians of his vilayet. Recently he has let gendarmes sent from Diyarbekir slaughter like sheep 700 Christians from Mardin (mostly Armenians) including the Armenian bishop in the night at a place outside the town. Reshid Bey is continuing his bloody work against the innocent, and their number is today over two thousand. Unless the government immediately takes energetic measures to stop Reshid Bey, the common Muslim population in the vilayet will also begin to massacre Christians. Day by day the situation here is growing more threatening. The government must recall Reshid Bey immediately and thereby document that it does not approve of these atrocities, which is the common opinion here.[21]

It is not clear who is Holstein’s informant because there were two successive mutasarrifs of Mardin who were replaced early in June for opposition to the Christian massacres: first Hilmi Bey and then Shefik Bey. Hilmi was transferred to Mosul and Shefik to Baghdad.

On July 12 Ambassador Wangenheim presented a formal protest to Talaat concerning the fear of a general massacre.

Sur les ordres de Réchid Bey des gendarmes de Diyarbekir se rendirent à Mardin et y arrêtèrent l’évêque Arménien avec un grand nombre d’Arméniens et d’autres chrétiens, en tout sept cent personnes; tout ce monde fut conduit pendant la nuit à un endroit hors de la ville et égorgé comme des moutons. Le nombre total des victimes de ces massacres est évalué à 2000 âmes. Si le Gouvernement Impérial ne prend pas de mesures contre Réchid Bey il est à craindre que les basses classes de la population musulmane des Vilayets environnants ne se lèvent à leur tour pour se livrer à un massacre général de tous les habitants chrétiens.[22]

Talaat sent his telegram to Reshid on the same day as the German protest,. Obviously one intention was simply to please the irate German ambassador. But there were some differences in the content. The Germans knew that the provincial governor was the instigator and that the militia acted on his orders. Talaat’s telegram excludes that. The Germans demanded that Reshid be replaced, However he remained in his position until March 1916 and was never reprimanded for his anti-Christian activities. Reshid’s replacement was Bedri Bey, his closest assistant and who was totally implicated in the genocide. Also Talaat specified that the repressive measures should be confined to the Armenian people only, which is not exactly the thrust of Holstein’s argument that the Turkish authorities were killing innocent people. This was a far cry from the “documented disapproval of the atrocities,” which was the original demand. Needless to say Reshid and his collaborators resumed to kill Christians of all faiths as soon as they felt that they were not being observed. The German government never followed up the diplomatic protests with harsher measures, so it may be that even Wangenheim’s intervention was intended more as a gesture to world opinion than as a chastisement of the Ottoman ally. At any rate Wangenheim gave up over the Turkish intransigence and went on sick leave from July 16.[23]

The Organization of Genocide

Until the spring of 1915 there had been very little evidence of systematic attempts to eradicate the local Christian population. There had indeed been much harassment and hard words were spoken, but little killing. It was said that the valiHamid Bey very sympathetic to the situation of the Christians. However, to make a symbolic gesture 12 Syrian Orthodox youths from the village of Qarabash, who had hidden in hills near their homes from conscription were tried on trumped up charges of desertion from the front line and sentenced to death. They were hanged in official ceremonies throughout the area. Two of them were hanged in Diyabekir on February 18 in the presence of the valiand Ömer Naji Bey, a leading orator of the Committee for Unity and Progress and a member of the special organization Teshkilat-i Mahsusa.[24]

Reshid was reappointed vali because of pressure from local Diyarbekir politicians who were deputies to the national assembly and members of the Committee for Unity and Progress. These were Aziz Feyzi Bey and Zulfi Bey. Feyzi was the son of Arif who organized the 1895 pogroms and massacres in Diyarbekir. Throughout the war Feyzi and Zulfi were strong agitators for the anti-Christian campaign. According to Armalto their message was “Don’t leave a single Christian! Whoever does not do this duty is no longer a Muslim!”[25]  Feyzi particularly was known as a fanatic Pan-Turk nationalist. They accused the previous vali of being soft on the Armenians and of being a close friend of the Armenian bishop.[26]

All contemporary observers singled out Reshid Bey as the key figure behind the extent of the massacres and mayhem. He was trained as a military doctor and became early in his career involved in the Young Turk movement in the 1880s. He later became a member of the exclusive Committee for Unity and Progress and had the code-name Shahin Giray, which his descendents adopted as a surname.

A Circassian, Reshid was born in the Caucasus in 1873. He was exiled to North Africa because of his political activities and there met with exiled Kurdish political actives. He married Mazlume, a granddaughter of Badr-Khan Pasha.[27] Thus he had relatively good contacts with the loyalist branches of the Badr-Khan dynasty and through them members of the Milli and the Karakechi tribes. After the Young Turk revolution of 1908 he returned from exile and began an administrative career serving as kaymakam of Istanköy from October 1909, as mutasarrif of Humus, Kozan, Rize, and Karesi. In the last-named place he served from July 8, 1913 to July 23, 1914 and was responsible for the forced deportation of the Greeks.

When Reshid Bey arrived in Diyarbekir in March 1915 he already knew the province well through a previous short term as vali and through his marriage alliance with the Badr-Khans. Previous to his second appointment in Diyarbekir, Reshid had been vali in Basra and had instigated the murder of several high-ranking officials, among them his predecessor Ferit. He served as vali in Basra until the end of November 1914, from 24 November he was interim valiin Baghdad and from 10 January to 25 February 1915 he held the post of vali in Mosul. While in Iraq he formed a small private army composed of Circassian volunteers, of which he took some with him to Diyarbekir. In particular Harun and Aziz were identified as ruthless leaders of the various bands (witnesses used the Turkish term çete) that attacked villages or murdered oppositional Muslim notables in Diyarbekir province.[28]

In his defense written after the war, Reshid asserted that on arriving in Diyarbekir he found that the Armenians, Nestorians and Yezidis were in full revolt. “It was the most sensitive time of the war. The enemy occupied large areas of Van and Bitlis. Inside the province and its surroundings were revolts of Yezidis and Nestorians. There was need for quick action. The Armenian stance was humiliating and the situation for the government was serious because we had no regular forces. We had a reserve Jandarma

[a military reserve]

that was inadequate and poorly equipped. The general Muslim population was concerned over the war and the Armenian murders and insults caused fear among them.”[29]  He proposed to the government the creation of paramilitary çete units to take care of the rebellious elements, obviously he was thinking of his already existing private army since observers state that he came with a bodyguard of 40 Circassians.[30] However, he met with opposition. As an alternative he created a “Committee for the Investigation of the Armenian Question”, which also assumed a networking function for the anti-Christian activities. Members of this group were the vice vali Ibrahim Bedreddine (often called Bedri) Bey, the commander of the gendarmes Rushti (a Circassian), Shevki (son of a mufti), Feyzi (leader of the local Committee for Unity and Progress as well as member of the national assembly, identified by Naayem as the principle instigator of the massacres) served as vice chairman, Sheref, Tahik Heyeti and many others amounting altogether to nearly thirty persons of various levels from members of parliament to local merchants, administrators and religious figures.[31]

Bedri was believed to be the only person who could influence Reshid’s decisions. Yves Ternon believes that it was Bedri who was the mastermind behind the extension of the anti-Armenian policy to encompass all Christian religions. He substitute as mutasarrif of Mardin in the summer of 1915 and was formally appointed in September. He succeeded Reshid as valiof Diyarbekir in March 1916. After the war he, along with Feyzi and Zulfi, was held by the British under arrest on Malta charged with war crimes, but all of them escaped and returned to Turkey.[32]

Reshid received direct advice and orders from Talaat and a direct telegraph line went from Reshid’s offices to the Minister of Interior.[33] When Rafael de Nogales met for a conversation with Reshid on June 26, the vali intimated that the anti-Christian activities had come on the order of Talaat himself through a telegram containing only three words: Yak-Vur-Öldür, that is “burn, demolish, kill.”[34]

Organization included not just the formation a trusted group of collaborating genocidal administrators and politicians. Reshid also needed to remove a number of Ottoman officials who were opposed to the anti-Christian policies. Many officials instead insisted upon the loyalty of the Ottoman Christian citizens in their jurisdiction and refused to arrest the Christian notables. Reshid had two consecutive mutasarrifsof Mardin replaced in June 1915. Both Hilmi Bey and his successor Shefik Bey protested publicly and were transferred to new posts in Iraq. Members of Reshid’s Circassian guard liquidated some of the medium officials. Çerkes Harun murdered the kaymakam of Lije, Hüseyin Nesimi, who had demanded a written order before he would arrest the Christians.[35]

While the small Circassian bodyguard was useful for individual assassinations and other designated tasks, Reshid also needed to recruit local collaborators for large-scale actions needing local knowledge and contacts. One solution was to go through with his original plans to create paramilitary units that could coordinate activities in designated territories. Units of 50 Muslim volunteers from the local population who were given uniforms and rifles and their leaders were given officer ranks. Because they consisted of 50 militiamen, they were termed by the locals the Al Khamsin, Arabic for “the fifty”. One group was under the command of Qaddur Bey and was active in the territory around and east of Nisibin. Another group was based in Mardin under the leadership of Nuri el Ansari, another group was based in Diyarbekir under Sidki, who was a relative of CUP delegate Feyzi. Sometimes the Al Khamsin militia committed the massacres single handedly, but for large populations or sweeps through many neighboring small villages they needed the support of warriors from the Kurdish tribes.

The recruitment of Kurdish tribal collaborators was not a straightforward matter as many of the Christians actually were the semi-feudal peasants belonging to Kurdish aghas, who had no direct cause to kill off their own laborers. In the 1895 massacres, the Kurds protected many Syrian Christians. As the oral history collected by Hinno reveals, many aghas of the Huverkan confederation had already begun to promise protection. The branch headed by Chelebi and his nephew Saruhan protected Christians throughout the war, while Hassan Hajo went back on his initial promises and collaborated.

Reshid sought contact with Kurds that had something to gain, for instance outlaws, or groups that had been part of the 1914 revolt and needed to get back in the graces of the government. He sought after bandits and promised them pardon for their previous crimes in return for collaboration. He approached some of the minor sons of Ibrahim Pasha who controlled a band of the Rama, originally formed by their mother, based between the Tigris River and the town of Batman. The outlawed brothers Ömer (also called Amerki), a particularly outrageous bandit, and Mustafa were being sought by the authorities for fratricide, along with a long series of less spectacular crimes.[36] Reshid summoned them and when Mustafa arrived, Reshid explained that despite the fact that the Muslims were protecting their factories and workshops, Armenians were helping the Russians to defeat Ottoman troops. He stated that Christians were infidels and that various Muftis had asserted that it was not a sin to kill an infidel, on the contrary such a person would be welcomed to Paradise. Reshid asserted that because he was a high officialhe could not kill Christians even if he aspired to kill at least 500. He proposed that Mustafa and his clan would organize the killing of Armenians who would soon be sent away on the Tigris River. The Rama clan could take half of the wealth of the deportees and the other half would be turned over to Reshid who said he would donate it to the Red Crescent organization. Mustafa organized rafts for the river trip and together with the rest of his clan transported the Armenians downstream, where they were killed and their bodies thrown into the river. Such actions were taken several times. Demirer, who was their nephew, wrote that their mother Perikhan was very upset that her sons collaborated with the vali.[37] They also participated in attacks on many other villages: Ayn Wardo, Dayro da Slibo, Dufne, Habsnus, Hasankeyf, the many Christian villages in the Hawar valley, and Kabiye.

The first step that Reshid took against the Christians began on April 16/29, 1915. This action was a direct parallel to the actions against the Armenians of Van that started at the same time and together the two events can be seen as a coordinated effort to stamp out Christian opposition to the war in the provincial capitols. Since the beginning of mobilization several hundred Armenian youths, who refused enrollment or deserted from the army, had been living on the roofs in the Armenian quarter in Diyarbekir. There the authorities could not get hold of them and they dubbed themselves “the battalion on the terraces”. The Armenian quarter was cordoned off and its gates were locked. Soldiers began house-to-house searches for weapons and deserters. They searched not only private homes, but also schools and churches. By the end of the day three hundred young males had been arrested and were marched off to the central prison. The town crier announced that the Christians had 24 hours to turn over all of their weapons.

Religious and lay leaders of various Armenian denominations including Apostolic, Catholic and Protestants met to discuss whether or not it would be possible to mount an armed resistance. This meeting ended, however, without agreement. One part wanted to fight back, the other part said that resistance would be impossible for any length of time. After this failure to make a united front, the local authorities had an easy task of making individual arrests. On April 27/May 10 Reshid telegraphed Istanbul announcing the result of his actions. “Since 10 days back I have taken the most serious measures against the deserters and at the same time we searched the Armenian houses and took important steps. We have found masses of weapons and military uniforms and ammunition and different weapons and much powder to make dynamite. We have imprisoned 120 notable persons up to now in the central part of the province. The majority have been members of committees [political parties] and about a thousand deserters. Our raids and searches continue.”[38] Photographs were taken of the collected weapons and some were published in newspapers. If the deserters really had been conscripted soldiers, it would not be surprising that the authorities found uniforms and rifles in the raids. The Venezuelan mercenary in Ottoman service, Rafael de Nogales, reacted in the following way when he was shown the photographs by the commander of the Diyarbekir Jandarma, Mehmed Asim Bey. “A close contemplation of those interesting photographs revealed plainly that the park therein represented was composed almost entirely of fowling-pieces easily disguised by a thin layer of army guns. I fear very much therefore that all this ostentatious collection of elements of war was nothing more or less than the work of Mehmed-Asim Bey himself, in his attempt to mislead and impress the public.”[39] Nogales testimony has extra value as he had just retreated from Van where he had been chief of the Ottoman artillery, so he knew precisely what sort of arms the Armenian defenders used, and he spoke explicitly of “carbine rifles Russian fusils and Mauser pistols… hand grenades.” That arsenal was obviously quite different from the pile of arms shown in the photograph.

1600 notables had been imprisoned by late May. Most of them were Armenians, but there were also Syrian Catholics and Chaldeans among them. Many of the most prominent persons were interrogated under torture. They were questioned about where stocks of weapons and explosives had been hidden. They were also told that if they converted to Islam they could be released. Authorities extorted money from the families of the inmates. Several prisoners died of the torture. On May 25 the prisoners were assembled in the courtyard of the prison. A mufti read a telegram that had purportedly come from the government that: “The Government, with its habitual beneficence, despite your attitude in this regard, has given you a pardon for your aggressive actions and will not inflict any punishment on you. Only, it orders your deportation to Mosul. You may return to your homes once the war is terminated. You are delivered from a great responsibility. You are commanded to give property and money to us and so we can make preparations for your departure.”[40] After that the prisoners were locked up once more.

On May 30 several hundred prisoners were taken out of their cells. They were roped or chained together and placed either in wagons or were tied behind vehicles. They were marched through the main street of Diyarbekir on their way out of the city. As they went they sang songs of farewell to their families who watched from windows and roofs. When they came out of the city gates they were marched to the river port where they were searched for valuables. These were seized, but authorities assured the expellees that their property would be returned in Mosul. Different figures are given for the number of persons deported on this day, 630, 1060 (Simon), 700 (Naayem), 680 (Armalto), but it was obviously a very large group of between six and seven hundred persons. They got on rafts and set off along the river expecting to take the three day journey to Mosul, but they never arrived. On June 10 consul Holstein reported from Mosul that empty rafts were seen abandoned on the river and the following days corpses and parts of bodies floated by. He identified them as a party of 614 Armenian males who had been deported from Diyarbekir and placed the blame for the murders on the vali. The local Mosul officials confirmed that Reshid had organized the slaughter.[41]

Not much is known about the details of the further deportations from Diyarbekir. Some convoys of Christians continued to be sent down the Tigris River and were slaughtered along the way. Some of the columns of women and children did avoid attack, but arrived at Jizre, where according to Shahin a large slave market had emerged selling individual deportees. Other convoys were marched overland and were exterminated. One column of 510 women and children from wealthy Diyarbekir families met their fate at Dara.[42]

Simon listed 52 principal massacres in the Diyarbekir region with the approximate number of victims and the dates. His list began in June and stopped in October. They include attacks on places in Diyarbekir province plus neighboring Christian enclaves like Sa’irt (in Bitlis province) and Urfa (in Aleppo province). They also include the major attacks on deportation caravans passing through the province on their way south.  Among the largest single massacres he noted Midyat where 7,000 were killed on July 19, Jizre where 15,000 were killed on August 8 and a further 6,000 were killed on August 20, Brahimie (a village nine hours from Mardin) where 4,000 were killed on June 25. Among the large-scale attacks on columns of Armenian deportees passing through the area: 12,000 Armenian exiles were killed on the road between Diyarbekir and Mardin on 20 June, 7,000 exiles were killed at Dara on July 11, 12,000 of a large convoy of women and children were killed on the road between Diyarbekir and Mardin on September 10 and the final survivors were murdered at Nisibin on September 14.[43]

The Town of Mardin

Because of the nature of the sources, it is possible to obtain more information about the genocide in Mardin than any other region in the province. The main administrative town of the sanjak was Mardin and it was the seat of the district governor, the mutasarrif, who was appointed by the government. Mardin was an ancient settlement dwarfed by a fortress on a high plateau, with the rest of the town sprawling downwards on the slope. It was a center for caravans going east and west and north and south. It was also the seat for an archbishop of the Armenian Catholic Church Ignatius Maloyan, an archbishop of the Syrian Catholic Church Gabriel Tappouni, a patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church, bishops of the Chaldean Church, a small American Protestant Mission, religious centers for the Capuchins, Franciscans, Filles du Charité. Surrounding the town of Mardin was its agricultural kaza, with 105 villages and the large Syrian Orthodox monastery of Zafaran and the Syrian Catholic monastery Mar Efram.

Premonitions of impending massacres kept growing from the very onset of the war. The mobilization of young and adult males began in August and September of 1914 and Christians were included. Almost none of the conscripts who were marched away to the front or to training camps Enver returned. House searches for deserters and the public execution of deserters who were caught were daily events. The military confiscated the contents of Christian shops in the bazaars and took draught animals in order to supply the army. Armalto recorded a number of instances amount of random violence and killing of Christians. One of the few positive events in Mardin was the appointment of Hilmi Bey as mutasarrif on December 13, 1914. He was officially polite towards Archbishops Maloyan and Tappouni and promised to “help them in all their problems”. Thus began a degree of cooperation between the highest Christian leaders and the district governor. When accusations spread that Christians had deserted from the army and were hiding in the area, the two archbishops went to government house and met with the head of the local garrison and Hilmi Bey. They asked for a list of names so that they could help in searching for the runaways. This was taken by Hilmi as a “sign of upright love of the state”. The mutasarrif also attended a dinner held at Tappouni’s residence on February 11 and at which Maloyan was also a guest. Throughout the winter and early spring of 1915 Maloyan missed few occasions to express the loyalty of himself and his congregation to the Ottoman state. For these declarations and other acts of loyalty, Maloyan received news that the government on April 6had decided to honor him with an Ottoman decoration.[44] This medal arrived on April 20 along with a decree of the Sultan and this was presented to him in a public ceremony. In his acceptance speech Maloyan wished the Sultan “success and that his ministers would win the war.”[45]

However, despite the official recognition, Maloyan was deeply anxious. As the Entente powers in March 1915 began an assault on the Straits, rumors began to spread in Mardin of threats to exterminate the Christians. On March 23 in the nearby town of Kasir soldiers arrested the priest Girgis Sham’i and local Syrian notables, bound them together with a rope and marched them to the town court. Tappouni had to intervene with Hilmi Bey in order to get them free after that they swore an oath of “upright submission and loyalty to the state”. On March 24, which was Palm Sunday, soldiers were sent into all of the churches to arrest any deserters they could find as well as church deacons, who up to then had been free from conscription. Two men were taken from the Syrian Church and were sent to Diyarbekir. The soldiers kept on harassing the churchgoers throughout the holy week and began with arbitrary arrests of persons caught in the streets. Armalto wrote: “We are unable to list all of the violence that the soldiers committed against the Christians, all of the bitterness they had to taste and the cup of sorrow and misery they had to empty”.[46] The Christians spent Easter Sunday with “scared hearts and fearful, restless minds.” Aiming to calm feelings, Hilmi Bey visited to the various churches after Easter and tried to console the priests. He allowed Berré, Rhétoré and Simon to leave their house arrest.

A very worrying sign was the creation on April 13 of an Al Khamsin militia unit recruited from local Muslim volunteers. Armalto noted that: “We did not know the purpose with this mobilization, but we were pessimistic and our worry grew”. On April 22 church leaders were tipped off by a high official that they should “hide the letters, papers and books that you have, which contain political news or which are written in French or Armenian. The government intends to search minutely after such material and to punish very sEnverely those who have it in their possession”. Heeding this warning Armalto himself buried his personal chronicle and burned all of his Armenian and French books. On the last day of April soldiers surrounded the Armenian Church, which they entered and began to search for hidden weapons and demanded that Archbishop Maloyan show where the weapons were stashed. Maloyan denied that there were any arms, but said that the soldiers were free to look wherever they wanted. The soldiers seized Maloyan’s letters, papers, notebooks, newspapers and archive and took them to the government house from where they were sent to the vali for further investigation.[47]

After these events Maloyan had a vision anticipating a coming massacre. He gathered on May 1 the church leadership to inform them of his deep disillusion. He composed a letter to his congregation. This letter was later presented to Tappouni and has been printed in full by Armalto and in excerpt by Simon. In Armalto’s version, Maloyan wrote that in case anything happened to him, that is “if the decisions by the highest authorities are realized, of whatEnver nature they may be – whether elimination or martyrdom” he had already named a successor. He added that “I have never broken against any of the laws of the Sublime Porte and I have always been upright loyal as a Catholic archbishop should be. I urge all of you to follow my example in this matter. I command you, dear children, to God. Pray to Him to give me the power and courage through His mercy and His love to carry me through this final time and the trials of martyrdom.”[48]

Soldiers began to search through the other churches of Mardin. They thoroughly went through the Syrian Catholic Church buildings and looked for weapons and bombs. On Sunday May 9 the soldiers arrested the Chaldean priest Hanna Shouha under the accusation that he had hidden some deserters in his home. They put an iron ring about his neck and paraded him through the Muslim section of the town before sending him to Diyarbekir. There he was beaten and tortured to death. After this public humiliation of a priest, the soldiers grew bolder and went freely in and out of Christian homes. Reshid sent one of his close associates Feyzi, the CUP national assembly delegate, to Mardin on May 15. He convoked a meeting with Muslim notables to convey the plans of the vali. According to Armalto he said: “The time has come to save Turkey from its national enemies, that is the Christians. We must be clear, that the states of Europe will not protest or punish us, since Germany is on our side and helps and supports us.”[49] The first step was to let the town crier broadcast the message: “All Christians must within 24 hours deliver the shooting-weapons that they have to the commander’s exercise place.” The thought behind this message was not that many weapons would be delivered, but rather the fact that few weapons had been turned over, could be used as an excuse for further arrests. After this all Christians who were enrolled in the army were disarmed and all but two Christians who were public employees were fired from their jobs. News also came of the torture and dismembering of a young Syrian in broad daylight.

On May 25 the vali paid a visit to Mardin to give Hilmi verbal instruction about the treatment of the Christians. He was commanded to arrest the Christian leaders and put them in the town’s prison. Armalto states that Hilmi’s refusal was worded: “I see no reason that Mardin’s Christians need to be arrested. Therefore I cannot agree to your demand.” According to Rhétoré, Hilmi added: “I am not without conscience [and cannot] cooperate in the massacre of Ottoman subjects who are innocent and loyal to the government.”[50] Apparently, Hilmi made his protest in public and it immediately became known. After this Reshid looked for a way to get Hilmi replaced.

Maloyan sent a messenger with a letter to the American consul in Aleppo Jesse Jackson asking for help, but there was no reply. On June 1 he sought out his colleagues Tappouni and the three French clerics. He read the letter that he had read for his congregation on 1 May, folded it and gave it to Tappouni saying “Keep this testament on you”. Tappouni tried to console Maloyan, but he was sure “I know for sure that I and my congregation will be condemned to torture and death. I expect them to come to arrest us any day. It is unavoidable… Pray for me. I suspect that this is the last time I will see you.”[51]

The authorities fabricated evidence for an Armenian revolt. Photographs were produced purporting to show that there bombs and caches of weapons that had been found in the churches. This evidence was sent to Istanbul. “The local authorities also forged a letter, ostensibly written to Maloyan, the head of the Armenian Catholic community, by a young Armenian stating that an arms shipment had been sent to the Armenian Catholic Archbishopric.”[52]

On June 3 Hilmi Bey was lured away from Mardin and a delegation of officials arrived from Diyarbekir with orders from the governor. With them they had a number of false documents with accusations and they demanded the arrest of persons named in the accusations. Members of the Al Khamsin militia were sent out to make the arrests and some of the first to be arrested that day was Maloyan and his secretary. The military cordoned off Mardin and prevented anyone from leaving the town. Further waves of arrests took place on June 4 and 5 and resulted in the imprisonment of, according to Armalto, 662 adult males of all Christian denominations. They were squeezed into the Mardin prison and one barrack. Among them were the richest and most educated lay notables of the community plus many religious leaders. The accusation was that they conspired to aid France, one of the enemies of the Ottoman Empire. In the Capuchine church the militia discovered a register over the “Mar Francis brethren” and that proved enough to them that they had discovered a pro-French association, so they arrested the abbot of the Capuchines for conspiring with the enemy.[53] A group of militiamen were sent on June 7 to make arrests in the large Armenian Catholic village of Tel-Arman. The accusation was that Sarkis, one of the village headmen, had smuggled in 25 rifles and 5 bombs into the Armenian Church of Mardin. They arrested a priest and several other leading men and took them to Mardin.

Even members of the Syrian Orthodox Church had been arrested even though they could not be proved to have had contact with the French. After an intervention the Syrian Orthodox captives were released.[54] On their way out of the prison they expressed gratitude to the government and wished it victory. Armalto stated that the reason why the Syrian Orthodox prisoners were released was in order to calm the spirits of the Jacobites because they formed a very large part of the population so it was important that they should not revolt against the authorities. In this way the conspirators could concentrate on the various Catholic denominations and deal with the Syrian Orthodox later.[55] An anonymous account states that the Syrian Orthodox believers were released after they signed false accusations against the other Christians. “The Jacobites, including bishop Mahria and eight members of his congregation, joined local Muslims to sign a statement regarding the alleged guilt of Armenians. Four days later, around June 9th, 1915, 85 Jacobites were released by the authorities. Syrian Catholic and Chaldean Christians also expected to be released but were not afforded the same treatment.”[56] The Syrian Catholic Archbishop Tappouni intervened to get the imprisoned members of his church free, but he did not succeed. The American missionary Andrus similarly tried but failed to get the Protestant prisoners released. On the evening of June 7 Hilmi Bey had returned to Mardin and began energetic arguments to get the Christians free, but he was immediately deposed from his office and temporarily replaced by one of the conspirators, Halil Adib, the criminal court judge and leader of the town’s Committee of Unity and Progress.[57]

Remaining in prison were, according to Rhétoré, 410 persons: 230 Armenian Catholics, 113 Syrian Catholics, 30 Chaldeans, and 27 Protestants. Among them were 10 clerics the most prominent of them being Maloyan. A large number of the prisoners were tortured in a special torture cell. During the torture they were interrogated and asked questions about caches of weapons and explosives, or membership in Armenian terrorist associations. Most were ordered to convert, but refused. Tortures involved beatings, bastinado, being tied upside-down for hours on end, being thrown off the roof of a low building. Sometimes toenails and beards were ripped off. Maloyan suffered through nearly all of these tortures including having his toenails pulled out and being thrown off the roof. He was accused of having received two boxes of weapons and hiding them in the church. He was also accused of being the organizer of a terrorist cell.[58] One prisoner, Sa’id al-Wazir, had gasoline poured over him and was then set on fire and burned to death. Armalto heard of these beatings, tortures and other atrocities because one prisoner, nineteen-year-old schoolboy Boulos, the son of Rizqallah Shouha, managed at the last moment to be released since he was able to speak Turkish and could prove that he had been in school in Diyarbekir all of the previous year and thus could not have been the secretary of a secret Armenian society in Mardin, which was the charge against him.[59]   

On June 10 the more than four hundred prisoners (Armalto stated 417, Simon 405 and Rhétoré 410) were chained and roped together and then paraded from the prison high above the town through the streets and out by one of the main gates by Memduh and one hundred militiamen. At the front of the parade limped a 75-year-old Syrian Catholic archpriest supported by a younger colleague and the final prisoner in the parade was Maloyan, according to Simon bareheaded and barefoot, held upright by two police. The captives were tied together in groups of forty and each group included a priest. In the Muslim quarters, the inhabitants jeered and children threw stones. In the Christian quarters the inhabitants looked on in silence from the windows and roofs. This parade and humiliation was theatrically public. Purportedly, the prisoners were to be marched to Diyarbekir for trial.

These prisoners were then killed at places outside the town: a small number of notables were pressed for money and then killed at Akhtachké about 2 hours by foot from Mardin, about one hundred were murdered at the caves of Sheikhan, a religious cult-place about 6 hours from Mardin, another hundred near the castle ruins of Zirzawan, and the remainder were murdered at a ravine in a valley about 4 hours march from Diyarbekir. We know the details of the killings because they took the main road from Mardin to Diyarbekir and passed through Kurdish villages where witnesses later spoke about the events. One of the militiamen guarding the prisoners also gave witness to Simon.[60] At the Sheikhan caves, Memduh read out what he stated was an imperial firman accusing the Christians of treason. Because of this they were condemned to death. Those prisoners who chose to convert could return free to Mardin. Otherwise they would be executed within the hour. Maloyan began to improvise religious services and the archbishop and priests circulated among the prisoners celebrating Holy Communion. Maloyan, was marched off alone and was executed separate from his flock – after having refused to convert. 

After this parade and execution without trial, the newly appointed and recently arrived mutasarrifShefik Bey also protested demanding a stop of the general massacre of Christians.[61] Because Shefik also refused to collaborate, he too had to be replaced. It was said that Reshid tried to have Shefik assassinated, but that the valiof Mosul resisted.[62] According to Rhétoré, Shefik sent telegrams to the government and other influential persons protesting against the massacres. It is not clear how long Shefik was in office, but it could only have been a few days, maybe not even a week. Already on June 11 Armalto recorded that Shefik had been deposed although no new mutasarrif had yet been installed. The Syrians were still petitioning him to intervene for the release of prisoners and the government was still pressuring him to issue orders of deportation of the Syrian Catholic archbishop Gabriel Tappouni. He refused to sign the order of deportation, and sent a message personally guaranteeing Tappouni’s “upright loyalty and trust in the state.”[63]

Although Hilmi and Shefik had been fired, their protests did come to the attention of the German government and the Sultan. This set in motion a political pressure to limit the anti-Christian campaign only to Armenians, and to keep other Christians safe. However, the local authorities found ways around these limitations.

On June 11 several hundred new prisoners were selected from the Christian communities. On June 14 a new funeral procession was paraded through the town of Mardin. At daybreak they were led in chains out of the town. Simon stated that the group contained 278 persons including 12 priests, Rhétoré counted 266 prisoners, Armalto stated that they numbered 309.[64] Rhétoré counted 181 Armenian Catholics, 50 Syrian Catholics, 19 Chaldeans, and 4 Protestants. Among them were 12 priests. According to Armalto 84 prisoners from Tel-Arman and Mardin were bound with iron rings around their necks, the rest were tied with thick ropes or handcuffs. At Sheikhan cult-place the column rested close to a place of pilgrimage, the grave of Sheikhmous. Kurds blandishing knives, axes, swords, butchers knives, and batons immediately surrounded the prisoners and pressed to attack the Christians. The soldiers guarded the Christians and put them in a large cave, and the officer in change said he would protect the Christians if they turned over all their money and valuables to him for safekeeping. At 8 o’clock in the evening all who had iron rings about their necks or had handcuffs were ordered to stand up and go out of the cave. 84 people took farewell. As they left the cave a battle began between the militia and the Kurds over who was to do the killing. The militia marched away with the prisoners who they proceeded to kill. When the soldiers returned they ordered the rest to come out of the cave. They were told that they could drink water, but when they approached the watering place, they were shot at and 15 prisoners were killed. According to survivors, as the convoy was marching to the next place of execution along the road to Diyarbekir, Ottoman cavalrymen approached with an order to stop the killing and giving a pardon “from the Sultan” to all who were not Armenian.[65]

Soon afterwards a militia company from Diyarbekir arrived and took over command. The new commander forced the Mardin militia leader to return the money and valuables to the prisoners. He also criticized the Mardin militia for having murdered the prisoners and commanded them to return home. However, instead of dispersing the convoy, which would have been the logical result of a pardon, it was marched off to Diyarbekir. Here all stayed incarcerated at a caravan station. Armalto got his information from one of the prisoners an elderly Syrian Catholic priest named Matta Kharimo, and prints his written statement. While incarcerated, Kharimo was taken by a guard and locked in the latrines. There he saw three large baskets with human noses, ears, teeth, nails, hair, eyes and fingers. He also saw two corpses and two nearly dead prisoners half buried in the dirt. On June 21 the prisoners were allowed to return to Mardin. They were still bound together by ropes when they arrived and they were placed under guard in barracks. Once again, Kharimo underwent extreme torture and interrogation. He was accused of having received 5 loads of weapons and having distributed them together with Maloyan. He was beaten and hung by the feet upside down. Suddenly there was a turn of events. On June 26 Memduh appeared at the barracks and called out “All Syrians, Chaldeans and Protestants hold up your hands and give your names.” These prisoners were then released, but the Armenians remained.[66] The Armenian prisoners continued to be tortured and killed in the prison. They also formed part of the further convoys of Armenians that continued to be sent out from Mardin during the following months.

According to many accounts, the massacres in the Mardin countryside began in the first week of June, with an attack on the town of Hasankeyf at the crossing of the Tigris River. Afterwards widespread attacks focused on towns and villages as well as on columns of refugees and deportees traveling south throughout June and July. The German consul at Mosul, Walter Holstein, reported to his ambassador on June 13 that in the region of Mardin the “conditions have evolved into a true persecution of Christians.”[67]  Between Nisibin and Tel-Arman a group of “substitute troops (released convicts)” had slaughtered a village and together with their officers, they were “glowing with joy about the massacre.”[68] Such groups of released convicts formed the violent çete rabble that witnesses in many places blamed for the worst atrocities. They were integrated into the Teskilat-i Mahsusaparamilitary taskforces.

From then on organized deportations of Catholic Armenian families took place on July 2 (600 persons), July 17 (250 persons), July 27, August 10 (600 persons) and continued on into the coming months. The entire Armenian community was liquidated. Usually the caravan would be massacred after one day’s march from Mardin, but sometimes they arrived at the concentration camps in the Syrian Desert. Later during the war these even these camps were attacked. Only a few individuals survived.[69] Memduh was the practical organizer and he profited greatly from the wealth he took from the Armenians. Simon listed the number of families that Memduh robbed and estimated the enormous amount stolen. Even Reshid was known to have accumulated an incredible fortune for a poorly paid government official.[70]

Talaat Pasha’s telegram, which as already mentioned purported to save the non-Armenian Christians was sent on July 12. However, with the exception of Mardin and some farming villages, which were attacked in June, the major part of the Mardin region massacres occurred after Talaat’s telegram. Attacks in the large Syrian town of Midyat began on July 16 and the massacres here went on for more than a week as the Christians defended themselves. 7,000 are said to have died. Attacks on the Christians in the town of Nisibin began on August 16 and the Syrian Orthodox bishop was among the first victims. Here the entire Christian population was exterminated. Massacres in the town of Jizre took place on the last days of August and the first days of September. Here 5,000 died. In Midyat, Nisibin, and Jizre, there were almost no Apostolic Armenians. Obviously the decrees excepting the non-Armenian Christians and the Armenian Catholics and Protestants was not respected.

As long as Reshid remained vali, Diyarbekir was a province of killing fields. On July 16 consul Holstein reported a rumor to the Embassy that the kaymakam of Midyat had recently been murdered on the order of the vali, because he had “refused to let the Christians in his district be massacred.”[71] On July 21 the consul reported the arrival in Mosul of about 600 women and children “Armenian, Chaldean, Syrian” whose male relations had been massacred in Sa’irt, Mardin, and Pesh-Khabur, and more were expected to arrive in the next days. “The misery of these persons cannot be described, their clothes fall from their bodies; daily women and children die of hunger.”[72] On September 9 Holstein reported to the embassy, and on September 11 the ambassador wrote to the Reichskanzler of a recent massacre of “all the Christian inhabitants” of Jizre. The military had participated and the civil authorities stood by passively. According to a census of 1891 the victims here would include the following religions: Apostolic Armenians, Catholic Armenians, Protestant Armenians, Chaldeans, and Syrian Orthodox.[73]

Even Ottoman officials were angered by Reshid’s methods, since he liquidated oppositional functionaries. After the war Suleyman Nazif, a former vali of Mosul, testified to the Department of the Interior. He wrote “the catastrophic deportations and murders in Diyarbekir were Reshid’s work. He is alone responsible. He recruited people from the outside in order to perform the killing. He killed the kaymakams in order to scare all other oppositional Muslim men and women, he displayed the corpses of the kaymakamsin public.”[74] According to Armalto, Nazif had tried to save an entire caravan of about 260 of Mardin’s Armenian women and children when traveling near Tel-Arman on July 16. But since he was outside his own jurisdiction, Memduh showed him Reshid’s execution order and threatened to arrest him if he dared intervene. The caravan was then massacred the next day close to Viranshehir.[75]

Against this background of intensive slaughter in the southern parts of the Diyarbekir province, local armed resistance began to form. This was the immediate background to what the Ottoman officials called the Midyat rebellion. Holstein reported on July 28 that an uprising “both of Chaldeans and Syrians” was present in the area between Mardin and Midyat. The telegraph line to Diyarbekir had been broken. “This uproar is directly a consequence of the extreme actions of the vali of Diyarbekir against Christians in general. They are trying to save their skins.” He also reported that the Yezidis of Sinjar Mountains, who were friendly with the Christians, were also in revolt.[76] The German ambassador in Istanbul sent a message to the Reichskanzler about the situation in Tur Abdin region: “Since the Beginning of this month the vali of Diyarbekir, Reşid Bey, started a systematic extermination of the Christian population of his jurisdiction, without difference to race or confession. Of these particularly the Catholic Armenians of Mardin and Tell Armen and the Chaldean Christians and non Uniate Syrians [that is Syrian Orthodox] in the districts of Midyat, Jizre and Nisibin have been victim. According to information obtained by the consulate in Mosul the Christian population between Mardin and Midyat has risen up against the government and destroyed the telegraph lines.”[77]

The Ottoman Military and the “Midyat Rebellion”

Atrocities, massacres and plundering began in early June in Tur Abdin. Already in May some news of what was underway had reached the area in the form of persons who had escaped from the north, where arrests of Christians and deportations had started. At that time the Tur Abdin area was composed mostly of large agricultural villages and towns with a Syrian Orthodox, Chaldean and Kurdish population, but with some Muhallemi and Yezidi presence.

It was a region that was used to war and there were a few villages that traditionally had functioned as fortresses and the Syrians started to improve the fortifications of these, strengthened the walls, stored food, made ammunition and gun-powder. Some, but far from all, of the people from nearby villages moved into the defendable villages. Some of the local Kurdish aghas protected their Christian serfs and some functioned as a guard when the villagers went to the defensible villages. Some of the Kurdish leaders, however, were enticed by the government to join in the massacres, despite their previous oaths to protect. The Muhalemi Kurds, who lived to the northwest of Midyat, played an important communicative and mediating role because they had converted from Syrian Orthodoxy centuries before, but maintained their awareness of their former status and kept contact with the Christians.

The main defended villages were Azakh (now Idil, not far from Jizre), Aynwardo (now Gülgöze, near Midyat), Dayro da Slibo (now Çatalçam, about 30 kilometers north-east of Midyat), Hah (now Anitli, about 22 kilometers north-east of Midyat), Basibrin (now Haberli, about 25 kilometers east of Midyat), and Beth-Debe (now Daskan, on Izlo Mountain near Nisibin).[78] In addition some of the larger monastery complexes could function as fortresses if needed: Mar Melke on Izlo Mountain, Zafaran outside Mardin, Mar Gabriel near Midyat. Most of the defensible villages succeeded to fight off the initial attacks of primarily poorly disciplined Kurdish tribes, but it proved impossible to go outside the defenses. The defenders remained in the villages throughout the summer and could not tend their fields and flocks. Instead some of them began to raid Kurdish villages at night in order to get food. The raids inevitably lead to killing and this brought the situation in Tur Abdin to the attention of Ottoman authorities and they decided to bring in the army.

A rich supply of documentation makes it possible to describe what happened to the village of Azakh, with a large Syrian Orthodox population of about a thousand inhabitants. Just before the massacres several hundred Syrian families from surrounding villages sought shelter there. According to the oral history compiled by Hinno, at the start of the sieges, the headmen gathered under the leadership of the Syrian bishop Mar Behnam Aqrawi, who had fled from nearby Jizre, to select a leader. This was done by lottery and Yesua Hanna Gawriye pulled out the piece of paper with the cross on it and was acknowledged leader. He chose some adjutants and together they built fortifications and made secret tunnels and a group made bullets for the flintlock rifles. According to oral testimony they swore to uphold a traditional motto: “Don’t die in shame and humiliation, we all must die sometime.”[79]

On June 1/14, local Kurdish clans encircled Azakh. They immediately burned the fields and destroyed vineyards and orchards. Shooting broke out and there were losses on both sides, but the Kurds retreated. On June 2/15 there came a larger attack by replenished Kurdish tribes. The Kurds succeeded in getting to the outer walls, but they were pressed back after large losses. Similar battles were fought for seven days. After eight days most of the tribesmen dropped off, but those who remained kept up the siege and for 40 days kept on attacking Azakh during the nights. By that time the tribes disappeared. Because of the long siege, the defenders had very little food and water. They started to make what they termed “orderly raids on the nearby Kurdish villages. Utilizing the darkness of night they attacked and plundered the villages and divided the food justly.”[80] The defense in itself and the food-searching raids could of course be used as evidence of a Christian revolt.

The Kurdish tribes in the area attacked other villages and were especially vicious in the nearby town of Jizre where starting in August three waves of large-scale massacres rocked the town. These massacres were organized by local notables as well as functionaries sent from Diyarbekir. In connection with the Jizre massacres, the authorities began to discuss making a more concentrated effort to deal with the Christians of Tur Abdin who had not only survived the sieges, but had begun to plunder the countryside in search of food. Hinno states that the ring-leaders in Jizre “sent a report to the government and accused the Syrians of being Armenians, rebels and guilty of destroying the villages in the area. When the report came to the authorities, they sent commander Ömer Naji with 8000 fully equipped soldiers to Azakh and in addition these soldiers were joined by Kurdish rebels from the clans in Nisibin, Shirnak and Tell Afar.”[81]

Ottoman documents confirm many of the details of the oral history narrative. The oral testimony correctly identifies the leader of the Ottoman troops as Inspector-General Ömer Naji Bey. He is particularly interesting because of his political connections with the highest political leaders. He had been a long-time member of the Committee for Unity and Progress. He was one of the organizers of the coup of January 23, 1913 that paved the way for the dictatorship of Enver Pasha and Talaat Pasha. He was a member of the military branch of the Teskilat-i Mahsusa and as such was under the command of the Third Army based in Erzerum.[82] He was listed on the French list of suspected war criminals to be arrested after the end of the war, but he had died of typhus in 1916.[83] One of the German officers who was in place at Azakh, Paul Leverkuehn described Naji as one of the most “remarkable figures of the Turkish political world” and it was his impression that Naji “enjoyed the unconditional trust of all the Young Turk politicians and had the authority, if one can say so, of a master prophet.” As a Circassian, born in the Caucasus Naji’s dream was to liberate his homeland from Russian dominance.[84]

Naji was ordered to co-ordinate the campaign against the Christians of Tur Abdin. Purely by accident at the end of October 1915, Naji’s detachment was passing through near Tur Abdin area on a special mission to Persia where together with a group of German officers he was to start guerilla warfare against the Russians and British. The plan was also to spark a rising of Muslims in Russia’s east Caucasus provinces. Naji was the Committee for Unity and Progress’s expert on Iran and he had been there during the brutal occupation of Persian Azerbaijan in early 1915.[85]

Naji’s expedition met up with Halil Bey and his troops who were also proceeding south to Mosul. A mediocre an undisciplined soldier (but with one victory, namely at Kut-al-Amara), Halil’s early career was dependent of the fact that he was Enver Pasha’s uncle. Halil had retreated from Persia after a major defeat at Dilman in May and had thereafter perpetrated the massacres of Christians in Sa’irt and Bitlis in June and July. The German officer Leverkuehn described Halil as traveling in lordly style with a long caravan of wagons pulled by beasts of burden. One was heavily laden with a large bathtub, and the Germans speculated that this was not for his own sanitary needs, but rather was brought for the needs of the captive Armenian females Halil had seized. Halil was an “ambitious political and military dilettante who after his failed invasion of Azerbaijan had commanded a division near Bitlis.”[86] This division was being transferred to the Mesopotamian front in order to be part of the newly organized 6th Army to be headed by the German General Colmar von der Goltz.

That the relatively inexperienced Naji was placed in command rather than Halil, who was an experienced military commander, is surprising. Naji had only an expeditionary force of volunteers destined for guerilla warfare, whereas Halil had a whole division of (at least at one time) elite troops. However, it was probably Halil who had suggested this step, simply because Naji’s force included many German officers. It was an attempt to entice the German military to get hands-on in the anti-Christian policies. Leader of the German contingent was a person who later became close advisor to Adolf Hitler. Max von Scheubner-Richter was of Baltic origin and had served a short term as German vice-consul in Erzerum in the spring of 1915. As vice consul he sent many reports protesting the harsh treatment of the Armenians, which he did not support. Although his reports show him to be a racist thinker, he was against the annihilation of the Armenian population in Anatolia and intervened several times to aid the Armenians. His opposition to the anti-Armenian policy caused disputes with Naji, although they could co-operate in other matters. After returning to Germany he became a leading right-wing political organizer and died literally arm-in-arm with Hitler in the 1923 Munich Beer-Hall putsch

Naji telegraphed on October 29, 1915 informing that Syrian Christians had taken up arms to revolt in Diyarbekir, Jizre and Midyat and were “cruelly massacring” the Muslim people in the area. He proposed to go with his troops to punish the rebels. His telegram was sent to the vali of Mosul, who forwarded it on to the Supreme Military Command in Constantinople. The telegram reads:

I am in Jizre with a detachment of troops bound for Persia. In the districts of Diyarbekir, Midyat and Jizre, which are situated one hour distant from here, the Syrian Christians have revolted and are cruelly massacring the Muslim people in the area. I will go there with my troops to punish the rebels who, it has been reported, have 4,000 arms, though I think this is an exaggeration. My troops consist of 650 cavalry and infantry soldiers. We have two mountain howitzers. I request that a battalion from the 51st Division, which is to arrive in Jizre, and a number of mountain artillery to be ordered to join our troops.

From this we can see that he was not convinced in by the claim that the rebellious villagers were Armenian. But he calls for reinforcements from Mosul and of troops commanded by Halil.[87]

Naji took contact with Scheubner-Richter, who was in Mosul, to win the participation of the Germans in the battle. Leverkuehn describes Scheubner Richter’s negative response:

In the mountains west of the Tigris fleeing Armenians had fortified themselves and in some villages inhabited by Syrian Christians that refused to obey the Turkish authorities to deliver requisitions of foodstuff and military recruits. The vali of Diyarbekir demanded of Constantinople that it order Naji’s and Scheubner’s troops to conquer these villages. Ömer Naji telegraphed Scheubner asking if he would place his detachment and the Germans to his command, as desired. Scheubner, However, was brought in a difficult situation by this demand. He was in no way convinced by the Turkish description [of the background]. Rather he had the view that this was not a real rebellion, but concerned a not unjustified defense of people, who feared to meet the same fate as most Armenians. If the Germans participated now, the Turks would not stop at spreading out that it was they [the Germans] who lead the [atrocities] against the Christian Turkish subjects…. Under these circumstances Scheubner therefore placed all of the Turkish troops and Kurdish cavalry under Ömer Naji’s command, but ordered Leverkuehn, Thiel and Schlimme [the German officers] to come immediately to Mosul.[88]

Terming it an “inner Turkish” matter, Scheubner, However, permitted the Turkish troops and Kurdish cavalry under his command to participate in full. General von der Goltz approved this step. The Ottoman authorities, However, expressed disappointment over the non-participation of the German troops and officers and Scheubner concluded that it really was an attempt to compromise the Germans by “drawing them into the Armenian affair.”[89]

Armenians were involved in the Tur Abdin resistance to an insignificant degree. Their presence is not mentioned in the Syrian oral history, so they could not have played leading roles. The manuscript diary of Yusuf Shahin, the local Catholic priest, states that the villagers were hiding 80 Armenians who had escaped from the deportation caravans.[90] Knowledge of the presence of Armenian refugees gave the local officials reason to exaggerate the involvement of Armenians in their reports, as this was a sure way of getting the attention of the leadership. Naji always used the term Süryani that is Syrian Orthodox or Syrian Catholics in his telegrams. But more often officials tried to hide the facts by calling them Armenians or by using the term “rebels”. An example: when General Halil Bey arrived in Jizre he sent the following telegram to the Supreme Military Command:

Upon my arrival in Jizre I have found that, nearly 50 kilometers west of Jizre, in the village of Hazar [Azakh] from various neighborhoods and villages in the vicinity, up to 1,000 armed Armenians gathered lately and started an assault destroying Muslim villages nearby and massacre their inhabitants and cut the telegraph line between Jizre and Diyarbekir. As there is no force in this area to punish them, this assault will continue. Naji Bey from the 3rd Army with a force under his command, [who] is on his way to Iran, is currently in Jizre. I do not think he has pressing duties and [will wait] until the arrival of a formal order. I submit that if they are not to be relied upon, I request it would be appropriate to order from the 52nd Division to punish them.[91]

Bedri Bey the vice vali, simply used the term rebels in a telegram dealing with casualties.

In the course of the punishment of the rebels in the Midyat region, they were first of all asked to give up their arms. [One] could not be certain about the accessibility of the terrain and in such places as Basabriye [Beth-Sbirino] and Azakh where the rebels are in great numbers. Two or three villages that were isolated [did already] surrender and although they were forced to lay down their arms, [did so] with half-hearted confidence they handed over to the government ineffective weapons and concealed the rest. Rebels in other places dared to respond to the proposal by firing of guns and by way of patrolling


Muslim [areas] and attacking and massacring the inhabitants. They fortified themselves in the village of Azakh and fortified the village with walls and trenches. Assigned for the punishment of about 10,000 rebels Ömer Naji Bey, commander of the Iran expedition force, after the blockade of the village with the troops and the military proposed peace and asked them to surrender their weapons. They had the insolence to respond to this proposition by causing 38 wounded, including two officers, and three shahids [martyrs] in the detachment.[92]

Troop movements and redeployment of canons had to go through the Ottoman military headquarters and had to wait until formal orders arrived. This meant, of course that the military and political leadership was well informed. There were also the special units of the Teskilat-i Mahsusa, which were under the control of the Minister of Interior. The vali of Mosul commanded over some volunteer units that he termed mujahidin, which was the normal term for fighters for the Muslim faith. He sent a short communiqué on November 7 to the Supreme Military Command suggesting the use of these units. “I submit, that in order to assist Ömer Naji Bey, 500 fighters that have been organized under militia commander Edhem Bey could be moving within two days.”[93] On the telegram another hand wrote: “It will be discussed with Nazir Pasha.” The next day, Talaat sent a telegram to the Supreme Military Command confirming that it had ordered the 500 mujahidin to join Ömer Naji’s forces. “In a telegram dated November 7 1915 that has arrived from the province of Mosul…. It was communicated that in order to assist Ömer Naji Bey 500 fighters under militia commander Edhem Bey has been organized and that they would be moving within two days.”[94] Edhem was one of the Circassians that Reshid while serving as vali of Mosul recruited to be a Teskilat-i Mahsusa officer.[95]

An official order from Enver Pasha was sent to the commander of the 3rd Army in Erzerum, of which Ömer Naji’s troops were a part.

Ömer Naji Bey reported that the Syrians between Midyat and Jizre have united with the Armenians and cut the telegraph lines and attacked the Muslim people. To suppress them, Ömer Naji Bey’s detachment, plus a battalion of infantry and 2 mountain artilleries have departed from Urfa and are moving towards Jizre … The rebels [live] and the districts they attacked [are located] in the jurisdiction of the 3rd Army and because of this the movement of the detachment [should be coordinated by] the administration of the 3rd Army. If the uprising of the rebels is warded off [and they] give up arms … If they consent to be [resettled] in a locality selected by the government. Even if it is not true about their attack and massacres of Muslim people.[96]

Using Naji’s information, Enver identifies the rebels as Syrians, and he also indicates some skepticism as to whether they actually have done the atrocities that they are accused of. From the start Naji held doubts. Hinno’s oral history records that when Naji’s troops arrived the Syrians asked to meet with the commander. The Syrian bishop and some other notables came to his tent. They brought with them gifts of food for the soldiers. “The Syrians explained to him that the accusations against them were false and groundless, and that they were neither enemies of the state or traitors and that they were prepared to follow his orders with respect.”[97] According to Shahin’s diary, Naji asked if there were any Armenians in the village and asked to enter and make an inspection. Deceptively, the village headmen said bluntly that there were only Syrians, not Armenians, and there would be no need for an inspection. For a brief moment, it seemed as if the Syrians had convinced him. However, according to Hinno’s narrative the Kurds had given him a different version and they knew that there were Armenians inside, so he changed his mind again. The next time that the Syrian notables came to meet Ömer, he would not see them. From this they concluded that a full attack was being planned.

The Germans too were aware of what was going on. Ambassador Neurath wrote to Bethman-Hollweg on November 12 at the request of General von der Goltz.

As a result of his mission to the east Anatolian war-theater, Field-Marshall von der Goltz asked me to let him see the copies of the records of the embassy concerning the Armenian question and at the same time to orient him on our standpoint in this question. I have sent him the attached notes. The request of the Field-Marshall was caused by the Expedition against a number of Christians of Syrian confession that has been planned since a long time back. They are allied with Armenians and have fortified themselves in difficult terrain between Mardin and Midyat in order to get away from the massacres of Christians that the valiof Diyarbekir has organized. Since the original detachment designated for this mission from the 4th Army is too distant, he asked the Field-Marshall for a detachment of the 3rd Army to be ordered to restore order there. The consul in Mosul, Holstein, for his part pointed out that this is not a real uproar, and with understanding of the vali in Mosul that wishes that negotiations take place with the besieged and that among other personalities Herr von Scheubner-Richter, whose troops are anyway participating in the mission shall participate and take part in the negotiations. The Field-Marshall rightly did not wish that German officers should get involved in this affair, has given the order that Herr von Scheubner’s troops will not be included in the expedition in question.[98]

At their greatest, the combined Ottoman forces amounted to several thousands – the Eighteenth Army Corps contributed Halil Fifty-Second Division and a battalion from the Fifty-First Army Division, a unit of mountain howitzers and the Naji-Scheubner expedition minus the German officers. They also received more reinforcements in the form of 500 Teskilat-i Mahsusa mujahidin. The Syrian oral history narratives estimate that the troops totaled 8,000 soldiers.[99] The situation probably seemed to be growing out of government control. Added reinforcements came in the form of an infantry battalion from the 4th Army, which was based in Syria.

Ömer Naji proved a better orator than military strategist. During the ensuing siege there were casualties on both sides and apparently the army was embarrassed by the failure to take the village. The actual size of the Ottoman losses were not known, but must have been very great as the calls for reinforcements kept on coming. This meant that the build-up of troops for activities in Iran was falling behind schedule. Also the campaign complicated relations with the German military advisors, who looked on as bewildered bystanders. Because of this failure, discussions began of making a temporary armistice and deal with the Syrians at a later date, since they were not a real military threat. However, it proved difficult to negotiate a truce that both sides could accept. The Ottomans needed to save face and the Syrians refused deportation and disarming, which were Enver’s demands. So warfare resumed.

Perhaps in order to countervail truce negotiations, General Kamil Pasha the commander of the Third Army informed that the Midyat rebellion was spreading to other villages and towns and that even to the Yezidis in the Sinjar Mountains in the province of Mosul. He intimated that the various rebellious groups were in contact with each other coordinating their efforts into a major revolt. He confirmed that a battalion had been sent to reinforce the troops already in place. The telegram reads:

Not only did the rebels in Midyat and Jizre respond to the proposal of Ömer Naji Bey the commander of the detachment of troops set for the village of Azakh, to give up their arms, by firing, to a previous proposal to relinquish their arms, the aforementioned rebels responded by attacking Muslims and massacring Muslim people, and to a third proposal for peace [illegible] that it was not considered acceptable was understood from the correspondence with the Province of Diyarbekir. In the Mosul province the Armenians who took refuge in the Sinjar Mountains united with the local Yezidis and communicated with the Midyat rebels and [urged them] to persEnvere with their rebellion and [illegible] for encouraging the rebels in Sinjar [we request] an order to do what is necessary to punish and repress the rebellion.[100]

Enver Pasha reacted by ordering the commander of the 6th Army.

The Commander of the 3rd Army reports that the rebels who attacked in the Azakh village of Midyat [district] responded with fire against Ömer Naji Bey’s detachment to his proposal of handing over their arms. And about 100 kilometers west of the area, in Sinjar, the Yezidis and the Armenians together are currently in a state of rebellion. In response [illegible] the detachment which transeferred from the 4th Army and Ömer Naji Beys’s detachment if necessary, [is] to be immediately reinforced in order to suppress [the revolt] in the Midyat area. As yet no additional information has arrived about the circumstances in Sinjar. If required, I request that your high office order its investigation and that I am informed of the outcome.”[101] On the same day he telegraphed the 3rd Army Commander giving explicit orders: “In accordance to the conditions of which I wrote to you about and in the event of lack of consent [of the Azakh defenders] to immediately evacuate and repress. Ömer Naji Bey’s detachment is still in the vicinity of the village of Azakh and the battalion of foot soldiers and the mountain artillery unit sent from the 4th Army is in the Midyat region


from the 4th Army and from Mosul another force [from the 6th Army] which can be spared, if necessary these forces from your area [are] to reinforce the Azakh [operation]. Inform of the outcome of the operation.[102]

Negotiations for an armistice went on parallel to the siege. Sometimes Naji and the Azakh leaders met in the lulls between assaults. The Ottoman conditions were that the “rebels” surrender, give up all their weapons and submit to being deported to a place selected by the government. In return for this they could have their lives. The Azakh defenders refused the very thought of deportation and would only agree to giving up their weapons piecemeal and starting with the least effective flintlock rifles. On three occasions proposed ceasefires appeared to be on the brink of success only to be rejected.

The first major Ottoman assault on Azakh came early in November. Both regular troops and Kurdish clans took part. The Kurds experienced heavy losses and there were deaths on all sides. Hinno states that there were renewed attacks more or less daily for three weeks. On the night of the 24th day of the siege the Syrians changed tactics and sent a group of warriors out through a tunnel and in the ensuing fight the Ottoman troops were routed and fled from their defensive positions together with their commander Naji and the Syrian forces drove the soldiers and Kurdish tribesmen before them. They “killed nearly 500 of the enemy, took their weapons and returned.”[103] The surviving Ottoman forces made a new base camp farther away and Naji confronted with failure, sent a telegram to Halil informing him of the defeat and who then prepared to replace Naji with a new commander with 15,000 fresh troops.

According to Yusuf Shahin’s diary the Ottoman troops staged a massive assault in the period November 21-23. The Azakh villagers retaliated by a counterthrust through tunnels on November 24, 25 and 26. This surprise tactic routed the besieging forces. Oral reports suggest a total of 500 Ottoman troop losses. Telegrams commenting on Naji’s failure also indicate that the battle probably took place about those dates. Communiqués sent to Constantinople play down the extent of the losses, so it is not possible to confirm the number of casualties.

Enver Pasha reacted by sending an order on November 17 to the commander of the 6th Army.

The Commander of the 3rd Army reports that the rebels who attacked in the Azakh village of Midyat [district] responded with fire against Ömer Naji Bey’s detachment to his proposal of handing over their arms. And about 100 kilometers west of the area, in Sinjar, the Yezidis and the Armenians together are currently in a state of rebellion. In response [illegible] the detachment which transeferred from the 4th Army and Ömer Naji Beys’s detachment if necessary, [is] to be immediately reinforced in order to suppress

[the revolt]

in the Midyat area. As yet no additional information has arrived about the circumstances in Sinjar. If required, I request that your high office order its investigation and that I am informed of the outcome.”[104] On the same day he telegraphed the 3rd Army Commander giving explicit orders: “In accordance to the conditions of which I wrote to you about and in the event of lack of consent [of the Azakh defenders] to immediately evacuate and repress. Ömer Naji Bey’s detachment is still in the vicinity of the village of Azakh and the battalion of foot soldiers and the mountain artillery unit sent from the 4th Army is in the Midyat region


from the 4th Army and from Mosul another force [from the 6th Army] which can be spared, if necessary these forces from your area [are] to reinforce the Azakh [operation]. Inform of the outcome of the operation.[105]

Naji requested to proceed on to Iran, but was refused permission to leave the area. Instead, Enver ordered that Naji stay in place and keep up the siege. Enver’s telegram reads: “I have transmitted the following telegram to the 3rd Army Command and informed the 6th Army. The Midyat rebellion should be suppressed immediately and with utmost severity. Accordingly, Ömer Naji Bey’s detachment will remain there under the orders of the army.”[106] Obviously, Enver also demanded the total destruction of the village rather than peaceful accord. It is likely that he had just received knowledge of the recent defeat of Naji’s troops. Even Kamil Pasha insisted that Naji remain in put, as he was worried by rumors that the rebellion was spreading. Kamil responded:

The ciphered telegrams regarding communication for Ömer Naji Bey’s detachment to depart for Mosul have arrived. In the telegram dated November 22 from the Province of Diyarbekir it is understood that the associates of the rebels are attracting attention [again] and in Midyat the rebellion is growing day by day [and that] they [the rebels] will not ask for mercy and if this matter is not taken care of, [and] in the case that the detachments are transferred to other places in the said district, there is a probability of important unexpected events happening. The foot soldiers of the 4th Army on their own and without artillery cannot pacify the rebellion as demonstrated by the failure of Ömer Naji Bey’s detachment.[107]

Naji, in desperation, made his own private peace behind the backs of his commanders. He agreed to let the Azakh villagers remain in place and even keep their arms. Hearing of an agreement, Enver demanded answers to four questions. He sent a telegram to the 3rd Army Command: “Provide information about the following items. 1. Of what nation (millet) are the rebels in the Midyat area. If there are Armenians among them, where are they from and how many are they? 2. With whom, what conditions and in what way did Ömer Naji Bey reconcile? 3. Have these conditions been agreed by the rebels? What is the current situation? 4. If you find this settlement problematic what measures do you propose? To what extent is it possible to carry them out?”[108]

Kamil Pasha, who was Naji’s superior answered on November 28, 1915 with an urgent telegram. He gave the following details:

1. The great part of the rebels in the Midyat region are Syrians who are located in the area. They were joined by a small number of Armenians and Chaldeans who escaped from here and there. 2. Ömer Naji Bey and the vali of Diyarbekir have reported that the Syrians in the village of Azakh had agreed to the conditions of handing over their arms, repair the telegraph lines they destroyed, pay their debts to the government and return to their villages and that they have solved the matter peacefully. However, they also informed that the arms the rebels handed over constituted an insignificant amount and that furthermore if their domiciles are to be changed [if they are to be deported] and their weapons are going to be destroyed, the rebels will revolt once again. 3. Upon orders from your high office Ömer Naji Bey’s detachment departed for the Mosul border. The commander of the detachment which remained there [in Azakh] in accordance with the condition stipulated in the second item continues to collect the settlement money from the Syrians. 4. The matter has been settled in this way and in that region for the stabilization of order in order to make these rebels docile and completely obedient to the government, and come what may, the transportation and removal of the abovementioned people to other places will be necessary. At present, the province of Diyarbekir has been informed that if the enemy approaches this would cause renewed rebellion and banditry. In the opinion of your humble servant, this state of affairs is not satisfactory… However, Ömer Naji Bey’s operation and the lack of availability of forces to send in that direction necessitates postponement of the engagement to more opportune time… the matter of the complete destruction of the rebellion is a matter that is left to your discretion.[109]

Naji willingly gave up the siege at a high price and let the Syrians keep their weapons and remain in their home villages. Thus he abandoned most of the conditions that the government had demanded at the start of the campaign against the Christian villages. He did this forseveral reasons, one because even with reinforcements he could not win battles over the villagers, the other reason is that the siege delayed his more important mission and the failed attacks decimated his troops and made his mission more difficult. However, Kamil Pasha the head of the 3rd Army and Enver Pasha the Minister of War appear only to accept this settlement as a temporary set back. Kamil urged for a complete destruction of the rebellion and a complete deportation of the Christian population. He stated that he waited orders from Enver to resume the anti-Christian measures.

The details of the sieges in the Mardin sanjak are important for many reasons. Without doubt the case of Azakh shows that the population loss could not be attributed to only to “tragic” events that were the responsibility of the Kurdish tribes completely outside government control. Here, instead, the killing was done by regular troops from the Third, Fourth and Sixth Armies plus a large taskforce of the Teskilat-i Mahsusa. The situation in a little village of about a thousand souls became a matter for discussion in the highest government circles in the Ottoman Empire and in Germany. Enver Pasha, Talaat Pasha and Jemal Pasha took part in the decisions. Even the German ReichskanzlerBethmann Hollweg found it wise to intervene. Thus it was not something that went on without government knowledge. This case also indicates how close the German military came to direct involvement.

The German officers realized that the Turks were spreading the rumor that they had “German approval for the expulsion of the Armenians.” Leverkuehn made the observation that:

The enormous importance of Scheubner’s denial in the so called uprising near Jizre, stands before my eyes in its full political sharpness. Everything that one had afterwards heard about it justified the stance that Scheubner then had made about the situation. The entire uprising was only a matter of the destruction of a telegraph line, and it was done in self-defense, while the Armenian villages were still under Kurdish attack, and an appeal for help to the kaymakam met with not the least response. Immediately, before he received Scheubner’s order, Leverkuehn, could not separate himself from the troops, and became a witness of the gruesomeness that thekaymakam tolerated without intervention, in the destruction of peaceful villages and the abuse of the inhabitants.[110]

Scheubner made a report on his activities after he returned to Germany in 1916. He reported that when he and Naji were proceeding to Mosul that they received an order to:

Attack and punish an Armenian village. I found out that the presumed ‘rebellious’ people were those who had taken cover to save themselves out of fear of a massacre… I pulled myself out of this threatening conflict, by saying that I and my German officers and men were needed in Mosul. The command over my Turkish troops was transferred to one of my Turkish officers under the motive that this was an ‘inner Turkish’ affair and that it was not proper for Germans to command the ‘gendarme-service’ that the Turkish troops were expected to do. General Field-Marshall von der Goltz approved my stance. Even the Turkish side admitted this afterwards. The disappointment shown then proved the supposition that the order that I received was an attempt by Halil Bey to involve me, and the Germans under my leadership, in a compromising way into the treatment of the Armenians.[111]

The Systematic Nature of the Atrocities

As the massacres progressed throughout 1915 the size of the population loss increased rapidly. Large-scale killing began in May and continued through August, while smaller scale killing persisted up to November of 1915. Most of the killing took place during this period. However, local attacks on individuals and groups could reoccur throughout the remaining war years. Persons who were known as leaders of the Christian resistance in defended villages were particularly at risk. Also starvation and a typhus epidemic, struck the survivors, which also added to the loss of life, from human causes.

In September 1915, Reshid sent a telegram to Talaat informing him that 120,000 Armenians had been removed from the province up to that date, but he obviously was referring to all Christians.[112] Witnesses living in the province of Diyarbekir told of very high proportions of victims. The French Dominican, Jacques Rhétoré, who finished his manuscript in Autumn 1916, gave the following population losses for the vilayet of Diyarbekir.

Religion Original population Lost population Loss in percent
Apostolic Armenian 60,000 58,000 97%
Armenian Catholic 12,500 11,500 92%
Chaldean 11,120 10,010 90%
Syrian Catholics 5,600 3,450 62%
Syrian Orthodox 84,725 60,725 72%
Protestant 725 500 67%
Total 174,670 144,185 82%

Rhétoré particularly noted that the population loss for the Catholic population was “enormous” being 85 per cent.[113] He also gives figures for the sanjakof Mardin where population loss for all Christians was 47,675 of 74,470 (64%). The breakdown into religious groups are as follows: Armenian Catholics lost 10,200 of 10,500 (97%); Chaldeans lost 6,800 people of an initial 7,870 (86%); the Syrian Catholics lost 700 of an initial 3.850 (18%); Syrian Orthodox lost 29,725 of an initial 51,725 (57%), and the Protestants lost 250 of an initial 525 (48%).[114]

Hyacinthe Simon came to somewhat higher figures, and these were used after the war’s end by Edward Noel to prepare a report that could be used for negotiating the new boundary lines.[115] Here the total number of Christian victims for the province of Diyarbekir to 157,000.[116] Berré supplied statistics only for the Mardin sanjak. However, he revealed an even greater proportional loss of life. His report on the massacres is dated January 1919 and thus conceivably covers the entire war. He calculated a loss of 127,700 Christians. Divided into the relevant denominations the number of victims was: Syrian Orthodox 100,000, Chaldeans 18,000, Armenian Catholics 7,000, and Syrian Catholics 2,700.[117]

An observer to the Paris Peace Conference sent on the mission by the Syrian Patriarch of Antioch, Mar Severius Barsoum, presented a district-by-district list of destroyed Syrian Orthodox churches, murdered priests and dead inhabitants. This was a calculation limited to places the Syrian Orthodox church was active and might have missed isolated families or small groups in mixed villages. Barsoum listed 156 destroyed churches and a total of 90,313 persons killed including 154 religious leaders, 7 of whom were bishops.[118] 77,963 of the victims came from the Diyarbekir vilayet.

The Turkish revisionist historian, Yusuf Halaçoğlu, notes Reshid’s telegram stating that 120,000 persons had been deported from Diyarbekir and a further telegram stating that 136,068 deportees went through Jizre.[119] However, he reduces the figure for the whole province down to 20,000 arguing that,  “since other documents note that a total of 120,000 deportees, including those who came from other places, were sent on, it is estimated that 20,000 Armenians were sent from Diyarbekir itself.”[120] Given the many accounts from contemporary observers living in the province, a reduction down to only 20,000 persons seems extremely unreasonable.

Within the vilayetof Diyarbekir there were few survivors. Noel recorded in a memorandum of June 10, 1919 that only 18,959 Christians of all faiths remained, representing a general loss amounting to 87 percent. Speaking of the survivors, he had discovered that 12,981 of them were “widows and orphans in more or less destitute condition.”

The issue of the return of captive Christian children to their families was very difficult. Over the years some had become attached to their captors and some had turned Muslim. It appeared to Noel possible to force the Muslims living in the towns to voluntarily give up the captive children. However, in the villages it was a more difficult matter. Some of the Kurdish families demanded to be paid a ransom, and if the authorities intervened the action would only “result in the child being done away with.”[121]

Explaining the Inexplicable

What happened in Diyarbekir during World War I had a systematic character that indicates planning and a wide network of local collaborators. However, the motive to why the ethnic cleansing actions also included the Syrians and Chaldeans is not completely clear. The intentions of local politicians and Kurdish tribes need not be the same as the leadership of the CUP.

The charge of treason and conspiring with the enemy sounds inappropriate in the Diyarbekir context. While it could be easily proved that the Russians had political and military contacts with the Assyrians of Van province and perhaps some of the Apostolic Armenians throughout the Ottoman Empire, Diyarbekir’s Catholic Armenians, Syrians (both Orthodox and Catholic) and Chaldeans were isolated groups. Often authorities had to falsify evidence The Christians, had some military capacity to defend a few agricultural villages in Tur Abdin, but did not represent an aggressive force. The accusation that the Catholic Christians were actively conspiring with the French was hard to prove.

Perhaps some inkling of the geopolitical vision behind the total removal of all Christian groups can be seen in a congratulatory telegram addressed to vali Reshid Bey after the worst atrocities were over. The sender was a judge and Mardin’s leading local CUP politician Halil Adip: “Permit me to shake your hand, you who have regained the six [Amenian] vilayets and opened the way to Turkistan and Caucasus.”[122]  The meaning behind this congratulation should lie in a Pan-Turanian dream of a greater Turkey extending into central Asia. An ethnically cleansed eastern Anatolia would make possible a very large and unbroken swath of Turkish-speaking settlements stretching far into the Russian Empire. Even if this was not the program of all of the Ottoman leadership, in order for the congratulation to make any sense, Reshid must have had this as a personal goal. Thus, he targeted non-Armenian Christians in an area far from the front-line and thereby brought down the wrath of the German diplomats and politicians on Talaat and Enver. When Talaat in turn made appearances of limiting Reshid’s focus, he ignored the decrees.

There are also some further traits that were systematic. First, there was the similarity in urban areas of the multi-step pattern for organizing the reduction of the Christian population. Step one, the arrest and interrogation under torture of the male notables including religious leaders. Step two about one week later, the killing of the notables. Step three, the deportation and killing of the remaining adult males. Step four, the formation of columns of women and children who were told that they were being sent to join their male relatives and marched out of the towns. This procedure was used in Mardin, Nisibin and Diyarbekir.

Second, officials who refused to partake in the organization of massacres were removed from office. Two mutasarrifsof Mardin sanjak, Hilmi Bey and Shefik Bey, refused to co-operate and were transferred elsewhere. There is information that resistant kaymakams were killed.[123] Officials who were killed were those of Direk, Lije and Beshiri, and there is an unconfirmed assertion that this also happened in Midyat.[124] Obviously there was great dispute among the Ottoman officials about the actions against the Christians, particularly those who were not of the Armenian Gregorian Orthodox faith. Even though some officials clearly tried to protect them, there were many ways for local functionaries to continue a general anti-Christian policy.

In conversation with another leading CUP member, Reshid was asked about how he could reconcile the extermination of Christians, with his profession as a healer:

Being a doctor could not cause me to forget my nationality! Reshid is a doctor. But he was born as a Turk… Either the Armenians were to eliminate the Turks, or the Turks were to eliminate the Armenians. I did not hesitate when I was confronted with this dilemma. My Turkishness prevailed over my profession. I figured, instead of them wiping us out, we will wipe them out… On the question how I, as a doctor, could have murdered, I can answer as follows: the Armenians had become hazardous microbes in the body of this country. Well, isn’t it a doctor’s duty to kill microbes?[125]

David Gaunt

[1] Ishaq Armalto, Al-Qousara fi Nakabat al-Nasara [The Calamities of the Christiana](Lebanon: Al Sharfe Monastery 1919), part II passim.

[2] Nejdet Bilgi, Dr. Mehmed Reşid Şahingiray’in Hayati ve Hâtiralari – Ittihâd ve Terakki Dönemi ve Ermeni Meselesi [Dr. Mehmed Reshid Shahingiray’s Life and Memory – The Union and Progress Era and the Armenian Question] (Izmir: Akademi Kitabevi 1997), p. 23-24.

[3] Gustave Meyrier, Les Massacres de Diyarbekir. Correspondance diplomatique du Vice-Consul de France 1894-1896. (Paris: L’inventaire 2000), p. 134-136.

[4] Al-Qousara fi Nakabat Al-Nasara.[The Calamities of the Christians] (Lebanon: Al Sharfe 1919, reprinted Beirut 1977).

[5] Marco Impagliazzo, ed., Una Finestra sul massacro. Documenti inediti sulla strage degli armeni (1915-1916). (Milano: Guerini 2000).

[6] Hyacinthe Simon, Mardine la Ville Herioque. Autel et Tombeau de l’Arménie (Asie Mineure) durant les massacres de 1915. (Jounieh, Lebanon : Maison Naaman pour la Culture 1991).

[7] Marie-Dominique Berré, ”Massacres de Mardin,” Haigazian Armenological Journal 17 (1997): p. 81-106.

[8] Jean Naslian, Les Memoires de Mgr. Jean Naslian sur les Événements Politico-Religieux en Proche-Orient de 1914 à 1918. (Vienna: Méchithariste 1951).

[9] This document dated 18 July 1919 is printed in Sébastien de Courtois, The Forgotten Genocide. Eastern Christians, The Last Arameans (Piscataway: N.J.: Gorgias Press 2004), p. 244-253 and 347-352.

[10] Ara Sarafian, ed., Anonymous, “The Disasters of Mardin During the Persecutions of the Christians, especially the Armenians, 1915,” Haigazian Armenological Review 18 (1998), pp. 261-271; Vincent Mistrih, “Mémoires de A.Y.B. sur les massacres de Mardine”, in Nicholas Awde, ed., Armenian Perspectives. 10th Anniversary Conference of the Association Internationale des Etudes Arméniennes (London: Curzon 1997), pp. 287-292.

[11] Abed Mschiho Na’man Qarabasch, Vergossenes Blut. Geschichten der Gruel, die an den Christen in der Türkei verübt, und der Leiden, die ihnen 1895 und 1914-1918 zugefügt wurden (Holland: Bar Hebraeus Verlag 1999).

[12] There are translations into many languages. I have used the Swedish version Süleyman Hinno, Massakern på syrianerna I Turabdin 1914-1915, (Örebro: Syrianska riksförbundet 1998).

[13] Yusuf Shahin, “The History of Azakh” handwritten manuscript in local Arabic dialect, Mesopotamian Collection, Södertörn University College.

[14] Bilgi, Şahingiray.

[15] Abidin Nesimi, Yillarin Içinden.[Memoirs]  (Istanbul: Gözlem Yayinlari 1977).

[16] Hüseyin Demirer, Haver Delal [My Dear] typewritten manuscript at Mesopotamian Collection, Södertörn University College.

[17] Turkey, Ottoman Archives. DH, ŞFR. 54/87 (cited hereafter as BOA). Cited in Uğur Ü. Üngör, A Reign of Terror. CUP Rule in Diyarbekir Province, 1913-1923. Master’s thesis University of Amsterdam 2005, p. 51.

[18] BOA. DH. ŞFR, nr 54/406.

[19] BOA. DH. ŞFR, nr 54-A/252.

[20] BOA. DH. ŞFR, nr 55/20.

[21] Holstein to German Embassy July 10, 1915, in Johannes Lepsius, Deutschland und Armenien, p. 101-102.

[22] German Embassy to Talaat Bey July 12, 1915, in ibid., p. 102-103.

[23] Isabel V. Hull, Absolute Destruction. Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press 2005), p. 279-285.

[24] Qarabasch, Vergossenes Blut, p. 58-59; Joseph Naayem, Les Assyro-Chaldéens et les Arméniens massacres par les Turcs. (Paris : Bloud & Gay 1920), p. 152 ; Armalto, Al-Qousara, p 128.

[25] Armalto, Al-Qousara, p. 150.

[26] Yves Ternon, Mardin 1915. Anatomie pathologique d’une destruction. Special issue of Revue d’histoire Arménienne Contemporaine IV (2002), p. 83-84.

[27] Bilgi, Şahingiray, p. 7-17.

[28] Nesimi, Yillarin Içinden, p. 36-37.

[29] Bilgi, Şahingiray, p. 24.

[30] Naayem, Les Assyro-Chaldéens, p. 153.

[31] Ibid., p. 153-155, Bilgi, Şahingiray, p. 26.

[32] Bilâl N. Simsir, Malta Sürgünleri [The Malta Exiles]  (Ankara: Bilgi Yayinlari 1976), p. 58, 76, 109, 219, 228, 354, 385.

[33] Ternon, Mardin 1915, p 85-86.

[34] Rafael de Nogales, Four Years Beneath the Crescent (London: Scribners 1926), p. 147.

[35] Nesimi, Yillaren Içinden, p. 37; Bilgi, Şahingiray, p. 34.

[36] Ömer was declared an outlaw in the summer of 1914 and he went into hiding in the Garzan region of Beshiri. Üngör, Reign of Terror, p. 29.

[37] Demirer, Haver Delal, p. 66-76.

[38] Cited in Bilgi, Şahingiray, p. 27. There is a photograph of the weapons at the end of that book.

[39] Nogales, Four Years Beneath the Crescent, p. 140 and 76.

[40] Ternon, Mardin 1915, p. 88.

[41] Holstein to German Embassy June 10, 1915 in Lepsius, Deutschland und Armenien, p. 82.

[42] Simon, Mardine, p. 137-138.

[43] Ibid., p. 133-142.

[44] Armalto, Al-Qousara, part II, chapters 14, 17 and 19.

[45] Ibid., p. 131.

[46] Ibid., p. 130.

[47] Ibid., p. 134.

[48] Ibid., p. 137. Simon, Mardine, p. 17-18 and 56-57.

[49] Armalto, Al-Qousara, p. 141.

[50] Ibid., p. 145; Impagliazzo, Una finestra sul massacro, p. 140.

[51] Armalto, Al-Qousara, p. 161.

[52] Anonymous, “The Disasters of Mardin,” p. 263.

[53] Berré, Massacres de Mardin, p. 85.

[54] Ternon, Mardin 1915, p. 119-120; Impagliazzo, Una finestra sul massacro, p. 140.

[55] Armalto, Al-Qousara, p. 166.

[56] Anonymous, ”The Disasters of Mardin,” p. 264.

[57] Armalto, Al-Qousara, p. 166.

[58] Ibid., part III, chapter 5 gives a detailed account of the interrogation of Maloyan under torture.

[59] Ibid., p. 166.

[60] Simon, Mardine, p. 65-66

[61] Ternon, Mardin 1915, p. 129, Naslian, Memoires, p. 323-327.

[62] Anonymous, “The Disasters of Mardin,” p. 264.

[63] Armalto, Al-Qousara, p. 308.

[64] Simon, Mardine, p. 71; Impagliazzo, Una finestra sul massacro, p. 146; Armalto, Al-Qousara, p. 209.

[65] Ternon, Mardin 1915, p. 133; Impagliazzo, Una finestra sul massacro, p. 150.

[66] Armalto, Al-Qousara, p. 224 ff.; Rhétoré also prints part of Kharimo’s testimony.

[67] Holstein to German Embassy  June 13, 1915, Johannes Lepsius, Deutschland und Armenien, p. 83.

[68] Wangenheim to Bethmann Hollweg July 9, 1915, Lepsius, ibid., p. 98.

[69] Ternon, Mardin 1915, p. 139-155 gives details of each caravan.

[70] Ibid., p. 95; Simon, Mardine, p. 117-123; Impagliazzo, Una finestra sul massacro, p. 116, 124.

[71] Holstein to German Embassy  July 16, 1915, Lepsius, Deutschland und Armenien,  p. 104.

[72] Holstein to German Embassy July 21, 1915, Ibid., p. 107.

[73] Hohenlohe to Bethman Hollweg  September 11, 1915, Ibid., p. 152.

[74] This testimony is printed as appendix in Bilgi, Şahingiray, p. 168-171.

[75] Armalto, Al-Qousara, p. 283.

[76] Holstein to German Embassy July 28, 1915, Lepsius, Deutschland und Armenien, p. 114.

[77] Hohenlohe to Bethmann Hollweg July 31, 1915, Ibid., p. 115.

[78] Hellmut Ritter, Turoyo. Die Volkssprache der syrianischen Christen des Tur Abdin (Beirut: Franz Steiner 1967) p. 331; Hinno, Massakern, p.60ff, 82ff, 109ff, 114ff. 156ff.

[79] Hinno, Ibid., p. 157.

[80] Hinno, Ibid., p. 158.

[81] Hinno, Ibid., p. 158.

[82] Naim Turfan, The Rise of the Young Turks: Politics, the Military and Ottoman Collapse (London: Tauris 2000) p. 209 and 280; Israfil Kurtcephe, “Birinci dünya savasinda bir süryani ayaklanmasi,” [A Syrian Revolt in World War I] Osmanli Tarhi Arastirma ve Uygulama Merkezi Dergisi 1:4 (1993) p. 292; Büyük Lügat ve Ansiklopedi [Great Dictionary and Encyclopedia] vol. 9(Istanbul:  Meydan Larousse 1972), p. 756.

[83] Simsir, Malta Sürgünleri,  p. 76.

[84] Paul Leverkuehn, Posten auf ewiger Wache. Aus dem abenteuerreichen Leben des Max von Scheubner-Richter (Essen: Essener Verlagsanstalt 1938) p. 54-55.

[85] For more about this see David Gaunt with Jan Beth-Sawoce, Massacres, Resistance and Protectors: Christian-Muslim Relations in Eastern Anatolia During World War I. (Piscataway: Gorgias Press 2005).

[86] Ibid., p. 72-73.

[87] Turkey, General Staff Military-Historical and Strategic Study Archives, ATAŞE, KOL.: BDH, KLS.: 17, DOS.:81/, FIH.:27 appendix to cipher telegram of Haydar Bey to Supreme Military Command, October 29, 1915 (hereafter ATASE).

[88] Leverkuehn, Scheubner-Richter, p. 83.

[89] Schuebner-Richter to Bethmann Hollweg December 4, 1916, Lepsius, Deutschland und Armenien,  p. 306.

[90] Shahin,”The History of Azakh” manuscript.

[91] ATASE Kol: BDH, Kls. 17, Dos 81/, Fih 27-1, cipher telegram Halil Bey to Supreme Military Command October 29, 1915.

[92] ATASE, Kol.: Bdh, Kls.: 17, Dos.: 81/, Fih.:35, cipher telegram Bedreddin to Supreme Military Command November 12, 1915.

[93] ATASE Kol: Bdh, Kls 17, Dos 81/ Fih 31, cipher telegram Haydar Bey to Supreme Military Command, November 7, 1915.

[94] ATASE Kol Bdh, Kls. 17, dos 81/ fih 31-3, cipher telegram Talaat Pasha to Supreme Miltary Command, November 8, 1915.

[95] Taylan Sorgun, Ittihad ve Terakki’den Cumhuriyet’e Halil Paşa Bitmeyen Savaş. [Halil Pasha and the Course of the War from the Union and Progress to the Republic] (Istanbul: Kum Saati Yayinlari 2003), p. 9.

ATASE Kol Bdh, Kls. 17, dos 81/ fih 32, cipher telegram Enver Pasha to Third Army Command, November 9, 1915.

[97] Hinno, Massakern, p. 117.

[98] Germany, Foreign Office Archives, Türkei 152, vol. 83, Neurath to Bethmann Hollweg November 12, 1915.

[99] Hinno, Massakern, p. 117.

[100] ATASE Kls. 17; Ds. 81, Fhr. 35/3, Mahmut Kamil Pasha to Ministry of War, November 2, 1915.

[101] ATASE Kol: Bdh, Kls 17, Dos. 81/ Fih: 35-4, Enver to Halil, November 17, 1915.

[102] ATASE Kol: Bdg, Kls 17, Dos. 81/ Fih: 35-6, Enver to Kamil, November 13, 1915.

[103] Hinno, Massakern, p. 119).

[104] ATASE Kol: Bdh, Kls 17, Dos. 81/ Fih: 35-4, Enver to Halil, November 17, 1915.

[105] ATASE Kol: Bdg, Kls 17, Dos. 81/ Fih: 35-6, Enver to Kamil, November 13, 1915.

[106] ATASE Kol: Bdh, Kls., Dos. 81/ Fih 35-14, Enver to [illegible] Command, probably November 27 or 28, 1915.

[107] ATASE KOL: Bdh, Kls 17, Dos. 81, Fih 51:1, Kamil to Enver, undated.

[108] ATASE KOL: Bdh, Kls. 17, Dos. 81, Fih 51-3, Enver to 3rd Army Command, November 27, 1915.

[109] ATASE Kol: Bdh, Kls: 17, Dos. 81/ Fih 58-1, Kamil to Enver, November 28, 1915.

[110] Leverkuehn, Scheubner-Richter, p. 102.

[111] Scheubner-Richter report December 4, 1916 in Lepsius, Deutschland und Armenien, p. 306.

[112] Bilgi, Şahingiray, p. 48 reprints a telegram from Reshid to Talaat September 28, 1915. This was first published in the Turkish newspaper Memleket [Homeland] on  April 29, 1919.

[113] Impagliazzo, Una finestra sul massacro, p. 198.

[114] Ibid., p. 199.

[115] Review of the Civil Administration of Mesopotamia. (His Majesty’s Stationery Office: London 1920) p. 59, 66-71; Edward W. C. Noel, Diary of Major E. Noel on Special Duty in Kurdistan. (Basra: 1919).

[116] Simon, Mardine, p. 146.

[117] Berré, “Massacres de Mardin”, p. 93.

[118] Great Britain, Foreign Office Archives FO E-1242/16/118, Barsoum to Lloyd George March 6, 1920.

[119] Shahin’s diary asserts that Jizre was an assembly point for Armenians and East Syrians coming down from Bitlis and Hakkari regions.

[120] Yusuf Halaçoğlu, “Realities Behind the Relocation”, in Türkkaya Ataöv ed., The Armenians in the Late Ottoman Period (Ankara: Turkish Historical Society 2001), p. 131.

[121] Noel, Diary entry for April 23, 1919.

[122]Telegram from Adip to Reshid October 19, 1915, cited in Bilgi, Shahingiray, p. 29.

[123] Ternon, Mardin 1915, p. 112 and 139-140; Kazarian, “Turkey Tries its Chief Criminals,” p. 324.

[124] Holstein to German Embassy July 16, 1915, in Lepsius, Deutschland und Armenien, p. 104; Impagliazzo, Una finestra sul massacro, p. 127; Taner Akçam, Armenien und der Völkermord. Die Istanbuler Prozesse und die türkische Nationalbewegung (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition 1996) p. 69 and 384.

[125] Mithat Şükrü Bleda, Imparatorluğun Çöküşü  [The Empire’s Fall] (Istanbul: Remzi 1979), p. 59.

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