Chapter II

Certain Documented And Statistical Facts


The following seven villages in the lower Gargar administered by the governor of Bitlis; Tatzoo, Yeghekis, Arpentz, Hogortzoo, Dzgor, and Voriz were pillaged and burned within six days, February 13 to February 18, 1915. Half of the inhabitants fled to Moks, the rest to Gavash. There were 1,938 of these homeless, hungry, and unfortunate souls. Among those who travelled to Gavash three persons died due to exposure to winter cold, and most had frost bitten feet. The “Mudir” (governor) of Shenitzor, under the pretext of enforcing conscription, visited Gargar in company of 24 policemen. At the village of Yeghekis, he summoned Armenian aldermen of all the villages of the district and had them severely beaten. The aldermen from Khntzorood and Halitz died under the bastonado causing great sorrow and indignation throughout Gargar.

Also on February 13th, about a dozen policemen stopped at the village of Hogortzoo where they attempted to torture and molest the women. The villagers, who already had heard of the death of the aldermen, attacked and killed four of the police. In the village of Dzgor where Turkish officials attempted similar provocative acts, two policemen were killed. On the basis of these incidents the “Kaimakam” (the next higher official to Mudir) instructed Sheikh Said Ali to plunder and destroy all Armenian villages. At the sight of this bloodthirsty horde, the peasants of Gargar resorted to self-defense; they retreated, fighting and evacuating the villages. Vrushing Galoust, a loved and respected person, was killed.

The massacres at Sarai took place within the same few days. The “Kaimakam” ordered his police to precede to the village of Avzarig to conscript bearers for carrying fat to Sarai. A dozen of the peasants were pressed into service; two of these bearers were murdered as the group reached within a couple of hundred yards of the village. Returning to the village, they began to kill and plunder mercilessly. Sixty-three males and sixty-four females, some of them mere children, were butchered in a few hours. Most women were raped before being killed. Only twenty-one males and four females escaped. They marched in the severe cold of the winter, barefooted, hungry and scantily dressed. On their way to Persia by way of Kara-Deren, some died of exposure, while others were abducted and forcibly proselytized into Islam. Very few were able to arrive at Salmasd, in Persia.

In view of this horrible tragedy, repeated appeals were made by the Armenian Prelacy, by Vramian, deputy in the Ottoman Parliament, and by the peasantry at Sarai, to the acting governor Sherif Bey to have the culprits punished. His attitude was evasive; he declared the stories lacked credibility, that the “Kaimakam” of Sarai had disclaimed any knowledge of them, and that the situation was confused due to the withdrawal of Russian forces from the region.

The rest of the Armenian villages in the region of Sarai were subject to similar acts of massacre, looting, and rape. Turkish police forced the male inhabitants of the village of Azdig to travel to Sarai ostensibly to help in the building of a Turkish barrack. While this was going on, Tahar, son of Hussein, compelled the male population of the other villages to join this group. Next the police separated the able bodied men, and, leading them some distance from the village, shot them all to death. With the assistance of the Kurds returning to the village this beastly mob finished the task of exterminating the rest.

The same day that atrocities were being perpetrated in the village of Avzarig and Asghig, another mixed group of Turkish police and Kurdish brigands entered Hasan-Tarman village and indiscriminately slaughtered one-hundred persons. This band also put ten Armenians from Tash-Oghlou village to the sword.

Also at this time, the ten Armenian families and some one-hundred people of Kara-Tzorig, were ravaged and massacred. Only two men survived; the young women were kidnapped by the Kurds.

Through coded orders from the governor, Kurdish brigand bands invaded the village of Nazaren on December 28, 1914. Here they murdered seven men, one women and two girls. They carried away more than one-hundred head of cattle, six thousand bushels of grain, and over fifteen thousand pounds of butter, fats, cheese. They robbed the church to the bare walls. The terrorized population escaped to other villages and perished

On January 3rd, 1915, an army officer, accompanied by a number of gendarmes ordered the evacuation of the village of Satmans in the name of the governor. It took them four days to arrive at Gresh. Twelve infants were frozen to death. The remaining 120 people were ordered to remain in Gresh for three days. Here they were subjected to all sorts of indignities; those who could, escaped to other villages and to Salhane. This attempt cost the lives of eight men and women and five children. The ancient and prosperous village of Satmans was left in ruin. The gendarmes and the Kurds carried away two thousand head of cattle, two-hundred buffaloes, and all of the food stuff.

This policy of extermination and the extent of the bestiality will be recounted in the following verified incidents.

Women of the Avzarig village had buried the many dead in and around their village, but the “Kaimakam” of Sari compelled two old Armenian peasants to exhume all of them and lay them in the open fields where wolves and jackals could devour the remains. The same “Kaimakam” ordered evacuation of the entire population, including infants, old men and women, of Hasha-Tamran, Tash-Oghli and Kara-Tzor Armenian villages, in the severe cold of January, and have them driven into the ice and snow of the mountains. They first killed the village priest, Vartan, by first cutting his ears, then his nose, then gouging out his eyes. The wife of the martyr was forcibly married to Mahmed, one of the servants of Hussein Bey. The Kurds also snatched babies from the arms of their mothers, flung them to the ground, stuffed their tiny mouths with rubbish to silence them and suffocate them to death.

With the intent to provoke incidents, Turkish gendarmes entered Pelou, an Armenian village in the district of Gavash. They attempted to shoot down a young revolutionary. To avoid bloodshed he tried to secret himself in one of the houses. The gendarmes, assisted by a Kurdish brigand chief, surrounded the house and kept it under rifle fire. The revolutionary escaped after killing one of the attackers in self- defense.

This was cause enough for the “Kaimakam” of Vosdan to arrive in Pelou with a detachment of gendarmes, arrest a number of innocent people, burn down six homes, and kill four others through merciless beating. The raging flames of the burning homes attracted some three-hundred Kurds, who plundered the village while the peasants were trying to put out the fire. In utter despair, the villagers resorted to self-defense. The fight lasted all day. The once prosperous village of Pelou of one-hundred and thirty families was plundered and reduced to a heap of ashes, and the inhabitants expelled. An investigating committee, including deputy Vramian and Munir Bey, agreed the real culprit had been the “Kaimakam” of Vosdan, Shukry Bey, who instead of being punished, continued in his post.

In the course of the same week Kurdish mobs attacked the village of Atanantz in the district of Haiotz-Tzor. Already informed of the fate of Pelou, the peasants here put up a resistance and repulsed the attackers by killing their leader, Khurshid Agha. The same investigating committee was dispatched here. All evidence pointed to the culpability of the same Shukry Bey, the “Kaimakam” of Vosdan. Vramian succeeded in uncovering a letter by Shukry Bey to Hussein Agha of Satmans, blaming the latter for non-participation in the attacks against Armenians. [2]

The first attempt to incite trouble in Shatakh failed. The gendarme commissioned to kill two of the leaders, Hovsep Choloyan and Samuel Mesrobian, had a change of heart at the last minute and returned the murder weapon to Gora Bey.

A second attempt was made against the person of Bedros of Khumar. An old and experienced revolutionary, he was loved and respected by both the Armenian and Kurdish peasants whom he had, on many occasions, defended against the grasping Kurdish lords. He was invited to come to the police station and there treacherously murdered. To cover up the crime, the police started to shoot at random and telegraphed to Shatash stating that Bedros and a number of revolutionaries had attacked the police station and that he was killed in the skirmish. The ensuing investigation brought out the true facts.

The simultaneous massacres at Aghpag, Sarai and Alashgerd, the pillage and burning of the villages in the Timar region, the provoked clashes in Haiotz-Tzor, Gavash, and Gargar, and the treachery at Shadakh, revealed a plan of systematic extermination of the entire Armenian population of Vasbouragan. Appeals to countermand the orders were censored or pigeonholed. It was impossible to communicate with the outside world; it was impossible to get through to Constantinople. The Armenian Prelacy was refused permission to ask for relief, from the Armenian Patriarchate in Constantinople, for the tens of thousands of displaced and starving people. The coded telegrams by Vramian to Ottoman Parliament were never forwarded.

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation, in its convention at Erzerum, had resolved to serve the Ottoman fatherland faithfully in this hour of crisis. Armenian leaders, whether ecclesiastic or temporal, exhorted patience and sacrifice.



[2] The incidents at Haiotz-Tzor and Sarai are recorded in the book by Henri Barbe, titled “The Land of Terror.” Information therein has been furnished by Seignior Spordoni, the Italian Vice-Consul.