Chapter III

The Memorandum Of Vramian (In Code) To The Cabinet In Constantinople


“During the past four months an abnormal situation has been created in the attitude of the government towards Armenian people. Local officialdom are not properly concerned about this situation.

“The deplorable incidents at Garjgan and Gavash, as tragic as they are, did not produce any change in this attitude.

“From the very first day I arrived in Van, I deemed it my sacred duty to make an impartial diagnosis of the situation and to point out remedies. At this moment, there is overwhelming evidence that I was not wrong in my assumptions; therefore, I entreat you to give the points raised herein your serious consideration.

“There are four interlocking causes to the present abnormal situation: (a) desertions, (b) disarming of Armenian soldiers and gendarmes, (c) incidents that threaten the existence of the Armenian people, (d) the declaration of “Jihad” (Moslem Holy War) and the wrong interpretation placed upon it by the people.

“Desertion by Armenians, after general mobilization, is due to three fundamental reasons: (a) those over 24 years of age have had no military training at all, (b) those under 24 years of age were unable to endure the extreme shortages in food and clothing due to our precipitous entry in the war, (c) the religious needs of our men were not merely neglected but a contemptuous attitude has developed. Even the worst criminal enjoys the privilege of spiritual solace; why deny it to our soldiers?

“At the beginning, desertions by Armenians were rare and had the above mentioned grievances been remedied, there would have been no desertions. Instead the government engendered an atmosphere of distrust, caused incidents of far reaching terror. The proclamation of “Jihad” helped give desertions a political intent. Thus, the disarming of Armenian soldiers and gendarmes could not fail to create a stifling atmosphere of suspicion, deteriorating the relations between the Armenian and the Moslems elements. The facts are (a) Armenian soldiers are being used as beasts of burden deeply hurting their human and racial feeling, and also degrading them in the eyes of their Moslem companions. (b) These disarmed Armenian soldiers are being guarded by Moslem soldiers and, being unarmed and forced to work among highly excited Moslem people, their lives are in constant jeopardy. There are persistent rumors of Armenian soldiers having been shot, drowned stabbed or otherwise made to disappear particularly at or near the battle fronts of Garin or Iran. (c) The disarmed Armenian soldiers have been removed from their regions and sent to unknown destinations under various pretexts.

“(d) All Molems elements, particularly the Kurds 16 to 60 years old, have been issued arms under the guise of their being in the militia. These were entrusted with police and gendarmery authority and became domineering and restrictive, (e) These militiamen committed depredations in Armenian villages. The militiamen of Timar provoked the incidents at Aliur, Khaventz and Amiug villages. The militia, headed by an army officer and a squad of soldiers from Bitlis, committed the murders and plunders in Garjgan, Pelou, Nanigantz, Untzak and Yeghis villages. The mass maltreatment of Mukhguner and its despoliation were done by militiamen led by Omer Agha. On their way to the front the six-hundred strong militia force, under Pshare Chato, spread terror and devastation in Manazgerd and regions northeasterly of Van. The depredations of Kurdish “volunteers” was temporarily halted by the protests of the German Consul there. Kurdish militia completely ransacked the twelve Armenian villages in Silvan, province of Dikranagered (Diarbekir).

“(f) Notorious Kurdish chiefs with a record of many crimes were released from prison, issued additional arms and allowed to stay in areas heavily populated by Armenians; Mehmed Emin, Moussa, and Kassim Bey were among those released.

“(g) The large number of desertions from the army of armed Kurds. The mountainous regions of Van and Bitlis abound with such deserters.

“(h) The stationing of Kurdish Hamidie among Armenian villages caused wholesale plunder and ransacking of them. Thus, the squad under Saturn Bey pillaged Hassan-Tamran, Akhorig, Boghaz-Kessen, Hazara, Man tan and Bzdig villages.

“(i) In spite of formal denials the massacres at Bash-Kale, Akhorig, Avzarig, Hassan-Tamran, Hazara and Tash-Oghlou are facts.

“One cannot fail to conclude that for Armenians’ security of honor, of life, and of property has disappeared. The government has assumed a posture of mistrust towards Armenians, thus aggravating the already tense relations between Armenians and the Kurds.

“Security of honor, life and property transcend all other rights. They are as sacred as they are natural. A government that is rational, conscionable, and sane cannot compel the Armenian to enter the labor battalions beset by danger, and be prevented to serve his country honorably. This is being done while, every minute, his family is exposed to the murderous whims of his semi-savage neighbors.

“Whereas the Moslems disregard “Jehad” and desert the battle front, we believe it to be unjust to scorn the Armenian as a deserter, particularly because he is denied the very instrument by which he can serve best, his rifle.

“Whereas, there are many justifiable reasons, whether social, religious or political in character;

“Whereas there is constant danger to the homes and hearths of the men in the labor corps, as evidenced by happenings in the provinces of Van, Bitlis, Erzeroum and Diarbekir;

“Whereas the many thousands of Armenians in the army are being stopped from rendering useful service on the one hand and are not available to till the land for the next harvest, resulting in catastrophy;

“Therefore it is evident that unless circumstances resulting in desertion are corrected very soon we will be confronted with the grave evil of mass brigandage. It is only natural for any human being, driven by hunger and pursued by the law, to resort to brigandage in order to save their lives or to find a piece of bread.

“I wish to submit the following propositions to the careful consideration of the central government:

(1) To keep under sums only those classes which have seen military service dining the years of 1910 to 1914;

(2) Classify Armenian soldiers as gendsumes, stationed in their own area, until such time as confidence can be reestablished between Armenians and the government;

(3) Establish a reasonable head tax to relieve men over 24 from military service and the present degrading tasks assigned to them;

(4) Discover the culprits for the mass murder of Bash-Kale, Akhorig, Azvarig, and Hazara and punish them in accordance with the law.

(5) Immediately enforce the laws concerning village guards which was planned during the governorship of Tahsin Bey. All Kazas and Nates (major and minor territorial subdivisions) are aware of these laws.

(6) End the search for arms among Armenians; they have the right to own arms as long as the semi-savage neighbors, the Kurds, have not been disarmed.

(7) Pay adequate indemnity to families who have lost members in the massacres, and recover and return plundered goods to their rightful owners.

(8) Turkish militia should be issued arms only at the fighting front. They should not be allowed to pass through or to sojourn in villages. They should not be entrusted with the duties of gendarmery.

(9) Recover and return all property belonging to the pillaged churches. Allow women and girls, forced to embrace Islam, to return to their families, as well as allowing men who have been proselytized by threats and terror to return to their original faith.

“The above proposals are motivated with a desire on my part to put an end to present abnormal situation, to quell fears and suspicions among Armenians, and to foster confidence among them towards the government. Certainly nothing is to be gained by trying to cover up the facts that Armenian soldiers are being disarmed, that these unarmed men are being treated as slaves, that massacres and pillages are taking place and that Armenians in general are being treated with unwarranted severity. We cannot help but be reminded of the black dates of 1895-1896 under Sultan Hamid II.

“The confidence engendered by the establishment of constitutional regime and assurances of safety were not sufficient to really forge an indissoluble tie between the two races for their mutual and economic benefits. Unfortunately, Turkey under the constitution, was unable to redress the wrongs which Turkey under despotism had perpetrated. The massacres at Adana, unresolved land questions, and others, forced Armenians to suspect and to sense the omens of an infernal plan for their total extinction. The unfortunte participation of Turkey in the war forestalled all hope and endeavor towards amelioration.

“To fight this war, it is necessary to strain all of our physical and spiritual forces. To this end the government proclaimed “Jihad” to stir up the Moslems elements. The Armenians had a right to expect that the New Turkey, with the view of inflaming their patriotism, would assure them of equal rights and privileges. We had all the more reason to expect that the government itself would carry out the reforms after the abrogation of the “Capitulations” and the return home of Messrs, Hoff and Westeneng.

“The Holy War had no appeal for the Kurd who deserted in droves. It could have no appeal for the Christian Armenian.

“Plans for general and positive reforms appeal to Armenians, but all our pleas fell on deaf ears. The grave political mistake of considering Armenians as step sons is repeated. Now it is perhaps our last opportunity to inculcate the idea and the consciousness of the brotherhood of Turkish and Armenian races.

“I propose therefore that the Kalifate proclaim, without delay, the satisfaction of these very modest requests. To this end it will be necessary to negotiate with the Armenian Patriarchate in Constantinople and with Armenian political parties. I wish to make the following suggestions:

(a) The number of Armenian deputies in the Ottoman Parliament shall be proportioned to their number and elected by the Armenian population.

(b) The Administrative Councils in the six Armenian populated provinces shall have 50% Armenian representation.

(c) Armenians shall constitute 50% of all other officials in the above six provinces.

(d) In these six provinces, in all departments of government, the Armenian language shall be on equal footing with Turkish language.

(e) The Armenian school shall enjoy the same rights and privileges as government supported schools, with an educational tax to be collected by the government from Armenians, and turned over to the Armenian Prelacy.

(f) An adequate number of Armenian young men shall be selected for training in the highest military institutions to serve as officers, their number to be in proportion to the number of Armenians under arms.

(g) Put an end, once and for all, to the encroachment of “Efkaf” (Islam’s ecclesiastical property laws) and to recognize the indisputable rights of Armenians to their community properties.

(h) Resolve all land disputes and return to the Armenians the lands which have been unjustly seized from them.

“For a long time the government by “Ittihad” has recognized the justice of the above, and similarly demands them as elementary human rights. Had these principles been practiced, they would have created an era of mutual trust and friendship, unprecedented in history; they would have had a most beneficial influence upon Armenians beyond the borders, in Caucasus. It would have integrated the hopes and aspirations of Armenians all over the world with the fate of the Ottoman Empire.

“It has been my desire, Your Excellency, to make an impartial analysis of the political situation in the six Eastern provinces. In the name of the general welfare of our common fatherland, I beg of Your Excellency to study this analysis with the thoroughness and open mindedness it deserves, rather than the usual “Istilal” (acknowledgement of receipt of the memorandum).”


“Most respectfully yours, “


“Onnig Tertzagian-Vramain”

“Deputy from Van”

February 27, 1915