Chapter IX

April 26th To April 28th


During this period, the destruction by fire of Turkish strongholds and our successful resistance to their attacks continued. The house of Topal Molla, one of the Turk’s strongest posts right across from our Tutunjian defense point was set on fire and totally destroyed during the night of April 26th. While Armenian trenchers were tunneling in the approaches of Molla’s house, they suddenly came face to face with a group of Turkish diggers. They had set out to destroy our position by the same method. A hand grenade immediately dispatched all of the Turkish gang, and the building was set on fire. Taken by surprise, they deserted the post in panic. Armenian combatants occupied the post, gathered the arms and ammunition left behind and quietly returned to their post.

The same night our forces attempted to set fire to the police headquarters at Arark. Being strategically placed among our defenses, it had been a constant source of threat and annoyance. The specialist, teacher Dikran, was placed in charge. There was a heavy downpour. Dikran succeeded in setting fire to the adjoining shops. Its early detection by the Turks and the heavy rains extinguished the flames. This proved a great disappointment to Dikran and his squad, who so far had not tasted failure. The area command of Arark deemed it essential to destroy this den of brigands.

There was a light drizzle the night of the 28th of April. A furious fusillade was being kept up on our defenses who were tensely waiting for the outcome. “Fire away, you beasts, as this is going to be the last night for you,” cheerfully exclaimed Dikran. “What is on your mind, Petoed?” (Dikran’s pet name). “You going to try again?” “Sure enough, so help me God and I am on my way,” said he. He made ready his combustible material and cautiously approached the scorched walls of the store building where his first attempt had miscarried. Suddenly, dogs started to bark, betraying his presence. The Turks immediately concentrated a murderous fire in that direction. Twenty minutes had already passed since he left for his mission. Was he killed or was he waiting for the opportune moment? All were tense and taciturn. Leaping tongues of flame from the stores changed their anxiety into jubilation; yes, the flames were spreading rapidly. No failure this time. “Long live, brave Dikran,” they yelled, and ringed the headquarters with their pistol fire. Turkish forces stationed at the Arark church and the school building opened a terrific fire. The police headquarters was now in the crossfire of our position and Turkish positions in the church and school. It was a foregone conslusion that teacher Dikran was killed; but, lo and behold, he stumbled in, wet, exhausted, but happy and triumphant. Everyone embraced him like a lost brother. A smoldering heap of ashes marked the location where the extensive complex of the Turkish police headquarters had been.

The Defense Command decorated teacher Dikran with the Cross of Honor and the communiques referred to him as the “intrepid incendiary.”

Armenians succeeded in destroying, by fire and explosives, an important Turkish stronghold at Ahmed of Bojaks house. On the 28th of April, the Turks there retreated fighting, and left several dead and wounded. Relative security of communication was thus established in the ward of Shan Tagh. On the same day, the Turks were evicted from their strongholds at Khuls and Sarajians. These victories cost us the lives of one incendiary and one combatant.

Vigorous fighting was also going on in the direction of our defenses at Pos Tagh, Shmavonians, Khach-Poghan, Hotel, and Nalbandians, where Turks suffered heavy losses. Our losses consisted of two trenchers killed, one wounded (a rich goldsmith), one eleven year old girl killed in front of the Persian Embassy at Khach-Poghan, and the killing of an old woman with a white flag who was carrying Mr. Spordoni’s letter to Jevdet Bey.

Turkish losses were heavy, particularly at the encounters going on in the Hanguisner district. Turks kept up the shelling of our Tovmazian and Sahag Bey posts all during the 27th and 28th of April. Two Turkish gunners, one officer, and several militiamen were killed.

April 29th marked the end of the tenth day of the resistance. The Defense Command issued the following proclamation addressed to Armenian defense forces:

“The struggle we have been waging for the past ten days against an ignoble enemy shall go down in the long history of our fighting for freedom as one of its most splendid and noble pages; a struggle in which everybody participated. An enemy who is at once despicable and barbaric, treacherous and blood thirsty, is determined to put an end to our individual and collective existence. There was no alternative left us but to resist, to fight for our lives and our honor, for our faith and our property, for the honor of our mothers and sisters and to fight to preserve the Armenian race.

“We are waging war against a barbaric and murderous government of six hundred years duration. Our fight is against Jevdets who are criminals, thirsty for Armenian blood, who would deny us the rudimentary rights of humanity and civilization, who proclaimed “Jihad” (Holy War) against external enemies and used it as a tool to murder Christian Armenians indiscriminately; be they women or children, infants or old people, young men or cripples.

“Fellow Armenians of Vasbouragan, for ten days we have been resisting the enemy through our individual and collective efforts and resources. Not only is this unparalleled in our own annals of heroism, it will also be admired by the civilized world after the present cataclysm. The entire world will marvel at realizing how a handful of valiant men fought, relentlessly and enthusiastically, for highest justice.

“May the God of retribution instill us with the spirit of gallantry.

“We have fought for ten days. Let us get ready for continued struggles and fresh victories.”

“Defense Command”

April 29, 1915