Chapter II

Declaration Of War And The Holy War


Exactly ninety days after mobilization had been decreed, diplomatic relations between Turkey and Russia were severed, due to naval incident in the Black Sea. On October 31, 1914, Turkey declared war.

In the hope of realizing their Pan Touranian and Pan Islamic dreams of grandeur, the Ittihad party and its leaders had gathered together poorly trained, ignorant, multi-racial and nondescript force. This war foisted upon the country was not popular even among the Turks who sensed the impending doom.

With the view of overcoming the apathy of the Moslem population of the country, as well as to solicit the support of other Moslem countries, the government appealed to the fanaticism and ignorance of the people and declared “Holy War”. This war of religions which could, in theory, include Turkey’s own allies, Germans, Austrians and Bulgarians, was meant, primarily, to serve internal ends. The declaration could not fail to create suspicion and animosity among the Moslem and Christian elements of the empire. Through fanatical harangues at mosques and incitful speeches, the ignorant among the Turks and the Kurds were conditioned to pounce upon the Christians and Armenians in particular. The combined declaration of the two types of war evidenced itself by an abrupt change in the attitude of the government towards Armenians.

The Russian army breached the frontier and occupied Bayazid and Alashgerd. News of similar defeats having been suffered at Khoy, near the Persian front, caused Kiazim Bey to move to Sarai and Bash Kale with his newly organized forces.

Abdoul Kadir Bey, the organizer of Kurdish Hamidie detachments, received orders to be ready for action. Kurdish leaders in Nordooz, Shadakh, Gavash, Garjigan, Khizan, Moks and Spargerd received similar orders and received additional arms and ammunition from the government.

All Turkish and Kurdish prisoners, criminals, brigands, were released and inducted in the army.

To sum up, all the Turkish and Kurdish male population between the ages of sixteen and seventy were armed and allowed to remain home.


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The economic exhaustion due to confiscations in the name of military procurement became steadily insufferable. Villagers, who already had contributed their share, were compelled to fill the quota again and again, and forced to carry these on their backs to the destination. Confiscation and compulsion became the rule, and the Armenian peasant sank into economic ruin and starvation.

This same policy of forcible despoliation was practiced in the old city. Every single store was forced to donate as many as five times. The market became practically deserted. Armenian wards in the city were compelled to contribute four times their quota of victuals, stockings, gloves, underwear, clothing, bedding, etc. The injustices in the practice of the conscription also weighed heavily upon us. In insisting on the induction of men in the twenty-five to forty-five age bracket, the government was not thinking of strengthening its fighting forces; rather it was planning to deprive the people of protection against its insidious plans.

Large scale desertions among the Turks and Kurds was evidence of the unpopularity of this war. Declaring it to be “Holy” did not, by and large, add a great deal of zest. Kurds deserted the front lines in droves at Bergri, Bayazid and Sarai, causing collapse of the fighting front.

These symptoms of a very grave situation did not seem to worry Jevdet. He was preoccupied with the Armenians. The direct results of this was the increase in desertions and the widening of the chasm between the two races.

Rumors, later confirmed, told of unarmed Armenian soldiers being sent to distant and undisclosed points, where they were massacred.

The Armenian Prelay, as official representative of the people, Vramian, as members of the Ottoman parliament, leaders of Political parties, each in his own capacity, spared no effort to intercede with the government in the attempt to avoid disaster.