Chapter IV

The Alarm


Official welcome was extended, at Haji Bekir barracks, to Jevdet and to the 150 mounted escort. In spite of the fact that his return was considered a sinister omen, Armenian dignitaries, including Bishop Yeznig, representative Vramian, Aram, etc., hastened to bid him welcome.

With his customary cynicism and hypocrisy he expressed regrets for incidents which had taken place during his absence. “After all,” he would say, “we are in a state of a war. Such things happen, but believe me, I am torn with sorrow for the unfortunate victims. On the the other hand, I find no words to adequately describe the tragedy and the ruin perpetrated by the Russians.”

Days of anxious negotiations and consultations followed. Armenian leaders were trying, in every way possible, to avert the impending catastrophe. Vramian tried in vain to convince Talaat Pasha and Jevdet Bey of the dangerous folly, and indeed, the insanity of the policy being applied against Armenians.

Posters appeared on the 13th of April, demanding all Armenians subject to military service to report within three days. People were not enthused anymore, least of all the younger men. This attitude rendered the task of our leaders very difficult in negotiating with Jevdet. A meeting was called. The young men were not convinced by the arguments presented by the political sagacity of their leaders; they yielded, nevertheless, because of the absolute confidence, love and devotion cherished by all of the rank and file. A census was taken of available men and it was decided to present them in a number of smaller groups.

The government at Shadakh ordered the arrest of Hovsep Choloyan, leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation there, on April 11th. Relations were strained. Two days later, nine persons in Armashad and two in Jnug were attacked, resulting in armed clashes on the 13th. It was hoped that, as in the case of Timar and Atanantz, the conflict could be mediated. But Jevdet had other plans.

Jevdet suggested to Vramian to dispatch a mixed commission, including chief of police, Vefik Bey, Polad Bey and Ishkhan to quiet the region. The same evening, April 16th, Ishkhan and his three escorts left to join up with Vefik Bey and and his group.

This sudden decision was wholly unexpected and the people reacted strongly. Said one of the men, “No matter what the circumstance may be, it is a grave mistake to send Ishkhan away to Shadakh. For all, he was a symbol of courage and devotion, their hope, their assurance of success in the conflict that was bound to burst upon them any time.”

There was unusual activity at the cavalry barracks in the city. As late as midnight, Burhaneddin Bey was busy making arrangements. Mounted gendarmes and irregulars were seen hurrying in all directions. The lights in the offices were on all night. These facts were noticed by the Armenian members of the guards assigned to the protection of the market. Some Armenian merchants were warned by friendly police not to go to market. Vramian was advised of these by special messenger.

Jevdet was the first to be apprised of the success of his perfidious plan. Early in the morning, before there was any possibility of the news reaching the people, Jevdet dispatched messengers asking Vramian and Aram to visit him without delay.

Bishops Yeznig, Daniel, Vramian and Aram were getting ready to drive to the city when our messenger arrived. Bishop insisted that Vramian go alone, if at all.

(In Part I, Chapter V, under the heading of “The Ignoble Conspiracy” the circumstances surrounding Vramian’s arrest are given in detail.)

I am of the conviction that had Vramian known of the dastardly murder of Ishkhan and his men, he would not have refrained from going to Jevdet to castigate him for his inhuman treachery and for being the monster that he was.

Far from disheartening the people, as Jevdet had hoped, the murder of Ishkhan and the arrest of Vramian served as a warning, a toxin to steel ourselves spiritually and physically to face the Armageddon with courage and honor.

Traffic between Aikesdan and the walled city came to a stop at noon, April 17th, and the young men were ready in their defense positions waiting for Jevdet’s next move.