Chapter VII

The First Interview Of The Armenian Prelate With Jevdet Bey


The treacherous murder of Ishkhan and his companions had created an atmosphere of terror and hopelessness. In order to counteract this demoralizing wave, the Defense Command resolved, during its session at noon, on April 17th to arm the defending forces and have them occupy their posts on around-the-clock alert, without exposing themselves. In this connection it was deemed necessary to get in touch with Aikesdan and get their views and recommendation. Bishop Yeznig was requested to go to the governor to verify the death of Ishkhan and find out what his intentions were. The prelate gladly volunteered and left alone.

He returned very late, causing us anxious moments and was extremely agitated.

He said he found the governor in a very nervous mood, busy with peremptory commands and arrangements. After saluting him, I immediately asked if it was true that Ishkhan had been killed? He was the man Your Excellency sent to Shadakh in company with Vefic Bey to establish order.

“I planned it that way myself. They were to be arrested, if they resisted arrest, my orders were to kill them and that is what happened at Hirj village,” replied Jevdet, adding, “Do you think I could allow a few young men to play with the fate of the whole country? Besides, he was not aiming to establish peace but wanted to further incite trouble and to massacre the Kurds. He said as much to me yesterday while visiting me with Vramian.” “I have not been to Shadakh for a long time and would like this opportunity to go there and hunt for bears,” Ishkhan told me. “I have learned Armenians often refer to Kurds as bears,” finished Jevdet, in a very angry tone.

“Your Excellency,” I replied, “Ishkhan was sent on this mission by your order. Why deceive him and have him treacherously killed. You are the governor of this province and such base acts do not behoove a governor. Contrary to your own father’s efforts to promote peace and progress in this land, your own aim seems to be to wreck it. Please remember your late father, Tahir Pasha, and the Many good deeds he did here as governor. As his son, please abstain from doing things that would blemish his cherished memory. Let bygones be bygone. I have come to seek ways to improve the situation. I am more than willing to do my share and entreat you to do likewise. As a token of your good will, please release Vramian”. Jevdet interrupted me at this point with an emphatic, “No, that is impossible and it is useless to talk about that. This very night, he will be on his way to Constantinople. I swear, upon my honor, that no harm will come to him.”

I tried to emphasize the salutary effects the release of Vramiam would have on the disturbed situation in Shadakh and on relieving the tense situation prevailing in the City and Aikesdan.

“That is impossible,” shouted Jevdet. “Think of what you can do for yourselves here. Shadakh is going to be punished. I have already sent telegrams ordering all Kurdish clans in the south to attack and punish Shadakh and leave it in complete ruins.”

Finding it useless to argue with a madman, I took leave. I am very pessimistic. That man is going to sack and massacre Van. Let us deliberate on what can and ought to be done. Bishop Yeznig left greatly agitated.

Towards evening, traffic was forbidden on the road to Haigavank. Later a group of mounted men were seen galloping away followed by a carriage, surrounded by some two hundred cavalry, advancing towards the port of Avantz. This was the way the deputy from Van, the courageous and inimitable leader, Vramiam was led to his death. On the way from Bitils to Diarbekir, the guards accompanying Vramiam killed him on the bridge across Bohdan River and threw his body into the waters below.


★ ★ ★ ★


Priest Hovhannes was requested to visit Aikesdan on April 18th and deliver to Aram our report relative to the interview between Yeznig and Jevdet. Later that morning, Mr. Jemil Effendi, with three policemen called on the Prelate for private talks. On behalf of the governor, Jemil demanded that the school building at Haigavank and Arark be made available for the billeting of soldiers. Bishop Yeznig replied that authority to do so resided in the City Council and that under the existing conditions it was not possible to call a meeting. Soon after Jemil Effendi had left the Police commissioner, Mugurdich Kara Sefferian came to demand the keys to the school building. If he was refused, he said, Jevdet threatened to break down the doors. Bishop Yeznig reiterated the fact that he lacked authority but if Jevdet wanted to force his way, that was his business. We learned soon after that Turkish soldiers had forcibly occupied the school building at Haigavank.

Priest Havhannes, our messenger, returned in the afternoon. He said there is feverish activity at Aikesdan. The situation is pregnant with grave danger and the people wish to be ready for any surprise actions by the government. Aram is very depressed. He has instructed that the defenses be manned and to wait in readiness.

A majority of the Armenian inhabitants of Haigavank poured into the city the same day. Some found lodgings with relatives and the rest were housed at the Diramer church and the school building.