Chapter XX

May 4th, The Night Of Vengeance


It is hard to describe the demoralized retreat of the Turks. Large multitudes from Pasha’s Fountain to the ward of Shamiram were moving towards Haiotz-Tzor. The artillery pieces at Shamiram continued their random shelling until noon of May 16th. Turkish attacks in the city had greatly diminished and calm reigned at 3:00 P.M. Suddenly the cannons at Haji Bekir barracks started to fire shells in the direction of Boghbdi Dar ward. The Defense Council convened for consultation. Some proposed to probe the situation by counter attacking at selected targets. Fears were expressed that this might be a device to deslodge us from our barricades for easy distinction. A “wait and see” policy was agreed on, particularly because Aikesdan had not taken any offensive action.

The burning of the barracks at Hanguisner was observed at 4:30 P.M. In rather quick succession, flames enveloped the Toprak Kale barracks.

It could be that retreating Turks were destroying their own military establishments. The Haji Bekir barracks were still intact and aggressive. We allowed only reconnoitering steps, to ascertain the status of Turkish strongholds.

The night was strangely quiet. We had gathered at the lookout point, peering into the darkness for any signs of activity at Aikesdan. There were isolated fires here and there; their number gradually increased along lines crisscrossing Aikesdan. Someone exclaimed, “Look, Haji Bekir barracks are burning.” And indeed they were. The sky glowed with flaming orange and the old city, miles away, was shrouded by its crimson rays. This was the awaited and hoped for signal. Instructions went forth for the leaders to destroy Turkish defenses in their own areas, not to fire unless fired upon, and to use caution. They tackled the job with alacrity and enthusiasm. Starting with Gazo, Mehmed and Akif Effendi’s houses to the strongholds at Amijou line, they proceeded to set the torch to the municipal building, government offices, police headquarters, cavalry barracks, Sultanie school, Azizie armory. All government buildings were destroyed. Quantities of grain, flour, salt, and other supplies, were removed from government storage.

It was a night of orgy, of saturnalia. And who should deny these people the right to freely vent their hatred of tyranny by destroying its bastions? Was it not small enough retribution for six centuries of slavery under the Turks? Besides, it was a measure of self-protection against future danger.