Turkish Genocides: Genocide against the Armenians 1875-1876
In 1876 a new sultan ascended the throne as leader of the Islamic caliphate, the Osmannic Empire. Muhammed had in his time been prime minister, supreme judge and commander of the army, and he was followed by caliphs who had the same extensive power. The caliphate, which was founded in accordance with Islamic law, incorporated the most important of the areas conquered by Islam: Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Kurdistan, Greece and finally Constantinople, which had been renamed to Islambul. Furthermore, these areas behind Constantinople had also been conquered: Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia and Serbia.
Most of the conquered areas were entirely Christian countries, but the special Islamic law, which prevented Muslims to convert to Christianity, and meant that children of mixed marriages were forced to be Muslims, and the fact that conversion to Islam was mandatory for holders of public offices, caused the proportion of Christians to fall, while the Muslim increased. The special Islamic war tax, which Muslim countries could only be extracted from non-Muslims, had as a consequence that many felt themselves forced to become Muslims, if they were to survive difficult times.
Nevertheless, even at the ascent of Abdul Hamit as sultan in 1876, only 40 % of the population in Turkey itself were Turks. The Kurds were also Muslims, but even in the year 1900 9 million Christians lived in the area that constitute present-day Turkey. Today, a mere century later, only 50,000 remain. What happened to the rest?
Abdul Hamid wanted to strengthen the Muslim rule over the subdued populations in novel ways. Until then, Islam had decimated the number of Christians by forcing them to deliver their children to Muslims, and many Christian women were incorporated into Muslim harems through marriage. The novelty was to completely eradicate the Christian population. Among the subjects of the sultan the Armenians were the most diligent and successful. For more than a millennium they had survived Muslim persecutions and extermination attempts. Each time they arose anew and became thrifty traders with a culture where art and poetry were highly appreciated.
The tools used by sultan Abdul Hamit were the Turkish army and the Turkish police, and the Kurdish people, who are Muslims. He equipped the Kurds with modern rifles and gave them the relevant military skills. Serpouhi Tavoukdijan writes in his book “Expatriate” that in return for their weapons their task was to murder Armenians. They were given the right to rape Armenian women free of penalty and took Armenian houses and shops belonging to the murdered.
In the beginning the Armenians put up some resistance, in spite of their almost complete lack of weapons. Then Abdul Hamid reinforced the Kurds with regular Turkish troops and let proclaim a “Holy war” against the infidels in the country. Endless killings of civilians broke lose, executed by Turkish army units and civilian Muslims. The killings took place in the eastern, western, northern and southern Turkey, everywhere Armenians were to be found. So many were murdered and starved “that the diligent defender of Islam had to admit, that the Armenians no longer could be of particular danger to the Ottoman state, at least not for the next generations time. He was forced to declare the holy war ended.” (Tavoukdjian, p. 18)
He was forced to do this as several countries, not least France, had been alerted to the systematic genocides taking place in the Islamic empire. The European countries had so far turned the blind eye to the genocide and the terrible oppression suffered by the Christian populations there. But the killings continued in remote areas.
In January 1896 a booklet was published in London with the title “The haunting Horror in Armenia” (subtitled: “Who will be damned for this?”) A black front page with bloody red letters covered this 64 page booklet, which was meant to alert the British to the events. The booklet describes the terrifying massacres in Turkey 1875-1876 and warns that equally terrifying events might be on their way. The booklet also provides statistics of Armenian massacres dating from September 30th to November 30th 1875. These are original Turkish statistics.
Here is stated that in Armenian cities hunger reduced the population by 75,000 and in villages the number was reduced by 350,000. On top of this comes the number of directly killed Armenians: In Armenian cities 20,000, villages 3,300. During less than one year a total of 2,500 villages were completely eliminated. A statistics of who executed the massacres is also provided.
In Constantinople only 172 were murdered. This was done by the police on the 30th of September. In Trebizunt the Turkish army killed 800 with assistance from civilian Turks. In Baiburt on October 13th 1000 Armenians were killed by Turkish civilians. In Bitlis on October 25th 900 were killed by soldiers and Kurdish Muslims. In Kara Hissar on October 25th 450 were murdered by Turkish military and Turkish and Kurdish civilians. In Erzerum on October 30th 800 were killed by civilian Turks and Turkish military. In Urfa on November 3rd 300 were killed. In Arabkir on November 6th 2000 were killed by Kurds and Turks. In Malatia on November 6th 250 were killed. In Haarpoot on November 11th 1000 were killed by Turkish soldiers and civilians Turks and Kurds. In Sivas on November 12th 1200 were killed by Turkish soldiers and civilians In Marsovan on November 15th 125 were killed by Turks. In Cesarea on November 30th 1000 were killed by Muslim Kirgisians and Turks.
The list is much more comprehensive, but the dates and the exact number of killed Armenians is lacking for many cities. The huge number who subsequently starved to death were victims of new laws forbidding Armenians to purchase food, which caused hunger and death, first among the Armenian population in the cities. The trade ban was total, all selling to and buying from Armenians was forbidden. The book relates that in Erzerum, after the relatively modest massacres of 800 killed, 5000 Armenians remained, who had no possibility to purchase even a single slice of bread.
As most Armenians lived in villages, a different tactic was applied here, namely the total destruction of the villages and every kind of Armenian agriculture and crops. The only persons permitted to buy food and survive were those who had converted to Islam. The message to destroy the Armenian villages was distributed through the mosques and passed on to the faithful Muslims: “According to the Sunni-law, the killing and plunder of infidels is as much an act of worship and prayer.” (p. 51).
If the Armenians got any notion of what was about to happen, they went to the village leaders, who told them that they had nothing to fear, they were under protection. A few days later a common signal was given in the village, whereupon the Muslim neighbours and soldiers attacked the Armenians, looted, raped and murdered in a frenzy. After a few days of killing the surviving Armenians were ordered to dig mass graves, throw the bodies therein, and burn them in the same fashion the prophet in his days had mass graves dug out for the unarmed Jews in Medina.
The author continues to describe how surviving women and children after the example of Muhammad in Medina were distributed among Muslim men and became forced converts. (p. 51-52). The booklets adds a further warning: “It appears that the plan to exterminate and destroy Armenian villages, which turned out to be a huge success, will be applied to other minorities of the caliphate, and that already now a regime of terror is ruling Constantinople (Istanbul) (p. 52). The booklet, authored by W. T. Staed, was intended to warn England against the horrors still to come from Muslim side against non-Muslim minorities in the conquered territories, and was therefore printed in large stocks and sold at only 1 Shilling apiece. But it became known only in Christian circles. The rulers and people in power turned the deaf ear to it and thereby became accomplices to some of the worst genocide in the history of mankind.