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Genocide:
Context &
Legacy
 Oppression
 & Atrocities
 American
 Ambassador
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Personal
Experiences
Punishment
Recognition 
& Demands 
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Massacres At Urfa

A letter from an American missionary lady

"Urfa, January 7th, 1896."

e had often heard that the Moslems were dissatisfied with the attempt of two months ago which resulted in the destruction of only 40 lives and about £150,000 worth of goods, the plunder of 600 shops and 289 houses. After this the Christians were all completely disarmed by the government. Some 80 men had been imprisoned, and we feared another scene of terror. It came at last with great suddenness.

"On Saturday, December 28th, the firing of a few guns in the Moslem quarter south of us proved the signal. Immediately an immense multitude gathered on the hill back of our house. The guards in the street east of us went to meet the people, fired a few shots over their heads, and then allowed the mass of wild humanity, thirsty for blood, to pass into the city and begin their work. The horrid work continued until dark. Three soldiers kept the mob from entering our street, constantly proclaiming: 'It is the house of a foreigner, and it is forbidden to touch her.' We find by couut that our, shadow' covered 17 houses and 240 people. The mob came as far as to enter our girls' schoolrooms in the churchyard, and they broke open the third door below us on the street and plundered the house. I saw one man beaten and then thrown down on the roof just opposite to me on the other side of the street. The Syrians and Roman Catholics were also spared. All other Christians suffered complete loss of all home furnishings, and some houses were burned. The number of killed cannot be less than 3,500 and may reach 4,000. Of these it is estimated that t,5oo perished in the great Gregorian church. On Saturday that portion of the city was hardly touched, and great numbers of Armenians ftockecl to the church for safety that night. Sunday morning the work began again at daybreak, and when the people reached the church the soldiers broke open the doors. Theu entering, they began a butchery which became a great holocaust. !t was participated in by many classes of Moslems. For two dav·s the air of the city was unendurable; then began the clearing up. During two days we saw constantly men lugging sacks filled with bones and ashes. The dragging of 1,500 bodies for burial in trenches was more quickly completed, some being taken on animals. The last work of all has been the clearing of the wells. From one very large well it is said that 6o bodies were taken. It is well authenticated that 20 bodies were taken from another well. About 300 persons escaped from the church by way of the roof, which was reached by a narrow staircase on the inside, Shortly after noon on Sunday, some fifteen or more of the prominent citizens and government officials (not including the Mutessarif, or the military commander), precedeci by a military band and mounted guard, made a grand parade of the city. They entered our yard, and, speaking with me from the veranda, they assured me of perfect safety and begged me not to be alarmed, as it was 'nothing that pertained to me.' I very quickly went into my room.

"The work did not cease until dark on Sunday, the 29th. On Monday the Kurds and Arabs were prevented from entering the city, the firing beginning about dawn. All day Sunday a strong guard was about our premises. A captain of the army sat on his horse for hours at our northwest corner, just outside of the church premises. Repeatedly I received salutations and assurances of perfect safety from government oficials during that longest day I ever knew. It was evident that the utmost was done to protect me. How wiilingly I would have died, that the thousands of parents might be spared for their children!

"The work of plunder is complete. Literally naught remains. By actual count only ten Protestant houses remain untouched, and five of these are in the district which I have spoken of as my shadow.

"Our loss of life is 105, all but nine being men. These nine include two women and seven children, who were in the Gregorian Church when it was sacked. Our wounded are many. I have eighteen under my immediate care. Most of these have several severe wounds. One has 11; one has 18; ghastly sword and axe cuts on head and neck. There are a few gunshot wounds. There is only one doctor for the whole city. He has 350, and cannot care for more, nor for these but in part. He came at my call to see one who we supposed must lose his hand, dressed the arm and committed the case to my care. Thus far, thank God, all are doing well. I have found three persons who, like myself, are inexperienced in such matters; but they are proving careful, sensible workers with me. We dress most of the wounds in the church. Our schoolrooms (all but one, used as headquarters of our guard) are crowded with some 250 or 300 of the most forlorn and needy. Our home is also full. Those who are spared to their families are in great fear and wish to be near me. We cannot receive all, and it is hard to daily turn away so many. Some have a little fvod, found in their houses, and some nothing. One of the several great men who have called to express sympathy, and to say, Turkish style, 'It was from God,' has sent provisions, for which I am exceedingly grateful.

"The government provides about 200 loaves of bread per day for the poor. But all this kindness will soon come to an end, and utter poverty will be the lot of most. The Protestant pastor, the Rev. H. Abouhayatian, and several efficient members of the church, are among the dead. I tried to secure the body of the pastor, but failed. His children-six-they immediately granted to me.

"The custom in these affairs, so general in Turkey, seems to be for one party to rush ahead and kill. This is followed by another party which hurries off the women and children to some mosque, khan or some Moslem home temporarily open for their reception. Lastly, this operation is followed by the stripping of the house. Children often get separated from their parents and are late in being found. One of the earliest offers made to me was to undertake finding any lost if I would send in the full name. My own guards, twenty in number since Sunday, do my every bidding as if I were a queen. I use them for help in all sorts of ways.

"Markets are closed, and it is very difficult to get some things much needed. We have had but forty-five beds given back to us of those plundered, and a few pieces of copper, as yet I fail to secure more, or instructions as to method of procedure for individuals to secure stolen goods. The government has large numbers of beds and much copper ware stored for return to the owners, but all fear to stir lest the end has not yet come.

"The aged Bishop of the Gregorians was spared, but only one, or possibly two priests.

"Our own teacher of the Boys' High School and several Gregorian teachers were killed. I believe the Gregorians are in greater suffering than the Protestants, having no foreigner to do for them, and any efficient ones spared are afraid to venture out.

"To-day the long-expected soldiers have arrived --- eight or nine hundred. Our city has been guarded (?) by resident soldiers. We must have your prayers and your pecuniary aid. How are the people to live through this winter?

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Excerpt from the Book
"Turkey & the Armenian Atrocities"
By Rev. Edwin M. Bliss

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Updated 30 September 1999 ..
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