During the Armenian
resettlement to Syria, the Armenians were open to looting, attacks and
massacres. Not only were the police (or "gendarmes") assigned to
protect them inadequate in number, but some were drawn from the pools of men
who weren't terribly responsible, and some were downright criminal. Not that
many did not try to do their jobs properly, but the poor quality of these
irregulars took their toll. (Although most of the attacks were perpetrated by
marauding bands and people who were bent on revenge... having had their loved
ones massacred by Armenians.
Some have suggested the
Ottoman government deliberately assigned these unprofessional irregulars to
insure the systematic extermination of the Armenians. The problems were:
1) There was no money; the
Ottoman government was broke.
2) There was limited
manpower; the quality fighting forces were needed at
the various fronts... particularly against Russia, the Ottoman Empire's mortal
enemy whom the Ottoman Armenians treacherously supported.
"The remaining Moslems were
almost defenceless, because the regular garrisons were at the front
as well as the greater part of the police and able-bodied men.
Already infuriated at the reports of the atrocities committed at Van by
the insurgents, in fear for their lives and those of their relatives,
they were at last driven by the cumulative effect of these events into
panic and retaliation and, as invariably happens in such cases, the
innocent suffered with the guilty".
British author of the 1916 book, "The Armenians"... describing
why Turkish Moslems were led to commit counter-massacres. If there were
no gendarmes to protect the Turks against the Armenians (given the
desperate situation with Russia storming the gates), where were the
gendarmes to be found, to protect the Armenians?
Were the Ottomans guilty of not
adequately protecting the Armenian civilians? Yes. Why then engage in a
resettlement program if the Armenians could not be adequately protected? The
answer is, the Ottomans were caught in a life and death struggle. The priority
task was to prevent Russia from entering Ottoman territory, for the Ottomans
knew that would spell the peoples' doom (given the Russians' record of ethnic cleansing from the last
half-century, in Turkish lands they had conquered.) It wasn't like the luxury
existed to wait to move out the Armenians, since the Armenian community as a
whole was supporting the Armenian forces. There was no time to sort out the
loyal Armenians from the disloyal.
If the Ottomans were guilty of being
unable to protect their Armenian citizens properly, they were equally guilty
of being unable to protect their Muslim citizens... the ones who fell victim
to Armenian massacres.
This page will attempt to shed light
on the gendarmes.
Background on the Gendarmes
Why was Erzurum unsafe for both Muslims and
Christians? It was not the Ottoman administrators or the Ottoman system. Some valis were
good, some bad. Most seem to have done as well as they could with the resources they had.
Even the Europeans praised some governors as well-intentioned and energetic men. The
problem was that they had so few resources. What was needed in Erzurum was money. The
gendarmes were often not paid even
their small salaries. Officials too went unpaid. Money was needed to hire more police,
soldiers, and officials. Money was also needed for seed, fertilizer, better roads, and all
the things that would have made Erzurum a better place. But there was no money.
Who was to blame for the poverty of Erzurum?
Partly it was the Ottoman Government. The Ottomans were never good accountants. But the
main cause of Ottoman weakness was beyond Ottoman control. The Russians had damaged the
Ottoman Empire both militarily and economically in the 1877-78 war. In addition to the
loss of manpower, supplies, and productive territory, the Ottomans had been forced to pay
a crushing indemnity of 800 million francs. Then the Empire was forced to spend great
amounts to defend against the next Russian attack. The Ottomans were forced to spend ten
times as much on the military as on the police and gendarmerie, and twenty times as much
on the military as on education. The "friends" of the Ottomans only worsened the
economic state by enforcing the capitulations. No wonder the gendarmes could not be
The Ottomans did what they could to make Erzurum
more secure for both Armenians and Muslims. 51 Armenians were actually enrolled as
gendarmes in Erzurum Province in 1896, braving the opposition of the Armenian
revolutionaries. The vali wanted 218, but no more could be found, because the pay was so
irregular. Even the most loyal Armenian subject of the sultan had to feed his
From a treatise by Professor Justin
CAN'T DEFEND ARMENIANS
From an October 25, 1915 report from The New York Times (entitled "Can't Defend Armenians"),
Foreign Minister Halil Bey explains the scarcity of gendarmes:
"They are traitors. You have in mind
certain excesses and blunders, but, believe me, the Government is not responsible
for them, and regrets them as sincerely as anybody. But we have no more gendarmes
in the interior. Everybody is under arms as a soldier. Thus it comes to pass
that we have not everywhere been able to restrain the rage of the Mohammedans
against these traitors to their country. The Government itself will only keep the
Armenians so far from the theatre of war that they cannot conspire with the
Halil Bey, as
"quoted" by Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, in "Ambassador
"A great many suffered," he added,
"simply because Enver could not spare troops to defend them. Some regular
troops did accompany them and these behaved very well; forty even lost their lives
defending the Armenians. But we had to withdraw most of the gendarmes for service
in the army and put in a new lot to accompany the Armenians. It is true that
these gendarmes committed many deplorable excesses.
Halil Bey was the one Ottoman
official Henry Morgenthau did not vilify in his phony book... if anything, Halil Bey
emerges as a very honorable man. We already know there were some "bad"
gendarmes... let's take a look at the other side of the equation. Halil Bey claims
forty gendarmes lost their lives defending the Armenians. There must be some
reliable record of that. Even if you think, as a Turk, Halil Bey must be lying, do
you really get the impression there were no gendarmes who performed their duties
honorably? If you feel there must have been SOME who did... doesn't that throw the
genocide theory out of whack? If all of the gendarmes' secret mission was to
exterminate the Armenians, like some Oriental SS men, how could it be possible any
of them would have defended the Armenians?
from AN UNJUST TRIAL
2. None of the relocation orders, whether public or secret, which
have been reviewed by historians to date, orders murder. Instead, they order Ottoman
officials to protect relocated Armenians.
3. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians survived the relocation.
4. It was in the regions where Ottoman control was weakest that columns of Armenian
relocatees suffered most.
The stories of the time give many examples of columns of hundreds of
Armenians guarded by perhaps two government guards. When the columns were attacked by
Kurdish tribesmen or bandits, Armenians were robbed and killed. It must be remembered that
these tribes were those who had themselves which suffered greatly at the hands of
Armenians and Russians.
5. Only the Muslim actions against Armenians have been called genocide. This accusation is
primarily based on counting only the Armenian dead, not the Muslim dead.
While Ottoman weakness should be condemned, so should the corresponding weakness of the
Russians and the Armenians themselves. They failed to protect the Turks and Kurds who fell
under their control. For example, in provinces such as Van, where intercommunal fighting
was fiercest, Muslims who could not escape from Armenian bands were killed. The Ottoman
central government had ordered the Van governor to send gendarmes, rural policemen, to
guard columns of Armenian deportees. He responded that because most of his forces were at
the front fighting the Russian Army and its Armenian irregulars, he was left with only 40
gendarmes at his disposal and they were protecting Muslim villages against Armenian
Michael M. Gunter, "Pursuing the Just Cause of Their People":
In addition, of course, the Ottoman
Empire in 1915 was a badly decaying institution nearing the end of its long
existence. In the throes of fighting a losing war, it was pushed beyond its
capacities and lost control of the situation. Much of the gendarmerie who
implemented the deportation orders, for example, were simply poorly trained
substitutes for the original force, which was now enrolled in the regular army.
Indeed, some of these replacements were probably nothing more than brigands
themselves. Discipline among them was certainly lax. Furthermore, under such
widespread conditions of wartime disorganization, the nomadic Kurds were able to
attack the deportation columns with relative impunity or even connivance on the part
of the gendarmerie. An unpopular minority whom the Muslim majority considered
traitors, the Armenians received little sympathy from the local population, which
itself was suffering grievously from the wartime conditions. Given such
circumstances, then, it is understandable how the deportations led to widespread
massacres, disease, and starvation, all of which together cost the lives of several
hundreds of thousands of Armenians.
GENDARMERIE WHO ACTED INAPPROPRIATELY WERE DISPATCHED TO THE MILITARY
[Ciphered telegram from the Ministry of the Interior to the governor of the
sanjak of Urfa, regarding court martial of the gendarmerie accompanying the
convoys sent from Urfa to Rakka, due to their inappropriate acts arising of
negligence.] 28 Z. 1333 (6 November 1915), Ottoman Archives
According to Bruce
Fein, over a thousand soldiers (and civilians) were punished for
ill behavior toward the relocating Armenians.
were executed by the Ottoman government in
1915... the highest punishment.
|(The advancing Turks fought only
against the regular soldiers; they did not carry the battle to the civilian sector)
"....The Turkish soldiers were well-disciplined and that there had
not been any massacres."
Edward Fox, the American District
Commander at Kars, in a telegram, dated October 31, 1920, to Admiral Bristol, the U.S.
High Commissioner in Istanbul; Kâzim Karabekir, Istiklal Harbimiz, Istanbul, Türkiye
Yayinevi, 1960, pp. 897-898
THE CLEAN-FIGHTING TURK
The Turkish soldier was recognized as
having such honor, as
the Australians discovered in Gallipoli,
British Propaganda had to do something about it. Without such propaganda, it
would have been difficult for people to get suckered into believing Turkish
soldiers would commit crimes against defenseless civilians.
Another favorite of mine is "The Clean-fighting Turk, a
Spurious Claim." Mark Sykes, as many of you know, was a great traveller and a
very intelligent man. He was one of the two people that negotiated the Sykes-Picot
Agreement that was to lead to the dividing up of the Middle East by the British and
French after the war. But this story should began with Lloyd George, who did not
like Turks very much and who, of course, was Prime Minister. Lloyd George was very
interested in defaming the Turks and was personally interested in the propaganda
bureau. He instructed that certain topics be developed by the bureau: "[The
Turk's] incapacity for good Government; his misrule, and above all, his massacres of
all the industrious population." An order from the Prime Minister. He added
that the propaganda should be surreptitious: "I need hardly point out that it
is very important that all this should be done gradually and that the articles
should be spread over a considerable period of time, so as not to make it too
obvious what we are driving at. Sir Mark Sykes' article in the Times,' the
'Clean-Fighting Turk,' is just what we want."
The Sykes article can be considered the template for what was produced for the
press. Unfortunately, we may never know what all those articles were. If you go
through the American and the British press you can read articles and say to
yourself, "That must be Wellington House work," but you cannot prove it.
This one we know. The Foreign Office saw a problem, the problem mentioned before
the Turks looked too good to many people in Britain. They were especially bothered
by the image of what was called the "Clean Fighting Turk", the image drawn
from the fact that the Turks did a good job as soldiers and could be relied as men
of honor. Now we will not discuss the accuracy of that claim here. The important
point is that it was believed. And so something had to be done about it. Someone had
to negate this image, write against it. And so their Foreign Office masters directed
Wellington House to do something about the image of the Clean Fighting Turk. The
writing of the original message was somewhat mistaken. Wellington House received an
order that said they were to propagandize and bring out the image of the Clean
Fighting Turk. Wellington House wrote back and said, "Why in the world would
you want us to prove that the Turks are clean fighting?" The matter was finally
Wellington House went to Mark Sykes and asked him to write an article attacking the
good image of the Turks. He agreed and wrote an article. We do not know if what he
wrote was much changed by Wellington House, because the relevant records are burned,
but we know he wrote the article. We do know that once Mark Sykes' article was
finally done a deal was made with the London Times to not only have it published,
but also to buy a hundred thousand off-prints. The Times patriotically suggested a
good price and the Foreign Office patriotically haggled with them for an even lower
price. Forty pounds was paid for a hundred thousand copies.
Centuries of anti-Turkish
prejudice combined with propaganda works as Sykes'
article made it easy for Westerners to believe scenes such as this one... a
featured in numerous Armenian web sites, presented as "proof" of
The article, which was printed at The Times and reprinted all
over the United States, used words such as "a merciless oppressor,"
"a remorseless bully," "pure barbarians,"
"degenerate," and "has strewn the earth with ruins." It was one
of the nicer propaganda works, actually. Sykes fabricated quotes from the Ottoman
government. once again. Or perhaps Talat Pasha kindly told him of his plans. If you
wish, you can believe he was in contact with the Ottoman government. Among the truly
amazing things he wrote are statements such as that the Turks had invaded and
destroyed Baghdad. The historians in the audience are shaking their heads. It was
the Mongols, of course. Sykes knew much better. Conflate the history of the Turks
and the Mongols? Put all the harm caused by the Mongols on the shoulders of the
Turks? Well, you can get away with these things it you know that those who will read
the article have no idea about the history. But Sykes knew the truth.
Lloyd George and the Foreign Office were both very happy. Thirty two thousand copies
of this publication were sent to the United States alone.
from an exceptionally informative 2001 presentation made by Professor Justin
McCarthy, on the dire doings of Britain's infamous Wellington House.
Holdwater: The nature of a people does
not easily change. Turks are generally as clean-fighting today as they ever were.
Let's put aside the great advantages the Armenians have in getting their message
across in this genocide debate... their many millions of dollars in numerous organizations like ANCA and ANI
and the Armenian Assembly of America, along with the fanaticism of individual Armenians vs. the apathy of individual
Turks, not to mention the already built-in bias Westerners have regarding the issue
thanks to centuries of anti-Turkish brainwashing... the Armenians are still wildly
successful in this debate because they don't hesitate in engaging in dirty,
deceptive tactics, led by their pseudo scholars engaging in the Armenian AND? Anthem; tactics that are
NOT acceptable to clean-fighting Turks.
Ironically, one practice of Armenian deception
is to accuse Turks of committing the same dirty tactics familiar to the Armenians,
such as forgeries and the buying-off of professors. The reason why many
Armenians believe in these possibilities is because such unscrupulous
practices are so second-nature to many of them, they cannot believe others wouldn't
as easily pick up on their dirty-fighting tactics.