2. Lewy on the First Sassun Rebellion
3. Uras on the First Sassun Rebellion
4. Lewy on the Second Sassun Rebellion
5. Uras on the Second Sassun Rebellion
6. Christopher Walker on Sassun
Sassun (Sasun, Sasoun) is in the "suburbs" of Mus (Mush, Moush).
What inspired this page was another look at Esat Uras's THE ARMENIANS IN HISTORY AND THE
ARMENIAN QUESTION; this classic work first appeared in the 1950s, and the "English
translation of the revised and expanded second edition" came out in 1988. Despite its
flaws, this is a monumental work, because the historian-author knew (or worked with those
who knew) the language of Armenian. In this way, the "genocide"-related works he
had collected in the old days reveal the Armenians' intentions through their own words.
Since Armenians are as closed a society as any ethnic group can get, carefully cultivating
their image through what they allow to surface for the odars (foreigners), it is essential
to examine what they have to say among themselves. But who is doing this?
The two sources that grabbed my attention were an incredibly objective article appearing
in the New York Herald Tribune, regarding the first Sassun rebellion, and excerpts
from a 1929 book written in Armenian detailing the second Sassun rebellion. The latter is
Another valuable component to this page's study is that while we think of Armeno-Turkish
trouble spots occurring in 1894-96 and in the 1915 period (with 1909 Adana stuck in for
good measure), with the notion that things were relatively quiet in between, the second
Sassun rebellion took place in the 1900s — and it was a very serious affair, as detailed
in the Armenian book mentioned above.
For good measure, Uras's account for both Sassun rebellions will be preceded by Guenter
Lewy's version of these events, from his THE ARMENIAN MASSACRES IN OTTOMAN TURKEY: A
DISPUTED GENOCIDE. Prof. Lewy admirably went straight down the middle of this polarized
debate, without choosing sides.
As a wrap up is Christopher Walker presenting the "Armenian" version of Sassun,
from his ARMENIA: THE SURVIVAL OF A NATION.
(Note: "Sassun" is one of the British/Americanized spellings of the
Let's begin with a "rerun" of what was already written in TAT, on the page exploring Tessa Savvidis Hofmann, regarding
illustration from the book "Turkey and the Armenian Atrocities, published
in the United States in 1896. Caption: "Slaughter of Armenians in Sasun.
This is a true picture of the slaughter of innocent people which was inflicted
on the innocent Armenians by the bloody Kurds and enraged soldiers. The
carnage ended in the massacre of 50,000 people or more. Hundreds of thousands
were left without food or shelter after the plundering and burning." (Erich Feigl, The Myth of Terror)
was a mountainous region which had been able to keep a semi-independence, like
that other Armenian trouble spot, Zeitun*. There were two major
rebellions in Sassun, the first rebellion lasting from 1891-1894, led by
Damadian and the notorious Murad, who had incited 3,000 Armenians to rebel. This
rebellion gave rise to fierce anti-Turkish propaganda in Europe, those such as
Williams and Bliss having a field day accepting the word of Armenians. At
least these two settled on a wildly exaggerated death toll of some 6,000, more
than half the Armenian population. This is the kind of vicious propaganda that
was commonplace. These men (along with Pastermadjian) figured there were
12,000 Armenians in Sassun, and in the American book above, 50,000 or more
casualties were arrived at, with an additional 100s of thousands suffering. Is
it any wonder why dense or immoral people repeat wild claims like 300,000
dying in this period? (Compare: As unfair as Bliss was, his figure for the
same period was around 42,000. The British Blue Book of the period itself even
didn't go beyond 63,000.)
actually died? Cuinet figured there were not 12,000 but 8,369 Armenians
in the entire Sassun region. A consular report felt no more than 10,000,
putting the number of dead at only 265. A British representative wrote
separately that the number could not have surpassed 900. (Source:
Foreign archives from "The Armenian File")
Sassun mountains, WWI: France's Soleil du Midi reported
on February 9, 1916 that there were 30,000 Armenian revolutionaries
"fighting hopelessly" for nine months, waiting for the arrival of
the Russian enemy.
"...[T]he spirit of the Zeitun mountaineers remained alert. The [Ottoman]
government launched a number of expeditions against the town, but these were
unsuccessful. The warrior spirit of its armed inhabitants, and its
fortress-like setting, made Zeitun a natural focus for the attention of a
nationalist or revolutionary, who had seen the success of the revolts in
Greece and Serbia. Perhaps a similar success could be gained in Cilicia..."
Christopher J. Walker,
Armenia, The Survival of a Nation, 1980, pp. 100-101)
Lewy on the First Sassun Rebellion
The following forms the beginning of "Chapter 3: The
Massacres of 1894—96," pp. 20-21:
By 1894 tensions between Armenians and Turks in eastern Anatolia had reached a
dangerous point. Armenian revolutionaries were active in all of the provinces, while
Turkish authorities were displaying increased severity. There were mass arrests and
new reports of the use of torture in the prisons. The Kurds felt encouraged in their
new role as the irregular soldiers of the sultan; former consul Graves called them
"licensed oppressors of their Christian neighbors in the Eastern
provinces."1 Events in the district of Sassun in the vilayet of Bitlis,
mentioned briefly in the previous chapter, set off a round of massacres all over
Anatolia that were to echo around the world.
Carnage in the Wake of an Attempted Reform
The report of the Turkish commission of inquiry set up after the bloodshed in the
summer of 1894 in the Talori region of the district of Sassun blamed the entire
episode on Armenian provocation. Hunchak organizers were said to have incited an
uprising on the part of the villagers that required the dispatch of regular troops.
Heavy fighting lasted over twenty-three days before the disturbance was put down.
Muslim villages were said to have been burned by the Armenian bandits, and their
inhabitants slaughtered. No more than 265 Armenians had been killed. 2 European
consuls, however, denied that there had been an uprising. The villagers had refused
to pay double taxation and had taken up arms to defend themselves against attacking
Kurds. Turkish troops and Hamidiye regiments had massacred those who had surrendered
and many others, including women and children. The total number of Armenian dead was
reported to have reached several thousand. 3 Missionary accounts speak of women
being "outraged to death" and describe atrocities such as Armenian
villagers being burnt alive in their houses and "children [being] placed in a
row, one behind another, and a bullet fired down the line, apparently to see how
many could be dispatched with one bullet. Infants and small children were piled one
on the other and their heads struck off."4
After considerable delay, in July 1895 the three European delegates attached to the
Turkish commission of inquiry issued their own report, in which they complained
about the difficulties put in their way by Ottoman authorities when they had tried
to interview Armenian survivors. The delegates conceded that there had been isolated
acts of brigandage by an Armenian band and resistance to the troops, but they denied
the charge of an open revolt. The three delegates failed to agree on the number of
Armenians killed (their views ranged from nine hundred to four thousand), but they
were unanimous in reporting widespread massacres. 5 More recently Dadrian has
acknowledged that "the Hunchakists... exacerbated the situation by their
intervention in the conflict when two of their leaders, through agitation, tried to
organize an armed insurrection." But this agitation, by all accounts, had only
limited success and certainly does not justify the massacres of villagers that
appear to have taken place.6
The events of Sassun, as one writer puts it, "opened the floodgates to a
torrent of Turcophobia in Europe and the United States."7 Just after the
Bulgarian atrocities of 1876, there was an outcry of protest, and the press of
Britain and America demanded action. The ambassadors of Britain, France, and Russia
now began to pressure the sultan to accept political reforms for the six eastern
provinces of Anatolia. According to the plan, there was to be an amnesty for
Armenian political prisoners, one-third of all administrators were to be Armenians,
the gendarmerie was to be mixed, and the Kurdish Hamidiye regiments were to operate
only in conjunction with regular army units. The appointment of governors was to be
subject to confirmation by the European powers, a control commission was to be
established, and a high commissioner was to implement the plan. Many of the
Armenians as well as Britain had hoped for more far-reaching reforms, but Russia was
adamantly opposed to any scheme that might eventually lead to full Armenian
independence or to the use of military pressure to gain acceptance of the plan.8
1. Graves, Storm Centres of the Near East, p. 142.
2. Ertugrul Zekai Okte, ed., Ottoman Archives, Yildiz Collection: The Armenian
Question, Talori Incidents, p. 357. See also Jeremy Salt, "Britain, the
Armenian Question and the Cause of Ottoman Reform: 1894-96," Middle Eastern
Studies 26 ' i99o): 313, who largely accepts the Turkish account. »
3. Memo of Ambassador Currie, November i, 1894, in Simsir, British Documents on
Ottoman Armenians, vol. 3, p. 395.
4. Bliss, Turkish Cruelties upon the Armenian Christians, p. 372.
5. The text of the report can be found in Simsir, British Documents on Ottoman
Armenians, vol. 3, pp. 93-112. See also Ternon, The Armenians, p. 77.
6. Vahakn N. Dadrian, The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from
the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus, pp. 114—15.
7. Salt, Imperialism, Evangelism and the Ottoman Armenians, 1878—1896, p.
8. Langer, Diplomacy of Imperialism, vol. I, pp. 162—63; Hovannisian, Armenia
on the Road to Independence, p. 27.
|Uras on the First Sassun Rebellion
The following is from Uras's book, pp. 726-733:
The First Sasun Mutiny
Sasun, famous for its mutinies, was at that time a kaza connected to the
administrative centre in Siirt containing over a hundred villages and situated about
fourteen hours from Mus. Nearby were the kazas of Mutki and Garzan. The mountainous and
inaccessible nature of the terrain made it difficult for the government to exert any great
influence. The people, including the Armenians, spoke a mixed language of Zaza and
According to V. Cuinet the distribution of the population of Sasun was as follows:
Although no census was carried out, Armenians probably made up one fifth of the
population, the rest being Kurds.
In the 1890's the district was toured for three years by an Armenian by the name of Mihran
Damadian, who disseminated Hunchak propaganda and incited the people to revolt. On
information given by the Armenians this man was arrested in 1893, taken to Istanbul for
trial and later freed.
The Sasun mutiny, which [took] place some time after the Kumkapi
incident, was organized by the Hunchak Revolutionary Committee with the sole purpose of
inviting foreign intervention, and was carried out according to a plan prepared by Murad (Hamparsum
Boyadjian). On his way to Sasun, Murad passed through Caucasia, where he received help and
support from the Dashnaktsutiun Committee. On arriving in Sasun he collected a number of
Armenians around him and began to prepare his plans.
Before the actual incident, a letter in the name of the Hunchak
Committee appeared in the third number of the Hunchak newspaper, dated 1894, which clearly
heralded the storm that was about to break. This letter was written by Annenak from the
village of Kizilagac in the province of Mus, who went by the alias of Hrair Tjokh and
continued working in that region until the second Sasun mutiny of 1904. The letter was as
At last the day we have been awaiting for centuries has arrived. The bells ring out from
the hills of Sasun, red flags wave from the mountains, carried by a people whose humanity
and Armenian soul have been trampled underfoot. The hour of vengeance has struck. The time
has come for a decision to be made on the life or death of the oppressor.
Today the Armenian cause is entering its latest and most glorious phase. The resignation
and submission of the destitute, the sighs and silence of the humiliated, the stifled
complaints of the oppressed, will soon be replaced by the roaring of a lion."
According to Varandian: 13
"The Hunchak organization was in a weak position. They were anxious
to do something as quickly as possible and to produce a stir.
The inhabitants of Sasun fought heroically, even with their fairly primitive weapons,
against the Kurds, but they were unable to withstand the attack by regular troops. In
August 1894 the Armenians annihilated the Kurds after a successful onslaught and were
about to carry off their flocks when they were suddenly surrounded on all sides by troops.
No one has ever been able to give even an approximate number of the Armenians killed. Some
say six or seven thousand, others say around one thousand Probably the latter is nearer
This mutiny, which had been carried out with the sole aim of attracting the attention of
foreign countries, was reported abroad by the Patriarchate and the revolutionary
committees in the bloodiest and most sensational manner. Meetings were held in support of
the Armenians in various European capitals and statements made in the various parliaments.
Everywhere, references were made to the responsibility Britain had assumed in signing the
Hallward, the British consul in Van, wished to go to Sasun to examine the situation but
the Ottoman government, who regarded him as one of the instigators of the rebellion,
refused to grant him the necessary permission.
The government set up a commission to carry out investigations on the spot and applied to
the American government for a consul that would participate in the work. This appeal,
however, was turned down by the American government.
The British Embassy at first wished to send Colonel Chermsidc, the Military Attache, to
the spot, but later abandoned the idea. Mr. Shipley, Dragoman to the Embassy, was
appointed assistant to the Consul in Erzurum, and was ordered to visit the site of the
After a great deal of correspondence, the principle was finally accepted that the states
with Consuls in Erzurum, namely, France. Great Britain and Russia, should participate in
the work of the Ottoman investigation commission. These were to be present at the meetings
as observers, and could, if necessary, ask questions.
The commission appointed by the government was to be presided over by Sefik Bey, head of
the petition department of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Omer bey, the Director of the
Emniyet Sandigi, Celalettin Bey, President of the Criminal Court of Appeal and Mecit
Efendi, from the Ministry of the Interior. The consuls taking part as observers were
Vilbert, the French Consul, the Russian Consul-General Jevalsky, and the British Consul,
The commission carried out investigations for six months, from 4 January to 21 July 1895.
It held 108 meetings and heard more than 190 witnesses. Omer Bey had to resign from the
commission on 29 January on his appointment as deputy Governor in Bitlis. Murad was
arrested on 23 August.
A certain amount of light is shed on the situation by the following
rather more accurate passages of the reports of the Consuls, which tend on the whole, as
is only to be expected, to be biased in favour of the Armenians:
"After those events, Hamparsum Boyadjian, a native of Adana who had
studied medicine in Istanbul and Geneva and who employed the alias "Murad" to
avoid recognition, arrived in the Talori region accompanied by an armed band, one of the
members of which was Damadian, an old friend of his whom he had recently met.
He toured the villages in the Kavar region under the pretext of carrying out medical
practice, inciting the Armenians to free themselves from Kurdish domination. But neither
he nor the five companions whom he had supplied with arms and ammunition for their defence,
could offer a convincing explanation of their presence in the mountains. One of them gave
as a reason the wrongs he and his family had suffered at the hands of the Kurds.
Practically all the Armenian witnesses said that they had never heard the name
"Murad". On the other hand, the Kurds and the government witnesses said that
they had heard the name. It was impossible, under these circumstances, for the Commission
of Investigation to collect the information necessary for a true understanding of the
event. It would appear from the evidence collected that he and his colleagues roamed
around the Talori regions and the neighbouring villages and sometimes even the mountains
giving, as he himself confirmed, advice on relations between the Armenians and the Kurds,
persuading the former to engage in revolutionary struggle and the second to withhold
government taxes in order to attract attention.
Furthermore, the notebook filled with patriotic poems that was discovered on his person
and employed in his attempts at provocation, as well as notes forming the beginning of a
letter written in pencil, which he admitted to be his own, describing the events of 1894,
clearly prove that Murad, like Damadian, had arrived in the country on a secret mission
with the aim of sowing discord between the Armenians and the Kurds."
Another passage from the reports runs as follows:
"It is impossible to deny the propaganda work, or the fact that
Murad and his friends took part in the first armed conflicts."
The Armenians had set great hopes on the Sasun mutiny. They had hoped that the mutiny
would lead to European intervention and the realization of Armenian aspirations. A great
deal of money for the prosecution of the mutiny was collected by the Hunchaks in Istanbul
and other provinces by the sale of tickets bearing the Hunchak emblem.
During the Sasun incidents the Russian Armenians appealed to the Catholicos Khrimian in
Etchmiadzin to intervene in favour of the Armenians in Turkey. The Catholicos, in spite of
his advanced age and the inclemency of the winter weather, immediately set out for St.
Petersburg, where he told the Emperor "that the Armenians in Turkey looked upon him
as their sole protector and were awaiting his help and protection. Khrimian's appeal
produced an intense political reaction. The British Ambassador Sir Philip Currie told the
Patriarch Izmirlian that he was amazed that the Catholicos should make such an appeal at a
time when the Armenian Question was being discussed on the international forum.
Vte. des Coursons gives the following account of the Sasun mutiny:15
"Murad (Hamparsum Boyadjian) deceived the Armenians by hinting at
British support for the Sasun mutiny. In March 1895 the text of a circular sent from
London was published in the French newspapers. This circular had been sent to Vahabedian,
the Marhasa of Adana, and the spiritual leaders of the Armenian church."
As for the incident itself, the best thing would be to quote the
article in the New York Herald Tribune, a newspaper that could never be accused of
partiality for the Turks.
"European observers are of the opinion that the Armenian revolt was instigated by
Armenians from abroad. The rebels were armed with the most up - to - date weapons from
England. After committing crimes of arson , murder and looting they resisted an attack
carried out by regular troops and withdrew to the mountains. The investigating committee
concluded that the Ottoman government was fully justified in dispatching troops against
the rebels. These troops were able to defeat the rebels only after a bloody conflict. It
takes more than persuasive words or newspaper articles to overcome a body of nearly three
thousand well-armed rebels who have taken refuge in inaccessible mountains.
The Armenians ringleaders appeared in the Talori Mts. to the south of Sasun and Mus,
between Bitlis and Gene. Here they were joined by a person by the name of Hamparsum who
had already instigated disorders in the region under the alias of Murat, and placed their
forces under his command. This Hamparsum had been born in Hachin and had studied medicine
in Istanbul for eight years. After taking part in the Kumkapi demonstration he had fled
first to Athens and then to Geneva, after which he returned to Bitlis via Iskenderun and
Diyarbakir in disguise and under a false name. He there joined with five others in
subsersive activities. Hamparsum tricked the simple people into believing that he had been
sent by the European Powers to overthrow Turkish domination, and thus succceeded in
realizing his murderous plans.
They first of all occupied the Talori region, which included the villages of Siner, Simai,
Gulli-Giizat, Ahi, Hedenk, Sinank, Qekind, Effard, Musson, Etek, Akcesser. In 1894,
leaving their wives, children and property in these inaccessible spots, the Armenians
joined forces with other armed bands coming from the Silvan districts in the plain of Mus,
after which the whole body of 3000 men gathered in the Andok Mt. Five or six hundred
wished to surround Mus, and started off by attacking the Delican tribe to the south of the
city. They slaughtered a number of the tribe and seized their goods. The religious beliefs
of the Muslims who fell into their hands were derided and disparaged, and the Muslims
themselves murdered in the most frightful manner. The rebels also attacked the regular
troops in the vicinity of Mus, but the large numbers of the regular forces prevented them
from occupying the city.
The rebels joined the bandits in the Andok Mts., carrying out the most frightful massacres
and looting among the tribes of the neighbourhood. They burned Omer Agha's nephew alive.
They raped a number of Turkish women at a spot three or four hours' distance from
Gulli-Giizat and then strangled them.
At the beginning of August the rebels attacked the Faninar, Bekiran and Badikan tribes,
perpetrating equally horrible atrocities. The rebels in the villages ofYermut and
Ealigemuk in the nahiye of Cinan in the kaza of Cal attacked the Kurds in the
neighbourhood, as well as the villages of Kaisser and Catcat.
Towards the end of August, the Armenians attacked the Kurds in the vicinity of Mus and
burned down three or four villages, including Giilli-Giizat. As for the 3000 rebels in
Talori. they continued to spread death and destruction among the Muslims and other
Christian communities, refusing to lay down their arms. Regular troops were finally sent
to force them to submit.
Hamparsum fled to the mountains with eleven other rebels. He was finally captured alive,
but only after he had killed two soldiers and wounded six. By the end of August all the
rebels had been crushed.
The women, the children, the aged and the lame were treated by the Turks in accordance
with the charity and humanity characteristic of Islam. The rebels who died were those who
refused to surrender and preferred to continue fighting against the legitimate government
of the country."
This, then, is an objective and impartial account of an event that caused such a sensation
in the European press.
For more information on these punitive expeditions one may turn to the account given by M.
Ximenes, who remained in Biths throughout these incidents until November 1894.
"On the request of the governor of Bitlis, Zeki Pasha was given
orders to send in troops for the restoration of order. Four battalions were mustered to
disperse the rebels. The soldiers encountered a force of 3000 Armenian rebels on the slope
of a mountain. They first of all hurled stones and insults at the troops. Then they opened
fire, and the soldiers fired back. Later the rebels collected in a narrow valley. The
soldiers marched on their position. The Turkish commanding officer tried to persuade the
rebels to come to terms and disperse. Some of them accepted his advice, but most of them
stood their ground patiently and stubbornly. The soldiers twice opened fire. Altogether
three hundred rebels were killed.
This was the only real confrontation in the whole series of incidents. It is true that
several prisoners were taken, but these were later freed."16
While investigations were continuing in Mus, another appeal for the implementation of
reforms in the six provinces was made by Great Britain, Russia and France, who joined
together to submit the well-known May reform project. It was while this project was being
discussed that the Hunchaks arranged a demonstration at the Sublime Porte.
12. This is a reference to the Armenian National Constitution.
13. M. Varandian, History of the Dashnaktsution, Paris, 1932, p. 146
14. This is the exact equivalent of the term used by Varandian.
15. R. des Coursons, La Rebellion Armenienne, Son Origine, Son But, p. 71-78.
16. M. Ximenes, p. 76.
It is unfortunate no footnote was provided for the incredible Herald Tribune
account, which actually documents harm caused to Ottoman Muslims by Armenians. Perhaps the
reporter was the refreshingly honest Sidney Whitman, who worked as a correspondent for the
New York Herald (which was probably the same newspaper as the Herald Tribune),
and who would go on to write Turkish Memories in 1914; Whitman performed his
professional duty as a journalist by listening to all sides. Of course, those few
Westerners who managed to put aside their prejudices to report on Armeno-Turkish affairs
opened themselves to pay a price; at times, the familiar charge of Whitman's being an
"agent of the Turkish government" followed him.
Hamparsum "Murad" Boyadjian
was behind a great many murders, while inciting and leading Armenians to riot, and from
the newspaper account, we are told he had killed two soldiers and wounded six. His
punishment was only imprisonment. He escaped, only to serve as a parliamentarian in 1909
Adana, at least until he could wreak havoc anew during WWI. Similarly, the Dashnak Gevorg Chavush, who will be starring in the second Sassun
rebellion (coming up below; he had served under Murad in earlier years), was captured and
his punishment was also imprisonment. (He escaped, as well. There is a pattern; from
footnote 46 below, we learn Antranik was put in prison for having killed a Turk; you
guessed it, he escaped.) The Ottoman authorities (partly under European pressure) were
awfully lenient with these mad dog killers; any other nation of the time would have
executed murderous terrorists, at least for the crime of treason.
The Armenian force numbered 3,000! Can you imagine such a significant and armed force
going around and massacring civilians, and standing up to the army, in your
country? What do you think your government's response would be? Is it not astounding,
regardless of anti-Turkish prejudice in the West, that the journalists of the day closed
their eyes so completely to this other side of the coin? (Perhaps more correctly, when
some of these thousands of rebels got killed, the Western journalists would report the
deaths as "massacres.")
the Second Sassun Rebellion
The following forms the beginning of "Chapter 4: The Young Turks Take
Power," pp. 30-32:
After the massacres of 1895—96 Abdul Hamid's rule lasted another twelve years.
Until the Young Turks' successful seizure of power in 1908, Armenian revolutionaries
kept up their attacks and even came close to assassinating the hated autocrat. They
also tried again to achieve the intervention of the European powers. None of this
brought the Armenians closer to their goal of liberation from Turkish rule. Indeed,
there are indications that these activities stiffened the back of the Turks and
eventually led to a new rupture between Armenians and Turks with even more
disastrous consequences than during the reign of Abdul Hamid.
Armenian Guerrilla Warfare
In late July of 1897, one year after the ill-fated raid upon the Ottoman Bank in
Constantinople, a force of 250 Dashnaks left their base on the Persian border and
attacked the encampment of the Mazrik Kurdish tribe in the plain of Khanasor near
the city of Van. The attack is said to have been a revenge for the tribe having
wiped out an Armenian village.1 Benefiting from the element of surprise, the
Armenians scored a major victory described by Armenian writers in various ways:
"a major part of the tribe was killed," "part of the menfolk were
massacred outright," or "the entire tribe was annihilated.'^ According to
Langer, the Armenians "killed or barbarously mutilated men, women and
children." 3 The Khanasor raid was widely reported by the European press, but
its major effect was on the Armenians. They experienced a sense of encouragement,
and hope grew that they would able to attain their political freedom by themselves
rather than having to rely on impotent European promises.4
Clashes between Armenian revolutionaries and Turks and Kurds continued in various
parts of eastern Anatolia. A survivor recalls that hundreds of young men brought in
arms and ammunition from Persia and Russia to be sold to Armenian peasants and city
folks alike. 5 Innumerable epic encounters ensued, writes a historian of the
Dashnaks: "It was an era of both glory and of heroic self-sacrifice."6
Twenty years after the first bloody fighting in the region of Sassun, a new battle
broke out there in the spring of 1904. The Dashnaks had been distributing weapons
and organizing fighting units for some time; according to a chronicler of the
struggle, this was done "with a view to a general uprising in the future."
7 Led by some of their best- known commanders, such as Andranik (Ozanian) and Murad
of Sebastia, the Armenians managed to fight off an attacking force of fifteen
thousand Turkish troops for three weeks but finally had to withdraw into the
mountains. Several attempts by Armenian fighters in the Russian Caucasus to provide
relief failed when they were intercepted and killed by Russian border troops. During
the summer of 1905, according to two English missionaries, some three hundred
Dashnak fighters conducted guerrilla operations on a fairly large scale in the
district of Mush and to the west of Lake Van that cost five thousand lives.8
The larger purpose of these and similar engagements fought by Armenian
revolutionaries during these years was not always clear. Some Armenian writers,
admirers of the Dashnaks, speak of "immortals" who fought "the
Armenian battle of liberation."? They describe legendary heroes larger than
life who managed to survive against heavy odds, sometimes through all kinds of
miraculous escapes. The revolutionaries are referred to as avengers, who do not
hesitate to risk their own lives or to kill those regarded as oppressors. One such fedayee,
Kevork Chavoush, is called "the man with the dagger who was always ready to
punish those who molested the defenseless people." After the defeat of the
rebellion of Sassun in 1904 four of his men went after a particularly cruel Kurdish
chief, "raided the Agha's mansion, dispatched the whole family of four,"
and got away.10 Another author calls such acts "terroristic retaliation"
carried out as "self-defense."11 The arming of the population is sometimes
described as preparation for an upris- ing; at other times it is called self-defense
against marauding Kurds and other aggressors. During the period in question the
propaganda of the revolutionaries accented the goal of national liberation, to be
achieved through armed struggle, while information meant for foreign consumption
stressed the defensive aims of the violence. It is tempting to conclude that the
obfuscation was deliberate, and the Turkish authorities facing the attacks of the
Armenian revolutionaries may be forgiven if they were not always able to determine
exactly what they were dealing with.
1. James H. Tashjian, "The Armenian 'Dashnag' Party: A Brief
Statement," Armenian Review 21, no. 4 (Winter 1968): 53.
2. Chalabian, Revolutionary Figures, p. 328; Vratzian, "The Armenian
Revolution and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation," p. 27; Atamian, Armenian
Community, p. 109.
3. Langer, Diplomacy of Imperialism, vol. I, p. 350.
4. Atamian, Armenian Community, p. 109.
5. Aprahamian, From Van to Detroit, p. 21.
6. Tashjian, "The Armenian 'Dashnag' Party," p. 53.
7. Chalabian, Revolutionary Figures, p. 215.
8. W. A. Wigram and E. T. A. Wigram, The Cradle of Mankind: Life in Eastern
Kurdistan, pp. 247—50.
9. Chalabian, Revolutionary Figures, p. 265.
10. Mandalian, Armenian Freedom Fighters, p. 142.
11. Atamian, Armenian Community, p. 277.
|Uras on the Second Sassun Rebellion
he following is from Uras's book, pp. 776-780:
The Second Sasun Uprising
After the Ottoman Bank incident, the Dashnaktsution Committee increased its activities in
the country, stocked weapons and ammunition everywhere, and whenever an opportunity arose
had its bands attack local government forces. The Persian frontier, which was not closely
controlled, was the safest and most appropriate route for smuggling weapons into the
country. The sole hindrance was the presence of the powerful Kurdish tribe of Mazrik
settled in the Hanasor region on the Perso-Ottoman border.44
The Dashnaktsutiun Central Bureau had to choose between the alternatives of either
eliminating this tribe or giving up the transportation of ammunition through this route.
For this reason, preparations were made for a raid on Hanasor in July of 1894. A band was
formed by the Committee composed of four hundred fighters. Volunteers from everywhere came
to join them as well as another band armed and equipped by the Armenians of Karabagh. They
were reinforced by a cavalry unit which protected their rear. Two priests, Krikor who came
from Caucasia and Vartan, a native of Van, encouraged the fighters, holding the cross in
one hand and brandishing a sword in the other. During the raid, which lasted for two days,
a great part of the tribe of Mazrik, men, women and children were exterminated. They were
stopped only by the coming of the regular troops, upon which the bands withdrew to Persian
In the spring of 1895, a number of bands crossed to Turkey from the Caucasus and Persia
under the command of well-known leaders such as Antranik, Hrair, Serop etc. Among them
were Caucasian Armenians trained in the Russian army and teachers.
In 1897 some organizers authorized by the committee settled in the Sasun and Mus region
and started to plan the uprising. In the Dashnaktsutiun Congress which took place in 1898
Sasun was chosen as the centre of activities and it was decided to stock arms and
ammunition there. A sum of 300,000 [rubles] was set aside for the expenses; and
significant amounts of weapons and ammunition, including 1500 rifles were transported to
the area. The action was to be conducted by the notorious Serop Pasha from the village of
Sohart in Ahlat. His main area of activity was the regions of Bitlis, Ahlat, Sasun and Mus.
He later settled in Sasun and was poisoned by his rivals. Serop, who left his native land
Ahlat after having killed someone, had escaped first to Istanbul and then to Romania in
1892. After a year, he had gone to Batum, entered the Dashnaktsutiun Committee and started
his activities in Turkey with his powerful, well-disciplined, well armed and equipped band
named Friends of Avengers.
Antranik, who succeeded Serop, commanded the band activities after his death. In 1901 the
Ottoman Government attempted to reorganize the administration of Sasun, and proposed to
build barracks on the hills of Taluri and Senik. However this attempt failed as Armenian
women attacked and dispersed the workers.45 !n November 1901 Antranik, accompanied by his
band, took refuge in a monastary in the vicinity of Mus. The Istanbul Government ordered
Commander Bahri Pasha to destroy Antranik's band, but permission was withheld to storm the
monastery. Most of Bahri Pasha's soldiers died from the severe cold, and taking advantage
of the snowstorm. Antranik and his band escaped.
While under siege in the monastery, Antranik asked the Government to fulfill the following
1.That the May project be put in to practice at once.
2. That the political prisoners be released.
3. That those who had caused damage to some villages be punished.
While four members of the band were killed during the struggle, the Turkish forces lost 14
soldiers, 2 of whom were officers, and in addition to this, there were 20-30 deaths a day
It was toward the end of 1903 that the second Sasun uprising reached its last stage. At
this time Russia embarked upon a policy of pressure on the Armenians. At the same time the
Russian consul in Turkey assured the Armenians that they would be protected if they
As Commander-General Antranik started his activities on the Sasun mountains, infantry and
cavalry units from Transcaucasia also came to his help. Murat of Sivas's band was
particularly known for its brutality.
As the revolts were spreading all over Sasun and bloody clashes with the soldiers took
place, the Government sent Vartan, the Bishop of Mus, and the Bishop of Bitlis to the
rebels to persuade them to put an end to these acts. By April 13,1914 [sic; 1904]
the military operation started and the bands withdrew to Taluri. After Taluri the clashes
continued on the plain of Mus. The bands were helped by Armenian villagers. The Government
attempted to have the rebels who proceeded to the plain of Mus settle there in order to
prevent them from returning to their headquarters. However, this project could not be put
into effect because of the resistance shown by the foreign consuls. Consequently, 6000
Sasunites were sent back to their villages. This was how the uprising
came to end but as usual the allegations of brutality went on. The Sasun uprising is
related as follows in the book "The Battles of Antranik":47
"In April 1904 the Armenian revolts spread from the Sasun Hills and the plain of
Mus to Van. The consuls who were acting as intermediaries suggested Antranik should come
to terms with the Turkish Government. Among the revolutionary leaders were the well-known
Dashnaktustiun activists of Mus and Sasun, Murat of Sivas, Sebuh, Keork Chavush, Mko,
Gorun and Sempad of Mus, who was a new rebel leader.
Members of the Caucasian and Persian Dashnaktsutiun committees kept sending persons to
help in the fighting and the supply of ammunition. The famous band leader Tuman of
Karabagh managed to join the others in Sasun along with his cavalry units. Together with
the representatives of the Dashnaktsutiun Bureau and Mus Central Committee, the commanders
elected Antranik, who was already a popular hero, celebrated in marches and poems, as
Sebuh was severely wounded and Keork ofAkca was killed. Hrair, who was unwilling to
abandon the wounded Sebuh to the enemy and tried to take him along, was shot dead. Hrair
was buried next to Serop. Altogether 800-1000 people on the enemy's side were killed. The
volunteers seized 53 rifles and 500 bullets. The battle lasted twelve hours.
On 14 April the battle extended to Merker Village, situated at two hours' distance from
Keliygozan. Murat with a few fighters took part in the battle, which was planned and
directed by Antranik. They fought against 600-700 Kurds and 300-400 Turkish soldiers.
On 16 April the Government soldiers cut the road to Isanzor, Sempad, who was at that time
in Dalorik,managed to join Antranik's forces when the battle began. That day, five enemy
soldiers were killed.
The Government had concentrated its forces in Sasun and gathered 10,000 soldiers in the
vicinity of Sasun on 18 April. The Government had decided to completely destroy Sasun.
Antranik made his future plans. The battle continued until 22 April with eleven Armenians
The Kon Skirmish — In this battle 17 Turks were killed and 14 wounded. On the Armenian
side there was one killed and one severely wounded, who died a few days later. Two men
froze to death.
The Zovozar Skirmish — Our heroes remained on the hills from April 22 to May 1. On May 2
the fighting became intense and continued with sniping at the enemy.
The Apagana and Komer Skirmishes— Vahan and a friend of his fell in this battle. Many
people on the enemy side were killed or wounded.
The Government had invaded Komer with regular soldiers and
Kurdish bands. An Armenian woman who was carrying arms for Antranik was killed. Sergeant
Keork came to Antranik's help. When darkness fell the warriors escaped to the mountains
unscathed. A great number of the enemy were killed.
The Gurava Skirmish — Antranik and Keork Chavush came to Pertak Village from Sasun where
80 soldiers also joined them on 17 July. So many government" soldiers were killed in
the fight against Sempad, Isu, Bogos an Asdur that their corpses covered a vast field near
the cemetery. The regiment commander came to the village with 60-70 soldiers to subjugate
the rebels. The shots fired by the rebels mingled with the tolling of the church bells. 40
enemy soldiers were killed. Only one person was killed on the Armenian side.
The Samiram Skirmish — On 17 July a new battle started in the village of Sheikh Yusuf.
The village was defended by the heroic Armenians of Ahcan and the battle raged fiercely
until noon. The enemy burst into the church and killed twelve of the defenders, who had
run out of ammunition. Sebuh, Antranik, Keork Chavush, Murat and Sempad remained at their
posts. The enemy met with fierce opposition. Two of Sempad's friends were killed. Towards
night the enemy retreated from the battlefield with 70 dead.
At night Antranik went to Tatvanwith his band and from there he managed to sail to Ahtamar
in two boats belonging to the Kurds.
The Lake Van voyage lasted for two days. They managed to get hold of one more boat and
came to Ahtamar where they stayed for seven days. There, they set up a council of war and
appointed one amongst them to represent the administration. Keork Chavush was chosen to
perform this duty. On August 16 he returned to Ahlat.
Having been informed upon, Antranik was encircled and a battle of unequalled ferocity took
place. Antranik escaped secretly to Van where he was spotted twice by the soldiers and a
fight ensued. Finally, he escaped to Caucasia with a few friends and never returned to his
44. The Regeneration of Armenia: The Fight for Freedom, Dashnaktsuition
Publications, Istanbul, 1920.
45. Varandian, History of the Dashnaktsution, p. 268
46. Antranik was born in Shabin Karahisar in 1866. He joined the Dashnak Party as a young
man and distinguished himself as an activist and ringleader. After escaping from prison in
his native province where he was serving a sentence for having killed a Turk, he arrived
in Istanbul and from there went to Batum. He became a popular hero among the Armenian
rebels, and his exploits were celebrated in marches and poems.
47. Kudulian, The Battles of Antranik, Beirut, 1929 (in Armenian.)
Did you catch how the murderous Dashnaks nearly exterminated the Kurdish tribe at Mazrik?
Has anyone heard of this mini-genocide before? Not when the accent is solely on poor,
innocent Armenians getting massacred. (Lewy wrote "the Khanasor raid was widely
reported by the European press," and if that is the case one wonders how it
was reported, and whether this story made it to the U.S. press. Having conducted a fair
degree of newspaper archival research, I don't remember coming across word of this
Discrepancies: Uras has this taking place in July 1894, while Lewy has it at July 1897.
Uras was wrong; perhaps the year was a misprint, as he begins by alluding to the event as
taking place after the Ottoman Bank raid of 1896. In addition, Uras wrote the tribe was in
the way, while Lewy's Armenian source reported the motive was revenge for the Mazrik Kurds
having wiped out an Armenian village. This could well be another case of the old Armenian
cover-up, coming up with any accusation, so that the precious Myth of Innocence may
be upheld. (Kamuran Gurun wrote in The Armenian File, citing K. S. Papazian's 1934
book, Patriotism Perverted [p. 22]: "The Tashnak bands generally entered
Turkey from Iran by way of Van. However, the Mazrik tribe which was on their way used
to annoy them. In order the eliminate the tribe, they attacked the tribe's tents in
Honasor in July 1897 [with a band of 250] as the sun was rising. However, they did not
succeed and were forced to retreat and flee, having faced the danger of being
surrounded." Papazian's reason for the attack, which he characterized as a
"fiasco": the "result of the machinations of the Russian authorities,
whose purpose was to encourage political unrest and turmoil along the eastern borders of
Turkey'; see end-of-page article here.
Papazian tells us this raid occurred in November, and not July.)
"Murat of Sivas" was likely the other Murad, the Dashnak referred to as "Mourad
of Sebastia" in Armenian literature. The original Murad from Sivas, the Hunchak
Hamparsum Boyadjian, was likely still in prison during the 1904 period. (Murad was
arrested in August 1895, as we learned above, and an Armenian source claims he was
imprisoned for eleven years, before escaping.)
As mentioned in the introduction, the most valuable segment of Uras's research derives
from the Armenian-language book Uras extensively quoted. Note the numerous
"skirmishes." Armenian rebellion was a serious matter, even in the "quiet
years" of the early 1900s, before evolving into the full-scale strategy the Ottoman
government had to contend with in WWI. Kamuran Gurun used Uras's reference as well, and
summed up: "During the confrontations which occurred on 14,16, and 22 April, on 2
May and 17 July, 932-1,132 Turks were killed, as opposed to only 19 Armenians. These are
figures provided by Armenians. But this rebellion, too, was included in the literature as
Walker on Sassun
Let's take a look at what the famous genocide standard bearer, Christopher Walker,
reported on Sassun. (From the 1990 version of his ARMENIA: The Survival of a
After finding a monstrous Turkish villain in the form of the vali of Bitlis, Hassan
Tahsin Pasha, on the say-so of British Vice-Consul C. M. Hallward (the one the Ottoman government regarded as one of the instigators of the
rebellion, as Uras told us; this man was as unfriendly as
a foreign consul could get. Since Hallward was serving in Van, how could he possibly
have gotten to know the character of the Bitlis governor? In all likelihood, and as
usual, from whatever the Armenians told him) Walker justifies the disrespect the
Sassun Armenians displayed toward the pasha with: "Perhaps their
disobedience was due to the presence in Sasun of two young Hunchak revolutionaries,
who had for some years past been laying the groundwork of defiance there; though we
should note that Sasun had been in a state of limited rebellion in 1889, before the
appearance of revolutionaries." Perhaps? Do you get the feeling
Walker was trying to somewhat excuse the two in question, Murad and Mihran Damadian?
And as far as trying to get the Hunchaks off the hook by pointing to Sassun's
pre-existing state of "limited rebellion in 1889," let's not forget the
Hunchaks were formed in 1887, and it is almost certain the Hunchaks or other
revolutionaries were hard at work, laying the seeds of discontent.
After informing us that Murad and Damadian organized a small guerrilla gang "In
the summer of 1892" (Murad denied, three years later, of having instigated
battles with the Kurds during this period; he blamed the government's "system
of injustice," instead. Murad's whole idea was, of course, to incite the Kurds,
in order to attract the attention of the European imperialists. Even Cyrus
Hamlin became aware of this grand
Hunchak scheme, which the Turk-despising missionary denounced as "atrocious
and infernal beyond anything ever known.") Walker concedes "at
least one casualty in 1892 as a result of their activities," and then
explains, "They spent the latter part of 1892 trying to calm things over,
and reduce tension between the communities." Yes, indeed, Murad and
Damadian were such peaceful, nice guys!
In early 1893, Murad left to get funds from the Caucasus, in order to finance his
mischief. "Damadian continued to keep relations with the Kurds level."
(What a sweetheart!) "But while he was spreading revolutionary ideas,"
he was pursued and arrested, "taken to Bitlis and then to Constantinople,
where he was granted a pardon." Why were the Ottoman authorities so kind to
these revolutionaries? If we ask Walker, he will tell us where to lay the blame;
Hallward again is cited for his prejudiced opinion: "I do not believe that
the agitation amounted to much, or had much effect on the villagers. One thing seems
clear, that shortly after his capture the fate of Sasun Armenians was sealed."
(Let's understand the logic. The Ottomans let Damadian go, but they were going to
make the Sassun Armenians pay for falling under the influence of their leader,
Soon after, "an unprovoked attack was launched by three to four thousand
Kurds on the villages of the Talori parish. The Kurds attempted to lay siege to the
Talori Armenians, but the latter withdrew into a stronghold they had prepared and
successfully withstood their attacks. Several of their small villages were, however,
sacked. The Kurds then gave up the attempt, to return to their winter
After Murad returned, "it appears that the villagers placed enormous trust
in him, and his presence gave them strength." In other words, they fell
under his spell as the charismatic cult leader
that he, in effect, was, and would do anything he said; and what Murad wanted them
to do was to rebel. Walker continues: in June 1894 the kaymakam
came to collect arrears of taxes from the Talori Armenians, and as the British
consul in Erzerum, R. W. Graves, described: "He proceeded to abuse and
maltreat them. They then lost their temper, fell upon him, and, after administering
a severe beating, drove him and his zaptiyes (gendarmes) from the
Walker explains: "To the official this was armed rebellion, and he reported
it as such, adding that a large force would be needed to put it down." If
an armed community treats legal officers in the described manner, what nation
would not characterize such behavior as rebellious? And if this strong community
was able to withstand an attack from 3-4,000 Kurds, you can bet a large force would
have been needed to get them in line. Accordingly, the Armenians retreated to their
stronghold, and the Ottoman force numbering 300 did not attack.
Consul Graves Confirmed the "Rebellion":
"Their object has plainly been, by creating an
appearance of widespread disaffection, quite out of proportion to their
numbers and influence to provoke reprisals on the part of the Turkish
Government and people, of a nature to draw the attention of the Powers to
the manifest grievances of the Armenian nation, and the necessity for their
No. 381 Consul Graves to Sir P.
Currie ERZEROUM, January 28, 1895 (Received at the Foreign Office, February
22) No. 20. Confidential.
Meanwhile, a small Ottoman force went elsewhere
"to try to compel the notables to present themselves before the governor of
Bitlis so that he could extract money from them." Could it be the governor
was trying to collect taxes, instead? "The troops arrested five Armenians
— but were pursued by armed villagers, who managed to rescue four of the
prisoners." It is fairly obvious that would fall under the definition of
"rebellious," as well.
After Armenians killed a few Kurds for trying to steal livestock "in a
punitive, extremist manner" (note how Walker always excuses his beloved
Armenians; even when they commit murder, it must be their victims' fault.):
"For 12 days (probably 14-25 August) a ferocious battle was fought at
Gelieguzan between the tribal Kurds and Armenian defenders." The Armenians
held out, but then the Kurds, joined by government troops, succeeded in massacring
them, as Walker tells us. British delegate H. S. Shipley, who was not personally
there, called it "extermination."
Did the Kurds Attack First?
(Kamuran Gürün Illuminates)
Boyajian's aim was to incite the Armenians to
attack the local tribes, provoke intervention by the army, and thus stir up
Europe by claiming that Armenians were being massacred.
Naturally, Boyajian did not express this aim. He told the Armenians of
Taluri that he had come from Europe; that if they rebelled, the European
powers would intervene and found an Armenian state. It is known that
Boyajian's activities were successful, especially in Shirik, Semal, Gulguzar,
Herenk, and Taluri. Those who participated in the revolt were from these
areas. The Armenian villages of the Sadak township remained outside the
events. It is a fact that Murad succeeded in inciting 3,000 Armenians to
rebel, including those who came from Mush, Koulp, and Silvan.
...The Boyajian band organized many attacks on various tribes of the area in
1894. They pillaged the properties of the Bekhran and Zadian tribes. They
killed more than ten individuals during separate attacks, including the son
of a prominent member of the Bekhran tribe. These incidents gave rise to an
armed confrontation between the Bekhran tribe and the Armenians. The
Armenians, who had expected such a confrontation, retreated and gathered on
the Antok mountain, where they had previously sent their women and children.
(The fact that all the children, women, and cattle had been sent before,
was even included in the Consuls' report: Document No. 31, p.136.)
When the Government heard of the events, it sent soldiers to the region. The
Armenians who had retreated to the Antok mountain resisted the soldiers with
arms. After a quick operation, the rebellion was crushed. (76) It is known
that the insurrection began in mid-August and ended on 23 August with
This rebellion gave rise to much anti-Turkish propaganda in Europe. For
example, A. W. Williams cites the following statement made by an Armenian
native of Sassun: `There is hardly a man left alive in Sassun, and pleading
women and little children, all together, old and young, have been sacrificed
by the swords of the Turkish soldiers. They besieged the village from the
last of April until the first of August, and during all these weeks we
fed on vegetables and the roots of grasses.' Again according to Williams,
6,000 Armenians were killed in Sassun. (77) The soldiers arrived in
Sassun on 14 August. (Williams notes this on p. 327 of his book, but
sees no inconsistency in quoting the above account four pages later.) (Emphasis Holdwater's.)
Kamuran Gürün, The Armenian File,
1985, pp. 140-41.
Footnote 76: Hazinei Evrak, Müsir Zeki Pasha's report, box 321, file 89.
Footnote 77: Rev. A. W. Williams, Bleeding Armenia (Publisher's
Union, 1896), p. 331.
Walker presents estimates of the dead from "a
very conservative 900" to 3,000, yet even the propagandizing Dashnak
historian, Varandian, gave credence to the "900," as we read above: "Some say six or seven thousand, others say around
one thousand Probably the latter is nearer the truth." Remember, the
Armenian population of Sassun was about 8,000. Is Christopher Walker vouching
for nearly half having been massacred?
"900" was "Liberal," not
"It is stated in the Consuls' report that the number of those who were
reported dead, and whose names were established, was 114 individuals in the
village of Shenik, 65 in Semal, 40 in Guliguzar, 22 in Ahgpi, 10 in Ispagank,
and 14 in Taluri, the total being 265 individuals. (80) The British
representative who took part in the delegation of Consuls states in his
memorandum dated 12 October that, taking as a basis the number of houses, it
would be established that there were at most 10,000 Armenians in the region,
and that taking into consideration those who were alive, the number of those
who had died could not exceed 900. (81)" (Emphasis
Kamuran Gürün, The Armenian File, 1985, pp. 141-42.
Footnote 80: F.O. Turkey No. 1 (1895), No. 252, pp. 155-61. Footnote 81:
Ibid, No. 267, enclosure, p. 203.
Later, Walker praises Graves and especially Hallward for "their tenacity and
their bravery." These consuls worked hand in hand with the Armenians,
received their information almost strictly from the Armenians (their interpreters
were almost certainly Armenian) and had sympathy for none of the other peoples of
the regions. Is Christopher Walker vouching for these British consuls, weaned on
Gladstone's "hate the Turk" outlook, as honest and objective people?
(Naturally, some were not as bad as others.)
Walker further writes:
"The Porte not only obstructed in the east, it also sent a propaganda agent
to Erzerum (where the more senior consuls resided) to process the news and make it
palatable to the consuls. This man was a certain Ximenes, a Spaniard who received a
regular salary from the Palace, now masquerading as a journalist and ‘writer of
distinction’... Certainly, Ximenes told the consuls, massacres have taken place,
but the Armenians were rebels, and the perpetrators of the massacres were Kurdish
irregulars; the government’s part was an honourable one, having attempted to
restore order by calling in regular troops to restrain the Kurds.
We know the Armenians were rebels from the words of the Armenians themselves;
note the Hunchak literature from above, published in Mush, and
distributed to Armenians in Eastern Anatolia. We even know the Sassun Armenians were
rebellious from Walker's own reportage! What matters is not where Ximenes' salary
was coming from, but whether the testimony could be corroborated by honest sources
that provided similar testimony. And where did Walker know how Ximenes earned his
money? Perhaps Walker, himself a journalist, relied upon the rabidly anti-Turkish New
York Times, whose February 5, 1895 issue told us that Professor Ximenes of the
University of Madrid (which puts into question whether he was actually a
"journalist") was accused by, evidently, "The Daily News's
correspondent in Marseilles," that Ximenes' "Testimony Was Sold, It Is
Said, to the Porte." This was, evidently — the full article was not available
for the reading — based upon "Advices from Constantinople." In other
words, hearsay. Very likely hearsay from Istanbul Armenians that Western
publications immediately latched on to as credible.] Any Westerner who maintained
objectivity was subjected to the charge of being an "agent of the Turkish
government," a tactic still utilized today. But the fact is, the Ottomans, as
even a great Armenian crusader conceded,
were "almost ludicrously innocent of the propagandist’s art." If
Sultan Abdul Hamit was such a master of propaganda, he certainly could have hired
many such foreign "agents" in their own countries, to offset the awful
anti-Turkish propaganda taking place in nations such as Britain and the USA.
As far as the rest of Ximenes' testimony that Walker set up for ridicule, even
Walker provided testimony that the Ottoman soldiers restrained the Kurds, after
which Walker concluded the government soldiers joined the Kurds in the massacring
process. It is possible this may have happened, but what is the proof? The word of
British consuls who listened exclusively to sobbing Armenians? (The British officer
Norman will negate this claim, as we'll see below.)
It should perhaps be noted that now and over the next 20 or 30 years, the Turkish
government regularly ascribed the massacre of Armenians to the actions of wild,
unsubdued Kurdish tribes, whereas in each case the 'thinning out' or straightforward
extermination of Armenians was a matter of considered government policy. The
'Kurdish cover-up' is very frequently met, and only really ended when the Turkish
government embarked on deporting and massacring the Kurds themselves, by which time
there were, anyway, scarcely any Armenians left."
Without shame, Walker writes: "One man that had discussed the Armenian
question with the sultan was that part scholar, part clown, part spy-manqué figure Arminius Vambéry."
Vambéry was one who controlled his prejudices, so of course to Walker, anyone who
sized up the Turks as short of beasts would be a "clown."
Walker did not get much into the second Sassun uprising; keep in mind that we
know from the Armenians themselves (refer to the "Battles of Antranik"
book, from above) that what took place was a major uprising
between armed Armenians and Ottoman forces. Here is what Walker reported (the
pertinent parts are highlighted by Holdwater):
"Although matters remained deadlocked internationally for the Armenians,
locally the fedayis' illicit arms were a guarantee for freedom from the government
in some localities. The first outstanding leader in the mountains of Turkish Armenia
was Serop 'pasha', whose Dashnak guerrilla bands neutralised the locust-like
functionaries of the Ottoman government and established a degree of cherished
autonomy for Armenians, instituting justice where before there had been none,
and, by expelling the government, introducing those very institutions that we
associate with government. Serop was killed by the ruse of a Kurd in 1900, and the
leadership of fedayi forces fell to Andranik, without question the most famous
Armenian guerrilla fighter,5 'a very able man, and implicitly obeyed', in the words
of British vice-consul Hampson.6 Born in Shabin Karahisar in 1865, he had joined
Dashnaktsutiun in 1892. During the killings of autumn 1895 he had defended the Sasun
villages, and four years later had become the leader of the forces in Sasun. In
November 1901 he effected a spectacular break-out from the besieged position at
Arakelots Monastery, near Moush. His activities reached a climax in 1903-4, when
much of the region of Van, Bitlis, Moush and Sasun was in a state of revolutionary
turmoil.7 In the spring of 1904 the Turkish army attempted to break the link
forged between the villagers and the guerrillas by bombarding the Sasun villages for
eight days in mid-April; but the villagers escaped, most to higher ground, and a
few to the villages near Diyarbekir. Andranik and his forces were, however,
compelled to retreat to Persia, via Aghtamar and Van; thence they moved to the
Caucasus, leaving little more than a heroic memory. (Andranik himself resigned from
the Dashnak party in 1907, because the party was entering into negotiations with
émigré Turkish groups opposed to the sultan.)"
Isn't it jaw-dropping? Christopher Walker is actually corroborating, at least
indirectly, that the Armenians were in revolt during the period of the second Sassun
uprising ("...in 1903-4, when much of the region of Van, Bitlis, Moush and
Sasun was in a state of revolutionary turmoil"; the footnoted British
archival source is FO 424/205, p. 181-2), and he is faulting the government forces
from trying to establish law and order... which would be the duty of any
government. (See next paragraph.) Is Walker under the delusion that there was an
independent "Armenia" during those years? The Armenians actually enjoyed
an "internal autonomy," according to Richard Hovannisian (1967); their contact with the
Ottoman government was usually restricted to tax-collectors, and the forces the
Ottomans would send in, when the Kurds got too rowdy; in other words, the Armenians
were free to do whatever they wanted, much in opposition to their brethren in
Russia. And note how he's presenting mass murderers as Serop and especially Antranik
as heroes! Don't the many thousands of innocent villagers these men killed —
Antranik (on record for personally raping
a Turkish woman, before likely having her killed; no doubt one of many rapes and
murders this criminal committed) in particular — mean anything to the bigoted
In order to gain
perspective, why don't we take a look at the fate of a 19th century American
counterpart to these revolutionaries, the abolitionist John Brown? As opposed to
these mad and greedy Armenians leading their people down the path of destruction, a
people who didn't want anything to have to do with them at first, at least Brown had
a genuinely noble purpose: he believed in armed insurrection as a means to abolish
slavery. The raids Brown conducted led to the deaths of perhaps a dozen men, mostly
soldiers (but civilians too), and the wounding of around a dozen more. Compare to
the thousands and thousands of innocent villagers that Armenian mass murderers as
Antranik were responsible for! Although Brown was regarded as a hero in a number of
quarters, President Abraham Lincoln called Brown a "misguided fanatic,"
and author Ken Chowder, in a study from 2000, described him as "The Father
of American Terrorism." Brown was not "murdered" as Walker tells
us was the fate of poor, innocent Murad, but executed for the crime of
treason. Of course! No matter how "noble" one's cause is, once one resorts
to violence where innocents are subjected to harm, one becomes a
"terrorist." And when one opposes one's government through armed
rebellion, one becomes guilty of "treason." These are the universal
rules of all nations, except, in bigoted minds as Christopher Walker, the Ottoman
Getting back to the non-Armenian lives Walker doesn't give a rat's gas for, from the
previous paragraph's end, note how Walker handled the massacre of the Mazrik Kurds
that we learned about from Lewy, Uras and the New York Herald Tribune; he
confined this episode to the end of his book, buried within the "Biographical
Notes" on notable Armenians:
"[Nikol Duman] Planned a punitive expedition against Kurds of the Mazrik
tribe, who had served the sultan's ends in the Hamidiye regiments; this plan
endorsed by Mikayelian in November 1896, and carried out at Khanasor, 24-5 July
That's it; in Christopher Walker's bigoted mind, he is making this "punitive
expedition" (i.e., massacre) a perfectly justifiable affair, for you see, the
Kurds were actually the villains.
Christopher Walker is an emotional partisan, and he has written an awfully
one-sided, propagandistic book. (Yes, he is no different than so many other
pro-Armenian authors, but this cannot excuse him.) He establishes his case by
referring to thoroughly unreliable sources, as the British consuls who, like
Christopher Walker, listened exclusively to the Armenian perspective. Who can argue
with Esat Uras, as he put it so accurately above: "...The reports of the Consuls, which tend on the whole, as is only to
be expected, to be biased in favour of the Armenians."
But when we have the reports of these sources that are usually hostile to the Turks
who paint a different picture than what those as Walker would have us believe, then
we must pay heed. (As much as those as Walker will try to convince us they are
"agents of the Turkish government," without offering evidence, or,
Salahi R. Sonyel points to one such source I have never run into before, from his
2000 book, "Falsification and disinformation : negative factors in Turco-Armenian
"A British Member of Parliament, Sir Ellis Ashmeed Bartlett [Ashmead-Bartlett], in a
pamphlet he published in February 1895, which he circulated to the British
Parliament, observed that "most of the tales so widely circulated" in
connection with the Turco-Armenian incidents were manufactured and directed by
"the most imaginative and malevolent spirit". The "deliberate
object" of the agitation "was not to obtain redress for the Armenian
sufferings, but to excite public feeling in this country (UK) against Turkey and the
(The sources for the above, combined with a reference to Ximenes [described by
Sonyel as "a Spanish geographer and man of science," as well as "an
eye witness to the Sasun rebellion"] are: Sir Ellis Ashmeed Bartlett, MP, Armenian
"Atrocity" Agitation, Its Genesis, Method, Truth and Consequences,
London, February 1895, pp. 3, 5, 8 and 19; see also The Westminster Gazette,
15.12.1894 and 7.1.1895.)
Sonyel also brings up "Another British source, Captain Charles Boswell
Norman, who was sent to the Ottoman state as an officer in the Royal Artillery,
observed in a manuscript of 1895, "only the Armenian version of the
disturbances, embellished with hysterical utterances of their English
collaborators" were heard of, whereas in reality "the disturbances in Asia
Minor are the direct outcome of a widespread anarchist movement". He insisted
that the Hintchakist committee was directly responsible for all the bloodshed in
Anatolia. British journalists were duped by the Armenians." (Finally
capping off with: "Many of the Armenian falsehoods were also revealed during
the sessions of the Sasun Inquiry Commission, which the Ottoman government
established in December 1894, consisting of British, French and Russian
representatives, in addition to Muslim ones.")
A more detailed look at Captain Norman is available here; the reader may wish to click that link, as rich details on
Sassun are provided; the captain reported that the Armenian people of Sassun were "graded
into rebellion" in the Autumn of 1894 by the inflammatory articles in the
revolutionary newspapers published in London, Vienna and New York, just as Esat Uras
provided a more local example of above; furthermore, Norman knew
for a fact that two British journalists who reported on these events never went
to Sassun, but received their information from the consul at Erzurum [that would
be Graves himself, one of Walker's favorite sources!], allowing Norman
to conclude that "It is certain that they were hopelessly duped by Armenian
romancers." Norman also asserts that the report of the British delegate was
suppressed, and the true mortality was half of Walker's "conservative"
figure of 900, in reality less than 500! Norman also, significantly,
clears the involvement of Ottoman troops; another British author vouched for the
integrity of the commander in charge, Zeki Pasha, in a letter to the Times of
London. (Regarding an earlier period.)
What the British officer stated was the absolute truth (and we need to pay
particular attention to the well-phrased "'Only the Armenian version of the
disturbances, embellished with hysterical utterances of their English
collaborators' were heard of." Yet, those as Christopher Walker would
have us believe the "hysterical utterances" of these "English
collaborators," those as the vice-consul Hallward,
whom Uras believably described as "one of the instigators of the
rebellion" in the eyes of the Ottoman government. Why should we listen to
Hallworth, even if he wasn't directly involved in the Armenians' rebellion, as
charged? His sympathies were completely with the Armenians.
And again, by exactly the same token, why should we believe Christopher Walker? His
sympathies are also completely with the Armenians. When one embarks upon a
work of history, one commits a great transgression if one is unable to maintain an
open mind; impressionable readers who buy into the version Christopher Walker
describes will look upon Turks as monsters, and that perpetuates hatred and racism.
Unfortunately, too often, that is the very intention of such bigoted authors to