WHAT THE TURKISH CONSTITUTION MEANS FOR THE ARMENIANS
Written by Diana Abgar and originally published in 1910
A year has passed since the inauguration of the Turkish Constitution; since the first glad cries of “liberty, fraternity, equality” were resounded as heralds of the peace and prosperity that were to follow; but although a whole year has passed, the Turkish Constitution, thus far, has only paraded itself as a spectacular effect, and as a panorama on shifting sand.
A whole year has passed and the liberal Turks have produced neither a Prince Ito nor an Abraham Lincoln, though both were urgently needed to meet the pressing exigencies and heavy responsibilities of the times; and we may well ask now, Where is the man who is to hold the helm of the Constitutional ship and steer it over the turbulent waters?
The task of the new régime was the most difficult that could have fallen to any administration. Beset on the one hand by the jealousies, rivalries, and political intrigues of European Powers; on the other, by the machinations of that “Red Beast” the ex-Sultan and his murderous and corrupt clique, by disappointed plundering pashas and officials (compelled to grant their arch enemy the ex-Sultan a lease of life through fear of a fanatical populace), the liberal Turks on their own part have not brought to bear upon their work any administrative ability, when extraordinary powers of governing and the highest and strongest genius for administration were absolutely needed. The Turk has always shown to the world that he is a born fighter, but a puerile administrator.
For the Armenians the Constitution has resulted in two conditions—Massacre and Oppression; their hopes and aspirations have ended in the death throes of, as some accounts give, thirty thousand and others fifty thousand of their unhappy race, in homelessness and precipitation into absolute destitution of a few more thousands1, and in insecurity for the nation at large. An unarmed population scattered and dispersed among a hostile, murderous and fanatical populace; their position even under the new régime is to be compared to that of herbivorous animals standing at bay in the midst of ravening wolves.
His spiritual interests call upon the Moslem Turk and the Moslem Kurd to murder the Christian Armenian; his material interests to plunder and enrich his own idleness with the worldly goods the other has acquired by his industry and toil, and the prosperity and well-being that the Armenian labours to bring to the fairest provinces under the sun are swooped upon and devastated by the brigandage of his enemies. Religious fanaticism and lust of plunder have always been governing elements in the Turkish massacres, and against these same religious fanaticism and lust of plunder, the Armenians stand to-day in deadly peril under the new régime.
What more is to follow? Our hearts sicken to forecast, and our minds tremble to foresee. Are the balance of our striplings and our greybeards, our pen-men, and our ploughmen to be made to rot in Turkish dungeons, condemned to such loathsome horrors as can only be perpetrated in Turkish prisons? Are the balance of our women to be subjected to agonies so hideous and revolting that death at the fiery stake or on the iron rack were mercy and bliss? Are the balance of our babes and children to be exterminated like vermin? Are the balance of our people, the industrious, intelligent, clean, self-respecting element in the Turkish Empire, to be yet again hunted like wild beasts and killed like rats and flies?
We are not wild and lawless descendants of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane: we are peace-loving, law-abiding citizens, lovers of language and literature, of the arts and sciences, energetic traders, hardworking tillers of the soil, industrious artisans and labourers, producing in ourselves all the elements that constitute the society and well-being of civilized man; and as the oldest Christians, we ask of Christian nations, if we are to be trodden out?
On the soil of our fatherland we are surrounded by a murderous, marauding, religion-frenzied populace, and neither Humanity nor Christianity will hold out to us a helping hand.
If nothing else were done for the Armenians, at least Christian governors should be appointed over the provinces inhabited by them: we do not expect the Turkish Government to do this of their own initiative, but we have a right to expect the European Powers that were signatories to the Treaty of Berlin to compel the new régime to do it. Since the signing of the famous Treaty of Berlin thirty-one years ago, the history of the Armenians has been written in blood and tears, as the history of no other nation has been written before or now; and we ask, How long? How long will the Christian Powers stand silent witnesses to the work of slaughter and oppression carried on under their eyes?
Alas! the weight of the Turkish bonds is too heavy in the scale, and Armenian life too light; the selfish interests of the European Powers involved in the Turkish Empire cannot be endangered to save the blood of three or four millions of Armenians, and the death warrant of an oppressed and bleeding nation can find no place on the table of the Hague Conference of Peace and Civilization.