THE CAUSES OF THE ATROCITIES
THE GREAT QUESTION
Written by Reverend George Filian and originally published in 1896
The Armenian atrocities can never be fully understood by those who may be born in a free land, where there are no Turks, no Kurds, no Circassians, no Georgians, no Zeibecks, and no Mohammedan religion, with its oppressions and persecutions.
Why the Sultan orders the Turks, Kurds, or other followers to destroy the Armenians, whereby more than 100,000 of them have recently been killed, and 500,000 been rendered homeless and left to die of starvation in the streets and fields, or why the Sultan ordered all who are spared to accept the Mohammedan religion, is never referred to with any sort of correctness by the newspapers or periodicals in their accounts of the dreadful atrocities taking place in Armenia, and therefore the people are left in ignorance and doubt respecting the true situation both as to the causes and the atrocities themselves.
The first cause is a very simple one. That the Armenians are Christians, and the Turks, Kurds, Circassians, and Georgians in Turkey are Mohammedans, and the Mohammedan religion urges brutality. It has already been shown to be not a religion, but a system of falsehood, hatred, cruelty, lust, and sensuality; of course, these things combined can only result in corruption. It would seem that Mohammed must have taken his inspiration from both the domestic fowl and a bull. A rooster is a polygamist; he has his hens without limit. So Mohammed, the professed prophet, had wives without limit. He claimed to have received a revelation from Heaven directing him to take to himself any woman he pleased, no matter whether she was married and had a husband or not; that made no difference with Mohammed. He took any woman he wanted, and if her husband objected he was sure to be put to death. Mohammedans cannot differ from their prophet, they follow him, they strive to imitate him just as much as true Christians strive to follow and imitate Christ. Further, cocks, as a rule, have crowing spells five times in twenty-four hours, and generally mount a high place and do their screaming there. So the Mohammedan priests, who are called Moezzins, ascend a minaret, or a tower, and five times in twenty four hours they call the people to worship. There is so little confidence placed in the priests or criers that the people prefer to have a blind one go on the minaret to give the calls, so that he may not see their women unveiled in their houses.
From a bull, because he is not only immoderately lustful, but fierce and destructive; and the farmers say that the older he grows, the worse he is in both respects. It is certainly so with Mohammedans,—naturally enough, for nothing is so lickerish as an old man who has been sensual all his life, and cruelty is a trait which grows with indulgence. The Sultan grows more of a beast, and more of a fiend as he grows older, and all the Mohammedans are of the same stripe. Armenian men and Armenian women alike dread the approach of an old Turk far more than of a young one. Unless one has witnessed a fight between bulls, he can have little idea of Turkish warfare. No animal fight can approach it in ferocity or insatiability; when a bull conquers another, he never leaves him until he gores him to death. So when Mohammedans conquer a nation, be sure they will exterminate it. To them mercy means apostasy; to leave a man alive or a woman unravished is to be false to the precepts of Mohammed. They cannot help it, it is their religion; a religion for wild animals. Their priests go to the mosques and preach to them thus: “Believers in Mohammed, love your fellow believers, but hate and kill all others; they are Giaours, heathen dogs, filthy hogs.” To kill a Christian and to kill a hog is all the same to a Mohammedan; there is as little sin in one as the other. The priests say, “Ask them to accept our religion; if they do, you must not harm them; but if they will not, kill them, for they have no right to live in a Mohammedan country. It is not only no sin, but a great virtue; the more Christians you kill, the greater reward you will have from Allah and his prophet Mohammed.” The Turks are slaughtering the Armenians to earn this reward. Of course if the men apostatize they are spared; but the Turk has no notion of losing the gratification of his lust on the women in that way. A woman who falls into their hands need not hope to keep her virtue on any terms, even by abjuring her religion; they violate her first, and force her to become a Mohammedan afterwards.
Let it be fully understood throughout the Christian world that the massacre is a religious demand; the Turks have to comply. As a Christian tries to be faithful to Christ and his teachings, so the Turks are trying to be faithful to their prophet and his. They go to the mosques and pray, “Allah, help us; strengthen our hands and sharpen our swords to kill the infidel Armenians.” Then they come from the mosques and begin to kill, and plunder, and outrage, and commit every sort of indescribable atrocities on the peaceable and defenseless Armenians. And it will grow worse instead of better, since so-called Christian nations have given the Sultan public notice that they will not interfere with him. Do not be deceived by his lying reports; there was no Armenian rebellion; they could not rebel; they did not kill the Turks, they never dreamed of such madness. This awful fate has fallen on them purely and simply for being Christians.
This seems frivolous and incredible, but it is true; namely, a dream of the Sultan.
Some six years ago, a report was circulated in Constantinople about this dream. It was, that in his sleep the Sultan saw a little tree planted in the center of his kingdom. It began to grow larger and larger, till it covered the whole Turkish Empire, and overshadowed even the mountains. All the nations of Turkey dwelt under its glorious and majestic shade. Still it grew, till the branches crossed the oceans and covered all the other kingdoms, finally the whole world. He woke, but the dream troubled him deeply, and he called some of the ulemas or wise men, of whom he always has a number in his palace, to interpret it for him. They explained it by saying that the tree was Christianity; Christian missionary work in the heart of his empire. It was a menace to his throne and country, and would grow till it covered the world. The Sultan, alarmed and angry, asked what he should do. The ulemas advised him to cut it down while it was small, and he has been doing his best to follow their advice. He did not dare to kill the missionaries, but he is accomplishing the same result by destroying their churches and schools and forbidding any more to be built, confiscating all religious books, and killing the native Christian ministers. He has employed every device to force the missionaries to depart by paralyzing their work; if they chose to stay, he would accuse them of inciting the natives to revolt. He has succeeded so far; plunder, burning, torture, murder, violation and forced conversion of Christian women, have practically put an end to missionary work. Now the time has come to kill the missionaries; and he will very likely find some excuse for doing it—he has an arsenal of falsehoods always at his command. Quite likely he will say the Armenians killed them, and then murder more Armenians in reprisal. His cunning is as infinite as his cruelty. He gives a charter to a missionary institution and destroys ten others. He invites Minister Terrell to the palace, gives him grand receptions, and loads him with promises and flatteries, and all the time goes on obliterating the schools and churches and killing the native pastors. He creates a ruin; when the European powers protest, he says he will make amends, and he does it by perpetrating a greater one, in which the first is forgotten. He massacres hundreds in a city; when the powers protest, he says he will restore order, and does it by ordering thousands killed in another city, and the first is again forgotten. His atrocities increase as he finds that he is to be unmolested; he is resolute to cut down that spreading tree, and has already cut thousands of branches from it. And the Christian nations look on and say they cannot help it. They know perfectly well what is going on, but their “interests” of one sort or another will not permit them to remove that awful blot on civilization.
The Mohammedan population in Turkey is decreasing, and the Christians are increasing. When the present Sultan captured the throne from his brother Murad, Turkey had 40,000,000 people; as soon as he girded the sword of Osman, he began the great battle with Russia, and after the Turko-Russian war he found himself with 18,000,000. Who are the lost? Roumania, Bulgaria, Servia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Herzegovina, a part of Macedonia, Cyprus, and a part of Armenia. Practically the whole of Europe was lost for Turkey except Constantinople and the district Edirne or Adrianople. Turkey is not an empire any more, but it is a little kingdom; rather a little feudal system, or more accurately still, a little anarchy. If it were not for mutual European jealousy, the Sultan could not keep his anarchism. Yet many still think that the Ottoman Empire is a great one, a powerful government. They look at the Sultan and his dominion through a magnifying glass. This shows ignorance. The Turks are decayed and are decaying. The sick man of Turkey is the dead man of Turkey, and ought to be buried, but the European powers do not bury him because there are precious stones and jewelry in the coffin; no matter how bad the corpse smells, they will endure it. And the bad smell of the Sultan is killing hundreds of thousands of Christians; but the dead stays where it is, and may stay for some years, but the end will come before many have gone by. When I say that the days of the Sultan are numbered, and the brutal Turkish mis-rule will cease, many Americans will rejoin “that the same has often been said long years since, though the empire remains to-day, and seems likely to remain.” The fact is, however, that during my own life more than half of it has gone to pieces, and the fragment which remains will go to pieces soon. Permit me to say that all former prophecies have been mistaken because those who made them have judged and misjudged the situation from an occidental standpoint; I judge it from that of a native, who knows the realities as only a native can. What can an English ambassador or an American minister in Constantinople, staying perhaps two or three years, and entertained and decorated by the crafty Sultan, know about the internal state of Turkey? Having traveled through the country, lived and preached for years at a time; preached in different cities, including Constantinople, I can see signs of a break-up that a foreigner would not notice.
The reason the Turkish population does not increase is this: The army has to be made up of Mohammedans, partly because the Sultan does not put arms into the hands of the Christians, for obvious reasons, since they have no motive to uphold and every motive to fight him, and partly because to be a soldier in Turkey is a holy service, the privilege of Mohammedans alone. As there is a large standing army, nearly all the Mohammedan youths have to become soldiers. Their service begins when they are about twenty years old. The shortest term is five years; for many it is ten; and even after that, there are many who cannot escape. If a young Mohammedan is not married at twenty, obviously he cannot marry until twenty-five anyway, and perhaps thirty,—very late for a country population; if he is married his wife is virtually a widow for five to ten years. Now the reader can see my drift. With marriages so late, and husbands so long absent, Turkish families are small; they do not make good the deaths. And there is a still plainer cause: The soldiers being very poorly fed, and constant fighting going on, ninety per cent. die in the army, and so never have any families; the flower of the nation perishes barren. Those who survive and return are pale and sick, good for nothing, a burden to their families and to the nation. The Armenians have to support the Sultan’s army, since they do not furnish it, but they rear families, and are drowning out the Turks.
Another cause of decrease is the pilgrimage to Mecca, where Mohammed was born. On an average, a million pilgrims go there every year,—of course not all from Turkey, but most of them, and every year about 50,000 of them die of cholera before reaching home, from the Holy Well (Zemzem sooyi), which is full of unholy foulness; even those who live and return home take that water to their families, and many of the latter die too. Cholera is perpetual in Turkey, and it originates at Mecca. When I was in Marsovan twelve at one time went on the pilgrimage and only four returned. It is a great virtue to die where Mohammed was born, or to drink that water and die, and they are going to him at a rapid rate. Last year, when the English, Russian, and French consuls at Jiddeh, the seaport of Mecca, established a quarantine to detain those coming from Mecca and bringing cholera, they were murdered by the Mohammedan Arabs, who said they were interfering with the sacred religion, and the Sultan had to pay the indemnity.
Still another reason is the shocking increase of abortions among the wealthy town dwellers. The Mohammedan women are growing to love selfish indulgences better than the duties and delights of motherhood. They do not wish to be “bothered” by children, and they take medicine to prevent having them. Where the women come to this, it is better for a race to die out; they have outlived their purpose.
A fourth cause is polygamy. People naturally think that marrying more than one wife should increase the number of children; but the facts emphatically prove the reverse. The polygamous Turks do not increase as fast as the Christians who have but one wife.
For the fifth, the Turks are an exceedingly sensual race, by nature and education, as I have shown. The very religion that should help to make them pure, helps to make them vile. Lust leads them, and they follow; nature prompts, and their religion requires it. I am truly ashamed to tell it, but even when they go to their mosques to worship, they manifest their sensuality. Not only the relations of male and female are very rank, but between male and male they are worse; between the old Turks and young Turks, the very boys, the relations are too disgusting to describe. All such moral corruptions not only weaken a people’s forces morally, but physically as well; they substitute barren lusts for legitimate gratifications, selfish passions for mutual ones.
Hence the Mohammedans are fast decreasing in Turkey, and the Sultan is terrified, and hopes by killing a large part of the Christians, and forcing the survivors to accept Mohammedanism, that their power of multiplication may be the boon of a Mohammedan people. Out of the 18,000,000 inhabitants of Turkey, 6,000,000 are native Christians, about half of them Armenians. This leaves only 12,000,000 for the whole Mohammedan population in the present Turkish dominion; and it grows less, while the Christian part grows greater. To check this increase, the Sultan a few years ago made the obtaining of a marriage certificate compulsory, and the Turkish authorities have understood that they are to make it as hard as possible to get; it has cost great sums of money to obtain it. But for many months now, there have been no marriages at all in Armenia; the authorities will not grant certificates on any terms, and to prevent any more Christians being born, the daughters and young brides of the murdered thousands are made mothers through violation by the Turks and Kurds.
The Christians have been increasing not only from within, but from without. Europeans have begun to go wherever railroads go. Hence another reason for massacre and forced conversion. That the Sultan has been planning this massacre ever since the Turko-Russian war is evidenced by the fact that after the war he encouraged or ordered a number of Mohammedan tribes—Circassians, Georgians, Kurds, and Lazes—to emigrate from Russia to Armenia, confiscated masses of Christians’ property, and gave it to them, and directed them to reduce the number of Armenian Christians by any way they saw fit, giving them full license to do what they would with Armenians, without penalty. You know what that means with fierce tribes of human wild animals, cruel and foul, and he knew what it meant too, and intended it to mean that. Before his time the Christians far outnumbered the Mohammedans in Armenia proper; but under his “government”—his deliberate policy of extermination—great numbers fled the country, numbers were killed and their women made concubines to Mohammedans, and now the Mohammedans are more numerous in Armenia than the Armenian Christians. And if the Sultan is permitted to go on, he will kill a million more, the rest will be “converted,” and then he will call the attention of the European powers to this fact, and say, “See here, you ask me to reform Armenia; Armenia is reformed. There is no Armenia; there are no Armenians; the people in that part of my empire are Mohammedans, and they are satisfied with my government. What do you want from me? What right have you to interfere with my country and religion?” That is his plan. When the Berlin Congress was held, the Armenians were the majority in their own country, and the Congress decided on reforms for it; the Sultan promised them, with the full intention of depopulating and converting it, and then telling the powers there was no need of reform there. He is doing this now incessantly, and as remorselessly as a fiend.
The Armenians are rich and educated, and the Mohammedans are poor and ignorant. The Turks have never cared for money or education. They have always said, “Let the Christians make the money, and we will take it from them whenever we choose. We will be the rulers, the soldiers, the police; we will have the sword in our hands. Then their property, and their women too, will be ours at will, and we can force them to become Mohammedans.” Such being their reasoning, they took good care of their swords and their guns, which were furnished to them from Europe and the United States. The Christian Armenians believing that the great Christian powers would never permit the Turks to wreak their murderous and shameful will on them, did not risk the vengeance of the Turks by secretly buying weapons, nor train themselves in the use of arms. They trained their minds, got education, traveled in Europe and this United States, enlightened themselves in every way they could; they sharpened their intellects rather than their swords. They learned to make money also; they established all the business houses in Turkey; all the Turks that get employment in the cities get it from the Armenian merchants. As far as Turkey has any finances, they are in the hands of Armenians. Go where you will in Turkey, seaboard or interior, all the money and education belong to the Armenians, poverty and ignorance are the portion of the Turks. Ninety per cent. of the Armenians know how to read and write, while ninety per cent. of the Turks do not. Sixty per cent. of the Mohammedan property has been sold to the Christian Armenians within twenty years. When I was in Armenia, the Mohammedans were always selling and the Christians always buying. One day a Turk was going to sell his field to an Armenian, and they went to the government office to make the transfer. The officer in charge said he could not transfer the property of a Mohammedan to a Christian. This was something new. “Why is that?” they asked. “The governor forbids it,” said the officer, “he told me that hereafter it should not be done.” Finally both went to the governor and asked him why he forbade it. The governor replied, “Of late the Armenians have bought up the fields of the Mohammedans, till they own the greater part of them; if we let them go on they will own everything, and the Mohammedans will be left without property. Therefore I forbid it; no Mohammedan shall hereafter sell any property to a Christian.” He told the Turk he might sell his field to another Mohammedan, but not to a Christian. “All right,” said the Turk, “I will sell it to you, then, at the same price, or maybe a little less; will you buy it? I need the money to support my family.” “I cannot buy it,” said the governor; “I have no money.” “I know that,” replied the Turk; “and not only you, but all the other Mohammedans have no money either. They are all poor. I cannot find any Turk who has the money to buy my field, and I need money, and I have to sell it to that Christian.” Finally the governor was forced to give the permission, and the Armenian bought the field. This is only one case, but it is typical. There are thousands of just such. And this is another cause which aroused the jealousy of the Sultan and his subordinates to order the massacre of the Armenians, and the seizure of their property.
I often hear it said in this country, “Let us help the poor Armenians”; and I feel very indignant. Poor Armenians! There are poor among the Armenians, as among all nations; but the Armenians as a body are not poor. They are the richest people in Turkey. That is one reason why they are plundered and killed. I do not want the American people to help the Armenians as a poor, ignorant, miserable people, but because they deserve help as a rich, noble, Christian nation being rooted out by plunder and murder, for the benefit of, and by means of a horde of savages. I will illustrate by a very little story.
When Alexander the Great reached the mountains of Afghanistan on his way to India, the Afghan king refused to let him pass through his country. After a great battle, and the slaughter of thousands on both sides, Alexander was victorious. The king himself was captured, and brought before Alexander, who said to him, “You are my captive; how shall I treat you?” “As a king,” said the prisoner. Alexander was charmed with the dignity of the answer, and replied, “You shall be treated as one, and a brave one. I leave you on your throne; but permit me to pass on to India.” So the king kept his royalty as before, and Alexander continued his conquests.
Such is the Armenian question. They are a noble people, an enterprising people, but captives in the hands of the Turks. But the Turks have not the magnanimity of Alexander. We need a nation which does have it, to say to the Armenians, “Remain where you are, in your ancient home, and rule there; govern yourselves freely as a Christian nation. You have fought centuries after centuries for home and honor, and now we come to your help, to establish you on the old Armenian throne.” Do not help the Armenians merely as a poor people, but help them because they were rich, and now they are stripped and poor, without fault of their own, from hate of their (and your) religion, and envy of their superiority.
This is perhaps the greatest of all. It is the American missionary work in Armenia. It was in 1831 that the American Board of Foreign Missions established the first Protestant mission there. Their purpose was to send missionaries, not simply to the Armenians, but to all classes and sects in Turkey. Those pioneer American missionaries were among the noblest of men, and greatest of teachers, preachers, and organizers. I will name a few: Dr. Goodell, Dr. Dwight, Dr. Schaffler, Dr. Cyrus Hamlin, founder of Robert College, living now at Lexington, Mass., 86 years old, one of the greatest missionaries ever born, Dr. H. Van Lennep, another great missionary, greatly beloved by the Armenians. Books could be written about these Christian chiefs, to whom, and to the American people who sent them, we Armenians are grateful. When Dr. Van Lennep died at Great Barrington, Mass., about six years ago, the author was raising money here to build a church in Armenia, as already told. He went to condole with Mrs. Van Lennep, and told her not to put any monument over the doctor’s grave. He would see the other Armenians, and as a grateful people they would erect him a beautiful one. He kept his word, and his faith was justified; they raised the funds and put up the monument. It stands in the cemetery at Great Barrington, with the following inscription:—
Henry John Van Lennep, D.D.
For Thirty Years Missionary in Turkey.
This monument is erected by his Armenian friends
in grateful appreciation of his heroic virtues,
and endearing services rendered to their people.
The beloved Missionary
When the noble missionaries went to Turkey, the Turks hated them, the Jews hated them, the Greeks hated them, and these three peoples hate them still. But the Armenians welcomed them; they loved and esteemed them, and they love and esteem them more than ever now. The question is often asked “Are not the Armenians a Christian people? Then why did the missionaries go there?” Yes, they are; but still they needed the missionaries, and need them now more than ever. Why? Well, for two reasons. Their churches and schools having been destroyed by the long oppression by the Turks, they needed help from a sister Christian church to help them educate themselves, and build up churches, schools, and colleges, benevolent institutions, printing offices. The missionaries have done that great work in Armenia, but I am sorry to say that some of their creations have been destroyed by the Turks during the recent atrocities.
The second reason is that the Armenian church stood in great need of reformation. I have already explained in this book (see “The Armenian Church”) how in the last desperate struggle for national existence, a part of the people reluctantly accepted help from the Pope of Rome, at the price of uniting with the Roman church, and using its rituals, images, etc. Hence, in many of the Armenian churches there was no pure gospel preaching; rituals were the leading element of the services. There was therefore great need that such preaching should be introduced; the missionaries did so, and the Armenian church has been greatly reformed. My purpose here is not to write a church history, nor to give an account of missionary work in Turkey. I mention it incidentally as a chief cause of the atrocities.
The missionaries have trained both boys and girls in their schools for sixty-five years now; many thousands of them. The Turks have not been permitted to go to them, the Greeks are too proud to send their children, but the Armenians were hungry for education, especially for an American education. The new-born baby of the time when the missionaries arrived is now sixty-five years old, with his American education, which has wonderfully elevated the Armenians, and turned Armenia almost into a second America, educationally. The American colleges in different parts of Turkey are great centers of light; about ninety per cent. of the students and the leading native professors and teachers are Armenians. I will mention a few: Robert College and the Woman’s College in Constantinople; the Ladies’ Seminary in Smyrna; Anatolia College, the Ladies’ Seminary, and the Theological Seminary in Marsovan; the writer’s pastorate, Central Turkey College and the Ladies’ College at Aintab, Euphrates College (first called Armenia College, but the name is forbidden by the Turks, as encouraging Armenian independence) and the Ladies’ Department at Harpoot; the Academy and the Theological Seminary at Marash, where I studied three years; the colleges both for girls and boys at Beirut; and many high schools and primary schools throughout Armenia. The American Bible House is a great depot of Christian literature. These are all American Christian institutions, and nine-tenths of their inmates are Armenians.
The reader can clearly see how the Armenians have become a wholly new race; they have had the advantage of American education, and it has revolutionized the nation. It has elevated, refined, and prospered them. This great improvement among the Armenians aroused the jealousy of the Sultan and his underlings. He first began to close the schools; then to imprison the native Armenian teachers and preachers; then to kill the Armenians and destroy the missionary institutions, that no Armenian may be left to go to any American school, and that if any escapes, there may be no American school to receive him. I consider this missionary education the very greatest cause for the atrocities, and the Armenian bishops agree with me. Here is what the Armenian bishop of Urfa (Edessa), where about 8,000 Armenians were massacred, has to say:
TO THE AMERICANS
March 12, 1896
“We have been strenuously opposed to your mission work among us, but these bloody days have proven that some of our Protestant brothers have been staunch defenders of our honor and faith. You at least know that our crime, in the eyes of the Turk, has been that we have adopted the civilization you commended. Behold the missions and schools which you planted among us, and which cost millions of dollars, and hundreds of precious lives, now in ruins. The Turk is planning to rid himself of missionaries and teachers by leaving them nobody to labor among.”
It is very significant that wherever there was a missionary institution, and especially a missionary Theological Seminary to train Armenian ministers, there has been the greatest atrocity. This shows how the Sultan hates Americans, and American education. There are nearly two hundred American male and female missionaries in Turkey. They are in great danger. The Turks have determined to kill them, and the Sultan can no longer control them, for he gave the order and put the sword into their hands. The Kurds and the Turks say, “The missionaries have better things than the Armenians had. We killed the Armenians and got their valuables, and we enjoy them. We are richer now, and we did not work for it; we did not waste time in hard labor; the only thing we had to do was to obey the Sultan and kill the Armenians and get their property. Why not kill the Americans and get richer?” Reader, keep in your mind that the Turks will kill the missionaries also. The horrible time is coming, in spite of what your minister to Turkey says, and partly because he believes Turkish lies, and says there was no need of sending missionaries there.
Another point worthy of consideration is this: Russia and Turkey made an alliance. Russia is as much opposed to the missionaries as Turkey is, and perhaps the Czar is secretly encouraging the Sultan to get rid of them. Undoubtedly Russia is trying to get rid of Protestant influence in Turkey, and therefore sacrifices the old Protestant Armenian nation to Turkey. In my belief, the time is coming when the Protestant nations will unite and protest practically against the outrages of Turkey and Russia. They have no right to persecute Turks or Russians, but they have a perfect right to protect an old Protestant church and the American missionaries. No matter how much it costs, it pays to protect them, and, pay or no pay, it is the duty of America and England to unite and protect them. And if England and America should really unite, Turkey and Russia will yield. I do not at all concur with Americans who favor Russia and hate England. Lord Salisbury is too timid to do it, but Lord Salisbury is not England. The English people are a noble people, and if the American noble people unite with them, they can accomplish a great work for God and humanity, for peace and liberty, for freedom and happiness in Armenia.
As far as I can judge, the foregoing are the causes of the atrocities in Armenia. Perhaps there may be other minor ones, but they are not worthy of discussion.