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Genocide of the Villages Chmshgadzak, Harasar, Bardizag, Tuma-Mezre

Genocide of the Villages Chmshgadzak, Harasar, Bardizag, Tuma-Mezre

During the campaign to deport the Armenians, first and foremost, all the adult men were called upon to take arms. Many Armenians that wanted to improve their financial situation, agreed. The majority of Turkish men avoided the military service. Then in spring, 1915 the gendarmerie was allocated in the village. Everyone was told that it was necessary to ensure the friendly atmosphere in the villages after the resettlement of Armenians with the Turkish inhabitants. But one day two gendarmes came to the village and started to search the houses of Armenians together with the indigenous inhabitants. Taking three guns and nine scatterguns, they left the village.  

Apprehending the impending danger, Armenians negotiated with the Kurds. They asked for help, specifically to resettle the entire Armenian population to the province of Dersim in return of 1000 golden coins.  However, the news quickly became known to the Turkish soldiers who offered the Kurds 1500 golden coins to keep them away from such deeds. Meanwhile the soldiers imposed a ban on leaving the village by the Armenians without a special permit.  

Armenians decided to run into the mountains and held a secret meeting for this, but they could not reach an agreement. Two standpoints were heard at the meeting: the first one was to organize self defense and the second one was to rely on the defense promised by the Turkish inhabitants of the village.

On June 14, 1915 on the proposition of gendarmerie a group of Armenians set off for the village Tuma-Mezre and asked for from the Turkish ruler Selim Bey. He was the head of the Ottoman parliament and the villages Tuma-Mezre and Bardizag. However it turned out to be a trap. As the same day another group of Armenians from Bardizag came with the same request and waited for the mister for a long time. Not only the Armenians could not meet with Bey, but also soon they were arrested and tied up. Then they were taken to the river Karasu on east of Turkey and were thrown to the river together. During the mass murders piercing shrieks were heard throughout the village.

On June 15 several Turks came to the village and together with the gendarms took the census of all the Armenians living there. Moreover, they were tracking at every turn of the Armenian population and also ensured that no one left the borders of the village. The village was taken under strict control. 

In the absence of men the Kurds started to plunder the village. And the Turkish inhabitants took valuable objects from the houses of Armenians. It lasted a week.  Then the soldiers gathered the Armenians from three villages and sent them to another village through the river Murat and there they declared that the government had granted a pardon to everyone and was letting them go. People returned and continued to work diligently making stock of products.

However these actions were also part of Selim Bey's strategy. The majority of exiles became the slaves of their lands.  He needed to return the people to the village to execute his plans.

After each family had its food and belongings taken away, everyone, mostly women and children were collected and closed up in the house of Avedis Torosyan. After the registration, the detainees were lined up and were taken to the river Euphrates under the supervision of gendarmerie.  Moreover along with the gendarms the convoy was controlled by the Turkish inhabitants.  Mustafa and Abdullah were following at the back of the queue and at the front was the son of Mr. Selim Adil who was appointed as the general commander. 

Halfway through the caravan was robbed by the rascals: they took women, also costly ornaments and military trophies. Some people tried to escape by jumping into the water. Anna Babikyan, who told this story, survived this way and came to no harm by sheer luck. She managed to cross the river by swimming, hid in the village and then found shelter in Dersim.

The village of Harasar shared the same disastrous fate as the village Bardizag. Khoren Grigoryan who was 9–10 years old during the genocide years later recalling what happened he wrote the following: "One day when we were playing on the bank of the river Euphrates, the river brought a corpse of a man to the bank.  We immediately realized that he was an Armenian. We ran away and told about it in the village. The village elders tried to find out what had happened but they could not understand anything. Some people predicted similar things back in 1895–1896, others were saying that this crime did not seem to be a robbery, and there were people offering to turn to the Kurds for help and go to the mountains. Day after day the river brought new bodies but no matter the odds the inhabitants of the village did not want and were afraid to think that a mass slaughter had actually occurred."

One day early in the morning they started to blockade the village. The youth instantly ran through the gardens and hid in the caves of the banks of Euphrates. Mostly old people, women and children remained in the village.  The gendarmes entered every house under the pretence of searching for weapons turned upside down everything in the house robbing them along the way. After that they took away all the old and young men that they found in the houses. The fugitives found shelter with the Kurds and returned to the village once a week to stock up on bread. The rest of the population remained in their places until the end of the massacre.

After the harvest all the children and women were gathered and taken away. Khoren Grigoryan recalled details: "Several women holding their babies threw themselves to the river not to torture either themselves or their children. My mother took me to Ehmeli Hido's house. It was safe for us there. One day I went to the brook with his family, as there was no water in his house. After lunch a Kurd approached us and after he said something to the women they started to collect things quickly. Five minutes later I saw Turkish soldiers pushing women into the water from 150m height. I lost my mind. I also saw people being shot at.  After these horrendous scenes I managed to run back to Ehmeli. My mother, my cousin and his son were at home.

After dark four more women came to Hido's house.  After they were all thrown into the river, some of them managed to swim out of the water and hid behind the rock.  One girl was wounded but the bullet brushed against her neck and did not pass though the neck.  New clothes were given to women, and the girl's wound was dressed up in Hido's house."

Later on it became known that the fugitives from Bardizag have descended from the mountains and were living in the caves by the Euphrates for several months. Here we can quote lines from the letter of Haykanush Nazaryan "Before the Turkish gendarmes took away all the women I ran to my sister and then to Damascus with several women. The end point for me was the city of Bozan in Iraq. My four-old-month daughter was in my hands the whole time.  After some some more people came to Bozan. From them I learnt that my husband was killed. But later on I found out that it was false information. The Turkish soldiers killed the priest who was with my husband and he was left alive, the soldiers took his weapon and gold.  When I learnt it I decided to return to Bardizag. 

On the way the Turks noticed us but the danger has passed. Then we noticed Turkish gendarmes passing by on horses. We had to hide in the water. Finally we reached the fields of Bardizag. There we cut the ears of wheat and filled our bellies with its grains. As it was not safe in the village we went to Ehmeli's house.  I asked about my husband, I was told that he was currently hiding in a cave. That very night I found my husband.

After a while when my child was constantly crying, my husband offered to leave him by the water not to endanger other fugitives. But I was against it.  Without listening to me he lowered the child to the water. But the boy resisted, hanging on the arm of his father. His father was deeply moved and could not carry out his dreadful plan.  From there we went towards Bozan. My husband's feet became numb and he could not walk.  But somehow we reached to the destination.

Back then there were many Armenian refugees in Bozan.  Everyone was hungry and unhappy.  No one was provided with means of sustenance.  That is why we had to return to the cave again. At night we were supposed find way to the village unnoticed and get bread but it was not safe anymore to stay in the cave.  After a month and a half we had to return to the village as we were completely burned out."

In the village they became the slaves of Selim Bey.  In 1916 Haykanush's husband was killed in the field while sleeping.  Then they came to his mother with the following words: "Your son is sleeping in the field, go and wake him up." The mother and the wife became suspicious and found Andranik lying in blood. "His mother and I – continues Haykanush, – were sobbing loudly, hugging him, and then dug a hole with our own hands where we put Andranik's body, leveled the grave with the ground, put a stone and returned to the village. The next I took my child and went to the mountains and never came back to the village. My child died on the way from Erzincan."

Anna Chobanyan was among those whom the Turkish soldiers threw into the river. Having survived, she fearlessly shouted at the barbarians who had treated her that way. After it the woman died under the bullets. She was thrown to the river already dead.

Nazaryan Gohar, Kekheyan Anna and Atamyan Hajkanush committed suicide by drinking poison to not to fall into the hands of the Turks.

The survivor from Crimea Mateos Zakaryan was serving in Tuma-Mezre with Gyul Agha. In 1916 he fled to Dersim. From there he set off for Caucasus, Russia. Then he married Vartanush Aleksanyan. In 1923 he died from the bite of a mad dog. His wife and two daughters live in Yerevan.

Another Armenian Harutyun Cholakyan fled with his friends. And his wife and children remained in Ehmeli Hido's house. After a while Harutyun returned to take his children. In the afternoon he had to hide in the haymow, but the gendarmes of the village caught him and took him to the town the next day. Harutyun was handed over to one of the new gendarmes and it was decided that he would take the captive out of the town and kill there. The next day they set off.  Haurtyun's hands were tied up behind his back. Halfway through he managed to loosen the knot. Arriving at the place of destination Harutyun was told that now he would be among other dead Armenians. But when one of the gendarmes was filling in his tobacco and the other bended down to drink water Harutyun suddenly freed his hands and threw brickbats at one of the gendarme's head. He ran at top speed but having escaped received several wounds that however did not prevent him from escaping. Harutyun together with his family left for Bozan and from there to the Caucasus. In 1936 Armenia became a republic of the Soviet Union.

The village of Tuma-Mezre was destroyed in the same way as Harasar and Bardizag. At first the gendarmes took away all the weapons. Mariam Ter-Karapetyan explained that Selim bey treated the people of her village the same way as the others: all the women and children were drowned except those who managed to escape. 

The Turks living in the village promised to protect the Armenians. But very few people abided their words.  Nevertheless owing to some of them 30 women and children were rescued. They were sent to Dersim. Some Armenians from Bardizag (Misak Zakiryan, Simon Cholakyan, Toros Hakobyan, Poghos Poghosyan, Khachik Grigoryan, his sons Grigor, Vahan and Mardiros, aslo Medzik Nazaryan, Ushpakly Gulesheryan and Avak Barseghyan) decided to ask for help from the Turkish politician and commander Diyab Agha. Giving him all the money Armenians ask him to send them to Dersim. Diyab's son agreed to escort the fugitives, but instead of taking them to the city, he reported the gendarmes about everything. On the way the fugitives were surrounded. Only Medzik Nazaryan survived, the others were killed on the spot. After he reached to Bozan, he told about what had happened. After that he set off for the Caucasus for a while then settled in Novorossiysk. Later on his son died in the First World War fighting for the Red Army. 

Translated from Turkish.

Sourse: Hovsep Hayreni, "Armenians of Upper Euphrates, 1915 and Dersim". Publication of documents.


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