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Nazaret Daghavarian: the Bright Life, Arrest and Murder of the Distinguished Representative of the Elite of Constantinople

Nazaret Daghavarian: the Bright Life, Arrest and Murder of the Distinguished Representative of the Elite of Constantinople

Cover photo: Garo Paylan holds a picture of Nazaret Daghavarian during his famous speech at the Turkish parliament, listing all Ottoman deputies of Armenian origin who were killed during the 1915 genocide / Civilnet.

Nazaret Daghavarian was an Ottoman Armenian doctor, agronomist and public activist, and one of the founders of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU). Throughout his life he served the Armenian people and was awarded prizes for important research in the field of medicine and agriculture. Like other elite representatives, he was killed on April 24, 1915.

Nazaret Daghavarian was born in December 25, 1862 in Sivas. At the age of seven he started attending the school St. Prkich. In 1878, after graduating the school he went to France. For a long time he worked there on vineyards. By 1881 he studied in Moers (Germany), then in Paris, at the secondary school of agriculture. In 1883, Nazaret graduated as an agronomist engineer and returned to Paris.

After staying in Istanbul for some time, he returned to his hometown and headed the Armenian school there. On Sundays he organized lectures in the conference hall of the school. Soon, he became the head of several schools in Istanbul.

When he was in Istanbul, his works were published in Armenian newspapers. In 1885 he headed an Armenian secondary school in Kadik. He created the first Armenian scientific journal in the field of health, botany, zoology. The magazine was published every month. In one of his articles, Daghavarian wrote the following: “Science is becoming increasingly common among the Armenian population. Armenian schools pay more and more attention to scientific topics, schoolchildren study them with pleasure and enthusiasm. Every day, the society witnesses a scientific miracle ... Despite the difficulties, I decided to publish a monthly magazine. I don’t have a goal to earn money by that, on the contrary, I’m ready to invest in this magazine. The publication will be fully devoted to science (...) ".

In 1887, he again went to Paris and entered the medical faculty of the University of Sorbonne, while the magazine continued to be published in Istanbul. In Paris, Daghavarian became seriously ill and returned to Sivas to recover his health. After his recovery, he continued his studies in Paris. In 1891, he graduated from the University of Sorbonne, in 1892 - received his doctorate at the Pasteur Institute, in 1893 - arrived in Istanbul.

In 1895, on the day of the Armenian alphabet in Vienna, Daghavarian’s research work was published. In 1896 he was imprisoned and under the general amnesty  was released in four months. In 1897, he began working as an assistant doctor in the French hospital while in 1899  became the head of that hospital, implementing modern methods in medicine and improving the management system. 

In 1898 he published a number of his scientific works, such as “State and Home secondary schools”, “Bacteriology”, “Formation of the Universe”. In 1899 the study “Anatomy of the genital organs” was published.

In 1900 he was arrested again, but thanks to the interference of the French embassy, he was released. In 1901 the works “French-Armenian Dictionary of Medical Terms”, “Dictionary of Diseases from French to Armenian”, “Darwinism” were published. For these publications as well as for his medical mission, Daghavarian was awarded by the French government.

Once, when he was lecturing for the medical students, the police decided that the lectures were political propaganda and forbade Daghavarian to visit the hospital. Because of the persecution, he decided to leave for abroad. In addition, he was under surveillance all the time. He spent four months in French hospital as a patient and had no opportunity to leave the hospital. At last, he managed to leave for Marseille.

At the end of 1905, Daghavarian left for Cairo, where he continued his studies and teaching. On April 15, 1906 he met with Armenian philanthropists under the leadership of AGBU President Poghos Nubar Pasha and began to work as secretary of this charity union. In 1910, Daghavarian opened the branch of the organization in Istanbul, then in Edirne, in Thessaloniki, Adapazari, Samsun, Izmit, and in October 1911 - in Sivas - in the city where he was born. Nazaret Daghavarian was also the leader of the Armenian Democratic Party established in Egypt.

In July 1908, a new constitution was adopted in Turkey. After its adoption, like other representatives of the Ottoman intelligentsia, Daghavarian had to return to Istanbul with his family. Then, after his election as a delegate in the Caucasus, Daghavarian left for a short time for the Caucasus and wrote an essay on this subject called “The Armenian patriotism”.

Deputy of the Ottoman parliament

Returning from the Caucasus in 1908, he was elected as a deputy in his hometown of Sivas. A significant part of the deputies either did not speak Turkish at all, or knew it bad and because of that, the Armenian deputy corps worked passively. However, Nazaret was one of the few in the corps who knew Turkish. In his autobiography, he wrote: “In the Ottoman parliament, I was an ardent nationalist. Especially when it came to protecting the rights of Armenian citizens and the land issue.”

Nazaret Daghavarian thought that every people living in the Ottoman Empire should have equal rights and opportunities. He believed that everyone should live together and equally. On June 16, 1909, he expressed his thoughts on taxes and military service for non-Muslims: “Until now, Turkey has been divided into two parts: some nationalities consider themselves Muslims, some are non-Muslims. From the day we swore on the law, this country is no longer Turkey, it is the Ottoman Empire. From now on, this country is for all nations, including Turks, Arabs and non-Muslims. And that means equality. ”

In his speech in 1911 in the Ottoman Parliament, he noted that the Ottoman industry could not compete with European industries, because the state didn’t support them in the form of tax benefits, and those enterprises were doomed to extinction. “Gentlemen, you must support us in competition with foreign enterprises. It is so obvious and clear that it does not require any objections, we must protect our citizens. Instead, the country supports Turkish nationalism and Islam. They talked a lot about the fact that industry does not develop in the country. Well, let it develop, but, let's say, an Ottoman factory opened, and a French factory opened nearby. A foreign factory is not taxed, while our industrialists are crushed by taxes and cannot compete with foreign industrialists. ”

Nazaret Daghavarian, in particular, opposed the party “Unity and Progress” and uniting with other Armenian politicians, on November 21, 1911 created the second largest party “Freedom and reconciliation”. He took on the role of party leader, whose goal was to unite groups against the main pro-government party, “Unity and Progress”.

In 1909,  Nazaret Daghavarian published several studies on professional and social topics. In particular: “Ancient religions of Armenians”, “The development of agriculture, forestry industry and mines”, “About our combines” (in Turkish).

In 1910, Nazaret Daghavarian was awarded the Order of Agricultural Merit - the departmental award of France. In 1912-1915 he worked in the Union of Writers of Izmir. In 1913 he was appointed inspector general in the Istanbul municipality. During his work there, he made efforts to improve the public life of the Armenian community.

Speaking at the Armenian National Assembly, Nazaret Daghavarian said: “One policy is not enough for the development of Armenian society, the education of the population is much more important”.  He made several proposals on that issue - he proposed to create a special department for education and allocate the necessary funds for that purpose.

However, after the adoption of the Constitution in 1908, the hopes of the Armenians that the situation would change for the better, faded and were replaced by despair.

In 1912, the Armenian intelligentsia was discussing  the creation of  a Power Union for the implementation of social reforms with the support of European states. For this purpose, delegations from the Armenian political party were created.

In an attempt to stop these changes, the Ottoman government, on one hand, tried to independently make some legal changes, on the other hand, invited influential representatives of the Armenian community to discuss reforms together. One of those invited to the meeting on December 21, 1912 was Nazaret Daghavarian. The reaction of the Armenian community to this meeting outside the authorized council of the National Assembly of Armenia was acute. However, representatives of the Armenian intelligentsia and Nazaret Daghavarian, who were present at the meeting, stated that they did not do anything contrary to the principles of the nation and that they wanted to appeal to the Armenian nation.

In addition to his speeches, Dr. Nazaret Daghavarian continued to publish his scientific works and share it with the scientific world. In 1912 his work “Teaching in Primary Schools” was published, in 1913 “The General History of Armenia from Alexander the Great”, in 1914 - “The Birth of Christian Protest”, “Our Health”.

In 1914, when the First World War began, and the Ottoman Empire was not yet involved in hostilities, Armenian doctors held a number of conferences to share experience and knowledge that could help in the upcoming war. At the initiative of the Armenian Medical Association in Istanbul, nursing courses were organized, where Nazaret Daghavarian was one of the doctors-teachers.

The arrest and murder

On April 24, 1916, Nazaret Daghavarian was among the first arrested Armenian intellectuals. At first, everyone thought that the arrests were against the leader of the Armenian political party Dashnaktsutyun. However, Daghavarian had nothing to do with that party, which means that the arrests on Taksim Square in Istanbul had other motives.

All those arrested were brought on one train to Sindjanköy station in Ankara, and then divided into two groups, depending on the significance of the arrested person. Nazaret Daghavarian was in a group, which was then taken to Ayash prison in Istanbul. The Armenian village of Stanoz (Սթանոզ) was located close to the Sindjanköy station. Residents of the Armenian village saw that the arrested were sorted and accompanied by Karen Avakian. After a while, the latter sent a message to the family of Nazaret Daghavarian about his arrest

Daghavarian spent several months in prison barracks, in very bad conditions. Then an order came from Istanbul that he should be sent from a prison in Istanbul to another place. The telegram was dated June 2, 1915 with the signature of Talat Pasha (Minister of the Interior of the Ottoman Empire,), which contained an order that Dr. Nazaret Daghavarian, Khachatur Malamyan, Ruben Zardaryan, Sargis Minasyan, Garegin Khajhak, Harutyun Jangulyan should go to Diyarbakır  (a city in eastern Turkey) and appear before the military court.

Why these six names were chosen, it is not possible to find out today. However, one can assume: Khachatur Malumyan, Ruben Zardaryan, Sargis Minasyan and Garegin Khajhak were active participants in the Armenian revolutionary movement. Nazaret Daghavarian belonged neither to nationalist nor separatist parties, but rather favored the coexistence of all peoples in the Ottoman Empire. In this regard, it is impossible to give an objective assessment of why the arrested were taken away together.

The general list of the prisoners, made for the Istanbul police, contained the reason for the arrest. It was said that Nazaret Daghavarian was related to the revolutionary party and from young years opposed the regime of Sultan Abdul Hamid. It was also said that the reason for the arrest was his activities in the “Freedom and Consent party”, which opposed the “Unity and Progress” government party. As a result, it can be stated that the road from the prison in Istanbul was for these six prisoners the road to death. They were recognized extremely dangerous by the Ottoman government and should have been killed first.

Thanks to his outstanding achievements, Nazaret Daghavarian was awarded medals of honor from Sultan Abdul Hamid, and his scientific research in the field of agriculture and medicine was highly appreciated in  Ottoman society.And so, the one who made an impressive contribution as a deputy of the Ottoman Empire, was eventually sent to Diyarbakir for a death sentence. On the way to Diyarbakir there was one stop - in Adana. In June 1915, an eyewitness Archbishop Qerovbe Papazyan wrote that a group of six people was accompanied by gendarmes. For several days they lived in one of the government buildings of Adana.

In his memoirs, the Archbishop indicated that the governor of Adana met with Nazaret Daghavarian. Nazareth asked for his help. The governor of Adana, Ismail Hakki, allowed him and his five firends to come to the service in the local cathedral. Qerovbe Papazyan noted that during the prayer Daghavarian looked calm and looked like a strong man. He accepted his fate.

Then they continued the road by train to Osmaniye. They were transported to Islakhi by car, as the railway tracks in that city had not yet been built. From Urfa to Diyarbakır, they also needed to go by car. On the road, they had to cross the area, which was under the control of the gang. There they were attacked. The gendarmes responsible for the security of the prisoners silently watched that attack: the fact is that the gangsters were associated with the governor of Diyarbakir, Rashid Bey and, accordingly, the Ottoman government. The gangsters killed all those arrested, including the 53-year-old Nazaret Daghavarian, after which they left the crime scene.

Author: Nesim Ovadya İzrail.

Sourse: Hristiyan Protestanlığının ve Kızılbaş İnancının Doğuşu.

Translated by Manan Ajamyan.


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