#7: Armenian dissidents, Turkish riots (1893-1895)

To return to the thread of this narrative. Toward the end of the summer of 1893 I was summoned to Samsoun to meet Miss Gage and Miss King, new recruits for our Girls' School. On the road up from the coast we heard rumors of "war" in Marsovan. I was very anxious for my wife and babies in the home nest. It proved that Bekir Pasha had received word one nightfall of the whereabouts of the revolutionary outlaw band. He threw a heavy cordon of soldiers around that section of the city, kindly waited till morning and then ordered the attack. Several insurrectionists were killed, others captured and imprisoned, and the band was broken up.

Armenians of more substantial character and reliable judgement were relieved to have the hidden band of outlaws broken up. They disliked assassination in the streets of the city. They disliked paying levies of money to irresponsible parties. They distrusted the leadership of nihilists and atheists. They resented dictation from a remote clique of agitators living comfortably in Paris or Athens, provoking terribly dangerous hostility from the Turks but keeping themselves out of harm's way. The more level headed Armenians realized that the Turks controlled the government, the post and telegraph, the army and all military supplies; they represented preponderating numbers among the congeries of nationalities in the country. The Armenians hoped for justice and for the promised help from the concert of Europe if they were only patient, and yet patient, and still patient.


No one who was in the College in 1895 could ever forget the thrills of restrained excitement with which announcement in October was received from Turkish and American officials that His Majesty had granted the Reforms demanded in the Six Eastern "Villayets" of Asia Minor, Erzroum, Van, Bitlis, Trebizond, Harpout and Sivas. We in Marsovan were located in the province of Sivas,--and November 15 was a Black Friday. The city officials suspended animation from the noon call to prayer till about 4 o'clock. Meantime, about 70 Armenians were killed and all the Armenian shops were picked clean of their contents by the mob. Shots were fired into our premises, but no blood was shed within our walls. Teachers and students crowded into our American houses for protection. And ours was but one experience in a wave that rolled across Asia Minor and cost the lives of about 70,000 Armenian people. We must draw a veil of tenderness over those events and turn our eyes away.

NEXT: After the storm (1896)