Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNuméros10DocumentsTwo Documents on the 1895 Massacr...


Two Documents on the 1895 Massacres of Syriacs in the Province of Diyarbekir: A Discussion

Deux documents sur les massacres des Syriaques de la province de Diyarbekir en 1895
David Gaunt
p. 187-201


Les massacres de 1895-1896 ont principalement frappé les Arméniens de l’Empire ottoman, mais les violences et les pillages touchèrent aussi les Assyriens de diverses confessions. Cet article s’appuie sur deux documents encore méconnus qui éclairent le sort des Syriaques de la province de Diyarbekir à cette époque. Le premier est le récit d’un prêtre syro-catholique demeurant à Mardin, Makdisi Habib Jarwe, qui trouva la mort en 1915. Le second document est le carnet de notes rédigées par le missionnaire américain Alpheus Andrus, lui aussi établi à Mardin. Les localités passées en revue sont celles où les missionnaires américains apportaient une aide aux populations syriaques, comme les villes de Mardin et de Siirt, ainsi que la région de Beshiri.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

  • 1 Until recently the Syriac Orthodox Church was named the Syrian Orthodox Church. The ethnic term Syr (...)
  • 2 Presidential Ottoman Archives, Istanbul: BOA.Y.PRK. AZN (Yildiz Palace: Office of Issues of Justice (...)

1In December 1895 the Patriarch, and other leading figures of Diyarbekir’s Syriac Orthodox Church,1 sent a letter of gratitude to Sultan Abdülhamid II for having protected the Syriacs during the recent massacres. This letter, remarkable for the necessary but typical – for the time and place – demonstration of subservience to the Ottoman state,2 began by praising the Sultan for the protection he had provided, as well as the “humanism of the people of Islam.” Ignoring well-known atrocities, the signatories claimed that their “dear neighbours,” the Muslims, protected them from “all kinds of attacks and hostilities.” They wrote, surprisingly, that they were unaware of any massacre in the province of Diyarbekir, although these massacres had also targetted members of the Syriac Orthodox Church, who they insisted were “loyal subjects of the Ottoman state.” They blamed any such events on the influence of “Armenian disturbers of the peace” who had attempted to entice the Syriacs into joining their revolt. That the Syriac Orthodox Church leaders would have been unaware of the massacres and plundering of Syriacs in Diyarbekir and its surrounding villages is highly unlikely as these horrors had also spread into the countryside close to the See of the Patriarchy in the Zafaran Monastery – the See of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate – just outside Mardin. Blaming the Armenians for inciting and provoking the massacres agreed with the line adopted by the Sultan’s government. Here, as on many other occasions, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate deployed its time-proven tactic of turning the other cheek and swearing loyalty to whoever was in power in order to ensure the survival of its congregation.

  • 3 BOA.A.MKT.MHM (Grand Vizirate: Office of Correspondence for Urgent Affairs), p. 637-3, p 3.
  • 4 H. Jarwe, 1919, p. 42-66.
  • 5 See e.g. the letters and reports of the British couple Rendel and Helen Harris, who travelled throu (...)

2While there are reasons to think that the signing of this letter had been on the demand of the provincial authorities – it was included in the provincial government’s police report on the Armenian massacres soon after, as part of a combined cover-up and smear-campaign placing the blame on the Armenians3 – there is some evidence supporting the truth of the claim that Syriac Orthodox Christians had been, in some places, protected by the Ottoman authorities and the soldiers under their command. Such events had occured at Zafaran Monastery and in the village of Mansuriye, both of which were defended by Ottoman soldiers against Kurdish tribesmen in 1895. However, such protection usually arrived well after riots and the killings had already begun.4 Moreover, other sources indicate that this protection was territorially limited to the sanjak (sub-district) of Mardin. In the Vilayet of Diyaberkir attacks on towns and villages had resulted in few murders, but a great number of villages had been plundered and then burned, crops destroyed, leaving the population homeless and destitute, hence creating a humanitarian crisis. In contrast, other sources indicate that mass-killings of Syriacs had taken place in villages north of the Tigris River and in a region east of the town of Nusaybin.5

  • 6 I. Audo, 2015, p. 60. Many manuscripts of Audo’s book circulated, the earliest is from 1952.

3During the World War I genocide of the Armenians the Christian Syriacs were equally targetted for destruction alongside the Armenians: a somewhat similar fate had affected them during the Hamidian massacres of 1895-1896. Yet the massacres of the Syriacs had not been as systematic, and perhaps, not even the policy of the Ottoman authorities. Israel Audo, the Chaldean bishop in Mardin, wrote about 1895 in a such a way that can be informative as to how the Syriacs came to remember the massacres. Ignoring Syriac losses, according to him the massacres were thought to be a punishment only of the Armenians for the activities of their revolutionaries. Repeating what might have been a popular myth, he states that it was Tsar Nicolas II who suggested this punishment to Sultan Abdulhamid II, where only Armenians were to be victimized. Hence: “They attacked the Armenians with tremendous power and killed and robbed them and confiscated their homes and lands. But the murdering and stealing only lasted a few days, because this was a punishment and not an annihilation.”6 While there is no evidence that the Russian Tsar gave this advice, Audo’s claim shows that the Syriacs agreed with the official policy of blaming the massacres on the Armenians themselves.

  • 7 See e.g. the correspondence of the French vice-consul in Diyarbekir, Gustave Meyrier, in G. Meyrier (...)
  • 8 I. Armale, 1919, p. 42-66. Jarwe’s report was printed in Arabic by Armale without saying if it was (...)

4As far as known, there has hitherto been no study that specifically focuses on the experience of the Syriacs during the Hamidian massacres, despite the availability of several sources. In addition, several sources and studies on the Armenians mention, in passing, what happened to their Syriac neighbours.7 This article discusses two important contemporary sources. The first, in Arabic is a text by Habib Jarwe, a Syriac Catholic priest from Mardin murdered in the 1915 genocide. The Syriac Catholic priest, secretary to the archbishop in Mardin, Ishaq Armale, had found this document among Jarwe’s papers and published it alongside his own narrative of the 1915 genocide.8 Armale noted that he had edited Jarwe’s annotations before publishing the text, but does not indicate whether anything had been removed during the editing process. As the intention of his publication had been to show the great extent of persecution it seems unlikely that any massacre would have gone unmentioned. Since Jarwe’s narrative appears to have been collected soon after the events there is a risk that it might contain some inaccuracies concerning the information provided. Thus the reader should treat his chronology, number of victims and size of the attacking tribes with some caution.

  • 9 American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions Archive (ABCFM 76, 2:2), Houghton Library, Har (...)

5The second significant source presented in this article is that by Alpheus N. Andrus, an American protestant missionary, based in Mardin, and active in the primarily Syriac villages and towns scattered throughout the surrounding sanjak for a considerable period. The bulk of his activities (of a religious, medical and educational nature) concerned local Protestant communites, all Syriac, Armenian or Chaldean converts. Immediately after the Hamidiye massacres he was in charge of the distribution of humanitarian relief aid (among others from the Duke of Westminster’s Fund) to the destitute Christians (of all denominations) of the region. In this capacity, he had received all sorts of reports, descriptions of events, appraisals of local damage and requests for aid, which he then entered into a special notebook. This notebook is held at the Houghton Library of Harvard College, among his papers. It contains lists by locality of damages incurred, numbers of murdered victims, of the level of need for financial support. Due to the geographical limits of the massacres, the material deals mostly with villages located to the east of Diyarbekir and along the Tigris River. This material is very complex since it involves many villages, which, because of their complete destruction or the changes of their official name during the Turkish Republic, can sometimes be very difficult to locate today. As far as known, this source has never been used before.9

The Report of Habib Jarwe

6Jarwe’s report provides details of seventeen towns and villlages where attacks occured or were repulsed. It also briefly mentions, by name only, several additional villages where attacks on Syriacs were known to have taken place. Most of the places mentioned were situated in the province of Diyarbekir, particularly in the sub-province of Mardin. Jarwe’s descriptions are relatively detailed of events in Diyarbekir and Mardin, alongside shorter summaries of occurrences in several other locations. As a Catholic priest, he provides precise dates of several attacks according to the modern Gregorian calendar. Jarwe also supplies information about the denominational composition of the various Christian communities and approximate size of the population. Furthermore, he transcribes verbatim documents that of which he appears to have access.

7Jarwe begins his Report with the riots in the city of Diyarbekir which had began on November 1, 1895, and continued for just three days when they suddenly ceased. He places responsibility for organizing the violence on leading local Muslim figures such as Cemil Pasha (the former governor of Yemen) and his son Behrem Pasha, Abdulkadir Pasha, Bekir Efendi Muharramzade, Süleyman Nazif Bey, Arif Baranj (Pirinççizade) Ibrahim Efendi, Hajji Mas’ud, etc. Some of these men were active in the local Young Turk political club. According to Jarwe’s narrative, these men, alongside others, had sent letters to the neighboring Kurdish tribes encouraging them to kill and plunder, and had promised to give them the necessary weapons if they assembled at midday in front of the Veli mosque. Once there they were to shout “Muhammed Salavat” and on that signal the people inside the mosque would come out and join them in order to humiliate and murder the Christians in their homes and shops. Shots were fired at the agreed-upon time and the mob rushed out, claiming that Armenians had fired at them. In revenge, the mob plundered shops in the market and killed those inside. Towards sunset petroleum was poured out and the shops set on fire: “All of Diyarbekir became a giant oven.” In fear many Christians fled to the Capuchin church and to the building of the French consul. Four thousand people sought refuge in the Capuchin church. They stayed there for three days, fed by a prominent Armenian Catholic named Jabur Kazazyan. Upon seeing the unravelling destruction, Gustave Meyrier, the French vice-consul, had raised a flag signal of distress, in response to which the governor sent a detachment of twenty soldiers to protect the consulate. After that the governor and the Syriac Orthodox archbishop Abdallah wandered with a contingent of soldiers through the streets punishing huligans and taking away plundered loot. Armenian appeals to the governor to arrest the mob leaders resulted to nothing. Instead, the leading representatives of the Orthodox Armenians were put in jail, where they remained until January 20, 1896.

8While the riots and massacres ceased after three days, according to Jarwe, the Christians of Diyarbekir continued to live in fear of a renewal of the riots up to December 18, 1895, when three state inspectors arrived from Istanbul. They were Sami Bey, Abdalla Pasha (who was the Sultan’s aide-de-camp), and General Yusuf Rushdi. They presented a document to an assembly of Christian leaders, stating they had been sent by the Sultan to investigate the “disturbances” which had taken place as a result of the “uprising of the Armenians.” The document also purported to know that the events had been instigated through the “intrigues of certain foreign powers, primarily England” that had spread “despicable ideas” in the hearts of the Armenians. In addition Sami Bey had noted that the investigators had cautioned the Muslim leaders from continued anti-Christian hatred. In the eyes of the State, they were told, the Christians and the Muslims made up a single community and that all forms of aggression and disrespect towards them must be desisted in order that Muslims and Christians, from that time onwards, could return to their previous harmony and peace. However, Jarwe points out that the imprisoned Armenian notables were not released from prison. In the following months, two further investigative commissions came to Diyarbekir. One of the investigators in the third commission was a Christian named Agop Pasha, who was attacked by a mob and killed on February 13, 1896. As a consequence of the riots, Jarwe notes, three hundred Christian families sold their properties and emigrated.

9Jarwe continues his report with several short summaries, which have been listed below (once again the numbers provided must be used with caution):

  • 10 This dating is odd. October 1, 1895 is not Friday but Tuesday. With all probability the correct dat (...)

10• The village of Sadiye lies two hours by foot east of Diyarbakir. It had a mixed Armenian and Syriac population of three hundred. According to Jarwe, it was assaulted by a Kurdish mob on Friday October 1, 1895 (this date is wrong).10 They killed men and boys and captured women and children, as well as plundering shops and homes. The Christians fled into a church while “Kurds and soldiers” poured petrol from the roof and burned all inside. “Of the Christians only three men survived because they were underneath the corpses of the dead.”
• Miyafarkin (now renamed Silvan) is an ancient town, located north-east of Diyarbekir, with a population numbering to one thousand, composed of Armenians, Syriacs and Protestants. On the “above mentioned Friday” the local Kurds attacked these Christians, killed them, plundered their property and captured their women. Only twelve men and three women survived. Seven hundred persons hid in a church and were burnt to death.
• Karabash is a large village located two hours east of Diyarbekir. All its inhabitants belonged to the Syriac Orthodox Church. On the “above mentioned Friday” the village was invaded by a Kurdish mob that plundered, killed, stole and humiliated. The rioting continued for two days and included, according to Jarwe, hair-raising incidents of torture, rape, mutilation of sexual organs, and slaughter.
• Katrabel was a village along the Tigris River, just outside, and in sight of, Diyarbekir’s city walls. It had a mixed population of three hundred Christian families – Syriacs, Armenians and Protestants. When it was assaulted by Kurds, the Christians fled into a church which was then burned down. Jarwe claims that soldiers helped the rioters and shot at Christians attempting to flee. One young Syriac managed to swim over the river to inform the Patriarch who saw to it that a detachment of soldiers was sent to protect survivors.

11According to Jarwe similar violence occured in other villages and districts close to Diyarbekir. Giving no further details he simply names: Ka’biye, Charokhiye, Khan-Akbur, Arzu-Ghali, Kozan, Holan, Kadiye, ’Ansha, Sattiye, Safiye, Batrikiye, Kara-Kilise, Karte, Kankarat, Bisheri (a large district around the town of Batman), Lice and Gharzan (a district in Bitlis province). He adds the village of Ali-Bakir where the local Chaldeans and Armenians were lured into a trap and killed. In the town of Severek the Christian population was attacked by Kurds led by Osman Pasha, on the rampage for two days. “Only four families survived. The number of murders was more than four thousand.”

12• Edessa/Urhoy (modern name Şanliurfa) lies far to the west of Diyarbekir. A mob attacked the house of a leading Armenian, who Jarwe names as Saghatiyel. Many Christians had gathered there and had gone up on the roof. The mob was able to enter the house and began to kill, plunder and pillage before rushing to attack a large Armenian church. According to Jarwe, on hearing the news, the authorities sent soldiers to assist the rioters. When the, previously announced, day for the massacre arrived the Armenians sought refuge by assembling in their large church, the house of the bishop and in a school complex. The Muslim aggressors attacked “as wild animals.” Jarwe claims “blood flowed in streams, covered the church and ran between the walls.” The church was then set on fire. When the Syriac Catholics heard of this their leaders appealed to the district governor who sent an official escorted by a few soldiers. The Syriacs assembled in their church and built barricades, and thus were saved.
• Tel-Arman (today Kiziltepe) lies southwest of Mardin. As the name indicates almost all of the inhabitants were Armenians (predominantly Catholics) with only a few Syriac Catholics. On November 6, 1895 the leader of the Hamidiye regiment of the Kurdish Kikiya tribe, Reshid arrived with his followers. He demanded the inhabitants pay the sum of 90 Turkish pounds for protection. They paid, but then he increased his demand to 400 pounds and kept demanding more and more. Once paid, he and his followers attacked the market-shops and houses, plundering and pillaging. As in the other cases, the Christians fled to their church. Reshid then gave a solemn promise that he would not harm the Armenians, but once they left the church they were cut down with many murdered. The Armenians sent a messenger to the district governor of Mardin begging for help. However, the men sent to provide protection remained bystanders as the tribesmen “plundered, stole and raped.”
• Goliye (also known as Kesor) was two hours by foot south of Mardin. It had three hundred households of Syriac Orthodox Christians. When the inhabitants saw what was happening in nearby Tell-Armen they sent a delegation to Mardin to ask the district governor for protection. He sent away one hundred soldiers as well as some officials. When they arrived they found the inhabitants assembled in the church. They demanded that the Syriacs turn over their weapons and guaranteed them protection. But Kurdish tribesmen managed to enter the village and killed 50 persons and captured women and children.
The houses were set on fire.
• Benebil was situated two hours by foot east of Mardin. The 150 households were Syriac Orthodox and Protestant. A Kurdish mob attacked on November 9, 1895. Authorities had sent two officials and more than one hundred soldiers to protect the village. But these merely stood by as the Kurds destroyed the village and killed Christians “as they usually did,” stated Jarwe.
• The village of Qal’at Mara and the Zafaran Monastery, the seat of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch, are located near the town of Mardin. When the Christian inhabitants heard what was happening in neighboring villages, they fled inside the Zafaran monastery, which was nearby. They prepared for siege by making primitive bullets out of the type for the monastery’s printing press. A siege went on for five days during which three men were killed. Kurdish tribemen continued to fire at the monastery for thirty days. After that, the governor of Diyarbekir sent troops and cavalry. The Kurdish besiegers refused to retreat and the Ottoman troops fired at them killing about 80 of them. The military demanded that the monastery gates be opened, but as it was opened tribesmen rushed in and a battle raged for the whole day.
• Mansuriye was surrounded by four thousand Kurds on November 10, 1895. The soldiers stationed at Qal’at Mara saw this and shot with canons. The agressors returned home.
• The Christian quarter of the town of Nusaybin came under attack for half a day on November 10, 1895. Rioters plundered the houses and shops. The Arab Tayy tribe came to the rescue of the Christians and the frustrated rioters went on to plunder neighboring villages and, according to Jarwe, burning “fourteen villages,” none of which he mentioned by name.
• Kellet was atacked on November 14. But here the Muslim leaders did not agree to plundering and the mob proceeded towards the town of Midyat, where they were also repulsed by Ottoman soldiers.
• Viranshehir was a town with 3,000 Christians. It was attacked by Kurdish tribesmen on November 3, 1895. They plundered the market and stole Christian property, but Jarwe does not report any loss of life. The local potentate Ibrahim Pasha, chief of the Milli tribal confederation,
purported to protect the Christians, but at the same time benefitted from the plundering.
• On November 10 the town of Derike was attacked by Kurds. But according to Jarwe they were halted by Usban Resho Agha who commanded 150 soldiers and his own body-guards.

13The Christian inhabitants of the town of Mardin first heard of the massacres in Diyarbekir on November 5, 1895. In fear they assembled in their churches. There were 150 families hiding in the Capuchin cloister and 80 in the Syriac Catholic church. The Christians’ fear increased once they saw the burning of Tell-Armen and Goliye. Some tribal leaders plotted to attack them and on November 9 a large number of Kurds appeared to the west of the town. However, Mardin-based notables of the Miskeviye and Mandalkiye urban Muslim clans marched out with their men to stop the tribes and forced them to retreat. “If this had not happened, the Kurds would have invaded the town and plundered, beaten, killed and destroyed.” The authorities called on all loyal inhabitants to arm themselves against the Kurds. On November 11 the tribes reappeared but were confronted by combined Muslims and Christians, and on November 16 they tried again to enter through the town gates. They were repulsed every time. According to Jarwe, the Ottoman central authorities issued orders for the protection of churches, monasteries and all Christians. However when the Christians opened their shops on November 20, soldiers wandered about and stole anything that pleased them. They continued to steal with impunity until December 10 when “the government forbade them to steal and assault.” The government also ordered the Kurds to return property they had plundered. Still inside Mardin discussions went on among Muslim leaders about the perceived “shame” of living among so many Christians.

  • 11 A booklet discovered by the monk ’Abd al-Masih Qarabashi at the Zafaran monastery dealt with the 18 (...)

14Jarwe’s long report reveals no pattern of systematic massacre, except in the districts to the east of Diyarbekir and north of the Tigris River. There, many Christians of all denominations were burnt to death inside the churches they had sought safety in. To the south of the Tigris River, whether or not Christians were massacred depended on the position of local potentates, who could actually hinder planned attacks. Soldiers could either protect the Christians or participate in the plundering. The same Kurdish mobs went from one place to another, and if they were stopped, as they were for instance in Midyat, they would proceed to other towns or villages. All the carnage noted by Jarwe, took place in the month of November 1895. Any planned attacks on Syriacs, intended after November 9, were in most cases repulsed, often by the Ottoman military.11 Contemporary Syriac testimonies reveal how isolated they were from the political background to the Hamidian massacres. They offer no mention of the Great Power plan for Armenian reforms, or of the Armenian demonstrations in Istanbul. Nor do they show knowledge of the existence of the rising Young Turk movement, which had adherents among several of Diyarbekir’s ringleaders. Instead they point to the actions of prominent notable leaders such as Süleyman Nazif, Arif Pirinççizade, and Cemil Pasha who were to become important figures in the Young Turk party.

15Anti-Christian sentiment that had fed the violence persisted even after the killing was over. Jarwe cites one such voice: “We will still be religious enemies to these damned infidel Christian pigs. What do we have to lose if we kill them to the last man and take their property and wealth? It would be better and more useful for us.” Jarwe – as many others – knew that the letter, cited at the beginning of this article, expressing gratitude to the Sultan had been forced upon the Patriarch, and signed by religious leaders “out of fear.”

The Notebook of Alpheus Andrus

16The Notebook of Alpheus Andrus contains letters and reports relevant to it’s author’s task as coordinator of relief to destitute survivors and was composed shortly after the massacres, while the victims were still homeless and without necessary resources. He tries to be as accurate as possible in the counting of killings and damage to property in order that financial relief be distributed fairly. Many of the reports included were composed in March and April 1896 upon the beginning of relief work. These reports supply quantifiable as well as qualitative information and in some cases reveal details of massacres not mentioned in other sources, particularly about the town of Siirt in the Vilayet of Bitlis.

17Notation on the Hamidiye massacres begins with a list dated April 6, 1896, stating that the number of “Syrians and Protestants” needing emergency relief from March to August would be 25,000 but this figure did not include the more than 3,000 in Diyarbekir and vicinity as well as 8,000 in the vicinity of Silvan, 5,000 in Bishare, 3,000 in Radwan, 7,000 in Siirt and 2,000 in a tract called Sanjak. Most of these survivor families had been robbed during the massacres. According to official lists there were 725 Syriacs in Diyarbekir – 366 had not been robbed, while 359 had. In addition there were 417 Protestants (many of Syriac background) of whom 184 had not been robbed, whereas 233 had been.

  • 12 J. Jongerden and J. Verheij, 2012, p. 335-336; A. Andrus, p. 168.

18A list of damages for 66 villages in the rural districts (kaza) of Beshire (the easternmost part of Diyarbekir province) and Garzan (the westernmost part of Bitlis province), both of which are located east of Diyarbekir and north of the Tigris River, provided the following totals: 14 persons held captive, 10 women raped, 100 forced to convert, 96 persons murdered, 762 houses plundered and finally 667 houses both plundered and burned to the ground. This is the only known source for the human and material damage in these districts.12 The notebook also supplies figures for murders in Diyarbekir and its immediate vicinity that can be compared with those supplied by French vice-consul Meyrier in his report of December 18, 1895. Andrus’s statistics differ somewhat from those given by the French diplomat.

  • 13 Meyrier, 2000, p. 134-135. A. Andrus, p. 154.

19Meyrier states that 1,000 Gregorian Armenians had been massacred, while Andrus gave the slightly higher figure of 1,300; Meyrier’s total number of massacred Christians in Diyarbekir amounts to 1,191, and in Andrus’s case the total is higher at 1,399.13 As to 119 outlying farm villages, Meyrier states that 6,000 Christian families counting 30,000 persons were dead or had disappeared and that 50 women and girls were held captive.

  • 14 A. Andrus, p. 150.

20According to a letter sent to Andrus in the large town of Siirt, a group of soldiers had attacked the Chaldean church on November 10, but were stopped by another unit of soldiers. However, this did not stop the formation of a mob that then rioted in the Christian quarters. More than 55 persons were murdered among them one Syriac, four Chaldeans, one Protestant and the rest being Armenians.14 Andrus’s notebook supplies statistics for a few rural villages. For instance in Karabash out of a registered population of 247 a total of 37 (15 percent) had been murdered and a further single person died in the fire, 5 were seriously injured, and 219 had survived. In Kuturbel 98 (61 percent) out of a total population of 161 had been murdered, and 18 seriously injured. A table covering five villages located close to Diyarbekir divided the victims by religious denomination. In these villages 390 of the victims belonged to the Syriac Orthodox faith, while 322 were Protestants. These villages being almost entirely populated by Syriacs, only two Armenians were among the dead.

  • 15 Ibid, p. 166.

21Andrus and his co-workers needed to assess the volume of financial and other aid that the afflicted Christian families needed. In a letter of April 9, 1896 he estimated that 25,000 persons would need help during the period from March to August 1896. This included 3,000 in Diyarbekir, 8,000 in the district of Miyafarkin, 5,000 in the rural district of Beshire, 3,000 in the districts of Garzan and Radwan, 7,000 in the town and neighborhood of Siirt (in BItlis province); and 2,000 in a tract he named “Sancak and ’Alyaw” (probably east of Nusaybin).15 In a written statement from December 14, 1896 that is a year after the destruction, Andrus revealed that in the sanjak of Siirt there were still 10,000 Christians (he specified Chaldeans, Syrian Orthodox and Armenians) who needed relief aid out of a population of 15,600: that is 64 percent. In Mardin sanjak 6,000 Christians (here he does not specify religion) out of a total of 19,970 still were dependant on aid: that is 30 percent.

22As to the qualitative information, the plundering of Christian homes included usually the theft of doors and windows, roofing material was burned, all food supplies and seed needed for the next growing season, cows and sheep were stolen. Occasionally the perpetrators would then let their animals graze on growing crops. After the November pillaging additional people died because of winter “cold, fear and hunger.” In villages south east of Nusaybin a reported 40 small children had died of hunger and cold.

  • 16 Ibid., p. 140.

23From Miyafarkin/Silvan came hair-raising stories of sexually motivated violence committed on Christians aiming to hinder reproduction. In one case after they killed, took captives and plundered and raped wives in front of their men, they reportedly cut off the private parts of men and women, throwing them to dogs, mocking the victims with “multiply if you can. We intend to cut off your hope and posterity.” Some of the raped girls who had returned after they had been held captive complained: “No one will marry us. We have been humiliated. Those who wanted to marry us are afraid of our captors. All of the young men have been killed. Our fathers and mothers have been burned, killed or become refugees. What shall we do? Where shall we go? Who will protect us?”16

Haut de page


Andrus Alpheus N., “Notebook,” unpublished manuscript kept at the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions Archive, ABC 76, 2:2, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Armale Ishaq (published under the pseudonym “An Eyewitness”), Al-Qusara fi Nakabat an-Nasara, Beirut 1919, p. 42-66.

Audo Israel, Förföljelsen av de kristna armenierna och araméerna i Mardin, Diyarbekir, Siirt, Cizre och Nsibin år 1915, Swedish translation from Syriac language Rdufye da khrist’yone armnoye w oromoye by Assad Sauma, Stockholm: Arameiska kulturcentret, 2015.

Dinno Khalid S., The Syrian Orthodox Christians in the Late Ottoman Period and Beyond, Piscataway, New Jersey: Gorgias Press, 2017.

Gaunt David, Massacres, Resistance, Protectors, Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia during World War I, Piscataway, New Jersey: Gorgias Press, 2006.

Harris J. Rendel and Harris Helen B., Letters from the Scenes of the Recent Massacres in Armenia, London: James Nisbet, 1897.

Jarwe Habib, “The Massacres of 1895, known as the Uproar,” in Ishaq Armale, Al-Qusara fi Nakabat an-Nasara, Beirut 1919.

Jongerden Joost and Jelle Verheij (eds.), Social Relations in Ottoman Diyarbekir, 1870-1915, Leiden: Brill, 2012.

Meyrier Gustave, Les massacres de Diarbekir. Correspondance diplomatique du Vice-Consul de France 1894-1896, Paris: L’inventaire 2000.

Mouradian Claire, “Gustave Meyrier and the Turmoil in Diarbekir, 1894-96,” in Richard Hovannisian (ed.), Armenian Tigranakert/Diarbekir and Edessa/Urfa, Costa Mesa, Calif.: Mazda 2006, p. 209-250.

Qarabashi ’Abdulmesi, Vergossenes Blut: Geschichten der Gräuel, die an den Christen in der Türkei verübt, und der Leiden, die ihnen 1895 und 1914-1918 zugefügt wurden, Glanne, Netherlands: Bar Hebraeus Verlag, 1999.

Haut de page


1 Until recently the Syriac Orthodox Church was named the Syrian Orthodox Church. The ethnic term Syriacs will be used to designate Christians who spoke or at one time spoke dialects of the Aramean (Syriac or neo-Aramean) language, regardless of religious denomination. In the province of Diyarbekir, the Syriacs were divided between the large Syriac Orthodox Church, the smaller Syriac Catholic and Chaldean Catholic Churches and influential Protestant converts.

2 Presidential Ottoman Archives, Istanbul: BOA.Y.PRK. AZN (Yildiz Palace: Office of Issues of Justice and Belief), 15/1, letter of 19 December 1895 with the signatures and official seals of 16 Church dignitaries plus representatives of the Syrian Orthodox congregation in the village of Mansuriye. Jelle Verheij mentioned this letter in J. Jongerden and J. Verheij, 2012, p. 112-113.

3 BOA.A.MKT.MHM (Grand Vizirate: Office of Correspondence for Urgent Affairs), p. 637-3, p 3.

4 H. Jarwe, 1919, p. 42-66.

5 See e.g. the letters and reports of the British couple Rendel and Helen Harris, who travelled through Anatolia in 1896, and stayed in Mardin in June and July as the guests of the American Protestant missionaries. According to them, the area around Mardin was mostly spared the worst massacres, although surrounding villages were gravely plundered and the people left desolate. J. Harris and H. Harris, 1897, p. 103-122.

6 I. Audo, 2015, p. 60. Many manuscripts of Audo’s book circulated, the earliest is from 1952.

7 See e.g. the correspondence of the French vice-consul in Diyarbekir, Gustave Meyrier, in G. Meyrier, 2000. See also C. Mouradian, 2006. Ottoman-Turkish archival documents have been used extensively and successfully by Jelle Verheij in his study of the Hamidian massacres in the province of Diyarbekir (2012, p. 85-146). Although this research does include information about the Syriacs, it is mostly oriented on the fate of the Armenian population. Khalid S. Dinno (2017) is one of only a few scholars who has been able to research the archives of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchy now situated in Damascus (until 1924 in the Zafaran monastery outside Mardin). There he has found some documents relating to the 1895 massacres and the continued inter-religious strife in the years following.

8 I. Armale, 1919, p. 42-66. Jarwe’s report was printed in Arabic by Armale without saying if it was a translation from Syriac or not. Jarwe's family were from Aleppo and most of the inhabitants of Mardin spoke the local Arabic dialect, therefore it is also quite possible that the original had been written in Arabic.

9 American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions Archive (ABCFM 76, 2:2), Houghton Library, Harvard University. The existing document has been ripped out of a notebook. The pages are unnumbered except for the very first one on which is written “page 115.” For the sake of the notes I have continued the pagination starting from 115. I am grateful to J.F. Coakley for pointing out this manuscript for me.

10 This dating is odd. October 1, 1895 is not Friday but Tuesday. With all probability the correct date is November 1. This problem also affects Jarwe’s descriptions of the outbreak of massacres in Miyafarkin and Karabash. I repeated Jarwe’s wrong dating in D. Gaunt, 2006, p. 250.

11 A booklet discovered by the monk ’Abd al-Masih Qarabashi at the Zafaran monastery dealt with the 1895 atrocities. Qarabashi used this for a source in his own book D’mo Zliho (Spilt Blood), which lay unpublished until 1997. His narrative deals with some of the same events as Jarwe, such as Sadiye, Karabash and Miyafarkin. However he names without giving further details several villages that Jarwe does not mention. They are to the east of Diyarbekir – Ainsha, Telkhas, Harnak, Satia, Safita, Qozan; to the west Ali-Bar, Qartta, Qara, Kleesa, Quart; to the north Qadhi and Batrakiha; as well as to the south Kaibia, Jrihia, Khan Iqbinar, Orza Oghai, Holan. He adds more distant places like the towns of Kharput and Adiaman. See ’A. Qarabashi, 1999, p. 89-92; K.S. Dinno, 2017, p. 174-176.

12 J. Jongerden and J. Verheij, 2012, p. 335-336; A. Andrus, p. 168.

13 Meyrier, 2000, p. 134-135. A. Andrus, p. 154.

14 A. Andrus, p. 150.

15 Ibid, p. 166.

16 Ibid., p. 140.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

David Gaunt, « Two Documents on the 1895 Massacres of Syriacs in the Province of Diyarbekir: A Discussion »Études arméniennes contemporaines, 10 | 2018, 187-201.

Référence électronique

David Gaunt, « Two Documents on the 1895 Massacres of Syriacs in the Province of Diyarbekir: A Discussion »Études arméniennes contemporaines [En ligne], 10 | 2018, mis en ligne le 10 septembre 2018, consulté le 02 décembre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page


David Gaunt

Södertörn University

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Le texte et les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés), sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

Haut de page
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search