The situation for Armenians throughout the Ottoman Empire has become increasingly difficult. The Turkish authorities believe that the Armenian minority is fundamentally disloyal to the Empire. They fear that many Armenians are plotting with the Russians to sabotage the Turkish war effort. These fears are reasonable, as many Armenians would prefer rule by Christian Russia to Muslim Turkey (or hope that Russia will create an independent Armenian state). The Turkish leadership’s response to these fears is less reasonable. They have already disarmed Armenians soldiers in the Turkish army and assigned them to separate labour units; by now these men have mostly been killed. Turkish police and military units are also carrying out increasingly brutal actions against Armenian civilian populations in eastern Anatolia.
The town of Van is not too far from the Russian front. The local Turkish commander has been vigorous in his pursuit of real or imagined Armenian disloyalty. Military and police units have been searching for secret arms caches, with these searches being a pretext for killings of Armenians.But when the execution of five their local leaders is ordered, the Armenians of Van strike back. Armed Armenian rebels seize control of the town, driving out the Turkish authorities. Outside the town massacres of Armenians intensify, but the town itself becomes their safe haven.
map of the Van area (Wikipedia)