Beset by external enemies, Turkey’s leaders are striking back at the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian population. Seeing the Armenians as fundamentally treacherous, Enver, Talaat and their associates are organising their elimination. In some areas Armenians are being rounded up and killed while elsewhere they are being deported from Anatolia. No adequate provisioning of these deportees is being arranged and the places they are being sent to are remote desert areas incapable of supporting large populations.
The Armenians are not meekly accepting their fate. Many are fleeing to escape the round-ups and massacres, often joining with others to form guerrilla bands to fight against the Turkish authorities and those Kurds they have recruited to assist in the Armenians’ extermination. In Cilicia Armenian rebels prove especially trying to the authorities, who respond with brutal countermeasures.
The deportations and mass killing are not going unnoticed outside the Ottoman Empire. Foreign diplomats are sending home grim reports of these terrible events. Leslie Davis, the US consul in Erzurum, sends a despatch from the transit centre of Kharput that the deportees seem to be predominantly women and children; he surmises that the men have already been killed. He also reports that the Turks are seizing the prettiest of the children and girls to serve as slaves.
Through the neutral USA the Allied powers have already sent a note of protest to Turkey on the mistreatment of the Armenians. This has not obviously had any effect on Turkish behaviour. But now in Constantinople the German ambassador, Hans von Wangenheim, delivers a note of protest to the Turkish government. The note accepts that Turkey has legitimate security concerns but condemns the indiscriminate deportations and any accompanying abuses. As a rebuke it is a relatively mild one.
Deportee and child, Taurus Mountains (Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute)
Armenian deportees walking towards Kharput (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; photograph by Leslie Davis)