Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 7, 1896, and the Annual Report of the Secretary of State
Mr. Tyler to Mr. Olney.
Teheran, Persia, July 13, 1896. (Received Aug. 24.)
Sir: I have the honor to transmit inclosed a copy of a report and a letter from ——— ———, of ———, relating to particulars of a [Page 476]barbarous murder of Persian Nestorians by Turkish Kurds, just over the border in Turkish territory, and the deep feelings which the abominable crime has stirred amongst the people; also a copy of a letter from ——— ———, a missionary residing in ————, reporting a massacre of about 800 Armenians, also immediately over the border, by the Kurds, and reporting incursions by Persian Kurds into the Salmos plain, causing great anxiety and alarm amongst the native Christians in that region.
I have, as you will see from my letter to the Sadr Azem, a copy of which is inclosed, sent translations of these reports to His Highness, and asking him to employ all his resources for the protection of the lives and property of United States citizens in that region, and at the same time adding a plea on behalf of the native Christians, who, from their proximity to the Kurdish border, are in considerable peril. In view of the fact that a previous communication of mine to the prime minister led to the liberation from prison of some refugees from Turkey, I hope on this occasion it may lead to the exercise of greater watchfulness and diligence on the part of the authorities in preventing these incursions.
I have, etc.,
Vice-Consul-General in Charge.
Mr. ——— to Mr. Tyler.
Dear Sir: Yours of May 14, with its kind inquiries, was received just as I was to start to ———, and I had no time to answer it then.
I to-day send on to you an account of the murder of 14 Nestorians, including the bishop, and hope that you will be able to present the matter to the Government for action. The whole affair is one in which we are all of us interested, and in which none of us care about creed.
The murdered were Christians, and the deed is the greatest insult to the Nestorian nation ever offered. As you will see in the report, the deed was undoubtedly committed by Turks, who have tried to fasten it onto Persians. But the Persian Government can not afford to let this pass, even if it was committed against Christians. They were all Persian subjects but one, and redress should be insisted upon.
I am glad to say that the province here has been very well governed ever since the Shah’s death, and all is quiet.
The governor deserves a great deal of credit for the wise and firm way in which he has taken hold, and everything is under complete control.
We have, however, terrible reports from Van that are apt to affect our borders, and the Government should be especially on the alert to watch the borders here.
The Government has, in anticipation, placed a garrison at Salmos and one here and one at Ushnuc, all commanding important places. It would be well, I should say, to warn the Government, and, in view of the terrible outrage now perpetrated against 14 of the Persian subjects, to take special precautions for the safety of the Christians here and on the Salmos Plain.
We should deem it a very great favor if you could send us the true [Page 477]news from Van, as we have friends there and are very anxious as to their welfare.
———— has gone to London for a rest and will be back in two months.
With many thanks for your kind inquiries, I remain, etc.,
Account of the murder of Nestorians.
One of the most shocking tragedies, that for parallel in the history of the Nestorians of Oroomiah has no equal, was enacted last week just across the border from us, 15 miles above the college.
A party of 14 Nestorians, consisting of the Nestorian bishop, Mar Goriel, of Oroomiah, and his nephew, three kashas or priests, from Tergawar, two deacons, a servant of the patriarch, and attendants, left about two weeks ago to make a visit to the Metropolitann, who lives in Nochea, two days’ journey from here. Near the Metropolitann also lives Sheikh Sadick, the son of Sheikh Obeidulla, famed for his invasion and attack on Oroomiah fourteen years ago.
Ten days had elapsed from the time the party left Tergawar, four hours above us, without any word as to the fate of the party, when an ugly rumor got abroad of foul play, and searching parties went up to find them. Just over the border, near the Persian village of Rashikan, an awful scene was encountered. On the ground lay the bodies of 12 of the 14 with their throats cut from ear to ear, stripped of all clothing and horribly mutilated. There were signs of a terrible struggle, as shown by the trampled show [snow?], mud, and number of dagger wounds; also the fact that some had been bound with ropes before they could be overcome. Two poor wretches had evidently escaped and run a short distance, only to be shot down, as seen by the bullet marks in their backs. The rest, defenseless and without arms, had been cut to pieces with daggers.
Two bodies are missing, as the searching party did not dare go far from the place where the 12 were found. Not only were these killed, but terribly mutilated as well. Noses, lips, and ears were cut off, not to speak of other indignities. Even the Kurdish muleteer, who was of the party, was killed, so that no survivor should tell the tale. The horses were found grazing near the spot, and the bodies were brought down on them to their different homes that have been made desolate.
The remains of the bishop and his nephew were brought to Oroomiah, where they will be buried with great ceremony on the Sabbath. Thousands have been coming all day to look on the ghastly remains, and the whole Nestorian nation is greatly and rightly stirred at this most terrible insult and indignity ever offered them on this side.
When it is considered that the outrage was committed, not against armed men or warriors, not against anyone with whom the Kurds might have had a feud, but against an ecclesiastical party, that even in Turkey and among the Kurds would ordinarily command respect, the crime seems the most atrocious and uncalled for. None of those killed were even poor despised Armenians. All were Nestorians but the one Kurd.
The crime had evidently been committed on Turkish soil, as the bodies had been dragged and thrown onto Persian soil, which was not over a mile away. * *[Page 478]
There are well-founded rumors that a terrible massacre, one that will throw all preceding ones into the shade, has taken place in Van and vicinity. As proof of this, early in the week the Kurds who are Persian subjects were summoned to the aid of those at Van and sent to the governor of Khoi asking permission to join the Kurds of Van in wiping out the Armenians, as “jahat,” or religious war, had been proclaimed. The governor referred the matter to the governor here, who referred it to Tabriz. Refugees are already coming into Salmos and much booty is being sold at that place very cheap.
There is no doubt something has at last happened in Van. It is even reported that the English consul has been killed and the Russian consul badly wounded. All this the Sheikh would hear could he have committed this fell deed in revenge. It is certainly in some way connected with the Van reports. To-morrow the governor here is to be seen and urged to take all necessary precautions for the safety of the Christians here.
So far all is quiet, but it may be the lull before the storm. Certainly if the Kurds over the border are on the warpath, disturbances may be looked for near us soon. We rejoice in the fact that God reigns, and that while earthly powers may be indifferent, not a hair falls to the ground without His knowledge.
Mr. ——— to Mr. McDonald.
Dear Sir: The forty-one Armenians who came to Persia from Van about a month ago, and who were attacked near Salmos by Persian Kurds, and three of them killed, have been released from prison by the Persian authorities. I wrote you about them, and you did well to inform the prime minister. It now appears that there were a few (six or eight) young men among them who had been in Van with revolutionary ideas, but had given it up as a bad job, and were trying to get to a safer place. The rest were laborers.
Some two weeks ago another company of refugees, about twelve in number, a part of whom had been revolutionists, reached Khoi. They came in contact with no Kurds by the way, and so got through safely. They were imprisoned by Persian authorities at Khoi, but, as they claimed to be refugees flying to save their lives, they were subsequently released.
About a week ago a band of some 800 young men of Van, for some reason, determined to emigrate to Persia. It appears that the foreign consuls advised doing so, and the Turkish Government assured them they would not be harmed by the way. But telegrams were sent, after the band of refugees left, to Bash Kala (apparently by the Turkish Government) to the Kurds of that region, that this company was on its way, and they had leave to do as they pleased with them. So the Kurds from this whole region (Persian Kurds included) gathered together, and near the Persian border, near a Turkish town called Khana Soor (or Said), the refugees were attacked by a large body of Kurds, and of the 800 only 5 men escaped. These 5 had separated from the main band the night before the attack, and finally reached the old city of Salmos last night and took refuge in the “bast” (sanctuary) of the Iman there. Also 10 villagers of the region about Bash Kala [Page 479]have arrived and taken refuge in said “bast.” They say that every Armenian town and village in the Bash Kala or Albäc region, with the single exception of Bash Kala itself, has been plundered and burned and the people put to the sword. Khana Soor is about 5 or 6 farsacks (from 20 to 24 miles), and quite beyond the Persian border. Bash Kala is 8 farsacks (32 miles) distant. It is said that large quantities of plunder were brought to Salmos and sold last week in the old city and Diliman. Even the Persian soldiers engaged in buying sheep, etc., from the Kurds, and brought them to Diliman to sell on the 27th and 28th instants.
When word was first received in Salmos that the 800 refugees had left Van, but were detained by the Kurds near the Persian border and needed help, a band of about 100 Salmos young men got ready, and with a good supply of bread and cheese and with some arms and ammunition started up toward Khana Soor to the relief of the party. But on reaching the mountains (two hours distant) they learned the sad news of the total annihilation of the whole band, and so returned without any fighting. The Kurds are now rampant. They carried off 60 cows from Samai, an Armenian town 4 miles south of Haftervan, in broad daylight. They are, it is reported, gathering together to come down on Salmos, especially the old city, where the 15 refugees are in “bast,” and in this town, from which the greater part of the relief party started to aid the slaughtered 800. Of course the Armenian population are again in terror, and with good reason, as an attack may be made on the 10,000 Armenian population here any day, apparently.
There are two regiments of soldiers stationed about 8 miles east of us. In the two regiments are possibly 1,400 men. There are also about 200 cavalrymen. Whether these will do anything to protect us and the Christian population remains to be seen. So far the soldiers seem only intent on personal gain. They buy the spoils cheap from the Kurds, and retail them at a handsome profit to the Moslems of this plain.
I will make a call on the commander to-day, if possible, and urge on him the necessity of some active measures for the defense of the 13,000 Christian population of Salmos. I called at the camp four days ago, but he was absent, so I did not get to see him.
While I am writing, word has come that the Kurds have to-day plundered Ayan, a town partly Armenian, one hour’s ride west of us. It is on this plain, but near the foothills of the mountains.
So far as I can find out, nothing has yet been done to restrain the Persian Kurds or bring any of them justice. In fact, many of the Moslems of this region quite sympathize with the Kurds in their hatred of Christains, and, if an attack be made on the larger towns, will, I think, join in with them in plundering and destroying property and life.
The 800 refugees are reported to have had about 200 guns, all told, mostly of old kinds. The balance of 600 were wholly unarmed. Of course, all of what I have said may not prove to be correct, but at this date it is the most reliable word I have been able to obtain.
With many thanks for your interest manifested in this matter and the welfare and safety of United States citizens, I remain,
Yours, very truly,
Mr. Tyler to the Sadr Azem.
Teheran, July 9, 1896.
Sir: I have the honor to inclose for your information a translation of a report of a massacre of Turkish Armenians on their way from Van to Persia, on the Turkish side of the border, by the Kurds, and also of incursions by Persian Kurds and their depredations in the Salmos plain, sent to this legation by ——— ———, a United States citizen, residing at ————.
It appears from Mr. ———’s report that the Kurds have assumed a threatening attitude, and that the Armenians are in a state of great terror and apprehension.
I have every reason to believe that your highness has taken effective measures for the protection of our citizens and their property in that region, and I beg that every resource may be employed for that end.
I also send a report, by another United States citizen, tor your information, of a horrible massacre of Persian Nestorians by Kurds over the border.
I wish to plead in the name of humanity and common feeling that you will do all that is possible for the protection of the Christians in that region.
I beg to assure your highness of the assurances of my high consideration and respect.
Vice Consul-General in Charge.