7 Nov 1922: Turkish Savagery, The Mercury

mercury 07111922


The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania).
Nov 7, 1922, p.5.

    A terrible  story  of  Turkish atrocities
against the Greeks of Anatolia is related
by Miss Ethel Thompson of Boston, who
worked with the American relief organi-
sation in the  interior of Anatolia  from
August, 1921, to June of this year.
    "We were supporting the Turkish or-
phanage," she writes, "and helping the
Turkish poor as well as  supporting the
Armenian orphanages  and aiding with
clothes and food, when we were allowed
to do so,  the  ghastly  lines  of  gaunt,
starving Greek women and children who
staggered across  Anatolia  through the
city of Kharput, their glassy  eyes  fairly
protruding from their heads, their bones
merely  covered  with  skin,  skeleton
babies, tied to their backs, driven on
without food supplies or clothing until
they dropped dead, Turkish gendarmes
hurrying  them  with  their  guns.   My
eyes still ache with the  sights  I  have
seen, and I hope my  brain  will some-
time forget that open graveyard around
Kharput as  it was last winter.   People
ask if these  reports are true! After a
year of these  experiences,  the  very
question amazes me.
    "On June 30, 1921,  I left Constan-
tinople for the interior  of Anatolia. At
Samsoun I was held  for two months
awaiting permission from the Kemalist
Government in Angora to continue the
journey to Kharput  about  500  miles
across the interior of Anatolia. During
my stay in Samsoun, in the early part
of July, the Greek villages round about
were burned, and  the  inhabitants de-
ported, including the  women and chil-
dren. In June, before  our arrival, the
young Greek men were deported from
Samsoun, and soon after our arrival the
old men were notified and tramped away
in the night.  We were  kept awake at
night by the crying of the Greek women,
their wives and  daughters. Night after
night,  from  the Armenian  orphanage
where I spent most of my time, I watch-
ed the burning villages. In August word
came that the women were to follow the
old men. Our house was surrounded by
these poor women, hammering at our
doors, holding out  their children, beg-
ging  us  to  take the  children,  if  we
could not save the women. They threw
their  arms  about  our necks, and we
never   felt  so  helpless  in  our  lives.
About this time the Greek fleet threat-
ened to bombard the town, and this
saved for a time the women.
    "Our permission arrived at the end of
August, and  we  were  allowed  to pro-
ceed. We crossed Anatolia under  blaz-
ing sun, passing groups and groups of
the old  men  of  Samsoun and  the in-
habitants of other Black Sea ports walk-
ing on,  God  knows where, driven  by
Turkish gendarmes. The dead bodies of
those who had dropped during the hard
tramp  were  lying by the roadside. Vul-
tures had eaten  parts  of  the flesh, so
that in most cases merely skeletons re-
    "Upon arriving in Kharput, on Sep-
tember 3,  we  entered a  city  full of
starving, sick, wretched human wrecks
-Greek  women,  children  and  men.
These people were trying to make soup
of grass and considered themselves for-
tunate when they could secure a sheep's
ear to [???] it. When  the poor things
heard of the killing  of  a  sheep  they
tried to secure the ear - the only part
of the animal thrown away in Anatolia.
I shall never forget the look of a black,
hairy  sheep's  ear  floating  in  boiling
water, and these poor wretches trying
to obtain nourishment by eating it. The
Turks had given them no food  on the
5OO-mile  trip  from Samsoun.   Those
with money could bribe the guards for
food or buy a  little  on  the way, until
they were robbed. Those without money
died  by  the  wayside. In many places,
thirsty  in  the  blistering sun and heat,
they were not allowed water unless they
could pay for it.
    "When  a  woman  with  a baby died,
the baby was taken from her dead arms
and handed to another woman, and the
horrible march proceeded.  Old  blind
men,  led   by  little  children, trudged
along the road.  The whole  thing was
like  a  march  of  corpses, a march of
death across Anatolia, which continued
during my entire summer.
    "The heaviest winter weather, when
a howling blizzard was raging, during
a blinding snowfall, was the favourite
time chosen by the Turks to drive the
Greeks on. Thousands perished in the
snow. The road from Kharput to Bitlis
was lined  with  bodies.  I saw women
with transparent lips who did not look
human. They were like gaunt shadows.
The roads over which women and child-
ren travelled were impassable for any
kind of travel excepting  pack mule.
    "On February 5, 1922, with another
American, I was riding  horseback  to
visit an outlying orphanage when  we
came to an old watershed, five minutes
outside the city of Mezereh. We heard
a different kind of cry than the  usual
moan of refugees, and riding nearer we
saw 300 small children who had  been
driven  together  in a circle.   Twenty
gendarmes, who had dismounted from
their horses, were cruelly beating  the
children with their heavy swords. When
a mother rushed in to save her  child
she was also beaten and driven out.
The children were cowering down or
holding up their  little  arms  to  ward
off the blow.
    "The attitude of the Turks toward
the Greeks who were deported from
the Black Sea coast has been one of
extermination. From statistics  obtain-
ed from reliable American sources, we
have accounted for the whereabouts of
at least 30,000  who  passed  through
Sivas; 8,000 died on the way to Khar-
put, and 2,000 remained in Malatia up
to last winter.  The best-looking  girls
were taken into Moslem harems by the
Turks, who boasted openly of the num-
ber of women they had taken for this
purpose. They then sent them  to us
for bread, stating they were refugees.
Some of the girls whom I knew in Sam-
soun disfigured their faces with dye to
hide their good looks, in the hope they
would not be taken. Three thousand of
those sent to Diarbakir  died  on  the
road, and 1,000 after arriving there.
    "In the vilayet of Kharput we were
allowed to employ  any  Greek. Some
Greeks with money bought the permis-
sion to work for  a  Turk.  Money was
the only means of temporarily securing
safety. When  we  were  preparing to
leave,  the Turkish Governor sent for
us, and asked us to deny the reports
given by Mr Yowell and Dr. Ward when
we arrived at Beirut or Constantinople.
At that time  we did  not  even  know
what reports Mr. Yowell had given. The
Vali threatened that unless we promis-
ed he would not give us a  permit  to
leave. Finally, we obtained the permit
without giving any promise other than
to tell the  truth  as  we  saw it, and I
am herewith living up to my promise
to that Turkish Vali back in Kharput."

"TURKISH SAVAGERY." The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954) 7 November 1922: 5. Web. 28 Oct 2021 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23646070>. 

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