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Not an unequivocal image of the Armenian Genocide

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  • Not an unequivocal image of the Armenian Genocide

    The following caught my eye. The translated version is from

    Collector turns money over to Yerevan Genocide Museum in Solidarity

    A British collector who sold a picture on the Armenian genocide,
    learning that she was destined to Genocide Museum in Yerevan, returned
    the amount of the purchase. Magnificent gesture Armenpress reported
    today by the agency following statements from Hayk Demoyan, director
    of the Genocide Museum. The photo shows Armenians fleeing genocide. On
    the back of the photo is written "Baghdad is one of the centers of
    Armenian survivors escaped the massacres perpetrated by the Turks,
    where the service and food are provided by the British government. The
    Turks are enemies of the Armenians because they are Christians and
    them not. " Haig Demoyan says "having bought and paid for the photo, I
    was surprised to receive a letter from the vendor who wrote" I sent
    you a photo you bought . When I was writing your address, I understood
    where she was to arrive, so I send you your payment. I do this out of
    respect to your dead and in friendship " .

    In this year of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the
    words of the British collector towards Armenians of particular

    Krikor Amirzayan

    Sunday, January 11, 2015,
    Krikor Amirzayan

    The photo seemed familiar. Searching back a few weeks I found it on It was eBay item number 121508693245, sold for 42 on 12th December, seller was racegair1. The auction description was:

    For auction is a collection of postcards/photocards sent by Driver Billy Butcher during his service in the First World War and then in Mesopotamia in the 1920s. On the way to Mesopotamia (Iraq) he called in at Malta, Aden and Egypt. There are also cards for those places. Some have been written on by him and some have also been cleared by the Field Censor as they were sent through the relevant British Field Post Office. For each lot I will transcribe what has been entered on the back.

    For this particular lot the picture is of Armenian Refugees Fleeing Turkey'. It has a tiny crease on the corner but is in good order apart from that. On the back is written 'Baghdad is the Headquarters of the Armenian Relief Committee of refugees and survivors of the Turkish massacres pour into the country, where they are housed, clothed and fed by the British Government. Their offence against the Turks is that they are Christians and the Turks are not'

    The photo is a little faded and on flimsy paper not like a postcard.
    I had seen the photo when it was listed - and had dismissed it as unimportant. Why? Because it was a commercially produced image and there is no evidence indicating that it really is Armenian refugees that are depicted. It must have been one of a number of photographs purchased by Billy Butcher when stationed in Iraq because the seller had listed several others on ebay. For example there was one showing "Shekh Oomar's Tomb, Baghdad" eBay item number: 121508703144. It too had handwriting on the back: 'I get a good view of this tomb from the train just before reaching Baghdad. (a Shekh is a powerful chief and rules over a certain district)'. The photographs all have a caption on their front, indicating that they are all commercially produced photographs and are part of a series. The "Armenian refugees" photo is captioned "refugees" and has a number "29". The "Shekh Oomar's Tomb" photo is number 20.

    The "refugees", if they are that, could be anyone. In the background there is an individual with a rifle over his shoulder, suggesting a protective escort and an organised evacuation. They could, for example, be Nestorian or Syriac Christians fleeing post-WW1 Kurdish massacres.
    There is nothing to directly connect the handwritten text with the image. Billy Butcher could easily have just been writing the most obvious thing that he knew about regarding refugees in Iraq, to whomever he was sending the photos to.

    I hope the Genocide Museum does not enter this item into their collection as an unequivocal image of the Armenian Genocide, because it is not that.
    Plenipotentiary meow!

  • #2
    Re: Not an unequivocal image of the Armenian Genocide

    The front and back of the photo:

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Name:	Armenian Refugees 1920s Photo Mesopotamia Drv Billy Butcher RFA 1.jpg
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    And the mosque photo:

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Name:	sheik Oomar.jpg
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    Plenipotentiary meow!


    • #3
      Re: Not an unequivocal image of the Armenian Genocide

      More on William Henry Butcher

      For auction is a set of first world war medals issued to Driver William Henry Butcher of the Royal Field Artillery for service in the first world war and Mesopotamia/Iraq. The Iraq general service medal has the inscription around the rim '291143 DVR W. H. BUTCHER R.A. It has the Iraq clasp. The war medal has '786602 DVR W.H. BUTCHER R.A.' and the 1914/1918 medal has '291143 DVR W.H. BUTCHER R.A.' incised on them. I also attach a phot of the WW1 Medal Rolls Index. You will see from this that Billy Butcher had three service numbers and will also see when he was awarded the medals. Also there are two postcards. The first one is of Billy Butcher in his uniform and carrying a pith helmet. I can only assume that this was taken in Mesopotamia. On the reverse is written 'To Alice with love from Billy'. The second postcard is a picture of what he describes on the reverse as 'Some of the lads of B.A.C 2/3 West Riding Field Artillery Bde'

      Click image for larger version

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      Plenipotentiary meow!