The Washington Post, January 26, 1919

The Man Who Incited the Armenian Massacres
by Howard M. Owen

Never has there been a more
impressive demonstration of
divine justice than the fate
of the Sheikh-ul-Islam, who
until recently claimed to be the head
Mohammedans throughout the
This powerful priest, who was sup-
posed to exercise a greater spiritual
authority than any man in the Orient,
lent his great influence to aid the
Germans in an attempt to enslave the world.
He issued, in 1915, proclamations
throughout the world to rise against
the Christians and exterminate them
—men, women, and children. In these
proclamations he hailed the kaiser as
the friend and protector of Islam,
using language that could be under-
stood as implying that the German
emperor was actually Mohammedan.
His language was that of a fanatic.
The sheikh’s proclamations were
mainly responsible for the dreadful
slaughter of the Armenians, as they
encouraged the fanatical Turks and
the wild, still more murderous Kurds
to commit murder as a religious duty.
Through this man’s criminal incite-
ments upwards of 2,000,000 Armenians
were slaughtered with every circum-
stance of atrocity, as the report of
Lord Bryce’s commission has proved.
Expected Rebellion.
It was clearly the expectation of
the Sheikh-ul-Islam and the Germans
that the Mohammedans throughout
the world, and especially those of
India, Egypt and other parts of the
British empire, would rise in rebel-
lion against the British and the allies
and overwhelm them. There are up-
ward of 221,000,000 Mohammedans in
the world and 60,000,000 in British
India alone.
In one of his proclamations the
Sheikh-ul-Islam declared:
“Every Mohammedan fighting on
the side of Great Britain, France and
Russia is not a warrior, but a mur-
derer, and will suffer eternal punish-
ment for the unpardonable sin against
“Every Mohammedan who dies
fighting against the Christian unbe-
lievers in this war is assured of im-
mediate entry into paradise and all
the delights promised to the true be-
liever by the prophet.”
The sheikh’s action was evidently a
political conspiracy entered into with
the Germans, the Turkish prime min-
ister, Enver Pasha, and the worst
element of the Turks. The sheikh
enjoyed enormous power in Turkey.
He was beyond the control of the sul-
tan. Indeed, the sultan’s decrees
were not binding on the faithful if
they conflicted with the Koran and
the moral law, as interpreted by the
Sheikh-ul-Islam and his college of
The proclamation of the holy war
had an opposite effect from that
which the wretched sheikh and his
fellow conspirators intended. Instead
of uniting the Mohammedans of the
world in an attack upon the allies it
came near to uniting them in an ef-
fort to demolish the sheikh’s claim
to the headship of the religion.
There were millions of Mohammedans
who resented the leadership of the
barbarous Turks and were intelligent
enough to see that this so-called
“holy war” was nothing but a crimi-
nal attempt by the kaiser and the
Turks to make a tools of them.
Drove Turks Out.
An Army mainly composed of Mo-
hammedans from British India fought
their way up the Tigris and Euphrates
rivers and drove the Turks from the
rich lands of Mesopotamia. Another
army, similarly composed of Mo-
hammedans, drove the Turks from the
Holy Land of Palestine and from other
countries which the Turks had taken
from more civilized races.
The worst blow of all the sheikh’s
ambitions came from Mecca.
The Arabs of Mecca and Medina,
the sacred cities of Mohammedanism,
seized the opportunity to cast off the
hated yoke of the Turks. The Shereef
of Mecca, a lineal descendant of Ma-
homet, was proclaimed king of the
Hejaz. He has a claim to leadership
over the Mohammedan community far
better than that which the Turkish
Sheikh-ul-Islam possessed and has
more than filled the latter’s place.
At the end of the war there was
nothing left to the ambitious Sheikh-
ul-Islam but his authority over the
barbarous Turks and Kurds in the
hills of Asia Minor. His gorgeous
dream of ruling over 221,000,000 Mo-
hammedans throughout Asia and
Africa had dwindled to a precarious
authority over a gang of half-
starved assassins, highwaymen and
But the Sheikh-ul Islam’s effort to
enslave the world found its victims
in the poor Armenians. They were
immediately under the thumb of the
murdering Turks and Kurds. They
had long been accustomed to out-
rage and massacre, but as soon as
the sheikh’s first proclamation of
a “holy war” was issued a deliberate
attempt was made to exterminate
Not Half of People Survive.
This attempt came very near to
succeeding. How near it is still diffi-
cult to determine, but it is accepted
as certain that considerable less
than one-half of the Armenian popu-
lation that existed before the war
now survives.
No Christian powers came to the
help of the poor Armenians, the old-
est Christian nation in the world,
until the Turks had done their
They were left alone in their agony
till the war was over. They were the
great sacrifice in the struggle to save
humanity from slavery. Even the
sacrifice of Belgium or Serbia cannot
compare with theirs.
In one region a community of 80,-
000 Armenians were gathered to-
gether and driven into an inaccessi-
ble desert, where they were all killed
or left to starve. Scores of thousands
of gentle Armenian girls were put
to death with every shame and tor-
ture that devilish brutality could
The story of Aurora Mardiganian,
the young Armenian girl who escaped
from the Turks, has already been told
at length in this newspaper. It is like
thousands of others, and yet unlike in
that she escaped alive. Aurora was
one of 18,000 Armenians from one
town, who were carried away by the
Turks to be slaughtered in trackless
wilderness and secret places or con-
demned to slavery in the harem. The
attack upon this community was the
direct result of the Sheikh-ul-Islam’s
proclamations, inciting the Turks to
exterminate all Christians.
Tragedy Beggars Description.
The martyrdom of those gentle
Christian people, the Armenians, is
one of the greatest tragedies of all
time, a tragedy that beggars descrip-
tion. The Armenian committee for
relief in the Near East decided that
a great, concerted effort should be
made to put the entire story before
the eyes of the American people and
to induce them to save the remnant
of the Armenian nation by money con-
tributions and by political action. The
committee decided that this object
could not be better attained than by
presenting the experiences of Aurora
Mardiganian in moving picture from
to the American public, because her
experiences typified the sufferings of
the entire Armenian nation.
This poor little girl wandered on
foot in the wilderness for two years
and lived on the bark of trees and
such food as she could pick up. By a
wonderful accident she escaped into
the Russian lines, and was finally
sent to America by American friends
of Armenia.
Coveted by Pasha.
The Armenian committee sent Au-
rora to California recently, and there
her story and the sufferings of her
people were place on the film with
herself as the chief actress. The pro-
duction of this moving picture drama
entitled “Ravished Armenia,” was
carefully conducted with fidelity to
detail of scenes and costumes, and,
like Aurora Mardiganian, many of
those appearing in the picture were
Armenians who had seen and suffered
Turkish oppression.
At the opening of the drama Au-
rora is shown in the city of Harpout,
as the charming daughter of a
wealthy Christian banker. She is
coveted by Passelt Pasha, the cruel
Turkish ruler of the province, and
when the order is given by the sultan
for wholesale Christian massacres he
strives to put his evil designs into
execution. Aurora witnesses fright-
ful scenes, in which thousands of
men, women and children are slain
or deported to face starvation and
slavery, but herself manages to es-
cape to a school conducted by an
English girl, Miss Graham.
Marauding bands invade the school
and carry off Aurora with hundreds
of other young Christian girls. Miss
Graham is also captured and tortured
by being buried in the sand because
she will not renounce her faith. Au-
rora and the other young girls then
endure two years of frightfulness in
Turkish harems and in the hands of
desert tribesmen. She sees her own
mother slain before her, and sees
young girls whipped to death and
others crucified because they will
not willingly submit to the wishes of
their captors.
In the course of her adventures she
again escapes by leaping from a high
cliff into a river and wanders in the
desert for nearly two years. She is
again captured and sold in a slave
market with other girls for the pa-
thetic sum of $5 cents, and is forced
to endure fresh sufferings.
At last the Armenian patriots
establish relations with the Russian
troops. Aurora is rescued by her girl-
hood sweetheart, and, through the aid
of missionaries, is finally brought
safely to America.
One of the many remarkable fea-
tures of the films is the scene in
which Turkish savages, while riding
on horseback, pick up Armenian girls
and throw them on the points of
swords planted in the ground. This
practice, sometimes called “the sword
game,” has been common among the
Turks, Kurds and others who have
carried out the extermination of the
Wholesale Slaughter.
Aurora Mardiganian witnessed this
dreadful form of wholesale slaughter,
which she has thus described:
“In a flat place on the plains a little
distance fromthe spot where I was
held captive, I saw a band of Tchet-
chens prepare for one of the frightful
pastimes for which, as I afterward
leaned, the wild Circassian tribes
are famous. They planted their
swords, which were the long, slender-
bladed swords that come from Ger-
many to the Kurds and Tchetchens,
in a long row in the sand, so that the
sharp-pointed blades rose out of the
ground as high as would be a very
small child. When we saw these
preparations all of us knew what
was going to happen. When Arme-
nian children are bad their mothers
sometimes tell them the Tchetchens
will come and get them if they don’t
be good. And when the children ask,
‘And when the Tchetchens come what
will they do?’ their mothers say, ‘The
Tchetchens are very wicked robber
horsemen, who like to sharpen their
swords with little boys and girls.’
“Already I was trembling with
sickness of heart because of the aw-
ful night before and the things I
had seen that morning when day-
light came. The other girls beside
me were trembling too, and felt as if
they would rather die than see any
more. We begged our Tchetchens to
take us away—to take us where we
could not look upon those sword
blades—but they only laughed at us
and told us we must watch and be
thankful to them we were under their
Hideous Barbarities.
“When the long row of swords had
been placed the Tchetchens hurried
back to the little band of Armenians.
We saw them crowd among the ref-
ugees, and then come away carrying
or dragging with them all the young
women who were left—maybe fifteen
twenty—I could not count them.
“Each girl was forced to stand
with a dismounted Tchetchen hold-
ing her on her feet, halfway be-
two swords in the long row.
The captives cried and begged, but
the cruel bandits were heedless of
their pleadings.
“When the girls had been placed to
please them—one between each two
sword blades—the remaining Tchet-
chens mounted their horses and
gathered at the end of the row. At
a shouted signal the first one gal-
loped down the line of swords. He
seized a girl, lifted her high in the
air and flung her down upon a sword
point without slackening his horse.”
This film drama, “Ravished Arme-
nia,” is now being presented to the
American people in all the great cit-
ies of the United States. The receipts
from it will go toward a fund of $30,-
000,000 which the Armenian commit-
tee is raising to restore the tortured
Armenian people to a place among
the nations.
It is a vivid, realistic production,
but when you witness it you will en-
joy much more than the spectacle.
You will have the satisfaction of
knowing that you are helping to re-
store Armenia and giving the final
stroke to the Sheihk-ul-Islam, the
horrible Turks, who tried to set the
Mohammedan world in arms against
the Christian world.