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Washington Post- January 26, 1919

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  • Washington Post- January 26, 1919

    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.
    General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”