Thursday 24 May 2018 Last Update: 05:45 PM

What Happened on 24 April 1915?

Published: 01-02-2018


Prof. Dr. Yusuf Sarınay

Armenians fairly created a virtual memory and an artificial history by declaring 24 April the “genocide day.” What actually happened on 24 April 1915, which not only Armenians, but also parliaments of many countries, primarily America and European countries, recognize as the “genocide commemoration day?”

The commencement of the First World War and the Ottoman Empire getting into the war as an ally of Germany were seen as a great advantage by Armenian defenders for the establishment of an independent Armenia. Armenians who were largely armed until the First World War fought against the Ottoman Empire, of which they were the citizens, when the war started and cooperated primarily with Russia and the Allied Forces in order to establish an independent Armenia. Paralleling the defeat of the Ottoman army in Sarıkamış and the following attack of Britain and France on Çanakkale, Armenian defenders took action to assault Ottoman armies from behind and cut the communication ways, and started armed uprisings. Armenians formed voluntary troops at the beginning of the First World War and joined the Russian army and fought against the Ottoman army, which they were citizens of. They carried out mass murders against Muslims in the Eastern Anatolia region (Ermeniler Tarafından Yapılan Katliam Belgeleri, 2001; Karacakaya, 2005: 237-248).

24 April 1915 Notice and Arrests

When it was understood in the investigations that Armenian organizations were preparing for a collective uprising despite all warnings, the Ottoman Army Supreme Military Command stated in the instructions given to military troops on 27 February 1915 that caught weapons, bombs, and some cipher documents showed the preparations for a revolution and ordered, for this reason, not to use Armenian soldiers in the army for armed services; to be always wary and to take necessary precautions, but not to harm those Armenians who are loyal to the state (Askeri Tarih Belgeleri Dergisi, Belge No. 1999). In a period when the Çanakkale Wars started and Istanbul came under threat after the defeat of the Ottoman armies in Eastern Anatolia by the Russians, Armenians expanded their activities paralleling the enemy attacks. In this period, the Van uprising broke out following Zeytun, Bitlis, Muş, and Erzurum and massacres against Muslims increased.

Nine months after the declaration of mobilization, the Ottoman government started to take precautions to control Armenian activities and to prevent the events. After the disarmament of Armenian soldiers, the Internal Affairs Ministry gave instructions to dismiss Armenian policemen and officers who were not trusted and determined to have engaged in the events or to send them to the provinces where there were no Armenians (Osmanlı Belgelerinde Ermeniler, 1994: 7). However, when these precautions didn’t yield results, the Ottoman government went to close down the organizations arming and encouraging Armenians to rebel and to arrest their leaders. The Internal Affairs Ministry sent the famous notice to 14 provinces and to 10 lieutenant governors on 24 April 1915. In this notice; the closing down of Dashnaksutyun, Hunchakian, and similar Armenian organizations, the seizure of their documents, the arrest of their leaders and Armenians known to have engaged in harmful activities, and the gathering of those seen dangerous to stay where they are in appropriate places were instructed (BOA. DH. ŞFR. No. 52/96-97/98- Ek: 1). Another issue emphasized in this notice is not to give any chance for mutual fighting between Muslims and Armenians in provinces such as Bitlis, Erzurum, Sivas, Adana, and Maraş. 24 April, which Armenians commemorate as “genocide day” every year in many countries of the world, is the date when this notice was published by the Internal Affairs Ministry. On 26 April 1915, the Supreme Military Command sent a notice of the same quality to the War Ministry and Army commanderships and it was asked that all kinds of help demanded by civil officers are immediately supplied (ATASE, 1580).

When Ottoman documents are examined, we see that Armenians who were members of the Dashnaksutyun, Hunchakian, and Ramgavar organizations in Istanbul were arrested after the notice of the Internal Affairs Ministry on 24 April 1915. It is stated in an Ottoman publication in 1916 that 235 people who engaged in revolutionary activities among 77,735 Armenians residing in Istanbul were arrested and others were occupied with their business and lives in peace and security (Ermeni Komitelerinin Amal ve Harekât-ı İhtilaliyyesi,1332: 242). Also, in the searches in Istanbul in the days following the 24 April notice, many weapons such as 19 mauser rifles, 74 martins, 111 winchesters, 96 manihers, 78 giras, 358 filovirs, 3591 guns, and 45,221 handgun bullets were siezed. These weapons were submitted to military ammunition and weapon storages in regard to the needs of the Ottoman army (BOA. DH. EUM. 2. Şb. 16/48).

Armenian Defenders Subjected to Compulsory Settlement in Çankırı

It is stated in the cipher sent to the Ankara Governorship by the Internal Affairs Ministry on 25 April 1915 that about 180 Armenian organization leaders accompanied by a force of 75 people composed of 15 policemen, 2 officers, 1 commissary, 1 civil officer, and Armenians found dangerous to stay in Istanbul (164) would be sent to Ankara by train; about 60-70 of these would be imprisoned in Ayaş military storage and about 100 of them would be sent to Çankırı through Ankara and subjected to compulsory settlement (BOA. DH. ŞFR. No: 52/102).

The Armenians who were arrested in Istanbul and dispatched to Çankırı and subjected to compulsory settlement there and whose relatives applied to the government by petition, stated that they were not guilty and demanded to be forgiven. We see that the Ottoman central government examined these amnesty petitions carefully and forgave those who were found not guilty, who were foreign nationals, and who had health problems. With the command of the Internal Affairs Ministry on 8 May 1915, Vahram Torkumyan, Agop Nargileciyan, Karabet Keropoyan, Zare Bardizbanyan, Pozant Keçiyan, Pervant Tolayan, Rafael Karagözyan, and Vartabet Komida were released and allowed to go back to Istanbul (BOA. DH. ŞFR. No: 52/255). As is known, Vartabet Komidas, who was in the first released group, was accepted as one of the Armenians who lost their lives during deportations and a monument was erected in Paris in his name. However, the compulsory residence of Komidas in Çankırı lasted 13 days and then he applied to the Internal Affairs Ministry to go to Vienna for treatment on 30 August 1917 after falling sick in Istanbul. The permission he demanded was given to Komidas and he went to Vienna in September of 1917 (BOA. EUM. 2. Şb. No: 42/69). Komidas didn’t return to Turkey and he died abroad.

Some of the Armenians were sent to Ayaş to be tried, and others were sent to places such as Ankara, Izmit, Bursa, Eskişehir, and Kütahya to be subjected to compulsory residence (BOA. DH. ŞFR. No: 53/273). Others were dispatched to the deportation region of Zor with the order of the Internal Affairs Ministry.

The Kastamonu Governorship sent a detailed list to the Internal Affairs Ministry on 31 August 1915 in regard to the names of Armenians who were subjected to compulsory residence in Çankırı after being arrested in Istanbul on 24 April and the following days and the legal actions about them (BOA. EUM. 2. Şube 20/73). In this list, the total of Armenians subjected to compulsory residence in Çankırı long-term or short-term between the dates 24 April 1915 – 31 August 1915 is given as 155. 35 of these, as stated above, were found not guilty and released and they returned to Istanbul. 25 people who were found guilty among them were sent to Ankara and Ayaş prisons, and 57 people were sent to the Zor region. Some 7 people who were foreign nationals were released to be deported, and some of them were arrested. The majority of the remaining people were forgiven and sent to places such as Izmit, Izmir, Eskişehir, Kütahya, and Bursa to reside there.

Armenian Defenders Arrested in Ayaş

In the list prepared by the Istanbul Police Office about the Armenian defenders after deportations, the names of 71 people from the Armenians sent to be arrested in Ayaş are included (BOA. DH. EUM. 2. Şb. 67/31). The most important reason of this difference in the numbers is the existence of those sent to other provinces to be tried and the release of a few people and the existence of those dispatched to Ayaş to be arrested from Istanbul, Çankırı, and Ankara later on.

The Total Number of Armenian Defenders in Istanbul

It is understood that the Ottoman Government Police Organization followed the Armenian organizations and their activities starting from the beginning of the First World War and prepared a wider list. In this list thought to be prepared in August 1916, the detailed information about the names of Armenian defender leaders, the organizations they are members of, their jobs, and the tasks in the organizations and the legal actions taken about them were included. The number of Armenian defenders centered in Istanbul is 630 people as determined by the Police Organization in this list (BOA. DH. EUM. 2. Şube No: 67/31). 356 of these were member of Dashnaksutyun, 173 were members of Hunchakian, 72 were members of Ramgavar, and 9 were people who were members of different organizations and the Armenian Community (BOA. DH. EUM. 2. Şube NO: 67/31). As stated above, about 235 organization members whose names and addresses were determined after the notice on 24 April 1915 were arrested and sent to Çankırı and Ayaş. A large part of about 180 Armenian organization members in this list were not found in their addresses and some of them were determined to have escaped abroad.

Conclusion

The Ottoman government closed down Armenian organization centers and arrested the leaders with a notice published on 24 April 1915 in order to prevent events. As put forward with documents, there was no fighting or death during the 24 April arrests. As the organization centers where the political planning was being carried out were in Istanbul, the arrests took place in this city to a large extent and there were fewer arrests in other provinces. 321 organization members were arrested in Aydın, Samsun, Kayseri, Sivas, Elazığ, Urfa, Diyarbakır, and Gaziantep, apart from Istanbul. Therefore, we see that 235 people in Istanbul and 321 people in other provinces, 556 organization members in total, were arrested on 24 April 1915.

Although the situation was like this, why was 24 April declared as the “genocide day” rather than 27 May 1915 when the deportation law was released? Indisputably, the reason why Armenians declared 24 April the “genocide day” is that the leader cadre running the foreign communication and cooperation and providing the organization within the country were made inefficient on this date. Therefore, Armenians deprived of the leader cadre to hold the leadership in gaining their goals were not able to absorb this situation and created a virtual memory and an artificial history by declaring 24 April as the “genocide day” all over the world. It is very significant that Armenians see 24 April, when the leader cadre to bring them to independence were arrested, as more important than the event of deportations.

Bibliography

ATASE. BDH. Koleksiyonu Klasör No: 401, Dosya No: 1580, Fihrist No:1-2.

Askeri Tarih Belgeleri Dergisi, Sayı: 85 (Aralık-1985) belge no: 1999, p. 23-24.

BOA. DH. ŞFR.No. 52/96-97/98- Ek: 1.

BOA. DH. EUM. 2. Şb. 16/48.

BOA. DH. ŞFR. No: 52/102.

BOA. DH. ŞFR. No: 52/255.

BOA. EUM. 2.Şb. No: 42/69.

BOA. DH. ŞFR. No: 53/273.

BOA. EUM. 2. Şube 20/73.

BOA. DH. EUM. 2. Şube No: 67/31.

Ermeni Komitelerinin Amal ve Harekât-ı İhtilaliyyesi, İlan-ı Meşrutiyetten Evvel ve Sonra, (1332), Istanbul.

Ermeniler Tarafından Yapılan Katliam Belgeleri (2001), C. I, Ankara.

Osmanlı Belgelerinde Ermeniler 1915-1920, (1994), Ankara.

Karacakaya, Recep (2005), Türk Kamuoyu ve Ermeni Meselesi (1908–1923), Istanbul.