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1915: Urmia: Extracts From the Annual Report (For the Year 1915) Presented by the Medical Department at Urmia
by Medical Department at Urmia
Posted: Tuesday, July 18, 2000 02:57 pm CST


A sad case was that of the mother of a girl of twelve who was being taken away to a life of slavery. The mother protested and tried to save her child, who was ruthlessly torn from her. As the daughter was being dragged away the mother made so much trouble for her oppressors, and clung to them so tenaciously, that they stabbed her twelve times before she fell, helpless to save her little girl from her fate. This woman recovered from her wounds. Some people were shot as they ran, and children that they were carrying were killed or wounded with them. In some cases men were lined up so that several could be shot with one bullet, in order not to waste ammunition on them.

At the height of the epidemic not less than two thousand were sick. The mortality reached forty-eight daily, and the fact that four thousand died, besides the one thousand who were killed, will help. to make vivid the terrible conditions that prevailed in our crowded premises. All ranks have suffered---preachers, teachers, physicians, etc., as well as the poor---for all had to live in the same unhygienic surroundings.

One of the most terrible things that came to the notice of the Medical Department was the treatment of Syrian women and girls by the Turks, Kurds and local Mohammedans. After the massacre in the village of ------, almost all the women and girls were outraged, and two little girls, aged eight and ten, died in the hands of Moslem villains. A mother said that not a woman or girl above twelve (and some younger) in the village of------ escaped violation. This is the usual report from the villages. One man, who exercised a great deal of authority in the northern part of the Urmia plain, openly boasted of having ruined eleven Christian girls, two of them under seven years of age, and he is now permitted to return to his home in peace and no questions are asked. Several women from eighty to eighty-five years old have suffered with the younger women. One woman who was prominent in the work of the Protestant Church in another village was captured by eighteen men and taken to a solitary place, where they had provided for themselves food and drink. She was released the next day and permitted to drag herself away. Later she came to the city to accuse her outragers, and practically did not get a hearing from the Government.

There is little to relieve the blackness of this picture. The Government gave some assistance in the finding and returning of Christian girls. A few have been brought back by Kurds. In one case eleven girls and young women, who had been taken away from Geogtapa, were sent to me by the chief of the Zarza tribe of Kurds. Several companies have been sent also by the Begzadi Kurds to Targawar. Since the return of the Russians to Urmia some of the Kurds have tried to curry favour by returning prisoners that they have held for months, but quite a number are still held by them, some of them women who have been married to some of the principal servants of the chiefs.

It would not be right to close this report of medical work in Urmia without a word about the native physicians. One of them received a martyr's crown early in January in the village of Khanishan. Four died in the epidemics. One had been a worker for many years in the plain of Gawar, two days' journey to the west of Urmia. One of them was a companion in the attempt to find Karini Agha at the very beginning of the troubles here that resulted in the rescue of the people of Geogtapa. One was the assistant in the hospital. He had been in the hospital since his graduation in 1908, and was a most faithful and efficient man. During the awful first days of fear, murder and rapine, it was his hands that dressed and re-dressed most of the wounded, with the help of medical students. He thought little of himself and wore himself out until he could not eat, keeping on at his work for three days after he began to be ill. His life was given in the noblest self-sacrifice, and many people will remember him with deep affection. The fourth was one of the refugees in our yard who, though he was not very active, frequently prescribed for a number of patients. His wife, who is a graduate in medicine in America, in spite of the death of her husband and two children, kept bravely on with her work, trying to relieve some of the suffering. She had charge of the maternity cases and examined many of the outraged women and girls after they finally reached us.

The most diabolically cold-blooded of all the massacres was the one committed above the village of Ismael Agha's Kala, when some sixty Syrians of Gawar were butchered by the Kurds at the instigation of the Turks. These Christians had been used by the Turks to pack telegraph wire from over the border, and while they were in the city of Urmia they were kept in close confinement, without food or drink. On their return, as they reached the valleys between the Urmia and Baradost plains, they were all stabbed to death, as it was supposed, but here again, as in two former massacres, a few wounded, bloody victims succeeded in making their way to our hospital.

The testimony of the survivors of the massacre at Ismael Agha's Kala is confirmed by the following extract from a letter, dated 8th November, 1915, from the Rev. E. T. Allen of Urmia:

Politically, things are in apparently good order. People are easily frightened and are nervous, but we have good hopes. Yesterday I went to the Kala of Ismael Agha and from there to Kasha, and some men went with me up the road to the place where the Gawar men were murdered by the Turks. It was a gruesome sight---perhaps the worst I have seen at all.

There were seventy-one or two bodies ; we could not tell exactly, because of the conditions. It is about six months since the murder. Some were in fairly good condition---dried, like a mummy. Others were torn to pieces by the wild animals. Some had been daggered in several places, as was evident from the cuts in the skin. The majority of them had been shot. The ground about was littered with empty cartridge-cases. It was a long way off from the Kala, and half-an-hour's walk from the main road into the most rugged gorge I have seen for some time. I suppose the Turks thought no word could get out from there---a secret, solitary, rocky gorge. How those three wounded men succeeded in getting out and reaching the city is more of a marvel than I thought it was at the time. The record of massacre burials now stands as follows :--

At Tcharbash, forty in one grave, among them a bishop. At Gulpashan, fifty-one in one grave, among them the most innocent persons in the country; and now, above the Kala of Ismael Agha, seventy in one grave, among them leading merchants of Gawar.

These one hundred and sixty-one persons, buried by me, came to their death in the most cruel manner possible, at the hands of regular Turkish troops in company with Kurds under their command.

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