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6-10-2015, 10:57

The Second Adana Massacres (25-27 April) and the “Action Army”

On Sunday, 25 April, at six o’clock in the evening, although nothing had occurred to provoke new atrocities, the fusillade began again, as violent as it had been on the first

Day, with the difference that, this time, the Christians did not defend themselves and that, this time, the regular army was at the sides of the bashi-buzuk. Since the city was in a state of siege, people could not, on pain of being shot, leave it after sunset. All the streets were under guard; those who were in their homes could, therefore, escape only by fleeing from rooftop to adjacent rooftop, although the rooftops, too, were under surveillance. At the same time as the shots rang out, fires broke out again.64

This is how Father Rigal describes the onset of the second Adana massacres. The Armenians, who were now disarmed, were no longer in a position to defend themselves and sought refuge in the public buildings, schools, Armenian churches and, above all, the mission. The same French clergyman reports:

One of the first buildings to go up in flames was the Armenian school building, where a large number of refugees had found shelter. Fleeing the flames, these unfortunates ran toward our compound. When groups of them made their way into the street, the soldiers fired at them point-blank. I shouted at them to give the refugees free passage.

The next day, Father Rigal interceded with the vali. His commentary on their conversation plainly shows that there was a certain consistency to the behavior of this high-ranking official:

The next day, when the vali sang me his usual refrain - “it is the Armenians who are firing on our soldiers, looting houses and stores and setting fires” - I took the liberty of saying, not without a touch of humor: “Your Excellency, it is not the Armenians who are shooting at me in my own house, but the same soldiers who are shedding the Armenians’ blood.”

Threatened by the fire, the St. Paul middle school was likely to go up in flames at any moment. The monk again went to see the vali. “On the way,” he writes, “I met municipal firemen who were laboriously dragging a pump in our direction.” Later, both Father Rigal and the commission of inquiry reported that this pump was used, not to put out fires, but to feed the flames devouring the buildings in the neighborhood with paraffin. This time, the middle school - where 6,000 refuges had found shelter - the Marists’ establishment, and the school of the Sisters of Saint Joseph were set on fire. to the British consul’s intervention, their occupants were transferred to the gardens of the prefecture.

“Sunday night,” Father Rigal goes on,

The next day and the following night as well, the fire continued to rage. It devoured a church and two immense Armenian schools, the boys’ and the girls’ school, the little chapel, the Catholic Syriacs’ residence, the Protestant church, all our buildings, the free dormitory, middle and elementary schools, the Armenian Catholic church, the bishop’s residence, the big Terzian middle school and the girls’ school - in sum, seventy-five percent of the big Armenian quarter. I had almost forgotten the Orthodox Syriacs’ buildings, which had only just been constructed: the dormitory, church and school... Tuesday, 27 April might be called the last day in this horrible series, the likes of which has, perhaps, not been seen in modern history.

Rigal concludes:

No one who has not lived through these days can imagine what they were like. The crackling of gunfire mixed with the crackling of the fire, incessantly, for days and nights on end, and the hell of a city in flames; the thunder of the crumbling walls, heaving clouds of fire heavenward; the piercing cries of the unfortunates felled by the bullets and, still louder, the savage cries of the men busy slitting people’s throats; the wrenching appeals of a throng of people in a circle of flames, as their tormentors prepare to burn them alive; this frenzied, despairing population that stretches its arms out toward you and begs to be saved; the emotion that chokes you the more powerfully the closer the fire comes and the more helpless you feel, delivered up to a pack of arsonists and throat-cutters; the sinister gangs running past, laden down with booty; the arsonists who slip under doors, clamber over walls, break down everything that stands in their way and, sneering, contemplate the malignant flames; and these hordes of butchers who trample corpses underfoot, stab them full of holes, smash in skulls with their gun butts and then, the supreme insult, spit on their victims; the gaping wounds and quivering limbs; the head of a woman perforated by seven blows of a butcher’s knife; a skull split in two; six men strung together like beads by a grave mullah doing an experiment to see how many bodies one bullet can pierce; the unfortunates daubed with oil and transformed into living torches; a mother whose belly has been cut open and made over into a cradle for her new-born baby; all these atrocities, all these horrors, all these ruins, and the disgust and emotions that they call forth; the pen is powerless to translate all that into words.

The report of the commission of inquiry called into being by the Ottoman parliament

Provides a rather similar description of the facts:

There are no words strong enough to describe the horror and ferocity of the second massacre, which went on for two days. It was in the course of this carnage that the sick and wounded who had arrived from the surrounding villages and found refuge in the school building were burned alive. Cevad Bey has deemed it superfluous to speak, in his report, of the terrible death that these wretched people met in the flames; he says not a word about the pregnant women whose bellies were cut open, the little children whose throats were slit and a hundred other unspeakable atrocities. He does, however, take pains to note that a large quantity of bombs and dynamite exploded as the Armenian quarter was consumed by the flames. The best refutation of this slander is the fact that the Armenians never made use of bombs or dynamite in their attempt to defend themselves. Since they used ordinary weapons in their self-defense, it is plain that, had they had arms of this sort at their disposal, they would have used them as well, with very easily recognizable effects. Since we do not have the least indication that they used such explosives, it is only natural to suppose that this is sheer slander, designed to pin the blame for what happened on the Armenians.65

The same report concludes:

All these details clearly show one thing: in Adana, the government officials and country squires took pains to create in advance conditions likely, as they saw it, to minimize their responsibility for massacres that they had premeditated and then decided to commit and to throw that responsibility - at least officially - on the Armenians. To attain that goal and somehow legitimize the Muslims’ savage fury, all sorts of lies were put into circulation and someone hit upon the odious trick of firing on the soldiers’ encampment.

This time, the direct participation of the president of Adana’s Young Turk club, ihsan Fikri, was attested to by the official investigations. Like the others, Fikri had worn the white

Turban that was the mark of the aggressors. The final act was played out in the yard of the prefecture, before the vali’s residence, where several thousand refugees from the Jesuit mission and Armenian church of St. Stepanos had been gathered together (those in the church owed their lives to the courage of Brother Antoine, a French Jesuit who had plunged into the fire to save them). After several hours of doubt - some contend that the vali was waiting for an order from Constantinople or somewhere else that would settle the fate of this population - the throng was sent away. Since there were no buildings left in the city capable of sheltering them - the Armenian quarter had been largely demolished and what was left of it was in flames - they were led out of Adana toward the railway station by the British consul, who invited them to take up temporary quarters in the Tripani factory and on the premises of a German establishment nearby. It was there that these survivors learned that Sultan Abdulhamid had just given up his throne and been succeeded by Mehmed Re§ad. It was also from there that they watched for several days as their neighborhood burned to the ground.

The Official Gazette published, in its 18 May 1909 issue, a telegram that was devastating to the Ottoman authorities. Addressed to Denys Cochin (a French catholic leader), it read:

All the information we have, which converges with that published by the European press, confirms the complicity of the troops in the appalling massacres that took place in Adana and the rest of the province. The second, 25 April massacre was carried out by the very troops sent from Dede Aghach to put an end to the disorders. There occurred scenes at which indescribable atrocities were committed. All Cilicia is in ruins, prey to famine and poverty.



 

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