19th century sources

website of Jelle Verheij, historian

Report on a Journey in the Cazas Sherwan, Sairt, and Aroh May and June 1898

(by J.H. Monahan, British Vice-Consul in Bitlis)

[192]

Secondly, horsemen come to our village. They are quartered in our houses, and take barley and straw without payment.

Thirdly, in thrashing time, all the Government officials come, and take our straw by force, and store it until the next winter, and sell it us at a high price.

Fourthly, in collecting taxes, they give us so much trouble that we are obliged to sell our crops at half price before cutting them. When the man of the house is not present, they take our women to the government house and demand our taxes from them.

[191v] Mussulmans. All the straw, and wood, and every fruit? required by the officials we give them without payment.”

Signed by the Priest, the Mukhtar, and two other Christian notables of Deh.


Translation, Petition from Deh (3rd June 1898)

Sir,

We welcome you here and and your coming to ask about our wretched condition. The following are the particulars: First, we hear that by an order from the Sultan we have been relieved from military exemption tax. But the Government has collected it up to the present date. Everything you can imagine is done to us.

[192v]

Fifthly, the officials will soon come and take our women and daughters and carry them and make them Moslems.

Sixtly. The roads are so unsafe that we cannot to other villages to buy grain.

Seventhly, In the day time when we go to cultivate our fields the Kurds come and carry off our oxen [there seems to have been only one such case since the … six oxen were taken ] and the Government never asks about them.

Eightly, if you ask the truth, this is the truth. All our fields and vineyards have passed into the hands

[193] of the Kurds [ a great exaggeration], and now we cannot leave our village. Now we again and again … you Sir, by any possible means to use from the Kurds and Turks. You must know that if we live another year here they will make us all Mussulmans (unsigned) (written it seems by the priest)


From Deh we turned back northward towards the Bohan River and spent the night of June 3rd in a Kurdish village Haleila (20 house). I was struck by the well dressed and flourishing appearance of the people, and by the apparently flourishing little school in

[193v] which the Arabic grammar was being taught.

     Next day we crossed the Bokhtan river by a ford near Sairt. On the way to the ford we passed through a Chaldaean, that is Catholic Syrian speaking village Sadik (about 30 houses). It had not been plundered, but had paid in the massacre time 30 liras to an Agha for Kurdish protection besides feeding 50 of his men for two months. The church is in good repair, and the school seemed flourishing, and the whole village presented a pleasing prosperous appearance. The people seemed fairly contended. The tithe for last year

[194] had remained in the hands of the government to collect for itself, a very rare arrangement. On the northern or right bank of the Bohtan we arrived at a Kurdish village of Sairt caza named Batrant 1400 feet above the river. This is an Arab looking Kurdish village of 20 houses, which now entirely belongs to the Sheikh of Tilo who takes one half of the produce. The people seemed by no means pleased with this state of things.

     The next day we visited Tilo, which is just outside the Sherwan Caza, 2300 feet above the Bohtan. It is a large Mussulman village of 700 houses, white, bright

[194v] comparatively clean. The often mentioned Sheikh, who lives there, represents a famous family of Sheikhs which has been there for 200 years. His house is a great building of 100 rooms each with a glass window. Within it are much venerated tombs of three Sheikhs, his ancestors at which miracles are performed. The present Sheikh is a stout shrewd looking person, entirely devoted to money making in which he has achieved great success. His village pays no taxes of any kind to Government.

     We next travelled through Kufra, and then a three hours’ climb northwards over the mountains by the ancient ‘Kaldirim’ a causeway. supposed to have been made by

[195] the Persians, once a good road paved with large blocks of stone which having fallen into confusion now render the way …. impassable for horses. We came down to the Jacobite village Gundediesan (14 houses). There were 20 houses before the massacre. Of the 6 other families, 3 are in Bitlis and 3 more are said to have perished of hunger and disease. The village was attacked by Demli nomads one night in November 1895. Twelve men were killed in the village, including the priest, all the houses except one were burnt. 700 sheep, and 30 oxen were carried off, half of the fields have been left out of cultivation since that year. The grain in store was all

[195v] taken by Kurdish villagers on the following morning. The Gundediesan people, on the invitation of neighbouring Kurds all declared themselves Mussulmans, and remained in the profession of Islam for 7 months till the Summer of 1896 when they all returned to Christianity. They have however no church or priest and are only visited once a year by the Jacobite bishop of Bitlis. All are deeply in debt to Sairt and Bitlis Mussulmans, and are paying as they told us 35 percent interest. They bought their own tithes in 1897 for 17 liras, but sold them for 15 liras to neighbouring Kurds,

[196] who being very honest in their business made a loss of 3 liras and refused to many more than the 12 liras to the villagers. I visited an encampment of 40 black tents of nomads of the Mahmedan tribe on the mountain over this village. They seemed to be living in plenty and contentment and to be on good terms with the Christian villagers, who made no serious complaint of them. The Government has lately been taking from these nomads some temettu’ from what they gain by letting out mules for hire. As they are very well off, they pay this and some sheep tax cheerfully. They of course do not serve

[196v] in the army.

     The next village we saw was Merj which before the disturbances consisted of 9 Jacobite families, but now has only two, and these two still profess Islam to which they were converted under the influence of the terror. Only two men were killed in the village. The seven families who also converted to Islam, and have since migrated and scattered. Three Kurdish families have come into the village since 1895 to occupy fields and houses in satisfaction of debts.

     Next we saw Nub’ain, an Armenian village. Before the disturbances it had 40 houses. It has now only 7 families of which two still profess Islam. It has now only 7 families of which two still profess Islam. Thirty men and three women were

[197] killed and two women and two girls were carried off by the Kurds. It is remarkable that only here and in the neighbouring Eroun valley did we find cases of women or girls having been carried off. All the sheep and oxen of the village were taken, except those of the two converted families. All the thirty eight unconverted families left it and came to Bitlis and stayed there for one year after which the Government sent them back to their village, but most of them left again finding it impossible to live. They have paid no taxes since 1895 except that they bought their own tithes in 1897 for 6 liras. They told us

[197v] they were all in debt to Kurds and paying the usual 30 percent interest. The 7 families are now cultivating one fourth of the fields they formerly did. Al the rest of the land is left out of cultivation. The people were all in rags. In September 1897 two men, one woman and one girl, who were guarding their fields by night, from wild boars were killed by Kurds. This really seems to be the* only case of murder that has occurred in all Sherwan since the massacre time.

     The Eroun valley now begins. There are in it 11 Jacobite and 2 Armenian villages. I visited all these 13 villages. They had before the disturbances 242 houses, the


*Except the murder of the Jacobite bishop of Harput, who, in the Summer of 1896, was killed in Eboun Valley by Kurds irritated … .. [two illegible words]

[198] sizes of the villages ranging from 50 to 6 houses. They have now 156. On one night in November 1895, Atmangli, Modeki, and Demli Kurds attacked all these villages. Sixty three men were killed and ten women. Five women and girls were carried off. All the villages, except one of 18 families, who fled, became Mussulman. One small village of 7 families remains so still, the rest having all returned to Christianity in April 1896. The people of that village as well as those of another one of about the same size, were circumcised; the only instances of  Christians having been circumcised in Sherwan. All the sheep and oxen of all the villages except the

[198v] one which remains Mussulman were taken. None were taken from it. The Christians of Eroun are all in great poverty paying ruinous interest to Kurds. Two of the villages, each of 5 houses, have been entirely empty since 1895. Since that year the Christians of Eroun have paid no taxes except tithes. In two of the largest villages Avar (36 houses) and Gunzag (40 houses) we heard the following story. Hassan Effendi, the ‘nufus naziri’ (census official) who came round in the Summer of 1896 to take the census for future military exemption tax, demanded bribes, and of the refusal of the villagers to give any, falsely reported to the Government that for the last 15 years these 2 villages had been suppressing names, and the Government on this score


[199] claims 350 liras from Gunzag and 96 1/2 liras from Avar. The Eroun villages had all bought their own tithes, and they asserted that they had to pay in each case the same sum as was paid before the disturbances, which was obviously unjust. Direk however, the still Mussulman village, which seemed remarkably contended, bought its tithes last year for the small sum of 4 liras which it found very reasonable as it had paid more for them before the disturbances. Of the 3 or 4 Kurdish villages of Eroun I visited three. The people of these three all complained of the heavy prices at which their tithes had been sold to themselves. The headmen of two of them said that they, the two headmen, had been in

[191] agony [?] of the officials. We are like slaves in the hands of the officials, and we implore you in the name of Jesus Christ to save us from this slavery. The Government building of Deh has been repaired by the forced by the forced labour of the village, and all the stone, lime, and timber, they took from us without payment. Of all the crops you see in our fields, one half is taken from us by force. We regret to say that about of our people are scattered among Kurds [ a gross exaggeration, only 40 families have left Deh since the massacre] and little by little they will all become

Deh → Eruh (centre of Eruh district, Siirt province)

Halile → Sağırsu (village in Eruh district, Siirt province)

Sadik → Koçlu (village in Siirt central district, Siirt province)

Batrant → Çınarlısu (village in Tillo district, Siirt province)

Tilo → Tillo (centre of Tillo district, Siirt province)

Kufra → Şirvan (centre of Şirvan district, Siirt province)

Gundediesan → Suludere ( (Şirvan district, Siirt province)

Merj → Suluyazı (village in Şirvan district, Siirt province)

Eroun → Cevizlik subdistrict of Şirvan district, Siirt province)

Avar → Gürgencik neighbourhood (mezra) of Kayahisar village, Şirvan district, Siirt province) Gunzag - Oya (village in Şirvan district, Siirt province)

Direk previously identified with Söbetaş hamlet of Taşli village (see above). Unclear why the author mentions this village as located in the Eroun/Cevizlik area. Perhaps threre was a second village with the same name

Nubain → Turgutlu neighbourhood (mezra) of Nallıkaya village in (Şirvan district, Siirt province)

pages 191 - 199

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