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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

Reference code
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 entry, paper
Turkey ยป Harput

38.7034098, 39.2529798

Monday June 7 [7 June 1909] Got off at 5.40 and rode through the
plain to Keserik (7.55-8.35) where I copied Nero's inscription. The
villages half Armenian and half Islam. Caught up the caravan in
Mezreh at 9 and got into camp on the Kharput [Harput] road. [Next
sentence at bottom of previous page] Roofs of red tiles. Lunched. Mr
Masterson, the American consul's dragoman came to see me. Then
rode up to Kharput which stands most splendidly among the rocky
summits. Very little remains of the castle and that little is not specially
good work. One bastion to the E striped red and white. By the gate
two very bad low reliefs of a lion and a lion and a goat, and an
inscription much damaged. There is a big American college here. I
was greeted by one who said "Excuse me, you spik [sic] English?
you want see some many old things?" Below the castle is a Jacobite
church supposed to be 1800 years old. It is on the traditional plan with
narthex to the S and engaged columns framing[?] niches under the
vault. The W end is rock cut, but I think it has all been rebuilt. Some
very curious old pictures apparently oil on canvass, Virgin and Child,
crucifixion and 2 others whose subjects were difficult to make out.
Delicious cherries. The town is very charming without architectural
interest but like a hill built Italian town with peaceful cobbled streets
through which little or no wheeled traffic comes. So down to my tents
at 2, slept and read papers. After tea came an officer and said the
Vali proposed to call. I walked down to see the American consul, Mr
William Wesley Masterson, but he was out, so I came back and dined
hastily and before I had finished the Vali appeared. A cheerful white
bearded little man, a Cretan, who had been 2 years (I think) in the
Yemen and had held many other posts. He said he had come
specially because I was English, rejoiced over the fall of Abdul
Hamid and the establishment of peace under the new govt. (sic)
Presently appeared the Muaour[?] Vali (the Vali for the Armenians).
He talked a little French and had just come from C'ple [Istanbul
(Constantinople)]. Then came Mr Masterson and the others left. He
said they had been as near as possible to a massacre. On Ap 17
some of the American missionaries were in a village under the hills 6
hours' away; they sent in word that Kurds had assembled in great
numbers and a massacre was impending. Mr M. went at once to the
Vali, got 6 men and sent them off with a kavass. They arrived before
evening, found thg village full of Moslems, very threatening, and
stopped the proceedings. Meantime Mr M. had got the Vali to send
off 20 more. They did not arrive for 24 hours and when they came the
Moslems said "Why did you come? in a few hours we shd have
finished the whole business." On the 21st came a telegram from C'ple
ordering massacres. The Vali came 4 days later to Mr M. and told
him about it. He looked terribly worn as if he had been through a
great strain. He said no one knew of the telegram but himself and the
telegram clerk. (At the same time everyone knew or guessed of the
order!) The Kurds had been pressing him for 4 days to give the order
for the massacres and he refused. Meantime a terrible panic
obtained in the town. The Armenians flocked to the Consulate
(leaving their wives and children to take care of themselves) and
begged for protection. Mr M. sent them away saying their panic only
made the danger greater and if there was necessity he wd take them
all in. Mr Leischmann, informed by Mr M., telegraphed and asked for
a copy of the C'ple telegram. Mr M tried to get it from the Vali but the
latter prevaricated and hesitated, said Mr M. had misunderstood, the
telegram had not come straight from C'ple but through Smyrna [Izmir].
The day before the Sultan's deposition (ie Ap 26 I suppose) the
General commanding the troops in the Dersim district (the same who
offered to march to the help of the troops from Salonica [Thessaloniki
(Saloniki)]) telegraphed - I think I understood to Diarbekr [Diyarbakir
(Amida)]) and said that if there was a massacre he shd hold the acting
vali (the Dersim man) personally responsible. From the moment of
the Sultan's fall everything was quiet and the whole talk of massacre
dropped. A week ago the Mufti assembled the whole population,
Moslem and Xian, in a village near Mezreh, preached a most
beautiful sermon in which he said they were all brothers and children
of one God, and their crops were all alike suffering from the drought
and it behoved them all to pray together for rain. So they all prayed
together in amity for 3 [5[?]] days! Mr M. discussed whether in case of
danger it wd not be best to disarm the Armenians. He said generally
the Moslems were bent rather on pillage than on massacre and if
there was no resistance massacre was avoided. He had determined
only to use his own arms to protect women and children. In 1895 one
of the American missionaries saved 800 Armenians by taking them
into his compound but before he let them in he disarmed them all and
gave the arms to the govt. This was the reason why they were
spared. Mr M. says they are miserable dogs. They refused to have
anything to do with an official paper he drew up recognizing the
services of the Vali in preventing massacres. The Vali is thoroughly
reactionary, so is the local committee, and so he understands is the
committee in Diarbekr.

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