The historian Taner Akçam has made a new document of critical importance public after the revelation of the telegram of Bahaettin Sakir. The Order Of III telegram sent by the Army Commander Mahmut Kamil Pasha to the regions where the Armenians were being driven away and massacred is an even more frightening one. Mahmut Kamil Pasha says that the houses of those hiding Armenian should be burned to the ground and the owners should be hanged in front of their homes:
“It is considered necessary that those who have been hiding and maintaining Armenians in opposition to government orders be hung in front of their properties and their properties burned to the ground.” – 23 July 1915.
We have the microfilm of the original version of the official Ottoman Document: order of III. Army Commander Mahmut Kemal Paşa’s telegram which was written on a paper with the letterhead of the Ministry of Interior. At the bottom of the telegram, there is the stamp of the ministry: “true to original text”. In this letter, Mahmut Kemal Paşa informed that the houses of the ones who hide Armenians will be burned and they will be executed in front of their houses, and soldiers or civil servants who had done it will be dismissed immediately and tried in a military commission.
The modern Turkish version of the telegram dated July 24, 1915 translates as: “It is understood that Muslims are hiding Armenians in some villages and towns from where residents were deported. The houses of householders who hide and protect Armenians against the order of the government must be burned and they must be executed in front of their houses. Make sure that there is no Armenian left who is not deported and inform us about your conduct. The Armenians who converted to Islam will be deported as well. If there are members of armed forces who protect [Armenians], they will be reported to the related ministry, dismissed immediately to be tried later. If they are administrative authorities, they will also be dismissed immediately and referred to the military commission.”
Just like Bahaettin Şakir’s telegram dated July 4, 1915, this telegram is also included in the file of Committee of Union and Progress trials, which had been held in Istanbul in 1921-22. In the indictment against CUP executives, this telegram was quoted at length and it was noted that the number of this document is “section 13, document 1” [tertîb 13 vesîka
Mahmut Kamil Paşa wrote another telegram about the same issue. On August 1, 1915, he sent another order to the regions as an explanation to the one sent on July 24. In this second telegram, he wrote the execution order does not apply to “the ones who host women and children who were officially settled [in Muslim houses] by the government”. He noted that the punishment “applies to ones, regardless of their religion, who hide Armenians without informing the government” and these people will be executed.
This order reveals a fact: in villages and towns, many Muslims were hiding Armenians in their houses and the government wanted to prevent it. This is why the threat of burning the houses and execution was posed.
All these documents revealed during CUP trials in Istanbul are still kept confidential in secret vaults of the state! Since these documents couldn’t have been found for years, they had been treated as “invalid in the absence of originals”. For years, there had been a strange coalition. The state hid the documents and some academics spread the claim that “since there is no original document, they cannot be regarded as evidence”.
Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem
A considerable part of the court documents about Istanbul trials were in Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul once. In 1922, the patriarchate sent them to Marseilles. Afterwards, they were sent to Manchester and then to Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. This course can be traced from the stamps on the Mahmut Kamil Paşa and Bahaettin Şakir documents. On the top right corner of the documents, there are a stamp and a number on Ottoman letterhead. The stamp belongs to Armenian Diocese of Marseilles. It was written “Armenian Patriarchate of Marseilles” [Հայոց Առաջնորդարան Մարսելի] in Armenian at the center of the stamp and in French around the stamp. Jerusalem archive record consists of an Armenian letter and a number. Since Jerusalem archive is not open to researchers, it is impossible to access these documents for now.
We found the document in the archive of Catholic Priest Krikor Gergeryan, who died in 1988.
Read the full story on the website of AGOS Newspaper.