Archives of the Erzurum-based Ataturk University’s Turkey-Armenia Relations Research Center reveal eyewitness accounts of atrocities carried out in 1915.
Armenian gangs killed thousands of Muslim civilians, including women and children during World War I in eastern Anatolia, archives of the Erzurum-based Ataturk University’s Turkey-Armenia Relations Research Center have revealed.
In the archives, one can read eyewitness accounts of several survivors of the series of atrocities allegedly carried out by Armenian groups in 1915.
In an interview given in 1980, Ismail Gurcan, a witness of the massacre in Erzurum’s western town of Alaca, recalled how he had escaped death at the hands of Armenians when he was just 12-years-old. Gurcan’s mother, however, was not as lucky as him and she in fact died protecting him, he said.
“Five days before the massacre, the Armenians did not allow anyone into the village,” he said. "On the day the massacre took place, they gathered us all together on the pretext of removing snow," he added.
Later that day before dusk, shots rang out across the village. "They put a guard in front of the door of each house so that no one could get out. They were killing people," he said, adding that gunshots continued till the following morning.
Even his own mother was shot from close range. "My mom was shot and she fell to the ground," Gurcan, said. "I fell under her and wasn't hit by any shots." This last move by his mother saved his life.
However, the Armenian gangs wanted to make sure that there were no survivors.
Gurcan described how the dead were then bayoneted. "Many bayonets were stabbed into my mother’s body, some went through so deep that they struck me as well," he said.
He said that the Armenian gangs who attacked them were "cruel" and persecuted the people who had been good to them.
He also questioned the Armenian claims of genocide. "If genocide had taken place, then there would have been no Armenian left in the West," Gurcan added.
Ibrahim Sargin, too, witnessed the alleged crimes in Turkey’s eastern Van province. In an interview, Sargin recalled how 65 of his own own relatives were killed.
"Women and children were barbarically killed with blades and bayonets," he said. It was nothing short of a miracle that he survived along with his mother and sister, he added.
"Armenians lie when they say they were abused by Turks," he said. "We had hosted them in our country and they were the ones who abused us and made us miserable," he added.
He also alleged how women were also brutally raped by Armenian men. "They enslaved the women and tortured them till the next morning," he said.
Ahmet Tohum was about 14-years-old when he witnessed the massacre. Tohum recalled how he had ventured out with his father to search for his uncle’s daughter in Erzurum province after Armenian gangs withdrew from the region.
"We went to look in Hasankale and couldn’t take a step, bodies of the dead were everywhere," he said.
He witnessed a seven-year-old survivor emerging from under the pile of dead bodies and another four-year-old boy, who despite his stab wounds, continued to breathe.
"That day we had carried around 500 to 600 bodies," he said. Later, Tohum would suffer from insomnia because he saw dead people every time he shut his eyes.
"No book explains what had been done to us," he said. "No nation did as much harm to the Turks than the Armenians," he added.
Erzurum High School Principal Selami Gunes recalled how during World War I, students played an important role to defend their homeland in the 1915 war and some of them even got killed at the Canakkale battle frontlines.
"Students had moved supplies to Canakkale front lines under very harsh weather conditions," Gunes told The Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.
"Our students demonstrated great heroism for their country's development and protection," he added.
The 1915 events took place during World War I when a portion of the Armenian population living in the Ottoman Empire sided with the invading Russians and revolted. The relocation by the Ottomans of Armenians in eastern Anatolia following the revolts resulted in numerous casualties.
Turkey does not dispute that there were deaths on both sides, but rejects the definition of "genocide."