Episode 44 – Niles & Sutherland Report 2: “Armenians Massacred Muslims with Refined Cruelty”

Niles & Sutherland Report 2 : “Armenians Massacred Muslims with Refined Cruelty” In Episode 43, we have learned that Prof Justin McCarthy had discovered in the US National Archives in 1990, a survey of eastern Anatolia conducted in the summer of 1919 by two Americans, Captain Emory H. Niles and Mr. Arthur E. Sutherland Jr. Their account is one of the first descriptions of this region by outside observers after World War I. However, the document was missing the authors’ field notes, which the authors emphasized should be read in conjunction with their report. Some 20 years after that revelation, Niles and Sutherland’s field notes have been found in the archives of the former American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) in Istanbul, by another American historian, Brian Johnson. His research titled Americans Investigating Anatolia: The 1919 Field Notes of Emory Niles and Arthur Sutherland, was published in The Journal of Turkish Studies, 34, II, 2010, 129-147. Between 14 July and 12 August 1919, Niles & Sutherland, employees of The American Committee for Relief in the Near East (ACRNE), traveled from Mardin to Trabzon, by way of Bitlis, Van, and Erzurum, to determine local relief needs and how ACRNE could fulfill them. Niles & Sutherland report was mixed in among various papers related to the Harbord Commission, a survey expedition sent by the US government to Anatolia and the South Caucasus in September 1919 to investigate the possibilities for an American mandate over the region and the establishment of an Armenian state that would encompass parts of eastern Turkey. How the field notes of Niles & Sutherland got to ABCFM archives in Istanbul and to the papers of the Harbord Commission is part of a complex story that involves American Protestant missionaries and American humanitarian and political actions after WWI. On the eve of WWI, 174 missionaries in Turkey were operating 3 theological schools, 8 colleges, 46 secondary schools, and 369 other schools, and 19 hospitals/dispensaries. Communications, travel, shipping, and other vital operations were hindered by the WWI. To make matters worse, the Armenians who deserted from the Ottoman army, instigated rebellion in eastern Anatolia, and fought alongside invading Russian forces on the Caucasian front. According to page 34 of The Macmillan Dictionary of The WWI, by Pope & Wheal, London, 1997, “… extreme (Armenian) nationalists crossed the border (in 1914) to form a rebel division with Russian equipment. It invaded in December (Anatolia) and slaughtered an estimated 120,000 non-Armenians while the Turkish Army was preoccupied with mobilization and the Caucasian front offensive toward Sarikamish…” Armenian insurgents killed 80,000 Muslims more during the Van rebellion in April-May of 1915, ethnically cleansing the entire area of Muslims. The two numbers add up to 200,000 Muslim dead, representing about 2 % of the entire Ottoman Empire’s Muslims. (What would America do if an armed and murderous domestic insurgent group took up arms against America and killed 2% of Americans or 6.6 million citizens?) “…The… measures undertaken by the Ottoman government in the spring of 1915 to expel Armenians from the war zones and elsewhere in its territory, as well as military hostilities, inter-communal strife, and indiscriminate violence and banditry led to the exile, flight, or death of a great number of Anatolia’s Armenian inhabitants during the war. When the United States finally joined the Allies in 1917 and diplomatic relations with the Ottoman Empire were broken, many missionaries left the region, closing most facilities…The missionaries generally sympathized with the Armenians and other Christians, in whose communities they had invested so heavily. Likewise, they tended to view the Muslim populace as lesser, misguided, and oppressive. Missionary publications and their reports to the US and international press cultivated pro-Christian, pro-Armenian sentiment and aroused anti-Muslim, anti-Turk prejudices… They exploited the religious differences between the Turks and the Armenians… Niles and Sutherland commenced their journey on 14 July, visited 23 cities in a rocky, war-ravaged territory, in 30 days. Traveled by train, horse, carriage, and automobile, as the local conditions allowed, the mission ended on 12 August at Trabzon. They returned to Istanbul on 15 August, completed their ACRNE service, and left Turkey within a few days…Prior to leaving for (the US), they typed up their field notes and drafted a final report of their journey… hurriedly. Between 1915 and 1918, the Russians and Armenians occupied Van, Erzurum, Bitlis, and Trabzon. After the Russian revolution in 1917, the Russian army left, leaving Armenian forces in place, which is when Armenian atrocities victimizing defenseless Muslims peaked. When the Ottomans launched a counter-offensive in early 1918, the Armenians fled eastward killing every Muslim on their path.

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