In the run up to Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, this article appeared in hard-hitting Turkish daily Taraf a few days ago. The writer quotes heavily from an eye-witness account of the mass deportation of Armenians by Ottoman Turks, which began on 24 April, 1915, and ended dubbed as the first genocide of the 20th century. “How many minutes can you endure this article?” asks Yıldıray Oğur of his fellow Turkish citizens, before imploring those who read as far as 5:03 “to stop being accomplice to this crime with ‘but, but, but’, to say a prayer, and not to hurt the souls of people who died in the genocide anymore.”
In compliance with your request, I have the honour of sending you a written account of the impressions I received on the journey from Baghdad to Aleppo. It is mainly a written account of the remarks I jotted in my notebook during the coach drive, with half-frozen fingers and in abbreviated form. They therefore convey the immediate impression I gained on the spot.
Date: 31 January 1916
Location: En route between Zor and Tibni
1 p.m.: On the left of the road lay a young woman. Naked, only brown socks on her feet. Her back upwards. Head buried in crossed arms.
1.30 a(fternoon): On the right of the road in a ditch an old man with white beard. Naked. Lying on his back. Two steps further on, a young boy. Back upwards. Left buttock ripped away.
2.00 hrs: 5 fresh graves. On the right: a clothed man, with his genitals exposed.
2.05 hrs: r [On the right]: 1 man, abdomen and bleeding genitals exposed.
2.07 hrs: r: 1 man in a state of decay.
2.08 hrs: r: 1 man, completely clothed, lying on his back, mouth wide open, head pushed backwards, face distorted with pain.
2.10 hrs: r:1 man, abdomen clothed, chest partly eaten away.
2.15 hrs: Traces of a cooking place. Shreds of linen strewn all over the road.
2.25 hrs: l [On the left] by the road: 1 woman, lying on her back, the upper part of her body covered by a shawl wrapped around her shoulders, lower half eaten away, only bloody thigh bones protrude from the shawl.
2.27 hrs: Many shreds of linen.
2.45 hrs: Many shreds of linen.
3.10 hrs: Traces of a cooking place and a campsite. Many shreds of linen. Remains of campfires, 1 coal scuttle. 6 male bodies, clothed only in trousers, chests bare, lying around the site of a campfire.
3.22 hrs: 22 fresh graves.
3.25 hrs: r: 1 clothed man
3.28 hrs: l: 1 naked man, eaten at.
3.45 hrs: Bloody skeleton of a girl about 10 years old, long blond hair still attached, lying with wide open arms and legs in the middle of the road.
3.50 hrs: Many shreds of clothing.
3.55 hrs: l: Completely clothed man with black beard, lying on his back in the middle of the road, as if he had just fallen from the huge rock which was standing to the left of the road.
4.03 hrs: r: 1 woman, wrapped in a cloth, cowering next to her a child, about 3 years old, wearing a blue cotton dress. The child had probably starved to death next to the exhausted mother.
4.10 hrs: 17 fresh graves.
5.02 hrs: A dog devouring a human skeleton.
5.03 hrs: Arrival in Tibni. Only one [inn], otherwise no houses. No Armenians.
The full first-hand report of the massacre, as written by Wilhelm Litten, German Consul to the Ottoman Empire from 1915-16, is available in English online at www.armenocide.net
[Edition: The Armenian Genocide 1915/16. Wolfgang & Sigrid Gust (Ed.) — February 1916]