Adonis Diaries

“I committed genocide on Armenians…” Diaries of a Turkish Captain. Part 1

Posted on: July 17, 2013

“I committed genocide on Armenians…” Diaries of a Turkish Captain (fiction novel)

The Turkish Captain  Azil Kemal was sent on a mission to Erzerum province (East of Turkey) on April 24, 1915.

The mission stated “Displace the Armenians from the villages of Erzerum, and you may give a larger meaning to the term “Displacement” if necessary...”

Azil Kemal kept a diary that ran for a month, from April 24 to May 25, 1915.

The province of Erzurum had many Armenian villages such as Mamahatoun, Ilije, Khenous, Mouch

In context first:

Catherine II of Russia had started extensive expansion toward the Ottoman provinces in the Caucasus and Turkey had to sign many treaties relinquishing vast territories. The was this trend: The Christians in general, and particularly the Armenians, sided with the invading orthodox Tsarist Russian troops and offered them logistical support and manpower. As the Russians occupied a Turkish town, the Armenians would “take revenge” for one reason or another…

In 1895, the Russian armies invaded Turkey again and when they withdrew, Sultan Abdul Hamid II ordered the extermination of Armenians and blamed them for the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. The campaign of killing lasted a year and no foreign nations complained.

In 1915, Turkey sided with Germany in WWI against France, England and Russia.

The Russian armies vanquished Enver Pasha (the strongman of the triumvirate of Young Turkey) at Sarikamich in January of 1915. Many young Armenians joined the Russian troops.

The Turks had blockaded the city of Van for a month in order to quell uprising in support of the Russian troops.

Enver had met with the German von der Goltz in Istanbul  on April 29, 1914 and planned the total extermination of Armenians.

Captain Azil Kemal wrote in his diary:

“Saturday, April 24, 1915,

The inhabitants of the village of Ilidje received the order “Men from age 16 to 70 are to assemble in the church early morning. The remaining people are to stay at home”

(Males from age 20 to 45 had already been dispatch far away to participate in public work. Mainly, the tacit reason was to gather all weapons from the armed Armenians)

The Kara-Sou river, a tributary of the Euphrates River, crosses Ilidje.

About 300 males gathered in the church. Azil gave order to group the people in lots of 30 and taken to the river.

The lot entered an embarkation and were asked to descend to the hold through a small opening. The lot was squeezed in an iron net and hauled out by a crane and the net was drowned in the fast river, with its human content.

In order to hasten the process, the lot was increased to 35 people.

At 1 pm, the soldiers and guards reclaimed a break for lunch, though we had about 100 to finish off.

We ate pasterma, salep, simit… We drank wine and raki and we smoked…

We returned to the village and we massacred the remaining invalids, women, children and babies.

By 5 pm, the village was emptied and we burned it down…” To be continued

Note 1: Talaat Pasha (the second in the triumvirate of revolutionary group of Young Turks) was minister of the interior and was to organize and execute the genocide plan. After the WWI war, he fled to Berlin in 1919 and was assassinated by Soghomon Tehlirian.

Note 2: Before the massacre of Ilidje, 30,000 Armenians were already killed in the town of Zeitoun in the center of Turkey.

Note 3: Azil Kemal, as most of the Young Turks were atheists, but it was convenient to bring the religious issue in order to “ethnically cleans” Turkey…

Note 4: The French author Jean-Claude Belfiore is from an Armenian mother and a Sicilian father. He published “Hannibal: An unbelievable destiny

Note 5:  The author did his best to fool the reader that the book is a genuine diary from an actual Turkish officer. The cover features an old picture of a Turkish officer, and throughout the book the author made sure to give the impression that the story was extracted from a diary.

The introduction informed us that the diary covered 4 block-notes, 100-page each, and written in Turkish but with Armenian characters! And that Azil was married to the Armenian Anzi and had a one year old son Erol-Hagop (Jack) and that he was an Armenophone.

Note 6: It is infuriating to the reader to notice the great trouble that an author makes to fool the buyer. After the first two chapters, it become obvious that it is a novel written in diary form. It is highly improbable that an officer under so much stress can write about his adventure extensively, clearly, smoothly and with minute details. Let alone very funny dialogues.

A diary is an exercise to relieve the anxieties and frustrations of a person who needs to let a big load off his shoulders. You jot down a few sentences to remind you of the events for later editing.

3 Responses to "“I committed genocide on Armenians…” Diaries of a Turkish Captain. Part 1"

J’ai lu avec intérêt votre blog à propos de mon livre “Moi, Azil Kémal…”. Je voudrais revenir sur la note 6.
Le « journal » est un genre littéraire auquel ont succombé de nombreux auteurs (Sartre, Camus, Stevenson, Vittorini, Gide, Jules Verne, Genet, Mirbeau, Bernanos etc.!). Dans aucun cas, le lecteur n’est dupe, et jamais l’auteur n’a voulu prendre son lecteur pour un imbécile. Ni moi non plus. C’est un peu comme si vous reprochiez à un auteur de roman policier d’essayer de faire croire que les meurtres dont il parle ont réellement eu lieu. Tout le monde sait que c’est de la fiction. C’est un jeu. Même le « vrai journal » (par exemple celui d’Anne Frank), est « arrangé » pour être lisible, présentable.
Par ailleurs, j’écris dans les premières pages : « Le verso des pages a été utilisé pour des corrections, preuve que le narrateur se relisait avec un esprit critique ». On peut donc très bien imaginer que Azil Kémal corrigeait son texte; dans un certain endroit du roman, n’envisage-t-il pas la possibilité que son journal soit publié?
Votre définition du journal est réductrice.
(Merci tout de même!).
Bien à vous,
Jean-Claude Belfiore

Thanks Jean-Claude for your comment. Frankly, matters of genocide are too serious to even try to fool people that what was published was from a diary. The events most probably occurred from doing a few research. I like to remind you that people “fast read” and very few read the introduction. The cover got me fooled and I felt duped: I wanted to read genuine diaries of that period. It is a good novel so far. I could expand a little on the human feeling in later reviews of your book.

Merci pour cette mise au point. Dans la publication d’un livre, il y a des contraintes éditoriales que, peut-être, vous ignorez et sur lesquelles il serait trop long de revenir. Mais rappelez-vous une chose: un texte publié, quel qu’il soit (un journal?), est différent du texte qu’on garde chez soi dans un tiroir.
Encore une fois, le “journal” est un genre littéraire à part entière, comme le récit, comme le théâtre: il a ses lois – des lois qui sont différentes de celles du journal qu’on tient à la maison. Il ne faut pas essayer de comparer les deux. Le premier n’est pas moins sincère que le second. – Et c’est parce que le massacre des Arméniens est sérieux que j’ai choisi un Turc pour le raconter.
Autre chose.
Je préfère la traduction “I killed Armenians” (part II) plutôt que “I committed genocide”, qui est anachronique. Le mot “genocide” est apparu en 1944.
Merci de l’intérêt que vous portez à ce livre.
Jean-Claude Belfiore

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