1915 Genocide and Deportation
The adoption of the Turkish Constitution in 1908 gave new hope to the Armenians that their persecution would end and they would be allowed to live as free citizens in a free country. Therefore, they greeted the new regime with sincerity, little realizing that a most fearful destiny awaited them.
The freedom provided by the Constitution granted relative security to the Habousetzies, who began to make plans for their economic and cultural advancement. But Turkish and Kurdish hatred towards Armenians did not fade. Disillusionment soon followed hope. The new regime of Young Turks demonstrated its true color by organizing a massacre of Armenians in Adana, Cilicia, in the spring of 1909. It was a warning to the Armenians that there would be no security for them under any type of Turkish regime.
The people of Habousi soon realized that nothing had changed. The Turks and Kurds increased their demands, only this time they met resistance. Fights between Armenian and Turk teenagers and young people threatened to escalate the friction. Numerous incidents prove that the Armenians were not free from harassment.
Once, Krikor Berberian, a teenager, wrestled with a Turk by the latter’s invitation, and in front of his friends, and won. Not accepting his defeat, the Turk took out his knife and tried to kill Krikor. Krikor’s friends asked for help and Baghdasar, the brave, appeared. He began to hit the Turks who were attacking the Armenians with sticks. The beaten Turks ran away, only to return with others from Alisham, all armed with shovels and hoes. The situation worsened.
Baghdasar warned the Habousetzies to flee while he threw himself in the river and began to fire at the Turks. No one dared to come close, and soon the Turks left.
The same day, another incident happened between Turks and Armenians from Habousi and Zartarij. The Armenians who went to support Vartan and Abraham Garoian were caught in a conflict with Turks.
Another group of Armenians, under the leadership of Marsoub Donigian and Topal (limp) Yenovk, fought on their own against the Turks. Marsoub had participated in the Balkan War and he was noted for his bravery. He had once defended himself against a dozen Turks who tried to steal his horse.
Another incident occurred in September 1910. Every autumn Kurds from Erzerum brought sheep to Habousi and stayed in the village for weeks until all the sheep were sold. Malkhas Kassabian and Krikor Antoian, two butchers from Habousi, decided which sheep to purchase. When they returned to take the sheep home, they noticed that the Kurds had replaced the healthy sheep with small, sickly ones. As a result, there was a confrontation and the two men, outnumbered by Kurds, were beaten severely.
Armenians were ready for revenge. The following day, as the Kurds drove their sheep to the village of Akhor, Malkhas and Krikor attacked them. Other Armenians joined in and together they beat the Kurds. During the fight Moushegh Garoian and many Kurds were wounded.
Moushegh later migrated to the United States.
Rev. Armenag Simonian submitted a letter of protest to the government, citing the aforementioned incident. The letter was signed by Reyis Simon Simonian, Hagop Kehya Yeghigian, Hampo Kehya Kelagopian, Malkhas Kehya Kassabian, Gourghis Kehya Donigian, Margos Kehya Antoian, and Krikor Kehya Boz Bedrosian.
Rev. Simonian, a capable diplomat, explained that responsibility for the incident lay with the Kurds. He defended the Armenians as loyal tax payers of the government. The Armenians won the case after a court trial.
Another day, Turks from Akhor seized a flock of sheep. The Habousetzies, under the leadership of Topal Yenovk and Krikor Boz Bedrosian, rescued the animals.
Frequently thieves broke into Armenian homes to steal whatever they found. So the villagers decided to put guards on duty at night. One night, the guards fired on thieves. The thieves complained to the Beg of Zartarij. The Beg sent for Najar Haroutiun Apoian, inviting him for a discussion. When Apoian arrived in Zartarij, the Beg complained about the shooting. Apoian replied that the firing was a cautionary measure.
In the spring of 1910, some villagers took their cattle to bathe. Kurds demanded they remove the animals. When the villagers refused to leave, the Kurds attacked and tried to steal Sarkis Arzoumanian’s donkey. Four Kurds began to beat Papel. At that moment Krikor Berberian appeared, and after a short confrontation the Kurds fled. However, they soon returned with more men. Vartan Kojigian, Zadour Ajemian, and Marsoub Donigian, besieged by outnumbering Kurds, defended themselves courageously. Gun shots rang out and the Kurds fled.
In the field of Saloukh, a Kurd wanted to contaminate the water Armenians used for drinking. Malkhas, a villager, tried to prevent him and was beaten badly. Kurds plucked his hair, which caused Malkhas to bald prematurely.
A group of young Habousetzies, seeking revenge, rushed to the spot and beat the Kurds who, taken by surprise, fled. Moushegh Najarian was wounded by a stone and fell unconscious. The government investigated the matter, but no conclusion was reached.
Because of these incidents, Habousi was engulfed in a restless peace when World War I erupted in 1914. The backdrop of the war gave the Turks the opportunity to solve the Armenian question in a most fiendish manner. They planned and executed the complete elimination of Armenians from Turkey. Under the guise of national security, it was decided that the Armenians would be “removed” from their homes and sent into the Syrian desert for the duration of the war.
That was the deportation order issued in April 1915. Secret orders were sent to all governors of Armenian provinces to spare no one. First all able-bodied men between the ages of twenty-one and forty-five were called into the army so no resistance could be attempted. These men were assigned to labor corps and were ordered to build roads. Then they were shot and buried in the ditches they had dug themselves.
Whole populations of villages and towns were given twenty-four hours notice to pack up and leave. A few men were spared in order to harvest the crops, but later they received the same treatment.
When the war erupted, the seeding had been completed, and the students were in school. The sun, with every new day, increased the villagers’ hopes for an abundant harvest which indeed happened in time.
The news of the war was disturbing. Immediately, the government posted an announcement calling all Habousetzies between the ages of twenty-one and forty-five to join the army. Many villagers left their jobs unfinished.
Sadness replaced the happiness of the villagers. Every family lost two or three men to the army. Many families were left with no support. The villagers now became painfully aware of the enlistment requirements of the Ottoman Constitution.
When the time arrived for enlistment, the young men of Ichme joined the young Habousetzies for their march to Mezre. Songs were sung and music was heard! The village was emptied of its youth. Each Habousetzie was given a chance to acquaint himself with the members of his division during the first few days in the garrisons. Then they were allowed to return to the village to help with the harvest. Everyone was eager to complete the harvest and sell the wheat. Some wrote to relatives in the United States to ask for financial assistance. They wanted to have the bedel (a sum paid to be freed from military obligations) ready.
The work in the fields had not been completed when a cattle epidemic broke out and destroyed almost eighty percent of the village animals. Harvesters were forced to carry everything themselves. Seeding without oxen was very difficult, but they finished before winter arrived.
Then the men were ordered back to their divisions, and the village emptied again of its young people.
Then a division of fifteen hundred soldiers from Mezre came and settled in Habousi. The churches and the schools were turned into garrisons. Many soldiers settled in houses, ten to twenty in a house. Soldiers on their way from Eastern Turkey to the front spent the night in either Habousi or Palu or Gulishkir. During the day, newly arrived soldiers replaced those who had left. The villagers were obliged to feed the soldiers. This unpleasant situation continued until the eve of the genocide.
By the beginning of 1915, Habousetzies were suffering immensely. The notables traveled to Mezre to appeal to the government to ease their burden. In addition to their responsibilities toward the soldiers, the villagers were also fed up with the increasing demands of tough gendarmes. There were no listening ears. In fact the government began to demand more. Villagers were asked to secure clothing, food, and shoes for the soldiers.
A circular from the Diocese of the Armenian Church advised patience and encouraged the villagers to meet their obligations with no resistance, because the country was at war. There was a confidence in general among the population that the Armenians would overcome this difficult period, as they had done throughout the ages. At that time, the Primate of the Diocese of Kharpert was Rev. Father Bsag.
Sometimes gendarmes knocked on doors and demanded fugitives by name. Those hidden in the house rushed out to prevent mishap; otherwise, the gendarmes would have pour water on their mothers or wives and beaten them to death.
By May 1915, the village was under siege. There was a great need for arms, cannons and ammunition. The Mudir (mayor) of Ichme, accompanied by his gendarmes, captured the notable of Habousi and beat them with the help of special Turkish Bashe Bozuk (irregular) forces.
The rustling of sticks was heard for an entire week. The notables gave the gendarmes their hunting guns and all non-functioning weapons. The harassment increased after the village was placed under the supervision of a new army commander, a beast named Huseinigli Oghli Shukri. Later he became known as Shukri Beg, when another beast from Zartarij, Zibir Hasan, joined him in his efforts to destroy Armenians.
At that time, more than six hundred Armenians in Habousi were working on paving the roads. They were freed from military service and stripped of all weapons for a hideous plan. Guns were not entrusted to them on the pretense that they might join the Russian army.
After the decree, fugitives from military service came out of hiding and joined the ameliye tabour (road-paving division). The overall number of Armenians working on the roads in Habousi, Hoghe, Khoulakiugh, Pazmashen, and surrounding villages numbered close to six thousand. All were ordered to Mezre.
Nishan Onbashi (Corporal), who had gained his rank during the Balkan War, stood by the Najar Spring and addressed six hundred young people: “Compatriots! What we are doing is not military service. They are taking us to our death. It’s better for us to die here than to be dismembered by the government in Mezre. Let’s unite and refuse to go.” But no one followed him.
The caravan left for Mezre. Two days later, the Armenians were deported in chains.
The following day, by sunrise, the ameliye tabour arrived in Keghouank on the Plain of Kharpert where Turk soldiers allowed them to rest. Friends of the deportees took bread to them, but their arms were tied behind their backs with thick ropes and it was impossible for anyone to approach them. They were the living dead! They were forbidden to talk to one another, and a soldier carrying a sword policed each row. Finally, they were taken to Arzni, behind Dzovk, and murdered.
A few whose ropes were cut survived. The soldiers guarded the bodies for weeks until they were swollen in the sun. The Kurds stripped the bodies of all clothing.
The Habousetzies were given a three-day deadline to surrender their guns to the Turkish authorities. Those who gave up their guns and revolvers were looked upon as less guilty. If the Turks came across a household with no gun to give, they would catch the man of the house and shoe him like a horse! If there was no man home, they were known to torture the women, even pregnant women.
The weapons they gathered were piled in a carriage and taken to Mezre during the night, under heavy guard protection. The next day, a list was compiled of owners and receipts were handed out! Soon after, the government began to arrest notables and “suspects.”
One of the first Habousetzies arrested was Mardiros Yezegelian. They told him: “You are a Christian, we believe in you and trust your word. Tell us the truth, for it’s not appropriate for a Protestant to lie. Who has machine guns, cannons, and bombs? Tell us the truth and we’ll protect you against fedayees (freedom-fighters).”
Yezegelian answered: “Mudir Beg, we have never even heard the names of the weapons you are asking for. We are farmers and those arms, cannons, and bombs, are fit for the government. We have already given you whatever we had in our possession.”
Shukri Beg replied: “You went to the United States, made money there, and have purchased vast acreage here. How could it be that you don’t have a gun? Am I to believe that someone who owns land worth 300 to 400 gold pieces doesn’t have a machine gun? You are a liar, infidel Armenian. Hasan, take this mean pig away and make him confess by whatever means you know.”
Indeed, they shoed his feet like a horse, pulled out his nails, poured water on him, and beat him to death.
Then it was Haroutiun Berberian’s turn. “Tell us. It is obvious from your eyes that you like to suck our blood. To avoid torture you must speak the truth. Where are your weapons?” “Effendi,” he replied, “ I have no weapons. None of the mentioned arms. You have already collected all that there was.”
Immediately they laid him on the ground and put nails in his feet. Screams filled the air. He fell to the ground half dead.
Then they fetched Karekin Kassabian. “Come here, Karekin Kehya. Don’t be like those fanatic infidels. Your Bible hates liars. Tell as the truth.” Karekin knew them well. He said: “Effendi, we know that you want to terminate the Armenian race. The Habousetzie is a farmer by nature. His aim is to earn his bread from the soil. He does not have time to think of arms.”
Pretending that they were aggravated by his lie, they shouted: “You, infidel pig, you too want to cheat us? Bring the hot iron.” In the meantime, Mudir Fehmi Effendi ordered his men to pour water on Karekin and beat him. “Hit with no mercy. They wanted beylig (the title of beg), and this is the beylig!” By the time they put the hot iron under his feet, he was already speechless.
Then they brought Garabed Karamanoukian, known as the Boursali in the village. Shukri, the beast, began: “Come here. Are you a Protestant or an Apostolic? What kind of a Protestant are you? Against the Ottoman government or against Christ?”
Other Turks interfered to make fun of Garabed, whose only response was a prayer. Finally, the Mudir forced him to talk. “Why are you silent? We brought you here to tell us the location of the arms.” Garabed answered: “I don’t have any guns.” The Mudir cursed. “Seems that you resemble your Christ Effendi! Take him and crucify him like Christ.”
They prepared a cross and nailed his hands and feet to it. “This is the way to treat them” shouted the Mudir. “The more lenient you are with this godless people, the more they struggle against you.” Then he turned to his colleague: “Zibir Hasan, you go with Shukri Beg and bring the young wives of these people, it might be easier to get information from their women.”
Zibir Hasan, Shukri Beg, and a couple of soldiers went after the women. Even though most of the young brides were in hiding, Shukri was able to find a few women and virgin girls. The Mudir pretended that he was angry with Shukri for bringing him the women: “Can’t you find men instead of bringing these women here?” Then cunningly he asked the women to sit next to him, and very gently caressing them he said: “There is nothing to be afraid of.
It is the fault of your notables that you are here. They don’t want to tell us where the guns are hidden, therefore we had to bring you.” The women cried out: “We don’t know the location of guns. We know that the government collected the weapons; where would we have guns from?” The Turks placed boiling eggs on the the women’s breasts and then raped them.
The village was totally abandoned. There was no one to protect the villagers. Thieves of honor and wealth had free access to all the houses!
The notables of the village were first seized at Haroutiun Najarian’s house. The following day they were taken to Ichme and jailed. The Turks took the two priests, the Protestant preacher, the teacher, and the school board to St. Nishan Church of Ichme. The village was left with no youngsters or workers. A few men hid in the fields or in underground haylofts, but they were unable to come out of hiding. They were convinced that this disaster would pass like a ghost in a very short time, as it had in the past.
At St. Nishan, the Turks plucked the beards of Fr. Mateos and Fr. Kapriel, as well as Rev. Armenag Simonian. They accused them: “From the altars of your churches you urged the people to buy arms. Where are those arms?” Then the gendarmes whipped them, indiscriminately hitting any part of their bodies. And to crown their cruelty, they pulled out the priests’ fingernails and left them half-dead on the ground.
Afterwards, the Turks hung Simon Simonian and Manoug Nenegian by their feet facing each other. They began to hit them into each other until the men were half dead from the beating. The Turks left Hagop Donigian half dead too, after hanging and beating him. All the Armenians gathered in the church were tortured, with no exception. Then the Turks searched for new victims.
On the following day, when the relatives of the prisoners arrived with food, they found them all severely beaten and hardly able to speak. Rev. Simonian told them to go back to their homes and not to expect any favors. They tried to save their dear ones by giving money to the Turks, who took the money and offered fake promises that the prisoners would soon return home.
The next day, before dawn, gendarmes entered the church, called each of the prisoners by name, lined them up two in a row, tied their arms to each other, and ordered them to walk out of the church. The three clergymen were separated from this group.
Simon Simonian, who was the village chief (Khoja Bashi) at that time, asked: “Where are you taking us?” “You’ll go to Mezre in accordance with government orders. Hurry up before the day gets warm,” replied the Mudir.
Outside the church, one swordsman was assigned to each row and the group moved in an unknown direction. The three clergymen were not tied, simply because they were almost unable to walk after tortures.
Simon Simonian asked the Mudir once again: “Beg! I think this is the wrong way.” The Mudir said shamelessly: “You just walk. We will find out later.”
The group reached Zartarij and was ordered to walk down into a gorge. A group of people had gathered to talk at the bottom of the slope. A commander blew a whistle and ditch-diggers appeared from below the ravine. The prisoners were made to kneel down and given a last warning to hand over all their money and valuables.
The Mudir, together with his bodyguards, approached Fr. Kapriel, Fr. Mateos, and Rev. Armenag Simonian. They were asked to renounce Christ. Praying, Fr. Kapriel said: “I have sinned, I have sinned by my tongue in front of you, my Lord!” Fr. Mateos repeated the same: “I have sinned. I have sinned by my tongue and my deeds in front of you, my Lord. Have mercy on your people!”
Rev. Armenag prayed: “My Lord, if possible, take this cup away from me; otherwise, let your will prevail. Strengthen us, My Lord, and make us worthy of seeing you. Amen!”
The whistle blew again, and without a shot the gendarmes plunged their bayonets into the bodies of the prisoners. The dead bodies were hurriedly buried in a mass grave already prepared for them. When the sun rose, the executioners had already departed.
In their haste, the murderers did not make sure that all their victims were dead. The bodies were thrown into the ditches and hurriedly covered with dirt. There was no sign of life in the ditches when the Turks left the scene of their heinous crime.
The story of what happened after the departure of the murderers was told by a men who rose from one of the ditches. Marsoub Boyajian survived and finally succeeded in escaping the country.
He lived to tell this extraordinary tale.
The first man to gain consciousness in the shallow grave was Garabed Karamanoukian. When he realized that he was alive, he pushed the earth that covered his face aside and listened. Since there was complete silence he raised his head and asked in a low voice if any one else was alive. With difficulty, Marsoub Boyajian tried to answer. The two of them then struggled out of the grave only to realize that another man, Marsoub Minasian, was already out. The three men noticed the dirt move and together they dug out Kevork Minasian, a graduate of Euphrates College, whose wounds were serious.
The four survivors discussed a plan of action, but they were unable to agree. Each one decided to go his own way.
Kevork Minasian crawled on his stomach to the valley of Haramga. There he found water, cleaned his wounds, and collapsed.
Marsoub Minasian and Garabed Karamanoukian crawled to the village on their hands and knees over fields spiked with dried wheat stalks, while Marsoub Boyajian crawled to Gortin. Disoriented, Marsoub found himself in Ichme, instead of Nor (new) Spring. There, he felt something warm hanging out of his body. He push his entrails back where they belonged, tied his stomach together with his belt, and turned back. After a while he found himself back at the site of his grave. He hid himself in the wheat and waited for dawn. While waiting, he discovered that he had suffered almost forty wounds. His clothes had been shredded by the swords! After wandering around for three days, he finally arrived at Nor Spring and hid himself in the nearby bushes.
The Habousetzie women had no idea about what had happened to their men. They began a search. They took some food and money with them in order to bribe officers as needed. Upon reaching the edge of the mulberry garden that was near the border of Ichme and Habousi, they noticed a hand movement in the valley of Haramga. Scared, they didn’t know what to do. Turvanda Simonian said: “Wait here. I’ll go and see who he is. He might be one of ours.” She went down and saw a man covered with blood and unable to speak. Finally she recognized the wounded man. He was Kevork Minasian. Two women stayed behind to care for him while the rest continued their search.
Those left behind covered Kevork with a women’s sheet and carefully moved him to Habousi. But the gendarmes, suspicious of the scene, captured them. Kevork’s mother managed to bribe the gendarmes and and take her son home. A Turkish woman from Alisham who was a friend of the family kept Kevork in her house until he was partially recovered. However, he needed further treatment in a hospital. As Kevork left for the hospital, Turkish neighbors, aware of the presence of an Armenian man in their neighbor’s house, informed the gendarmes. Kevork was caught. The gendarmes took him to Karasoun and tortured him to death.
The women who had continued their search finally reached Ichme, where they discovered that their beloved men had been driven like cattle by night in an unknown direction.
Marsoub Minasian and Garabed Karamanoukian were caught again also and killed.
The only survivor was Marsoub Boyajian, who was left in the bushes of Nor Spring.
The young boys of Habousi were feeding their cattle in the fields. Rumors of a general deportation were prevalent; therefore, everybody was taking good care of the cattle as the main means of transportation.
Hagop Akmakjian was feeding the cattle close to Nor Spring. While playing with the water with his stick, Hagop heard his name called. The voice came from the bushes of Yeghigian’s field. After a brief hesitation, he heard a more familiar voice saying: “Hagop, don’t be afraid, its me, come close and I’ll tell you something.” He went to the voice and recognized Marsoub. The latter asked him to go to the village and inform his mother, Sultan Nana, that he was alive, but wounded, and lying in Yeghigian’s field. Hagop left his friends and rushed to Sultan Nene’s house, where he informed her of Marsoub’s fate.
Mother Sultan, without saying a word to anyone, hurried to her son. As if watering the cotton, she first turned the water toward the field. Then she went into the bushes to witness the pain of her son. After giving him some water and cleaning his wounds, she said: “My son, tonight I’ll come to move you.”
Indeed, in the darkness of night, Mother Sultan brought Marsoub home and hid him in the hayloft. But there was no security there. Marsoub wanted to leave the house and go to the hospital, but the hospital was far away. He decided to go despite the long dangerous journey. Hiding by day and by traveling at night, Marsoub finally reached Morenig, where he saw Armenian women forced to prepare for the harvest under the supervision of Turkish soldiers. The women fed him and hid him during the day.
At night, Marsoub found some Habousetzies who had been freed to work as potters. Amongst them were Nazaret Proodian and Oghgas Boolodian. Marsoub’s sister-in-law had friends in the American hospital. She went and told the doctors Marsoub’s story. Marsoub was admitted to the hospital and attended to by Dr. Atkinson. After he recovered, he went to Dersim, then to Yeriza, and finally, to the Caucasus.
Nazaret Piranian, the author of “The Genocide of Kharpert,” was in the same hospital during the same period of time. Piranian later wrote a chapter on the days of Genocide in Habousi based on the story of Malkhas Kassabian who, as a volunteer of World War I, met him in Yeriza, Garin, and Sarikamish.
The trials and tribulations of the people of Habousi were not over. Even though the village had been depleted of its men, except for a few fugitives who remained hidden in the fields, the inhuman persecution continued.
On June 15, 1915, the Mudir of Ichme, Fehmi Effendi, brought a dozen bloodthirsty gendarmes from neighboring Turkish villages and besieged Habousi, announcing: “Those women and girls who want to adopt the real religion are welcome to meet the Mudir.”
The following day other Turks rushed into the village. The crier announced again: “Gather your belongings and place them on donkeys. By tomorrow noon every family should be ready for deportation. Those who disobey will be brutally punished.”
Turkish porters served those who didn’t have donkeys.
The next day all the families of Habousi gathered at Najarian’s Spring, under the mulberries of Zadour Agha. Those who refused to leave their homes were beaten. Armenian mothers and sisters were left unprotected with their babies. Some chose to marry Turks in order to save their relatives from deportation. On the doors of such families was written a sign indicating that they had adopted Islam and therefore would remain safe. Some accepted deportation, with the hope that it would not last long. And some resisted all pressures. They were taken by foot to Mount Deve Oyni and for three days and nights they were raped. Aged men and women were brutally killed.
After three days, the Mudir and Sechan Oghli, both monsters, brought the tortured women back, pretending that the government had pardoned them. Their hideous plan included using them for the harvest in order to secure food for the Ottoman army.
It was common for the government to collect, in the name of the army, all kinds of food, clothing, and objects.
The women of Habousi were subjugated to horrible tortures and they endured them heroically. They worked like men and helped their persecuted brethren.
One day the women harvesting wheat in Upper Kezel noticed Garabed Maghakian hiding in the fields. They gave him water and bread and advised him to change his hiding place. It was difficult for him to know where to go. A group of Kurds from Genefig, looking for a well prepared Armenian field from which to harvest wheat, found Garabed hiding. For an hour Garabed struggled against the five Kurds, but finally he gave up, totally exhausted.
Malkhas Kassabian and Garabed Akmakjian (also known as Manoogian) hid in the fields also, but they constantly changed locations so they were not caught.
Another person in hiding was Hagop Berberian, but he was caught by Turks in Vari village and brought to the Mudir. Hagop’s mother went to the Mudir. The Mudir demanded ten pieces of gold as ransom. Mother Berberian collected the sum from here and there. The Mudir after assuring her that Hagop would be set free in an hour, left the village, but not before ordering a gendarme to take Hagop to the valley and cut his throat. The gendarme, indeed, took Hagop to the edge of Nor Spring and killed him.
The elderly of Mezre and Kharpert had already perished on the road to deportation. The rest succumbed to tortures. Armenians still alive received a government order to prepare their carriages and oxen to carry ammunition for the army in Moush, Bitlis, and Dikranagerd. Armenians of Habousi, Ichme, Akhsa, Sheikh-haji, Mughur Oghlu, Aghmerze, Aroghig, Aghntsig, Komk, Keghouank, Sarpouli, Kaylou, Hoghe, Mouri, Vartatil, Parchanj, Khouyli, Garmre, Tadem, Morenig, Kesrig, Soorsoori, Yegheki, Khoulakiugh, Pazmashen, Chor Kegh, Nikireg, Insor, Erzouroug, and Arpavoud set forth in this service.
From Habousi, twenty-six villagers traveled with their oxen and carriages to Moush, Bitlis, and Dikranagerd, hungry, thirsty, and on bare feet. Those were: Soghomon Goshgarian, Zadour Abajian, Toros Kochakian, Boghos Yeghigian, Ohan Teboian, Kevork Minasian, Vartan Antoian, Ghazar Antoian, Vartan Antoian, Hagop Der Stephanian, Hagopig Simonian, Haroutiun Berberian, Khachadour Kelhagopian, Krikor Toroian, Nishan Torigian, Ohan Kanedanian, Krikor Donigian, Kevork Goshgarian, Melkon Melkonian, Boghos Torosian, Kevork Ajemian, Boghos Yeghiazarian, Garabed Boyajian, and Mardiros Ohanian. Most of this group died on the way back to Habousi.
When the harvest was completed, the villagers received a second order for deportation. This time fifty gendarmes besieged the village and deported everybody.
Turks from Alisham came with tools and destroyed the church. Only a few Armenian women who had married Turks remained in the village.
Turkish refugees from Van, Moush, and Alashgerd took possession of the village, and instead of church bells, Mohammed’s prayers were heard from the roof of the Armenian school.
Shukri Beg was in dire need of manpower. He hired Margos Antoian, Malkhas Kassabian, Bedros Meynoian, Garabed Akmakjian-Manoogian, Najar Arakel (Minasian), and Ghazar Melkonian, all teenagers, for minimal pay.
Margos Antoian and Bedros Meynoian were killed by Turkish refugees after the Russian army’s advance in Garin. Malkhas Kassabian and Garabed Akmakjian went to Kharpert, spent some time with the American missionaries, and then, in the spring, returned to Habousi for the seeding. In the summer they went back to Habousi to harvest and sell the produce in the city. By then harassment of Protestants had subsided.
The only male survivors who eventually returned to the village were: Malkhas Kassabian, Garabed Akmakjian-Manoogian, Arakel Minasian, Melkig Minasian, Nazaret Proodian, Oghgas Bouloutian, Vartan Antoian, Melkig Mulkigian, Zadour Boz Bedrosian, Ghazar Mulkigian, and Soghomon Goshgarian.
In 1916, once the harvest was in, most survivors left the shelters of the Protestant quarter which was located next to the American orphanage and headed towards Dersim. Life had become intolerable in Habousi, especially after the settlement of Turkish refugees there in 1916. The refugees did not work. They lived on the meager relief funds provided by the Turkish government. The fields remained uncultivated and the orchard trees were cut down for fuel. Two years after the deportation, the once prosperous village of Habousi lay in ruins. The refugees began to drift away, looking perhaps for other abandoned Armenian villages to plunder and to burn.
In 1918, after the war was over and the teenagers grown, Armenians began to rebuild Habousi, breed their animals, and plant trees.
Sundays and holidays were sacred for them. They renovated whatever was left from the church, which had been used as a stable by the Turks. Then they applied to the Diocese in Mezre. Deacon Boghos Yeghigian was ordained and elected to serve the village.
The roof of the Protestant church which was used as an inn for thousands of troops passing through Habousi was cleaned. Rev. Hampartsoumian of Aghntsig became the visiting preacher to Habousi.
This semi-freedom lasted until 1921, when the Turks once again began to annoy Armenians and urge them to leave. Indeed, most Armenians remaining in Kharpert finally left for Syria.
Close to five hundred Habousetzies were in the caravan that left for Aleppo. They were robbed four times and reached Aleppo almost naked, all their belongings stolen by the Turks.
The Armenian General Benevolent Union allocated a tent to each eight or nine families at the outskirts of Aleppo. Tent life lasted almost a year. The A.G.B.U. fed the refugees twice a day. Lack of familiarity with the region and the language, coupled with the need to secure jobs, caused the Habousetzies to scatter. Some went to Beirut, Lebanon, some to Damascus, the Syrian capital. Others left for France, South America and the United States.
This was the outcome of deportation. Sisters were separated from brothers, fathers from sons, all in pursuit of a living.
Habousetzie male survivors of the Genocide were:
Arout Minasian and his seventeen-year-old grandson Hagop, Manoug of Takou Nene, Bedros Najarian, Najar Arakel, Melkig Minasian, Tavo Kochakian, Ohan Ourpatian, Hovhannes Khechoian, Nazaret Khechoian, Beylig Aso, Malkhas Khasboian, Garabed Erzounian (Manoogian), Garo Maghakian, Margos Antoian, Hovagim Boolodian, Bedros Meynoian, Ghazar Mulkigian, Apkar Amou, Hovhannes Pekhoian, Samuel Egopian, Bedros Bennanian, Mencho and Baghdo Boz Bedrosian and Nahabed Narjoian. The latter was hardly eighteen when four or five armed Kurds tried to kill him, but Nahabed threw one after another to the ground with his bare arms, until they finally shot him to death.
Years later, orphans found a piece of paper on a barn wall written by Nahabed to his beloved: “I don’t know the days, nor the Sundays. I spend my time hungry and thirsty. I don’t have parents or friends. When I put my tired head on the stone, I dream of you standing in front of me.”