HACI ZEKERIYA KOC
Father's Name : Yakup
Mother's name : Nadide
Place of Birth: Van
When the Armenian incidents broke out we were in our village. Ayanis.. Zeve. Mollakasim and Ayanis were the villages in the region inhabited entirely by Muslim. There were five or ten Armenian homes in the other villages. Before these problems broke at, we had excellent relations with the Armenians. We got along particularly well with Armenian-inhabited Alaköy. We would invite each other to banquets, and there were no hostilities between us.
Then when everything started and the residents of Van fled, we decided to migrate as well. We got together, filled four carts as much as possible, and got on the road. As we were leaving the village, a man came from Van, and asked us where we were going. When we told him, he urged us to stay, saying he, had cannons, guns, and military supplies. on his encouragement, everyone returned home. Three days passed. On the fourth day, we were at my grandmother's. I was standing and eating a piece of buttered bread my grandmother prepared for me. Three villagers were there helping us out. We heard one gunshot, and the men said "This noise is from Armenian guns, it buzzes like tin. Our weapons clatter. Something is going on."
Meanwhile someone came from Mollakasim, stood on tire hilltop of our village, and yelled Why are you still around? Kurds raided and plundered Alakoy, and the Armenians are attacking villages." Right after this my cousing Dursun showed up. An elderly woman asked him why he came. He had a bullet on his thumb and said, "They destroyed the village and I ran away. Before the villagers had a chance to organize, the Armenians surrounded the village. The Armenians captured our livestock near the cemetery and took them to Alaköy. The Armenians went into the villages and separated the men and stuffed them into a room. Their leader was Hamados Pasha, who had paid Iranian Kurds to fight with him. He told his fighters to separate all males over the age of seven, and add them to the men to he burned.
They spoke Turkish almost as well as we did. At that time I was seven years old. My mother immediately wrapped a scarf around my head, put a loose dress on me, and pulled me by her side. I survived, but they picked out four or five people from among us and took them away near the men. As soon as they added them to the men they poured gasoline on the crowd and lit a fire. The screams emanating from there reached the skies. They rounded up the women and took them outside. They would mock them saying "ladies why don't you sit here and rest. Look how nicely the dogs are at each other's throats. "The "dogs" they referred to were someone's son, husband, father or uncle. They were crying "oh my God" in agonizing pain. They made us sit there for up to an hour. When we walked by the cemetery, one of the Armenians began singing a ballad mocking us.
At that moment we saw that the Armenians shot my mother's cousin with her child still nursing on her breast, then an Armenian came and killed the child with a bayonet. They killed a lot of people in that area. Those that could run away escaped, those that couldn't had gas poured over them and were burned. We were forced to sit there for quite a while.
Hamza, Haci Ummet's uncle lived in our village. He always carried a dagger. The Armenians were going to carry him away and kill him, but he ran toward them. He was either going to kill them or be killed. Unfortunately he was not able to overcome them. Before they killed him they carved out "pockets" in his thighs and placed his hands inside. Excuse my language, but they cut his organ and placed it in his mounth, and cut his nose and placed it in his behind.
They then took us to a hilltop in Alakoy before taking us into the village. There they packed us into a barn. The children in the group were starving and began to wail from hunger. The Armenians cut off the hands, feet and other organs of the dead men, cooked and brought them as food. The children could not differentiate, but the women said that it was preferable to starve, and explained the truth to the children. When nightfall came, they flooded the barn with water. The women had placed the children on their shoulders and were shouting. After some time they emptied the water out of the barn by opening a trench. The next day the women were escorted out, and dried their clothes on rocks outside the village. The women of Molakasim lived a little further down our place. The Armenians had killed the men in the village there and imprisoned the women.
In other words they were raiding Muslim villages, killing the men, and imprisoning the women in Alakoy then led us onto the road towards Van. When we arrived at the Mermit stream, some of the women threw themselves into the water to kill themselves rather than die in the hands of their captors. The infidels shot them from behind and killed some of them. They broke the arms and mashed the heads of some that wanted to jump into the water. I was with my mother, aunt, and grandmother. My mother was still nursing my sister. When my mother wanted to throw herself into the water and kill herself, my grandmother held onto her and would not let her go. The Armenians put blockades by the stream to prevent people from jumping. The next thing we knew, an Armenian came to us and asked my grandmother who we were, and from which village we came from. My grandmother was rude at first, but told him when he insisted. When she responded that we were from the village of Ayanis, and that my grandfather's name was Muhittin, her sons Yakup and Niyazi. He grabbed the sides of her skirt and said he would never want or permit harm to come to us. We were stunned. He then told us a story that when they were coming from Bahcesaray to Van in eight wagons, my father prevented some men who wanted to kill the Armenians from doing so, instead, he escorted them all the way to Van then went back to the village.
That man gave us some bread, old cheese, and yogurt. In the morning they took us from there and brought us to Bardakci. At night we slept in the plains of the village with armed guards at our sides. What harm could women do anyway? There were about 700-800 of us. Then in the morning they woke us up, and took us to the foot of the castle in Van. There the governor of Van, Cevdet Pasha, had a three-storey detention center. They brought a lot of people there before us. One of the women who was there gave birth to a baby. The Armenians threw the child off the roof of the building; and the child was lost. We stayed there for five days. In the afternoon they let us go out in the fields, and people gathered whatever they could find to eat.
After five days, they brought two more groups of people. In the afternoon they moved us to Haci Bekir's detention center near the old Governor's home. They also brought the inhabitants of the Muslim village Pürüt there. Before they passed out bread, they added sulphir and other things to it. Up to 70 people a day died as a result. The Armenians dug ditches along the wall across from the barracks and brought in the dead on stretchers and threw them there. Here too, we ran across one of the Armenians which my father had saved. That Armenian fed us for a few days. People were attacking upon the food.
A week went by, and they told us the Russians arrived. One day a major, a captain, and two soldiers came into the barracks and counted and recorded the prisoners. The next day we were fed with rice and meat, and taken outside where there were Russian guards. The Russians asked about our villages, and told us they would take us there. When we all wanted to go to Mollakasim, they accepted. In the morning they loaded us onto 70-80 wagons and took us to Mollakasim. After our arrival, we stuck together out of fear of the Armenians. We chose a leader from among us and lived that way until the Turkish army came to Van. After some time, we rehabilitated the villages which the Armenians had burned and plundered.