Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Father's Name : Hamid
Mother's name : Nigar
Place of Birth: Van-Kavunlu
Date of Birth: 1904

I was ten years old when we became refugees. Before we fled, Degirmen was an Armenian village which included 80 Armenian families and three Muslim Turkish families. One day the Armenians gathered the three families, cut them up, and tossed them into a well. They tortured and killed the young men by cutting "pockets" into their thighs and crucified them by nailing them to the walls by their foreheads. Roughly 30 young people died this way.

A woman whose father-in-law lived in the Degirmen village came to tell a cleric in our village what was going on in Degirmen. After this, conflicts arose with the Armenians living in our village, and a few Armenians were killed. After what happened in the Degirmen village, a weapon was distributed to every home in our village as a precaution. My father was the headman of our village. Since the surrounding villages were Armenian, the Muslim population feared that our village would be attacked, and gathered in the mosque. We filled sacks with sand and used them as barriers.

During this time, two young Armenians were locked into a home because our villagers could not stand to kill them. But they dug a tunnel under the house, and fled to Degirmen village carrying news. Then the inhabitants of three villages, Degirmen, Farih and another Armenian village raided our village. The fighting lasted for more than an hour. The Armenians controlled the bridge above the stream, and invaded Ziyaret as well. The stream overflowed with melted snow, and it was pure chaos when we tried to cross the stream. When my mother entered the water, it reached her chest. Naturally, people broke their arms, legs, or heads, while children were carried away by the water. It was hell, pure hell. The Armenians were throwing the dead bodies onto heaps of wheat. The bodies had piled up like hills. My father jumped on his horse and went to Van from Akkoprü. Since Sihke was an Armenian village, they didn�t give him permission to pass through. My father explained the situation to the governor of Van, Cevdet Pasha and asked for his help. One hundred soldiers came to our rescue, and the Armenians fled. We hid in the village of Dirandaz which was Muslim. After spending the night there, my father went to Van in the morning and asked those entering the city if we should return to our village. They said that we shouldn't, so we were forced to become refugees. My sisters and I wore men's clothing and hit the road.

We were going towards Edremit when the Armenians raided Van. The city was burning, and the houses were in flames, which reached to the sky. We reached Edremit, but they raided that too. We went from there to Bitlis, from Bitlis to Siirt, to Diyarbakir, and then to Siverek. We stayed there three years. There were eight people in our family who became refugees. On the way, my brother Ali was captured. The rest died on the road. Only my mother and I were able to return to Van. We were not the only ones affected. The inhabitants of Van, Edremit, and Van's Muslim villages all became refugees. Those that didn't run were killed at the hands of the enemy, while most of those that got away died on the road.

A few years later, my mother and I returned to Van, and could not believe our eyes! There were ruins everywhere, a few people, but they were all hungry, thirsty, and miserable. Neighbourhoods and houses were empty. There was no bread, wheat, or anything. We were compelled to return to the village of Coravanis. The wheat there was starting to mature. We cracked the bitter seeds, boiled them, and drank the water. The Armenians took furniture, goods, animals and everything they have found. They destroyed our houses as well. A man on a horse who saw us alone in the village told us that there was a grain storage area near the pier. My mother and I went to get 60 kilos of flour there, but it was later stolen. The Armenians had not yet withdrawn completely. There were bandits everywhere. One time my mother and I went to the Erek mountain to gather pieces of metal which we wanted to trade for bread with the soldiers. We ran into six Armenians who were going to kill us, but when it suddenly started to rain and hail, we ran away and hid in a cave. We barely saved our lives.

We suffered considerably. Three years later my brother died in captivity. We were told that the Armenians were going to kill him, but the Russians objected. They had made him build roads in Armenian villages by hand. We rebuilt our homes, planted our fields, and started a new life.

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