THE STORMING OF THE OTTOMAN BANK
The last incident of the year 1896 was the storming of the Ottoman Bank that occurred on 26 August. This incident was the initiative of the Tashnak Committee completely. Those, directing the operation were three Armenians, Varto, Mar and Boris. Akrein Pastirmaciyan, who was using the nickname Armen Garo, was elected as deputy from Erzurum. He came from Athens to fight on the Caucasian front with his gang against Turkey during the World War I., and joined them.
Esat Uras is telling how the raid developed on 26 August from Varantyan�s �Tasnaksütyun History� in Armenian:
�On 26 August, 6.30 in the morning. 6 persons were enough for the raid. The bomb sack on our shoulders, the arms in our hand, we started out. When we approached the bank we heard the noise of the bombs used by our leaders. We attacked the bank. They thought we were robbers. I told them not to be scared. The bombs had shocking results. The people, who were wounded by the bombs, did not die immediately. The bombs were tearing their hands into pieces and they were suffering with awful pain. Together with Garo we went to the office of the Director and had our conditions written. We wanted our demands to be fulfilled and wanted the rebels, who were involved in the fight, to be set free. Otherwise, we would explode the bank and kill ourselves too. 17 of us were left alive after the fight. 3 of us died and 6 of our friends were wounded. The casualty of our enemies was so great.�
The conditions of the members of the gang were as follows:
- A European High Commissioner shall be elected by 6 states.
- Governors, Governors of the provinces and Governors of districts shall be appointed by the High Commissioner and approved by the Sultan.
- Legal reform in conformity with the European system
- An absolute freedom of religion, education and press
- To spend ¾ of the country revenue for the local requirements
- To abolish the accumulated tax due
- Tax exemption for 5 years, allocation of the tax that shall be paid in the following 5 years to the losses caused by the recent chaos.
- The return of the property, which were seized
- The return of the immigrants freely
- The amnesty to the Armenians who were sentenced for political offences
- Founding of a provisional commission comprising of the representatives from the European countries and the provision of their control over the above mentioned issues
As a result, the General Director of the Bank Sir Edgar Vincent went to the Palace with Maximoff, the Chief Interpreter of the Russian Embassy and they were authorized to solve the problem. Their right to leave Turkey freely was guaranteed. 17 gangsters with Maximoff left the bank and went to the office of Sir Edgar and than they departed to go to Marseilles with the French Ship Gironde.
Thus, the raid of the bank ended, but the bombs and bullet casting of the Armenians to the soldiers, police and the people made the Muslim inhabitants of Istanbul very angry. The chaos in Istanbul continued for a few days. This is not an assault by the Muslims against the Armenians. The Armenians also continued to attack.
According to western sources, the number of the Armenians who lost their lives in this incident is 4.000-6.000. In the scanned Ottoman documents no information about this incident has been found yet. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the figure, 6.000 is exaggerated. At the end of the Sublime Porte protest, the chaos continued for a few days; but the number of dead people remained 172. In order to reach the figure of 4.000-6.000, the incident should have continued for weeks. Furthermore, since all the sources recorded that the Muslims struggled with sticks and knives, it is impossible such a number of people could be killed by these means. No record could be found concerning the number of the Muslim inhabitants who died. On the other hand, it was understood from the British sources that 120 soldiers of the Grand Vizier died and 25 of them were wounded. Again this year, in the same sources, it was registered that about 300 Muslims were arrested because of this incident and that the measures taken by the government were good.
Concerning this incident a special law court was established and this court tried the arrested Muslims and the Armenians.
Gürün, Kamuran, Ermeni Dosyasi, TTK Basimevi, Ankara, 1983,pp.163-166)