I cannot yield to your demands. I am a governor, not a gangster
The Armenians are Indo-European people residing in the Trans-Caucasus. Their history dates back to the Bronze and Iron Ages, and is related to the area of historic Armenia, the majority of it being part of today’s Turkey. The Armenians established the first Christian state in history – their baptism took place at the turn of the 4th century.
Armenia formed part of the Ottoman Empire since the 15th century. As a result of the Russian-Persian Wars (1801-1882) its territory was divided, its eastern part incorporated into the Russian Empire. 1.5 million Armenians resided in Russia at the turn of the 20th century, while 2.5 million remained within the territory of eastern Turkey.
During the First World War, the Ottoman Empire entered in the alliance with Germany, Austro-Hungary and Bulgaria. The Turkish offensive on Russians in the Caucasia was a failure. A great number of Armenians, who had been fighting for the full civil and political rights and the autonomy and perhaps even independence, welcomed the Tsarist army as their liberators. They also perceived them as a guarantee of safety – tens of thousands Armenians perished in the massacres which had taken place in the years 1895-1896.
In the face of this ‘treason’, the Turkish state carried out a genocide. At the time, the country was in fact governed by Enver Pasha. It is estimated that between 800,000 and 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered in death marches and massacres carried out by the state apparatus or militant groups in 1915.
He was given the order to participate in a massacre. “I cannot yield to your demands. I am a governor, not a gangster. Let someone else take my place and carry out these orders,” Hasan Mazhar, a governor of Ankara, replied in writing to the authorities of Istanbul. The Ottoman Committee of Union and Progress had just commissioned a genocide of the Armenian citizens of the Empire.
Throughout the following months, Hasan Mazhar was trying to stop the local commanders of the army and police. He did manage to prevent murders on site or death marches to the Syrian dessert of several thousand of Armenians, even if the resistance was short-lived.
In his letters to Istanbul, Mazhar protested against the actions of an official in the neighbouring province of Edhem. Kadri Bey looted Armenian property and kept it for himself, instead of transferring it to the authorities. Mazhar was soon dismissed from his post. He must have witnessed the atrocities, even though we do not know much of what had happened in his life over the following three years.
A new Turkish government, established after the end of World War I, summoned a commission to investigate the crimes committed on the Armenian subjects of the sultan. Mazhar was appointed head of the commission, which issued material for 130 indictment acts.
Ottoman officials were given questionnaires pertaining to the organization and course of the massacre. They testified to the fact that Mazhar saw a lot, and knew a lot. He himself also gave testimony.
The court dissolved the Committee of Union and Progress and confiscated its property. The three main leaders were sentenced to death. After two years, Turkish revolutionaries managed to overthrow the sultan. The Republic of Turkey ceased the trials of those guilty of the Armenian Genocide, denying the fact that such an event had indeed taken place.