Forced Relocation from Yozgat

One of the ways to prevent the topic of Armenian relocation from getting away from reality is to put forward the events in detail at the local level because such emigration and relocation procedures that were large-scale and that were carried out at an extraordinary time did not conclude the same way in each unit. However, some negative incidents are presented as if they were experienced in all units or the opposite happens and a perception emerges that no problem emerged in most places. In this respect, the documents and information that were put forward in the sources of the period and in the process of trials are important.

In the First World War years, Yozgat, which was one of the the four sanjaks of the province of Ankara, had a significant Armenian population. In 1914, approximately 5.6% (53,957) of the population of the province (953,817) were Armenians (including Catholics and Protestants). The total population of the sanjak of Yozgat in the same year was 201,981 and 33,000 of these were Armenians. According to this, about 16.4% of the population of the sanjak were Armenians. At that time, the county of the Yozgat sanjak with the largest population was Boğazlıyan with a population of 15,670. Then came the county of Yozgat, which was the center of the sanjak, with an Armenian population of 13,969. There were 3,361 Armenians in Akdağmadeni, which was the other county of the sanjak (Karpat, 1985:172).

A notable event did not take place between the Armenians and Turks in Yozgat between the declaration of the 2nd Constitutional Period and the First World War. It is said that sometimes even positive relations existed (Karaca, 2005: 181-183). However, after the start of the war, the Armenians saw this as an opportunity not to be missed on the road to independence and this situation affected the Armenians of Yozgat as well.

After mobilization, some incidents took place in Yozgat and its vicinity. The first disturbance emerged in the Armenian villages of Boğazlıyan. A Muslim child was heavily injured after one of the dynamites that were placed by the Armenians of Urneciköy in the Çayırseyhi village of Akdağmadeni county. After this incident, bombs, dynamites, weapons, and ammunition were seized in the searches that were conducted in the villages of Urnec, Menteşe, and Igdeli. The gendarme unit that went to the villages to recruit soldiers was ambushed and they were fired upon for a long time. Again the Armenians of Rumdiken village fired bullets on the gendarme post and gendarmes one night until the morning. The committee members killed a gendarme in Kumkuyu village and two people in the Poyraztepe village. Bombs were exploded in Akdağmadeni numerous times (Ermeni, 1333:195-196).

A gang composed of 300 people that was established by the Armenians in the Boğazlıyan villages committed the crimes of attacking and killing Muslims, extortion, robbery, and looting. The gang, which also attacked the counties in the neighborhood, was neutralized starting from 23 July 1915 with the pursuit of the Yozgat gendarme battalion (Süslü, 1990: 90).

When the war started, it became common among the Armenians of Yozgat to avoid serving in the military, various attacks, humiliating the Muslim people, and threatening the families of those Muslim people who enlisted in the army.

In order to end the chaos that was spreading all over the country, a provisional law dated 27 May 1915, which required the dispatch and relocation of the Armenians, was put into force. The first order of dispatch from the Ministry of Interior to Yozgat arrived on 18 July 1915. This order demanded the dispatching of the notables of the Armenians. Then the same order was sent to the soldier enlistment branch from the division command. This order also requested for banditry to be prevented (Memleket, 6 March 1919). The forced relocation started on 21 July and it was completed at the end of September. The dispatching of the Armenians in the province of Ankara and therefore, in Yozgat, was stopped with a telagram that was sent on 27 October 1915 with the signature of the Minister of Interior Talat (Osmanlı, 1994: 117-436).

The first convoy of the dispatching of the Yozgat Armenians was carried out through Sivas on 21 July 1915. The second dispatch was done from Sivas and the third one was realized through Kayseri (Memleket, 6 Mart 1919). Constant clashes took place between the Armenian gangs and gendarmes around Boğazlıyan and some of the Armenians who had been dispatched from the other regions were united with those from here (İkdam, 19 February 1919; Memleket, 6, 25 March 1919). Upon the receipt of a telegram on 19 August 1915, the convoys were sent through the Sivas and Akdağmadeni roads. According to this, the dispatch was realized in two directions, namely on the south and east of Yozgat. The relocation was to Deir-i Zor and Aleppo in Syria, as per the order (Memleket, 25 March 1919). The money and movable assets of the Armenians who were forced to relocate were collected at the Abandoned Property Commission. The records of those who were dispatched were kept by the dispatch officials while informing a higher authority (Memleket, 6, 25 March 1919).

According to a telegram that was sent from Ankara to the Ministry of Interior, 21,236 of 53,957 Armenians (Memalik, 1336: 10) were sent away by 16 September 1915. A source gives the population that was decided to be forced to relocate as 47,224 (Arşiv, 2005: I, 439-440), and another source gives the same figure as the population that was forced to relocate (Bardakçı, 2008: pp.76-77). It is understood from the same telegram that 21,034 Armenians out of 33,000 were dispatched and 10,916 of them were still in Yozgat. A source (Arşiv, 2005, I, p.440, 446) shows the population that was decided to be forced to relocate as 31,247. The telegram in question mentions some of the remaining 10,916 of the population as those who are to be dispatched and the rest the families and their children who were decided to be distributed among the Muslim villages (Osmanlı, 1994: 93). According to this, 63.7% of the Armenians in Yozgat had been dispatched and 36.3% of them were still in Yozgat on 17 September 1915.

It is not known how many of the Armenians who were dispatched from Yozgat died or were killed on the roads. However, some figures were mentioned by the Armenian witnesses and lawyers during the Yozgat forced relocation trial hearings, which were carried out in Istanbul in 1919. The highest of them was the figure given by Attorney Leon Remzi, who claimed that 115 relatives of his were killed during the forced relocation in Yozgat. According to his claim, the number of Armenians who were forced out of Yozgat and killed around the Keller village of Bogazliyan was 2,700 people. These people were killed by 600-700 people. Leon Remzi increased the figure more than twice the original figure and made it 6,000, and he repeated the same number at the eight hearings. At the ninth hearing of the lawsuit, the telegrams that were related to the Armenians who were claimed to have been killed in Bogazliyan were read. Two of the newspapers that were examined gave the figure as 360, one of them gave it as 3,160, and another one gave the number as 3,660 (Bilgi, 2006: 22). The Ministry of Interior sent a cipher to the governor’s office in Ankara after receiving information that 3,160 Armenians had been killed in Bogazliyan and its vicinity and it ordered the matter to be examined (BOA, DH. ŞFR, 54-A/326). It is understood that the telegram that was read at the court and this were the same telegram and the figure was 3,160. However, this figure could not be verified on the dates when the telegram was written or during the court phase. The basis of the statements of the witnesses and what was written in the telegram is rumors. Therefore, mentioning a concrete number that could clarify the issue was avoided at the trial and in the verdict. This situation makes it easy to make generalizations based on the court verdict. Although the number of Armenians who were killed around Bogazliyan is not known, it is understood that it was never in the amounts that were claimed. The conclusion that can be reached from the phases of the court and the documents is only this as of now (Bilgi, 2006: 22-23).

The activities of the Armenian gangs after the forced relocation in Yozgat and its vicinity make it possible to make an evaluation about the Armenians who remained in their locations or escaped during the dispatching. In fact, despite the forced relocation, those who were in gangs and those who joined them could not be brought under control for a long time. At the end of 1915, there were 70 armed Armenian bandits near the Cakmak village of Bogazliyan and the Yazir Mountain. There were about 300 Armenian bandits near the Culhali village, which was linked with the Akdagmadeni, and who were managed by the Armenians of the Everek village of Kayseri and they were disturbing the security of the region (Ermeni, 1333:282). Again, approximately 300 Armenian bandits got out of the Kumkuyu village of Yozgat and set fire to the Muslim villages in the vicinity. Around 800 Armenians who hid around the village of Catkebir attacked the soldiers, gendarmes, and people from the trenches that they had prepared and then fled towards Kızılcaova after clashes that lasted for days (Ermeni, 1333: 282).

It is understood that the Armenian gangs that were in Yozgat and its vicinity were active after the dispatching as well. A telegram dated 3 April 1916 talks about some Armenian gangs of 300-500 people, some armed and some in soldier uniforms in Akdagmadeni and around Çat and their actions. Another telegram dated 4 April 1916 indicates that a platoon of forty people who came from Kayseri conducted surveys and monitoring in the area (ATBD, 34/85, 1985: 125-128) and ten people got killed in the clashes that took place. Although this gang of 20 people managed to escape, even though they had been surrounded, 12 of their members were captured. According to a document dated 22 May 1916, 17 of the Armenian gang members were killed and 2 were caught injured as a result of the following of an Armenian gang in the region (Karaca, 2005: 192).

On 27 August 1916, 4 people from the Keziç and Demirci villages, which were linked with Akdağmadeni, were killed by Armenian fugitives. According to this document dated 11 September 1916, pursuing platoons killed 6 Armenian fugitives and captured one injured woman near the Dişli village of the county of Sorgun (Arşiv, II, 2005, p. 49, 351-352). A document dated 19 May 1917 shows that the Armenians attacked the Çerçialanı village of Bogazliyan and had clashes with the villagers (Karaca, 2005: 192). It is understood from another document dated 10 July 1917 that 60 armed Armenians had clashes with the platoons first and then with the refugees in Afşaralanı/Çerçialanı and Çat, and then they had to withdraw (Arşiv, 2005, II: 363-364).

During the forced relocation of Yozgat and Boğazlıyan and the punishment of the Armenian gangs, the Armenians got involved in clashes both with the gendarme and the peasants. Those who did not comply with the order of forced relocation generally joined the gangs. In addition to the Armenians who died during the punishment of these gangs, there were also those who died because of the misconduct of some officials and peasants. These officials were identified, sent to court-martial and given various sentences.

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