There are absolutely plausible reasons for the governments’ resorting to the relocation of civilians on grounds of security at different periods, and geographical areas.
Yet, the modern and contemporary history is full of examples of agonies and unforgettable tragedies caused by such security measures.
Without doubt, the security measures the Ottoman Empire had implemented induced unbearable pains and disasters likewise.
It has never been denied by the Ottoman documents that the civilian Armenian convoys were sometimes exposed to “gang” attacks or to the misdeeds of the “officious” authorities.
However, the humane effort and sensitivity displayed by the Ottoman civil and military authorities during the implementation of the relocations should not be ignored.
The attempts of Cemal Pasha, Commander of the Fourth Ottoman Army at the Syria Front, at embracing the relocated Armenians, with extraordinary humanitarian aid projects and mobilizing of all the sources available under his command for the welfare of the relocated, who were overwhelmed by the heavy conditions of the Great War, without showing any signs of hesitation should be recorded as a historical reality.
The aid projects the Fourth Ottoman Army provided for the relocated Armenians at the Syria under the war conditions in the beginning of the 20th century is the first example of the self-sacrificing “humanitarian aid” activities conducted currently by NATO and UN peacekeeping forces
I would like to state briefly that:
Neither the Turkish people nor the Ottoman leaders have ever lost their humanitarian characteristics or their capability of distinguishing between the guilty and the innocent even at a time when they were fighting for their existence before the irresponsible behaviours of the Armenian Committees. The officials who were found to be guilty of misconduct towards the relocated Armenians were sentenced painstakingly regardless of their positions or ranks.
The policy the Ottoman Government implemented at the outset of the 20th century, under the heavy conditions of war, is an interesting historical experience, as it paved the way to series of unprecedented trials and punishments at the time of war.
At this point, I would like to add an important detail in order to dispel any confusion:
What I mean here are not the political trials executed in Istanbul under occupation after the Mondros Armistice of 1918.
I mean the Court Martial investigations and trials carried out against the Ottoman officials who were accused of misuse of authority and maltreatment of the relocated Armenians in the Crisis of 1915.
The court martial of 1915 and 1916 at the Ottoman Court Martial should be taken as exemplary models in the field of war criminology.
These trials executed at the Court Martial in the same year by the same authority that had implemented the Law of Relocations in 1915 are deliberately ignored.
In 1940, Russian Major General Nikolai Georgiyeviç Korsun wrote in his book that, during the implementation of the relocations, Turkish military authorities and the Turkish people had treated the relocated Armenians kindly; but, there were few instances where the Armenians were attacked in some regions.
According to Russian Major General, half of the relocated Armenians died of hunger and widespread epidemics.
By the way, I would like to share my opinions on another subject.
Due to the “authority loophole” caused by the inevitable conditions of the First World War there was a civil unrest among the Turks (Muslims) and the Armenians (Christians) in some of the Anatolian provinces.
In some areas, the armed Armenian and Muslim inhabitants took up arms against each other.
As a result of all these events, there were tragic losses for the both sides.
The number of the Muslims massacred by the Armenian Fedayeens and the Armenian Volunteer Units between 1914 and 1918 was almost five times as much as the casualties that the Ottoman Army suffered as a result of the attacks by Allied Powers during the four-year World War I.
The following diagram shows the conflicts of the civilian Muslim people and the Ottoman Security Forces with the Armenian Fedayeens and the Armenian Volunteer Units affiliated to the Dashnak, Hntchaq and Ramgavar Committees in 1914 – 1915 by monthly periods.
This diagram reached its peak when the committee leaders, posing threat to the security, in the capital of the Empire were arrested (April 24, 1915).
Different figures are mentioned in relation to the total losses of the Armenians during the same period.
As I have not completed my studies on the Armenian casualties yet, I am unable to give a definite number – for the time being.