Innocent Victims

Year, 1915.

The place of the crime, in the interiors of hellish Turkey.

We were three children, deported from three different Armenian villages.

Unfamiliar with the religion and customs of Turks and Kurds, also ignorant of their fanaticism and inhuman vices, we were snatched from our parents and the peaceful and happy atmosphere of our family and were forced to become shepherds.

That village, near the city of Belajik, was a small town inhabited by Kurds and Turks. From the beginning, we were forbidden to see each other, with the excuse that we might have trouble learning the Kurdish language. But when we took the sheep to graze far in the mountains and valleys, we always found each other and usually spoke about our sad fate from which an escape was hardly feasible.

Occasionally we wept inconsolably remembering our parents, whose absence bruised our young hearts. We suffered constantly, and our hatred towards the Turks grew daily. We knew that we were in enemy claws; we knew also that our lives meant nothing to them. We went to bed praying and with fear which kept us awake for a long time.

Until we reached that village we had seen and experienced much torture and death. And now our oppressed spirits were inflamed to the point of mutiny hearing about indescribable massacres.

Time passed thus for a while; the three of us met occasionally with utmost secrecy, and told each other our experiences and disappointments.

A short time later, one of our group, Avedis, whom the Kurds had renamed Avdo, suddenly disappeared, leaving the rest of us anticipating death.

The reason for his disappearance was unknown to us, and it was difficult to ascertain what kind of fate he had encountered. However, we did hear from an elderly Kurdish woman that Avdo's agha had an enemy in a nearby village and these two Kurds were full of hatred against each other and had vowed for a long time to end their rivalry with vengeance.

Concurrently, a rumor circulated among the villagers that Avdo had escaped.

Weeks passed with no news about our friend.

Soon it was fall. One sunny but cold day, my friend and I decided to take the herd toward the village where the enemy of Avdo's agha lived. So we ascended a nearby hill and saw in a distance a lake that looked like a mirror surrounded by green vegetation.

"Haigaz, look at that lake," I exclaimed.

"Let's go there," he answered.

A short time later we reached that green pasture which must have been a "forbidden zone." We met no other shepherds there, nor saw any footprints of sheep.

The sheep rushed toward the thick greenery, bleating and pushing against each other. Some of them showed their happiness by skipping and racing. Suddenly we noticed that a group of goats, startled by something unusual, retreated abruptly. To check the reason for this unusual behavior, we rushed there.

What we saw deeply shook us, and once more the feeling of death enveloped us. We froze there like statues.

There, in front of our eyes, lay the beheaded body of our unfortunate friend Avedis.

No one can describe the spiritual breakdown that we felt, and no one can measure the enormity of death's fright that engulfed us.

We dug a ditch with what we had, and buried our friend's skull and tortured body. Over the shallow grave we arranged with small stones the symbol of Armenian faith, the cross.

Forty-four years have passed since, but the grave of my tortured friend is always on my mind.