13:46, 24 Apr 2015
Siranush Ghazanchyan

The Daily Mail presents a shocking collection of harrowing photographs
of the death and destruction reaped on Armenians by Ottoman Turks a
century ago that were taken by an American and a colleague who risked
imprisonment to smuggle them out and show the world the full horror
of what happened.

John Elder and Armin T. Wegner both documented the unimaginable
suffering they witnessed in images which helped build a case against a
Turkish government which still denies the slaughter of up to 1.5million
Armenians constituted genocide.

As Armenians mark 100 years since the atrocities, many Western
countries still do not use that word, and US president Barack Obama
is once again unlikely to do so in his upcoming statement marking
the anniversary despite pledging he would during his election campaign.

An image of a starving Armenian orphan taken by John Elder. More than
150,000 Armenian children were left parentless by the end of 1918

Armenian deportees travel on foot in 1915 as taken by Armin Wegner,
including women and children on an unpaved road in the desert sun

A crowd looks on as Armenians are hanged in the street in
Constantinople before their forced removal to the desert had begun
after April 1915

This image was titled 'Abandoned and murdered small children of the
(Armenian) deportees' by Wegner and was taken in 1915-1916

Wegner, a volunteer military nurse, set up clandestine mail routes
with foreign consulates and embassies to get many hundreds of notes,
annotations, documents, letters and photographs of the Armenian
deportation camps to Germany and the United States.

He did so in defiance of strict orders from the Turkish and German
authorities aimed at preventing any evidence of the horrors of the
'genocide' reaching the outside world.

But his ruse was discovered and he was arrested by the German
authorities and put to serve in cholera wards in Baghdad at the
request of the Turkish command.

There he fell seriously ill, and German-born Wegner left for
Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) in November 1916. Hidden in his
belt were his photographic plates, and those of other German officers,
with images of the Armenian massacre to which he had been a witness.

His images still retain the power to shock as the world marks the
100th anniversary of the 'genocide' today.

In one, two Armenians are pictured hanging in the street in broad
daylight in the capital Constantinople while a crowd, including women
and children, looks on.

The image was taken in 1915 just before the mass deportation of
Armenians to the desert had begun. Hundreds of thousands were forced
from their homes in Anatolia and herded towards Syria.

A skeleton iresting in a refugee graveyard while a black clad figure
walks away from the camera in Igdir, now in Eastern Anatolia in Turkey

Armenian deportees sleeping in the street in 1915 in the Syrian region
of the Ottoman empire. They are mostly women without families

Orphans of the massacre take a rest. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians
were forced from their homes in Anatolia and herded towards Syria

Three generations of the same family of refugees take shelter from
the son in a makeshift tent. Many of those targeted for expulsion
starved to death, were shot or bayoneted by Ottoman Turkish soldiers

The then two million strong Armenian minority were persecuted by a
government suspicious that as Christians they were more loyal to
Christian governments like that of Russia than they were to the
Ottoman caliphate.

Though they had thrived under Ottoman rule, despite being regarded as
'infidels' by their Muslim rulers, the Armenians were resented for
their relative prosperity and success compared to many Ottoman Turks.

The Ottoman government began their campaign in earnest after Armenians
organized volunteer battalions to help the Russian army fight against
the Turks in the Caucasus region. The Ottoman government used this as
a justification to begin their forced 'removal' of Armenians the war
zones along the Eastern Front in a bid to 'Turkify' what remained of
a ailing empire.

The deportation began following the rounding up of 235 Armenian leaders
and intellectuals in the capital on April 24, 1915 - the anniversary
of which is marked today. Many of those then targeted for expulsion
starved to death, were shot or bayoneted by Ottoman Turkish soldiers.

Another photograph shows the bodies of three murdered young boys lying
in a gutter, one of them stripped naked, while two others look on.

More than 150,000 Armenian children were left parentless by the end
of the First World War.

And in a third of Wegner's incredible images taken in 1915, a band
of Armenian deportees, including a woman carrying a baby, children
and elderly men, stagger through the desert along an unpaved road in
the blazing suns towards their hellish new lives as refugees.

Refugees struggle to make their way along the Igdir road. The city
was occupied in 1920 and is now part of a region of eastern Turkey

'A 15-year-old child who died of starvation', according to Wegner,
who took the image of the two bodies of young boys in 1915-1916

Armenian deportees living in the open desert with bedding as their
only shelter, though luckier families in the background have tents

Elder, from Pennsylvania, was a relief worker in the Armenian capital
of Yerevan from 1917 to 1919. He also painted a heartrending picture
of the nightmare he witnessed using his camera.

The divinity student defied instructions given to relief workers and
other foreign personnel to evacuate the Caucasus, fearing that tens
of thousands more Armenians would die of starvation if the relief
programs were discontinued.

He and fellow YMCA colleague James Arroll remained at their posts
channeling relief fund to orphanages and soup kitchens.

The pair were instrumental in providing care for thousands of Armenian
orphans and arranging for the training and employment of 11,000 adults.

Elder's pictures of orphans are particularly harrowing, some of them
clearly starving with angular bones poking through the stretched skin
of their shrunken bodies.

In one eerie shot a human skeleton is pictured resting in a refugee
graveyard while a black clad figure walks away from the camera in
the background. In another refugees desperately forage for food by
a railway track.

In light of such evidence Obama's reticence to use the word 'genocide',
in a bid to placate America's Turkish allies, has disappointed many.

Several US officials said there had been a sharp internal debate over
whether to use the 100-year anniversary to call the killings 'genocide'
and make good on the president's campaign promise, particularly after
Pope Francis used the term earlier this month.



From: A. Papazian