HL Deb 17 December 1919 vol 38 cc279-300

THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY rose to call attention to the sufferings of the Christian refugees, Armenian, Nestorian, and Chaldæan, who are still prevented from returning to their homes by the Turkish troops who are occupying the districts from which they were driven, and to the repeated declarations made by the Government that all Turkish rule should cease in Armenia and the other districts referred to; and to ask His Majesty's Government whether they can give any information as to the steps taken or proposed in relation thereto.

The most rev. Primate said: My Lords, I do not think that any of your Lordships who have taken an interest in the question relating to which I have placed a notice on the Paper will take exception to public attention being called to the matter at this time. We have reached a stage in what may be called the resettlement of the world after war, when this matter, whether it be possible or not to handle it thoroughly, at present, is one of urgent and massive importance; and it it is to be handled it is well that it should be in the public recollection what has passed hitherto respecting it, and with what it is we really have to deal.

Just three years have passed since a remarkable Blue-book was published in October, 1916—a Blue Book which I venture to say, if the war had not at that time absorbed everyone's attention and retained their attention for some time afterwards, would have had a position and a reputation unlike most of the books which appear under covers of that colour and in that form. It was the Blue-book giving the story of the treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and containing a collection of documents relating to it. The treatment of Armenians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and to some extent Greeks, is handled in some measure at least in that book, and the book is one which to any one who desires to understand the whole question is not only essential for proper information but is interesting from cover to cover.

The appalling stories of wholesale massacre, of expulsion of great populations from their homes under conditions which could only be described as in most cases slowly dragged-out massacre, are set before us in incident after incident, showing what has happened on a scale so vast as is scarcely credible in our own time or, indeed, in any time. Every one who studies the subject at once begins to ask himself: Are the outrages which are here described the misdeeds of lawless ruffians who are out of hand and incapable of knowing what mercy or humanity means, or can they be the deliberate acts of a Government itself? On that question very large issues would necessarily turn. Unhappily the Blue-book leaves the impartial reader in no doubt whatever as to the answer which must be given. The book is no mere string of incidents. It gives the coherent story of these years, introduced and supplemented by narratives of the past and summaries of what has happened in the present which enable us by the lucidity, the range, and the clear arrangement of the whole, to deal with that question without hesitation and to arrive at the conclusion which is, I think, inevitable. No one reading it carefully but must be convinced, not, I will say, of the Turkish Government's complicity in these matters, but of its authorship, the actual authorship of these unspeakable outrages.

At the very outset of the war a deliberate plan was adopted, it is perfectly clear, by the Turkish Government for dealing with these long oppressed peoples, peoples in their various groups whose courage, whose loyalty to their Christian faith and, in some cases, whose industry aid grit had enabled them to hold their own for centuries and centuries in face of oppression, and poverty, anti misrule. The Government decided upon a cold-blooded plan of a double character. It was first to be a plan of quite deliberate massacre on a large scale, and it was next to be a plan of so-called deportation from the occupied regions which, in very many cases, merely meant massacre in a deferred degree.

Different regions were taken in order. The records which are here brought to light show that there were telegrams at the same time sent to the various parts of the Empire so that the massacre, if it was to be a massacre, should take place at the same time in different places. The deportations were carefully arranged by a plan which makes it utterly impossible to suppose that they were the acts of local governors, or local authorities, or that they emanated from any other source than headquarters, whether or no those headquarters had an identity different from that which belonged to the Turkish Government.

What took place is described in this book by eye-witnesses. Narrative after narrative gives it in detail. These are not for the most part the accounts of victims who had survived; they are narratives by calm, competent, highly-skilled observers, familiar with the country, familiar with the people, and incapable of misrepresenting what they saw. Americans, Germans—I will note Germans very markedly—and English observers as well. These all support, with practical unanimity, the stories given by those victims who had survived, whose records, had they not been thus supported, might very unfairly have been judged as not likely to be correctly or temperately given.

The last thing I want to do is to go over in detail horrors of this kind. I would quote just two instances in order to give examples of the kind of things to which I refer. There was, first, the policy of this deportation that we speak of. I have chosen out of an almost unlimited number of cases which one might choose, a statement by the principal of the American college who has gone into the whole matter with the most accurate observation and with statistical care, in regard to one particular deportation, and this is his summary of it— Front the village of E— The observer has not mentioned what village it was— 212 individuals set out— "Set out" means, of course, that they were driven from their homes with the express intention of their being taken somewhere to be settled, were driven for the most part into wild regions over roads of such length and under such conditions of hardship that the survival only of the strongest of them was possible. All the young men before that time had in every single case been taken away, and the old men, the women, and the children were the people who survived to be the victims of the deportation— From the village of E 212 individuals set out, of whom 128 (60 per cent.) reached Aleppo alive; 56 men and 11 women were killed on the road, 3 girls and 9 boys were sold or kidnapped, and 5 people were missing. From the same place another party of 696 people were deported; 321 (46 per cent.) reached Aleppo: 206 men and 57 women were killed en route; 70 girls and young women and 19 boys were sold; 23 were missing. From the village of D a party of 128 were deported, of whom 32 (25 per cent.) reached Aleppo alive: 24 men and 12 women were killed en route; 29 girls and young women and 13 boys were sold; and 18 were missing. I have purposely taken not one of the many accounts which give the facts in their detail, but a summary of that which the observer found to be the outcome. If we remember the phrase that "seventy girls and young women, and nineteen boys were sold," and we look over the page to see what that means we find how, as they passed each town, the girls or young women were in most cases paraded in front of the house of any Turkish buyer who chose to come and take them for purposes described in detail, so unutterably horrible—girls being constantly done to death by those who took them in this way—as make the records appalling to read. That, I take it, is by no means an extreme case. There are many cases where the numbers were greater and the survivors fewer, but I have taken the one which was testified to by so competent and cool an observer, who is able to give us figures and not to talk in any way general terms.

So much for the deportation part. Let me give you one form among many that there are with regard to the massacres. The massacres were often en route. For example, great numbers of women and young girls were placed on board dumb barges on the Tigris and half an hour after leaving the bank they were thrown overboard, while soldiers had been placed in proper positions along the banks to prevent any of them reaching the shore. That kind of thing happened not in twenty, thirty, or fifty cases, but—I do not say in thousands—but certainly in many hundreds of cases.

This kind of thing is also described by a careful observer whose name is there— Every one of the Armenians, leaders as well as men, was killed fighting"— That is, the younger men— and when the silence of death reigned over the ruins of churches and the rest, the Moslem rabble made a descent upon the women and children and drove them out of the town into large camps which had already been prepared for the peasant women and children. The ghastly scenes which followed may indeed sound incredible, yet these reports have been confirmed from Russian sources beyond all doubt. The shortest method for disposing of the women and children concentrated in the various camps was to burn them. Fire was set to large wooden sheds in Alidjan, Megrakom, Khaskegh, and other Armenian villages, and these absolutely helpless women and children were roasted to death. Many went mad and threw their children away; some knelt down and prayed amid the flames in which their bodies were burning; others shrieked and cried for help which came from nowhere. And the executioners, who seem to have been unmoved by this unparalleled savagery, grasped infants by one leg and hurled them into the fire, calling out to the burning mothers, 'Here are your lions.' That is the kind of description which occurs, not once or twice in this book. It is not some over-wrought account by an excited observer, but it is the record of really competent people telling what they saw take place, not at one spot but at many, over a region of that fertile country which is capable of better things.

There are not a few men and women in this country who are able to speak as eyewitnesses of many of these things. Some of your Lordships know, and have had the privilege of making the acquaintance of, a lady in a high position among the Nestorians, Surma the sister of Mar Shimun, the late Patriarch, who is now in this country as a sort of delegate from her people. She is able to speak with the fullest personal knowledge of details of happenings which she herself has witnessed. Her brother, the Patriarch, was massacred. She herself survived and the account she gives, with great calmness and perfect self-control, of things she has seen and what she knows to have happened to her sisters, cousins and other relatives and friends, women and girls particularly, are such as support to the full, one is only too sorry to say, the very worst accounts which appear in the printed record.

What was the result, taking it in a large way numerically? I prefer here to take the statement of one of these careful statistical observers who has summarised for the Blue-book what were the results. I may be asked "Are you speaking of a few thousand, or how many thousand?" I will read the paragraph in which it is summarised— There is no dispute as to what happened in 1915. The Armenian inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire were everywhere uprooted from their homes and deported to the most remote and unhealthy districts that the Government could select for them. Some were murdered at the outset, some perished on the way, and some died after reaching their destination. The death-roll amounts to upwards of six hundred thousand; perhaps six hundred thousand more are still alive in their places of exile; and the remaining six hundred thousand or so have either been converted forcibly to Islam, gone into hiding in the mountains, or escaped beyond the Ottoman frontier. The Ottoman Government cannot deny these facts, and they cannot justify them. If you refer to the Book itself you will see that the estimate is carefully reached as the result of balancing different evidence about the numerical details, which are obviously very difficult to obtain. If it errs at all I am quite clear it errs by under-stating, rather than over-stating, the facts.

I believe that the story of these years is really an outrage on civilisation without historical parallel in the world. I do not believe that in the wildest barbarities recorded in history, including those of the days of Tamerlane, you would be able to exceed, if you could parallel, the accounts that are here given. And these can be, as I have said, undoubtedly traced, not to the outrageous conduct of undisciplined hordes, but to the deliberate plan and scheme of a Government with which you are supposed to have been on friendly terms and in alliance for many purposes. After all the distractions which the war has brought into the mind of men all over the world in contemplating contemporary history, is it conceivable that we are going to allow these facts to be forgotten; or, if we do not allow them to be forgotten, that we are going to allow conditions to arise again during which their repetition can be possible? That seems to me to be a question which ought to be, and must be, asked at once.

Any person to whom one mentions the subject naturally asks, "How do they explain, how do they account for, this themselves? What answer do the Turks themselves give to a statement of that kind as to the wholesale character of these horrible doings? To my mind hardly anything is more damning in its condemnation than the nature of the defence which is offered. There are three different branches of excuses given, which are summarised for us in this book. The first is that these were rebellious people, that they were not really loyal to Turkey's rule—we know what the Turkish rule over them had been for a great many years—and that it was necessary to exercise disciplinary action in order to reduce things to order. This is the way they put it— It was the Ottoman Government's duty to uphold public law and order. In war time measures of this kind assume an especially weighty and pressing character. It is not that the thing is not true. As to the next explanation the quotations I am going to give you would, if one could get away from the horribleness of the whole thing, really have an almost humorous character. The Turkish Governor said— The sad events that have occurred in Armenia have prevented my sleeping well at night. We have been reproached for making no distinction between the innocent Armenians and the guilty; but that was utterly impossible, in view of the fact that those who were innocent to-day might be guilty to-morrow. That is the second explanation. Is it possible to conceive, when officials in high places give that as an explanation of what has taken place, that we can regard the doings in any way except with horror?

The third explanation is a deliberate statement that it was revenge executed upon Armenians and other Christians resident in Turkey for the fact that Armenians and other Christians were fighting against them in Russia at that time. Here is another quotation— Was it not human nature that we should revenge ourselves on the Armenians at home for the injury we had received from their com-patriots fighting against us at the front in the Russian ranks—men who had actually volunteered to fight against us in the enemy's cause? Therefore, those who in their own country were subjects of the Turkish Empire and were allied to those who in another country were fighting against Turkey, were to be treated in the way here described. You will notice that every one of these excuses admits the facts. The facts, as far as I know, have never been challenged except in vague generalities asserting that they were gross exaggerations. The facts are patent; the authors of these misdeeds stand self-condemned as well as condemned by the opinion of every reasonable man.

It is, of course, difficult to know how to deal with the question and that is a matter which is not within my province or within my power to handle in any way at all. No one contends that it is a very easy matter to know what ought to happen next, and hardly any one contends that we should suppress the Turk in Asia Minor proper; that is in the peninsula west of a line running from Samsoon in the north to Alexandretta in the south. West of that line we admit that Asia Minor is a region under Turkish rule, and presumably it is to continue to prevail with whatever checks or supervision are practicable. No one suggests that they should be suppressed in this region. But east of that line the whole conditions are entirely different. That region has never historically belonged properly to Turkey; is not inhabited by the Turkish races, nor are the Turks as numerous there, as are other races.

When the Turkish arrangement of the Provinces there was made, I understand that the vilayets were so constructed and defined as purposely to make the elements contained in them as heterogeneous as possible so as to prevent a great Christian population growing up. The result is that the races are very mixed, and they really have no claim to be Turkish in character. They are of all kinds and sorts of races; a very large proportion of Christians, and many Mohammedans. Though strong things have been said as to the nature of the Kurds many observers say that the Kurds and Armenians would get on fairly well together provided there was some control of the whole country, some government properly controlling the country when the Kurds would no longer commit the outrages which he is only too ready to perpetuate when encouraged by the Turk. This region could get on without Turkish rule with less difficulty than some people suppose. But whatever is the process for mending matters the Government and the Allies have declared their resolve quite clearly to prevent a repetition of these outrages.

I do not think some of your Lordships, and doubtless many people in the country, realise what a great deal we are doing at this moment for these Christian people. There is a great camp outside Baghdad into which the remnant of these refugees, Armenians, Assyrians, and Chaldeans, have been collected up to the number of 50,000, and we are paying for their upkeep and care at the rate of £1,000 a day. It is worth knowing that this country is doing the work on this gigantic scale. We believe that for the moment we are doing what is best for these unhappy people.

But what is to happen next?—that is the purport of my question. We have always believed firmly that as regards America, when the war was over and the active help which Americans gave us so strenuously during the war ceased to be necessary, we might rely on the same spirit to help us in these matters. It is no more our business in one sense than it is theirs, and we have a right to expect that we are going to get some practical, strong, and substantial aid from those who have shared our responsibilities in war and who we believe ought to share them now. My fear is that the story of these horrors have been almost obliterated from many minds by the incidents of the war, in which we had perhaps a more direct concern and that they will fade into the background and be forgotten. People will think that we ought to go on now in the way we are doing and make the best of it. I do not believe the Government will think that but I can imagine, and I know, that such an opinion is finding expression in many quarters now.

It has been definitely promised that whatever flag it is which flies over these regions in the future the actual control must never again be in Turkish hands. I will not trouble your Lordships with quotations but I will give two from the Prime Minister himself. Speaking in December 20, 1917, in the House of Commons the Prime Minister said this— What will happen to Mesopotamia must be left to the Peace Congress when it meets; but there is one thing that will never happen; it will never be restored to the blasting tyranny of the Turk. At best he was a trustee of this far famed land on behalf of Ah! what a trustee! He has been false to his trust, and his trusteeship must be given over to more competent and more equitable hands chosen by the Congress which will settle the affairs of the world. That same observation applies to Armenia, the land soaked with blood of innocents massacred by the people who were bound to protect them. Speaking a little later the Prime Minister said— Outside Europe we believe the same principles should be applied. While we do not challenge the maintenance of the Turkish Empire in the home lands of the Turkish race with its capital at Consantinople—the passage between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea being internationalised and neutralised—Arabia, Armenia, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine are, in our judgment, entitled to a recognition of their separate national conditions. What the exact form of that recognition in each particular case should be need not be here discussed, beyond stating that it would be impossible to restore to their former sovereignty the territories to which I have just referred. I ask now, What are we to understand as to their fulfilment? I do not believe I appeal to an unsympathetic tribunal. I apologise for having detained your Lordships so long but the point raised in the question had to be made clear; it is one which deserves attention and must not pass from the memory of civilised people. It is a matter of vital import to the honour of humanity and the good faith and wellbeing of the world.


My Lords, I do not want to stand between the House and my noble friend Lord Bryce, but, I have an engagement which compels me to go away presently. No one will dispute the extreme gravity or the poignant tragedy of many of the incidents which the moat rev. Primate has placed before us. He has recapitulated from the Blue-book many of the most terrible incidents in the long career of bloodshed, atrocity, and crime which has disfigured what I hope will be the dying days of the Turkish Empire in those parts of Asia to which he had alluded. I need not dwell or even comment upon that narrative, which can leave but one impression on the minds of those who are brought in contact with it. What the House will be concerned to hear from me is what the Government are doing in the matter, and what is the prospect that lies before the unhappy peoples of whose sufferings we have heard so much from the most rev. Primate.

I observe that in his speech the Archbishop moved rather rapidly from Assyrians to Armenians and from Armenians to other Christian populations, treating them, as it is not unfair to do, as a great aggregate of suffering humanity placed under the cruel heel of the Ottoman Turk. In my reply I ask leave to distinguish rather sharply between them, because I think that your Lordships will wish to know what is being done for each community in the geographical area in which it is at the present moment. The most rev. Primate spoke a great deal about the Assyrians, variously known as Nestorians and Chaldæans. He spoke about the remarkable lady who has come from that race and from that country to England, and with whom I, among others, have had the privilege of conversing; and I may say, in passing, that a more remarkable specimen of womanhood, or a lady more competent to speak for the interesting community to which she belongs, it is impossible to imagine.

The most rev. Primate told us of the existence of this camp at Bakuba, in the vicinity of Baghdad, and spoke of the 50,000 or more refugees who have been there collected. Probably the number is in excess of what he says, and is nearer 53,000 than 50,000. They have been there from the month of September or October, 1918, and they consist partly of Assyrian Christians from the neighbourhood of Lake Urumia in Persia; partly—and this is the larger number—of Assyrians from the regions of Kurdistan; and partly also of Armenians, 12,000 in number, who are included in that total. There, as the Archbishop correctly pointed out, we have been maintaining them ourselves for over a year and a-quarter. The cost, I think, has been even greater than the most rev. Primate anticipated. It has amounted to £4 per head per month, or an aggregate of over £200,000 a month, which works out—I mentioned to your Lordships that the total period already exceeded a year and a quarter—at £2,500,000 in the year. These unhappy people in this country have been occupied in various forms of work—namely, military work, gendamerie, road-making, camp duties, cultivation, and so on, but of course the important thing is to get them back. The difficulty about that is manifest. In the first place those who are Persians in origin and come from the neighbourhood of the Persian lake cannot go back to a country access to which is at present closed, and where no sort of security exists, and for the time being the lady to whom the most rev. Primate and myself have referred herself fully realises that repatriation to the Persian homes of these Christians is not to be contemplated.

Then there is a further difficulty. We have no right under the terms of the Armistice to repatriate these people to any place outside the Armistice area; in other words, we have no right, even if we had the force (and we have not the force), to take them back into the mountainous region of Kurdistan, and obviously it would be suicidal folly to send them out to be waylaid and murdered on the way. These people themselves are, of course, reluctant to move unless tinder conditions which give them reasonable security, and as winter is now approaching I am afraid we cannot expect to do anything substantial until the spring. Meanwhile the administration of this camp has been taken over by the civilian from the military authorities, and it is hoped that the expense will thereby be reduced to £3,000 a day.

Willing as we have been to pay, we have never quite been able to see why this expenditure, as indeed most of the expenditure of the war in the East, has fallen upon Great Britain alone. Therefore we have invited France, who is greatly interested in that part of the East, to bear her share of the burden. Our policy there is quite clear. It is to get the Persian Assyrians back to their country as soon as conditions admit of it; and as regards the Assyrians who lived before and who are willing to live again in the areas which belong to the old Turkish Empire, either to place them in an enclave adjacent to the territories under our control, so that they may be under our wing and within easy reach of our protection, or, if we provide a home for them in their former home lands or further afield among the Kurdish peoples, to try to make such arrangements for them as may secure their safe and decent existence.

Here let me say that what the most rev. Primate said about the relations between the Kurds and the Armenians appears also to be true about the relations between the Kurds and the Assyrian Christians, because the lady who has been referred to told me that she did not anticipate that difficulties would arise from that cause. The fact is that these people when not stirred up by the Turks, or by local feuds, are quite capable of getting on with each other; indeed, the Assyrians are in many ways necessary to the Kurds, for the purposes of cultivation and otherwise. If you can arm a sufficient number of them to act as a sort of gendarmerie to themselves, I believe there is no reason why in the future those two communities should not live side by side. That is the object that we are keeping before ourselves, and I hope that when winter is over and spring comes we may be able to take steps to move them back to their own homes. So much for the Assyrian Christians.

Now may I say a word about the Armenians, and I need not enlarge upon—indeed, I need not devote even a passing sentence to endorsing—what the most rev. Primate said about the historic sufferings and miseries of that people. Never in their long history have they been so scattered or dispersed or in a more forlorn and pitiable condition than at present. What are we doing for the Armenians, and where are the Armenians with whom it is possible to deal? I spoke just now about the 12,000 who were at Bakuba, refugees from different parts of what was formerly Turkish territory. The most rev. Primate himself alluded to the Armenians in the South, and there have been until quite recently for the best part of a year if not for longer something like 12,000 Armenian refugees at or in the immediate neighbourhood of Aleppo. The House is probably aware from what it has seen in the Press that arrangements have been recently concluded between the British and French Governments by which those parts of Syria and Cilicia have been evacuated by the British troops who have hitherto occupied them and handed over to the French, and accordingly when this step took place we proposed to transfer to the charge of the French the 12,000 Armenian refugees at Aleppo to whom I have referred. That charge was accepted by them, and those persons are being transferred to Cilicia. There are also a number of Armenian refugees at other towns in the north of Syria, Marash and Urfa, and other places which are now in the French sphere, and who will therefore be looked after by the French. Then if you come to Cilicia itself, there is the Armenian community in that old province of the Turkish Empire which throughout has been under the military and civil administration of the French where therefore the Armenians are again a French charge. So much for the southern fringes of the Old Armenia.

If we go up to the North we come to the areas where a larger number of these exiles are congregated. There has been for some time a cluster of 25,000 to 30,000 refugees from Turkish Armenia in the State of Azerbaijan. I am glad to say that the relief work of feeding them and saving them from destitution has for the most part been undertaken by the Americans. Next door to them we come to the old Province of Russian Armenia which, in the new condition of affairs, has claimed for itself a national existence, calls itself the Armenian Republic, maintains a form of Government, and indeed a definite national existence, with its centre at Erivan. Around Erivan and Kars are said to be a population of about 500,000 Armenians. I should say that one of the most difficult features of the Armenian case is that of reconciling the various figures that are given, sometimes from American, sometimes from British, and sometimes from native, sources. I assure your Lordships that they differ not only by 50 or 100 per cent., but sometimes by 200 and 300 per cent. I only give your Lordships the figures which are the best that I can produce. There are believed to be in this Armenian State something like 500,000 resident Armenians. Then there is the refugee population who have crowded in there from the west and south-west. Again the figures that I have been given from different sources vary from 150,000 to 300,000. I do not know where the truth lies between these extremes. Here, my Lords, I am afraid that there has been and there is great suffering, a very heavy mortality, and that the people have in many cases reached the absolute limit of their resistance. Here again the principal work has been done and is now being done by the American Relief Mission, and it is a splendid thing that we have found our own charitable efforts backed not only by the large heart but by the deep purse of the American nation in this emergency.

About one thing I think we may be reassured. A few months ago we were told on every side that there was very grave danger of a massacre of these unhappy people, and that a repetition of some of the worst horrors of the past was to be feared. As far as I can make out that is not at all likely to be true, partly because the Armenians themselves are now in many quarters well armed and are able to look alter them elves, and partly because I suspect that the old Armenian massacres of which we have heard so much were almost invariably ordered for political reasons from Constantinople; and now that Constantinople is voiceless and powerless in the matter there is really no one, as far as I can see, interested in setting in motion that particular weapon of cruelty.

The Americans and ourselves—for we have officers in the Caucasus—are doing the best possible to establish peaceful relations between those Armenian groups of whom I have last been speaking and their neighbours in the neighbouring states and partly owing to the influence of the American head of the Allied Mission deputed from the Paris Conference to do what he could in that neighbourhood, and partly by the efforts of Mr. Wardrop, who is our own Consul at Tiflis, much more harmonious and peaceful relations have been created between the Armenians in the centre, the Azerbaijanis on the East, and the Georgians on the West. I hope myself that the worst is over, and that there are here the germs of a State which will retain an independent existence in the future with clearly-defined boundaries, and able to live in peace and amity with its neighbours.

The most rev. Primate alluded to the different declarations that have been made at various times since we went into the country by responsible spokesmen of His Majesty's Government. He quoted in particular two declarations made in the course of last year or the year before by the Prime Minister. By those declarations we stand. They have never been departed from there. They do not express the sentiments, the aspirations, or the intentions of ourselves alone. They are shared by all our Allies. And, my Lords I hope that many months—I may even go further and say that I hope that many weeks—will not now elapse before the Allied Powers in Conference are able seriously to come to a solution of the Turkish problem, too long delayed already, and bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.

I am not certain that as this is solved the larger aspirations which were once entertained of an Armenia stretching from sea to sea will be capable of realisation. The problem is not merely one of means and of money; it is also one of men. Many of us had hoped—I myself cherished the hope for long—that America would have been willing to take up this great responsibility. President Wilson was, I believe, earnestly disposed to do so at one moment, and for all I know may be so still, and had America taken it up she would with her large ideas and her great resources have been able to do it on a much larger and more satisfactory scale than anybody else. I am afraid that the omens in the United States are very unfavourable to any such solution being found, and I think that the best that we can do for the time being, without surrendering the hope of better things, is to try and solidify, consolidate, and build up the fortunes of an Armenian State in that part of the world to which I have referred. I think I have covered most of the ground that was touched upon by the most rev. Primate.

I hope, as I have to go in a moment, that my noble friend Lord Lamington, who has a Starred Question on the Paper, will allow me to answer it before I sit down. The Question he asks me is "whether I will lay on the Table the Report of the Committee appointed to inquire into the disorders that took place at Smyana last May and June." The Report in question is addressed to the Peace Conference by an Allied Commission appointed by the Supreme Council in Paris, and is not the exclusive property of His Majesty's Government. It is therefore, I am afraid, not in our power to lay it.


My Lords, as I recognise the very large amount of business which remains to be done this evening I shall confine myself to a very few remarks upon what has just fallen from the noble Earl. I am anxious that the House should appreciate the great urgency that this question has with regard to these refugees upon whom the most rev. Primate dwelt, and who have been referred to in some detail by the noble Earl who has just spoken. They are anxious to return to their homes. They are anxious, not only on account of the suffering which at present presses en them, and which some of them have endured for more than two years—now nearly for four years since they first fled from the great massacres of 1915. It is by that that the prosperity of the country, if it is ever to be restored, must be restored. Meanwhile they are dying—dying by hundreds a week in many places, not only from disease, but from starvation and from diseases which are due to starvation. They are dying in spite of all the relief which we are giving at Bakuba, in spite of the relief which has been given partly by Americans in the north, but from British sources also—and in the case of the Americans I should like to say that a sum of £6,000,000 has been sent out from America within the last ten months—and that in addition to millions of pounds which had been previously contributed by America. It is only fair that, although the American Government has not come forward, the private gifts of Americans to this immense extent should be appreciated in this country.

It is becoming a matter of great urgency that these unfortunate refugees, who in the north in particular are perishing in such numbers, should be able as soon as possible to return to their homes, rebuild their houses, cultivate the fields, and avoid the prospect of a famine which is always impending in these countries where it is so difficult to bring food and where there has been so little cultivation during the last four years. They cannot return until something is done to check the Turkish bands which are still ravishing the country. There are, I am informed, no regular Turkish forces now in Armenia proper, that is to say, in Armenia to the east of the Taurus Mountains, nor in Cilicia, but there are wandering bands—the remnants of the former Turkish forces—and all the bad characters who always come to front where a country is in complete disorder, and these are so numerous and so well armed that it would be unsafe for the refugees at present to return.

What I therefore desire to press upon His Majesty's Government is the duty of taking all possible steps to endeavour to free the country from these bands in order that the refugees may return and may again resume the cultivation of the country. Of course, it is said that you require a large force, but it must be remembered that although these bands are Irregulars they are all more or less amenable to the Turks who remain—to some extent to Constantinople, and to some extent to Mustafa Kemal, who is in command of a large Turkish force which is to the west of the region I have described, on the other side of the Taurus in Asia Minor. If it is provided in the Treaty to be made with Turkey that one condition of the Treaty shall be that the authorities at Constantinople and such Turks as remain in power in Asia Minor, such as Mustafa Kemal, shall at once be responsible for joining in the pacification of the country and securing the withdrawal of these bands, it will then be possible for these refugees to return.

I believe that by that means, by means of the exercise of diplomatic pressure, by sending a force into the country, which need not be a very large force, to see that these bands are suppressed, it will be possible to enable the refugees to return in safety. I believe that although there is a certain amount of ammunition and a certain number of rifles still in the hands of these bands, and also in the hands of Mustafa Kemal, they have no artillery to speak of, and, of course, they are dependent for supplies of ammunition and of many other things upon commerce with the West, and therefore the British Fleet would be able to prevent any military supply from coming in, and to put a pressure upon them which will be extremely efficient in reducing the Turks to reason, and in securing that, when the Treaty is made providing for their withdrawal and the pacification of this country, that Treaty will be carried out.

That brings me to say a word about the Treaty itself. The first condition of any Treaty to be made with the Turks is that they shall entirely evacuate what is known as Armenia. I share the view which was expressed by the most rev. Primate that there is no reason why a Turkish Sultan should not continue to reign in those parts of Asia Minor where there is a majority of the Muslim population. The Muslim population is in the large majority along the north coast of Asia Minor, and through most parts of the central plateau, and there a Sultan may remain, and if anybody likes—if he can obtain recognition from the Mahomedan world as Caliph—he may remain as Caliph also. But what I believe the public of this country will insist upon, and in fact, what public opinion must insist upon when it knows the facts and realises those facts upon which the most rev. Primate dwelt—the immense scale and the circumstances of horror which attended these massacres and which have shown once again how utterly unfit the Turk is to exercise powers over persons of a different faith and race—is that there shall be no more Turkish rule in Armenia nor in those other regions, Chaldæan and Assyrian, in which the massacres have been perpetrated.

Some other declarations—those made by the present Prime Minister—have been referred to by the most rev. Primate. I could if it were necessary give other declarations—declarations made by Mr. Balfour on behalf of the Government, declarations made by Lord Robert Cecil on behalf of the Government., declarations made by M. Clemenceau who also pledged France to secure liberation of the Armenians. And therefore I am very glad to know that the noble Earl, in the words which he spoke just now, declared that His Majesty's Government—and he said he spoke for the Allies also—stand by those declarations, and intend to fulfil them. I am sure the House will note with satisfaction that declaration, and will feel sure that His Majesty's Government will carry it out. But I want to press this point upon it, that that must be taken to mean the regions in which the Muslim population is not in a large majority, such as the centre of Asia Minor, and that the declaration must be taken to include all the countries to the east of the Taurus Mountains, Cilicia, and the six vilayets of Armenia, and that it is not only for the Republic at Erivan that independence is to be promised, but that that independence is to belong to all the regions which historically belong to the Armenian part of Western Asia.

I need only remind your Lordships that if you desire to have any other view of the conduct of the Turks and the character of those massacres in addition to that which the Blue-book presents, to which the most rev. Primate has referred, you will find it in the book of Mr. Morgenthau, the American Ambassador at Constantinople during the period of the massacres. He tells us himself that he constantly went to Enver and Talaat, who are the two chiefs of the Committee of Union and Progress and the persons chiefly responsible for planning and carrying out the massacres. He represented to them that the world would be outraged if those things continued, and he tried for the same purpose to enlist the sympathy of the German Ambassador, Wangenheim. He describes there how Talaat and Enver did not attempt to conceal the massacres, did not deny what their policy of extermination was. They did it all with a deliberate purpose; they were supported by the other members of the Committee of Union and Progress, and not a word was said amongst the Turks against these massacres.


And the Germans.


Yes, the Germans also knew; but I am speaking now of Turkish opinion. Not a word was said in Turkey, or by the Committee of Union and Progress, to deprecate the massacres; and the Germans, through Wangenheim, absolutely refused to interfere. If anything were needed to show how impossible it is to allow the Turk to go into the regions of which I am speaking, the facts stated in the Blue-book and the facts stated by Mr. Morgenthal would be sufficient.

I had intended, had there been more time, to have dwelt also upon some very important British political interests which attach to this country. It is a matter of the highest political interest for the future of Persia that there should be no Turkish power co-terminous with Persia to threaten Persia or to bring into it, and through it into regions further east, those intrigues of which we have heard so much and in which the Turk is the tool of the German. It is very much to the interest of Persia and Afghanistan that there should be no contact with the Turk any more. It is very much to the interest of India, and for the security of India, that the country between the Black Sea and the Caspian, which is now held by the four small republics which have emerged from what was Trans-Caucasia, should not be used as a strategic base through which the Turk, as the tool of Germany, can form designs against Baluchistan and Afghanistan and the security of India itself. We know what the plans of the Germans were, and the most efficient way of preventing them from being carried out is to prevent any contact between the Turks beyond the Caspian and the Turks who ought to be confined hereafter to the regions of Asia Minor That is, however, a subject too large to dwell upon further at present.

I welcomed what was said by the noble Lord with regard to the solidifying of the Armenian Republic of Erivan. I believe it would be very greatly to the advantage of that Republic, and greatly contribute to the preservation of order in those districts, if His Majesty's Government would allow some British superior officers to superintend the levies that they say they could raise, and also give them some rifles and ammunition which would enable them to arm the forces they could collect. They assure me that they could arm and put into the field a considerable force if they could have a supply of ammunition from His Majesty's Government. The desire has been expressed that this force should be under the order of British officers in order to prevent anything happening in a country where passions have been aroused, and where we should have the security that the force would be used for policing and not for revenge by the Armenians. I hope that suggestion will be considered by His Majesty's Government. I am glad to note that an arrangement has now been made—a sort of treaty concluded—on the one hand between the Republic of Erivan and the Tartars to the east of them; and on the other hand between the representatives of the Armenians and the Kurds who live to the north, so that in those two quarters there is the prospect of an arrangement which will result in an ultimate peace.

With regard to the Americans, I think it is premature to conclude that there will not be some assistance from the United States. I continue to hope that, whether it takes the form which was no doubt desired by President Wilson—namely, of the acceptance of a mandate, or whether it takes the form proposed of a pecuniary subvention, there is still reason to hope that America will feel, after the part she has taken in the war, that it might be a duty on her to do something further to aid the Allies in the establishment of peace, and to give some assistance to these countries which have suffered so much, and for which her sympathy has been in many ways so strong. She has contributed enormous sums for the relief of distress and for the preservation of life; in times past she has rendered great service to this country through her missionaries, and I think it is still possible to hope that she may do something in the future, as soon as the Treaty to be concluded with Turkey removes Turkey's power altogether from these regions, to give an opportunity for their future pacific development.


My Lords, I desire to say a word with regard to the appointment of British officers for a force to be raised to prevent ebullitions of feeling between the Armenians and the Turks. The noble Viscount referred to vengeance being taken by the Armenians. As a matter of fact, in the spring of this year the Armenians did perpetrate cruelties on the Turks. It is to prevent this that I suggest some precautions should be taken. That is made more difficult by reason of the new settlement whereby France is really put into occupation of what might be termed Southern Armenia or Cilicia. I think it must be recognised that what the noble Viscount feared has already taken place in the early part of this year.


There may have been something, but I do not think it was on a large scale. Further, I thought it was in a different part of the country from that to which my noble friend refers.

[The sitting was suspended at twenty minutes past eight o'clock and resumed at a quarter past nine.