Islam’s Holy War Against Christianity – Turkey, 1894-1923
Part 1 of a Series
In nations governed by Islamic Law (Sharia), non-Muslims have the status of dhimmis (“protected people”). They are protected from slaughter or expulsion so long as they remain subservient and pay a special poll tax, called the Jizya, to their Muslim masters. Under the rules of dhimmitude the “protected people” must show deference at all times to Muslims and wear special clothing to distinguish themselves from Muslims. They are allowed only limited religious freedoms and have no political or civil rights outside the Sharia, which regulates their mandated status of degradation and humiliation. Usually, besides the Jizya, they must also pay a large part of their income to the Muslim community. Their continued status as dhimmis is strictly at the pleasure of the dominant Muslim population. They are subject to have their properties confiscated or their lives forfeited at any time. Muhammad instituted this practice as a source of Muslim income, which resulted in the umma (Muslim people) becoming somewhat dependent on the dhimmi class for various technical skills.
The Armenians are an ethnic group whose original homeland was the highlands surrounding Mount Ararat (Genesis 8:4). They have been an identifiable people for at least 4,000 years. The modern Republic of Armenia, formerly part of the Soviet Union, borders Turkey on the west, the Republic of Georgia on the north, Azerbaijan on the east, and Iran on the south. The Kingdom of Armenia, established about 500 BC, also now referred to as Greater Armenia, encompassed large parts of Eastern Turkey. Armenia was the first nation to declare itself a Christian nation about 301 AD. Most Armenians belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, but about ten percent belong to the Armenian Catholic Church and about two percent to the Armenian Evangelical Church. There were once large Armenian populations in Istanbul, Izmir (formerly known as Smyrna, Revelation 2:8), and other metropolitan areas. Only a remnant now remain in Turkey.
Near the beginning of the twentieth century, the 4.5 million Armenian and Greek Christians in Ottoman Turkey were of the subjugated dhimmi class. In Christian Europe and especially Britain, however, such Muslim practices were being viewed with alarm. Consequently, the Armenians began to appeal to Britain and other European powers to put pressure on Turkey to relax the Sharia rules pertaining to non-Muslims. There had been some relaxation late in the nineteenth century, but the Turks began to resent the Armenian overtures to European powers and became uncertain of their loyalty to Turkey. They considered these Armenian pleas for help to have violated their constraints as protected people under Sharia.
In 1894, fearing increasing unrest, the Ottoman government persuaded Muslim religious leaders to undertake a major crack-down on any dissent by Armenian dhimmis regarding their subjugated status. In an 1896 dispatch, Henry Barnham, a British Consulate official, gave his personal description of events:
“The butchers and tanners, with sleeves tucked up to the shoulders, armed with clubs and cleavers, cut down the Christians with cries of ‘Allahu akbar!’ (Allah is great!) (and) broke down the doors of their houses with pickaxes and levers, or scaled the walls with ladders. Then when mid-day came they knelt down and said their prayers, and then jumped up and resumed the dreadful work, carrying it on far into the night. Whenever they were unable to beat down the doors they fired the houses with petroleum…”
One survivor recounted the destruction of two churches in the town of Severek in December of 1896:
“The mob had plundered the Gregorian (Armenian) church, desecrated it, murdered all who had sought shelter there, and as a sacrifice beheaded the sexton on the stone threshold. Now it (the mob) filled our yard. The blows of an axe crashed in the church doors.”
This survivor described the scene as this mob rushed into the second church and ripped apart Bibles and hymnbooks, blasphemed the cross as a sign of victory, and chanted their prayer (“There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His prophet.”) He then related:
“The leader of the mob cried: ‘Believe in Muhammad and deny your religion.’ No one answered…The leader gave the order to massacre. The first attack was on our pastor. The blow of an axe decapitated him. His blood spurting in all directions, spattered the walls and ceiling”
The British Consul intercepted a letter from a Turkish soldier giving this account to his family:
“My brother, if you want news from here we have killed 1,200 Armenians, all of them food for the dogs…Mother I am safe and sound. Father, 20 days ago we made war on the Armenian unbelievers. Through Allah’s grace no harm befell us…May Allah bless you.”
Another intercepted letter, evidently from an Armenian survivor, described the slaughter of refugees at a church in ancient Edessa. After breaking down the door, Turkish troops mockingly called for Christ to prove himself a greater prophet than Muhammad. Then according to the survivor:
“They began killing everyone on the floor of the church by hand or with pistols. From the altar they gunned down women and children in the gallery. Finally the Turks gathered bedding and straw, on which they poured some thirty cans of kerosene and set the church ablaze.”
This 1894-1896 Jihad against Christians in Eastern Turkey claimed 250,000 lives. Many Armenian women were forced into harems, and many women and children were sold as slaves. Rape, considered one of the rights of “booty” in Muslim Jihad, was routine. Some under duress converted to Islam, but others escaped to the West and reported the massacre. This enormous suffering inflicted upon Armenian Christians in Turkey was only a shadow of what was to come. In 1915, the Turkish government would order a far more organized genocide of Armenian and Greek Christians.