Alice Muggerditchian Shipley was 11 years old when in autumn of 1914 Turkey entered the war alongside Germany against the Allied Powers, and the atrocities against Armenians began. The Ottoman government took advantage of the war years to realize its premeditated and systematically implemented annihilation of the Armenian population. In this short clip, Alice describes the horrors of the first few months before her family was forced to take the route of deportation out of Harpout (Kharbert).
The clubfooted paperboy was shouting victories of the Turkish army, and it only meant that Turkish soldiers, following Armenian conscripts out of the city, forced them to dig trenches and then killed the boys and threw them there. This was the beginning of the grand scheme: the Armenian soldiers were being disarmed, put to hard labor, tortured, and murdered. The paperboy came shouting again, Alice remembers in her memoir. Thousands of weapons have been confiscated, he shouted, and the Armenian plot of uprising against the government have been aborted. This next stage of the plan, perfidiously accomplished, aimed at disarming the populace with the most brutal means to paralyze any attempt of self-defense. Then the Armenian notables of Harpout, as Alice describes, were arrested and murdered. This stage of the annihilation of Armenian leadership and intelligentsia had begun in Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) to spread all over the Empire.
With the Armenian leadership gone and the able bodied men liquidated, the caravans of deportees consisted mainly of women, children, and old men. Alice witnessed the brutality by which the gendarmes were treating the deportees who left their houses to the Turkish mob to loot or move in. Armenian deportees walked for weeks in the most deplorable conditions. Very few reached the Syrian Desert, the camps of final solution. The rest had perished on the road. The Turkish plan of extermination was successfully implemented.
Alice’s family survived what is defined today the Armenian Genocide. Not very many did.
Further reading: Alice Muggerditchian Shipley, We Walked then Ran (1983).
Author: Rubina Peroomian holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from UCLA. She has been a lecturer of Armenian language and literature as well as Armenian history and the Armenian Question at UCLA, University of La Verne, and Glendale College. Currently, she is an Associate Researcher at the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA.