The Armenian Genocide: Dr. Floyd O. Smith's Report

The Armenian Genocide:
Dr. Floyd O. Smith's Report

[Floyd O. Smith, MD was an American missionary based in Diarbekir in the summer of 1915. The following statement by Dr. Smith's on the destruction of Christians in the Ottoman Empire was made in September, 1917. This is one of 21 such reports which appear in James Barton's, "Turkish Atrocities": Statements of American Missionaries on the Destruction of Christian Communities in the Ottoman Empire 1915-17, [Ara Sarafian, erd.], Ann Arbor: Gomidas Institute, 1998, pp. 89-93.


I. Imprisonment:

(a) Diarbekir, Turkey.

(Men of prominence in the Christian community-among them the Gregorian and Armenian Catholic bishops-reported to me in the spring of 1915 that prominent Armenians and Syrians were being imprisoned. Some of our neighbors were included, e.g. (1) Stepan Eff. Matossian, Standard Oil agent, (2) Dikran Eff. Ilvanian, dragoman of the vilayet, (3) Kassabian, French consular representative.)

In May 1915, some members of the Matossian family came to our courtyard begging me to go to the prison with them because of the illness of Matossian who was reported close to death (probably typhus). The prison was in the government compound in the northeast corner of the city. I went to the compound, but was refused permission to enter the prison, at the door of which were armed guards. I saw and recognized among the prisoners several of our Armenian and Syrian friends, among them being Ilvanian, Kassabian, and a Syrian, Sahid Eff. The door and the space behind it were crowded with men and the barred windows also were crowded with prisoners whose faces were in full view.

(Sometime later it was reported that these men were taken from prison and deported.)

In June, 1915, I was again in the government compound and near this same building. I do not recall seeing a single prisoner at the door or windows, and there were no sounds to indicate the presence of any inhabitants within.

(b) Severek, Turkey.

June 24, 1915, a Turkish gendarme told me that they had just brought a large number of Armenians from Malatia.

(c) Aleppo, Turkey.

I saw and talked with an Armenian pharmacist in a dark cell in the government compound July 4, 1915. There were fifteen or more occupants, one apparently seriously ill (possibly typhus). The dimensions of this cell were about 12 x 15 x 10 ft. It had stone walls and a dirt floor. The door was about 8 x 3 ft. , boarded tight nearly half way up and heavy wooden slats for the rest. One small window opened on the courtyard. Another window opened on a dark enclosed space. Lice were present. There was a pail of water for drinking. Another pail served as a urinal. Consul Jesse Jackson came to the door of this cell.

(d) Beirut, Turkey.

Here the last of July, 1915, I saw and talked with prisoners in a large room. Among the prisoners were an Armenian priest and two or three Armenian merchants. I don't know whether there were others. These men said they were to be sent to Bitlis and one knew the name of Mr. Knapp.

II. Brutality-Diarbekir, Turkey:

(It was reported during the spring of 1915 that men were beaten and tortured and sometimes killed in prison to extract confessions. Bastinado of the feet held in stocks was said to be of common occurrence.)

I saw three cases who apparently had received this treatment and for some reason had been allowed to go to their homes:

1. A prominent Armenian, 50-60 years old (name not recalled), living near Dr. Voskian's house, said he had received 700 strokes on the feet. I saw him in May, 1915. His feet were swollen, one being worse than the other. Blisters were present on the backs of the feet and in some places the skin was broken; there were considerable extravasations of blood on the soles and sides of the feet. The worse sole is described as follows:

The superficial tissues from pounding and extravasation had separated from the deeper tissues, thus forming a sack of blood and tissues pounded to a pulp. This sole was incised and later partly sloughed.

2. Name not recalled and 3. Muggerditch Ekmekjian were less severe cases and when I saw them, showed only swelling, tenderness and dark discoloration from extravasated blood.

About this time I saw a young Armenian woman who had several contusions on the arms and legs, which she said were received from beating in prison.

I also saw a young Syrian in his home who was unconscious and apparently dying (stertorous respiration; couldn't be aroused.) He had contusions and swelling about the head and face. A Syrian priest told me that this man was a known epileptic and had been beaten by the soldiery. A few days later he told me of his death.

III. Massacre:

May 21, 1915, there came to our compound in Diarbekir from the village of Karabash, three hours to the east, three or four wounded and the following day (May 22) over a score of wounded Armenian and Syrian women and children. (They, the villagers, told of a night attack by the Kurds three days previous and that the next morning the government had sent gendarmes who refused to allow anyone to come to Diarbekir. Some managed to get away and finally all who could walk or be carried came on the dates mentioned.)

The wounds were practically all infected and I have classified them as follows:

(a) Inside wounds (probably from swords and knives) of the scalp, face, neck, shoulders, back, extremities.

(b) Perforating bullet wounds of the extremities.

(c) Wounds made by heavy cutting instruments, probably axes.

I want to mention some special cases I saw and treated:

1. Woman with hand severed at the wrist. She died in our compound.

2. Two children about seven and nine years and one woman; attempted decapitations. Deep incised wounds of the nape of the neck (just below the skull), 5-8 inches long and of a depth equal to the thickness of the muscles of this region.

3. Woman with incised wound of the nose and both cheeks. The nose had apparently received a sword-cut about -1 inch from the tip. This stroke involved both cheeks too. When I first saw the case, the tip of the nose was attached but slightly out of alignment below the cut. (Patient said that when she received the wound, the end of the nose had fallen forward and she replaced it and had it bandaged.)

4. Boy of about nine years. A stroke, probably by an axe or heavy sword, had severed a section of skull in the parieto-temporal region of one side of the head. The severed piece of skull was about five inches across and although without bony attachment, it was still adherent to a flap made up of scalp tissues. The exposed dura was intact except an opening almost in the center, from which bulged a brain hernia the size of a large English walnut.

5. Syrian boy with bullet wound of the face (said to have been received three weeks before at the hands of marauding Kurds). The bullet entered the left side of the nose and made its exit on the right side of the neck about one inch below the angle of the jaw. In its course the bullet tore out a large section of the palate and fractured the lower jaw about 1 inches from the angle. At the first dressing I removed a fragment of the jaw which was somewhat necrotic. I had no reason to doubt the statement as to the time of receiving the wound.

Mr. H. H. Riggs of Harpoot saw some of these wounded about June 1, 1915.

IV. Refugees in Native Church Compounds in Diarbekir:

(About the middle of May, 1915, villagers, mostly women and children, flocked to the city telling of looting and killing by the Kurds.) At this time I saw in the compound of the Gregorian Church about 300 to 400 of these villagers who were provided with shelter and food by the church authorities. (Other church compounds were reported crowded.)

V. Deportations:

(a) During the spring of 1915 near Diarbekir I saw on some occasions small groups of men shackled with wooden shackles or chained in twos being sent under guard in the direction of Harpoot. Some of these prisoners were recognized by our helper, Baron Hagop Hajian, as members of the Armenian community of Diarbekir.

(b) On July 2, 1915, we saw and passed a company of about 200 Christians being driven along the road from Oorfa towards Soorooj by mounted gendarmes. Some of these Christians had their arms tied behind their backs. Just outside of Oorfa a few minutes before we met a company of crying women and children returning to the city. (These were evidently the relatives of the men being taken away.)

[typed] (Signed) Floyd O. Smith, M.D.

September 21, 1917

Rowley, Iowa.

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