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TURKEY : THE BLIGHT OF ASIA
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WHERE AND WHEN THE FIRES WERE LIGHTED
The following extract from a letter written by a lady connected with the American missions in Turkey has recently fallen into my hands. It is dated September 21, 1922, and was sent to a friend in the United States:
"Our Murray house across the street was locked up and protected only by an American flag hung from an upper window, but we had several Marines from the American destroyers with us who behaved splendidly all through and were a great comfort to us. Of course we had many trying things during the time we were there together, from Saturday, September ninth, until Wednesday, thirteenth, when we left, because the place was on fire. Most of the people who had fled to us for refuge behaved wonderfully patiently under the lack of bread and many difficulties. We had eighty small babies and one born there. We organized a hospital, etc., and had gotten the commissariat running with the difficulty overcome, as we supposed, of lack of bread."
"All ovens in the Christian quarters, where we were, at least, and probably everywhere, had been ordered closed from Sunday until Wednesday, when the city burned. It looks now to me like a definite attempt to starve the population out."
"The Red Cross insisted on ovens being opened for them and the people were then burned out."
"The looting and murder went on steadily under our eyes—a murdered man lay before our Murray house door for days, under the American flag, his blood spattered over our steps, etc. There were dead and dying every where. The silence of death finally reigned over us and was broken during the last three days only by the fierce Chetas breaking in doors of houses, shooting the poor cowering inhabitants, looting, etc., and at night the howling of homeless dogs and the feet of wandering horses clanging over the rough stones of the street. After the third day of the occupation of Khemal’s army, fires began to break out in the Christian quarter of the city. Miss Mills and some of our teachers saw soldiers preparing fires. I myself saw a Cheta carrying a load of firewood on his back up an alley, from which later on the fire that caught our building came."
"It is quite clear in my mind that there was a definite plan to burn out the Christian quarter after it had been looted. The time for starting the great fire was when the wind was blowing away from the Turkish quarter. I remarked when the fires began."
"I am sure the Turkish authorities will say one of two things, either that the retreating Greek army set the city onfire, or the Armenians."
"Exactly this has been published in Italian and French papers. Do not believe a word of it! We were in the Christian quarter where the fires began. Almost all Armenians except those we were sheltering had been looted and killed a day or two—even longer— before any fires began. The Greek soldiers had passed quietly through the suburbs about three or four days before."
"The whole city had been completely under military control since Saturday afternoon and the fires began on Wednesday, which finally destroyed the city. The Turks, Chetas or regulars, or both, burned the city to dispose of the dead after having carried away their loot."
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The Blight of Asia in Print