Part Tenth: Diyarbekir city and Derik, Savur, Palu and Maden cantons


Gegham M. Badalyan-Candidate of Sciences in History
The article is dedicated to the study of the pre-genocide demographic situation in the namesake provincial capital of Diyarbekir vilayet, as well as in the cantons of Derik (Diyarbekir sanjak), Savur (Mardin sanjak), Palu and Maden (Arghana-Maden sanjak).

Diyarbekir city – the center of the vilayet, was one of the oldest settlements in Armenia, which is still evidenced in the cuneiform inscriptions of the 2nd millennium B.C. as Amedu or Amedi (in Armenian medieval sources: Amid, Amit or Amdatsuots kaghak (city of the residents of Amid)). The city was located in the center of the Diyarbekir plain at the northern foot of the Karajadagh (historical Ashimun) volcanic massif, on the western bank of the Western Tigris, bordered by a meander or “bow” (Arabic: kâfs). Diyarbekir was one of the most populous and Armenian-populated cities in Western Armenia, where the continuous dominance of the Armenian population is noticeable beginning from the 70s and 80s of the 19th century. On the eve of World War I, the number of Armenians in the city’s 55.000strong multinational population was 26.000-27.500, or 47-50% (according to the comparison of the statistical data by French preacher J. Retoré, Deputy Consul of the Great Britain T. Mkrtichian and Major E. Noel). In this respect, Diyarbekir was second only to the city of Van (about 30.000 people or 66% of the population).

The Armenian population was mainly concentrated in the districts covering the northeastern and southern parts of Diyarbekir, which were formed in the vicinities of the churches of St. Kirakos and St. Sargis. Meanwhile, other Christians in the city (Jacobi and Catholic Assyrians, Kildanis, Greeks – Orthodox and Catholic-Uniates or Melchites) together with Armenians made up 55-60% of the population prior to the genocide. There was also a small Jewish community in the city – about 100 families. The Muslim population making the minority in Diyarbekir was predominantly Turkish, with a large share of Christians converted to Islam in its time (Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks), and significantly Turkified Dimili (Zazans) and Kurds. Moreover, many mosques in Diyarbekir were once Armenian sanctuaries, which were occupied at the very beginning of the establishment of Ottoman rule: St. Astvatsatsin of 60 altars (it was the main mosque of Diyarbekir in the early 20th century called Ulujami), the former Armenian Cathedral of St. Theodoros or St. Toros (the Turks renamed it Jurshunlu Jami), the Holy Trinity, St. Hovhannes (John). Of the ancient structures, the 72-tower wall surrounding Amid-Diyarbekir, which still stands today, was famous. From the Middle Ages, the four main gates (“doors”) symbolizing the Evangelists have been preserved: Armenian or Erzrum (northern, Turkish: Dağkapısı), Mardin (southern), Horomots or Horom door (western, Turkish: Rumkapısı) and New (eastern, Turkish: Yenikapısı or Şatkapısı, meaning “Door of Tigris”). Among the prominent medieval structures were the ancient citadel named Aver Berd (Fortress) (Turkish: Virankalesi), the Roman-era aqueduct-bridge that brought water from Hamrvat (Hamrvar) pouring spring flowing from the northern slopes of Karajadagh to the town, sanctified Chift-Ilija pool full of fish.

To the south of the Western Tigris were the cantons of Derik and Savur, where Armenians (mostly Catholics), as a rule, lived in administrative centers and in a few villages on the eve of the genocide. This was the result of the Ottoman yoke, as in the mentioned cantons during the 18th-19th centuries forced religious conversion had taken place. The latter had particularly catastrophic consequences in Savur, where over time the local semi-independent Armenian principality had disappeared.

The canton of Palu, among semi-independent principalities of the 40s of the 16th-19th (Turkish: hükümet), was one of the most Armenian-populated administrative units in Diyarbekir vilayet. One of the essential features of Palu principality was the existence of Armenian melikdoms. Although they were subject to the amira-rulers of Armenian descent from Palu, they enjoyed considerable independence in internal affairs. The melikdoms of Havav, Sarutchan or Okhu, Ashmushat (the region of Arshamashat – the ancient capital of Tsopk), Khamishli (Ghamishluk, Yeghegnut), Paghin were known. In particular, the canton of Ashmushat, on the left bank of the Aratsani, stood out, which was, in fact, a unique federation of separate melik families settled in several settlements. There is also information about the meliks of Khamishli (Ghamishluk) settlement of Javgan canton. Some facts enable us to speak about military cooperations between separate melikdoms and the Dmlik tribes of Dersim. However, the constant fighting against the Muslim (Kurdish and Dmlik or Zaza) feudals, as well as the penetration of new foreign tribes and the intensifying pressure, destroyed once the former power of the meliks of Palu. As a result, mass emigration began from Palu city and villages, which forced large numbers of Armenian families to flee to various places, including Cilicia and even Constantinople.

Moreover, emigration continued throughout the 19th century, with a strong negative impact on the canton’s ethnic-tribal image. Instead of the departed Armenians, a large number of Muslims (mostly Dmliks, also Kurds and Turks) migrated from Kharberd, Tchapaghjur and other cantons to the territory of Palu. The widespread Muslimization of Armenians who had converted to Greek confession (Chalcedonianism) still in the Middle Ages reached catastrophic sizes. The apostates in Palu were also known as “keskes” (meaning “half-half” in Armenian). As a result of all this, if at the beginning of the 19th century in Palu canton (including the city- fortress) approximately 60.000-70.000 Armenians and 30.000 “Kurds” lived, then almost a century later the ratio had already changed to the detriment of Armenians, respectively 22.000-24.000 and 60.000-65.000. At the same time, pursuing a traditional policy of separating the Armenian-populated cantons, the Ottoman authorities transferred Balu canton of Arghana-Maden sanjak from Kharberd vilayet or Mamuret-ul-Aziz to Diyarbekir vilayet, which remained there until the end of World War I.

It is noteworthy, however, that the inner canton-nahiyes formed in the Middle Ages were preserved in the territory of the canton: Ashmushat (<Arshamashat), Bulanukh (Upper and Lower), Gyokdere, Karabekyan (Kharabegyan), Karachor yllaretil ,ﻣﺰﺭﻋﺎﺓ – taâ’rzâM :.barA< ,turzaM( tavrzaM ro lartneC ,)rohcarahK( “mezrehes”) with Javgan, Houn (Sarachor), Voshin (Oshin or Veshin), Sivan (<Sevan), Okhu or Yegh (Hizol). Nevertheless, on the eve of the Armenian Genocide, Palu canton was one of the most Armenian-populated administrative units in Diyarbekir vilayet, where according to the British data, before the genocide, the number of the Armenian population, including the city, was about 26.000. Until the 70s of the 19th century, the number of churches in Palu city had four Armenian districts: Yerevan (St. Gregory the Illuminator Church, Katoghike or Mother Church), Toner (St. Astvatsatsin Church), St. Sahak (St. Sahak Partev Church) and St. Kirakos (with the namesake church). Despite the unfavorable demographic conditions, as a result of which St. Sahak and St. Kirakos districts almost completely deserted and uninhabited already in the 80s of the 19th century, over 6.000 Armenians (about half of the population) lived in Palu city on the eve of the Armenian Genocide. The villages and settlements of Havav, Dzet, Najaran, Nekhri (Nerkhi), Paghin, Til, Okhu (Yegh), Tepe (Blur) and Khoshmat were also notable for their populousness.

As for Maden canton, though the Armenian population was presented in separate islands (enclave), such as Maden or (Arghno Maden) and Arghni boroughs, Akl (Angh) settlement and a number of village, Armenian traces were preserved in many settlements of the administrative unit (churches, Armenian cemeteries, places of pilgrimage). The monastery of the Most High St. Astvatsatsin (Arghno Monastery) was renowned.