Ottoman Archives

The conditions of exiled and relocated Armenians is a frequent question in the Armenian Genocide debate. Armenian Genocide proponents throw a variety of arguments and claims sourced from questionable survivor stories as to the horrible conditions in which the relocated Armenians suffered during the Tehcir (Relocation) Law in 1915 by the Ottoman Empire. One statement that gets repeated is that the Armenians were relocated in such a way as to deliberately cause their deaths as part of an Armenian Genocide. Through archival documents, reports by foreign consuls, and logical analysis we can determine whether these claims have any merit.

Provisional Laws

Most scholars acknowledge that the Ottoman government did publish decrees and regulations to protect the "lives and properties of Armenians to be transferred." No one denies the 15 regulations (for the well being of Armenians) published following the Tehcir Law on May 30, 1915. Article 4 of the regulations states that "attention will be paid to establishing the villages in places which suit public health conditions, agriculture and construction." Other articles focus on the careful attention that governors must follow to ensure the survival of all Armenians, such as ensuring resettlement villages are no more than 25 kilometers from railroads, board and lodging that need to be provided to Armenians, allocation of land and providing tools and equipment for Armenian farmers who are relocated. [1]

Some authors note that the regulations were published but that they were usually not carried out. Regardless the intention of the central government is clear in that it cared for the safety of the Armenians as numerous ciphered telegrams not meant for the public were also later revealed to show concern for the Armenians being relocated.

Instead, Armenian Genocide proponents argue that following these regulations and public decrees for the safety of Armenians there were second sets of more secret orders that compelled local authorities to exterminate Armenians. However, to this day no proof of such orders have been found. Hence, Armenian Genocide proponents argue that the orders may have been destroyed once authorities received them or that the archives of the Ottomans may have been cleaned of such evidence.

Although there may be a fragment of a chance that such "second set" of orders were distributed there is no evidence to support it and accusations and conspiracy theories alone should not be the basis for a conclusion that the government planned an Armenian Genocide.

Secret Ottoman Telegrams and Documents

The Ottoman ciphered and top secret telegrams to governors and other authorities within the Ottoman Empire are valid primary sources because they were not meant for publication. When Armenian Genocide proponents try to discredit them as fabrications or arguing that there were second sets of orders that contradict them simply have no basis in reality. Why would the government send contradicting and conflicting orders believing that the Ottoman archives would never be seen by foreigners.

If one were to be arrested for planning a murder but no evidence of that plan exists because the prosecution argues that the plans were secretly destroyed or hidden then that case would be dismissed immediately. It would explain why no court has ever ruled on the allegation of an Armenian Genocide the Malta Tribunals which were created to punish the Ottoman leaders in the aftermath of World War One for crimes against Armenians was indeed dropped because of the lack of evidence.

Food and Water Provided for Armenians

The Ottomans sent secret ciphered telegrams to numerous districts telling the local authorities to prepare food such as bread, olives, and peksimet for Armenian deportees that were to arrive in their districts. [2] Some of these ciphered telegrams request and inquire about the amount of funds needed to pay for the bread and other foods for Armenian deportees. [3] [4] [5] [6]

One ciphered telegram to Sukru Bey asks if there was enough funds for the well-being of the Armenians deportees who arrived in Konya, Aleppo, and Adana. [7] Below is the image of that archival document.
Ottoman Archives Ciphered Telegram

These documents detail the concern that the central authorities took to ensure the safety and health of the Armenian deportees because they knew that among the Armenian deportees were not only Dashnak rebels but also innocent Armenians.

On September 5th, 1915 the Minister of Interior, Talat Pasha, sent orders to the governor of Aleppo to quickly transfer the Armenians deportees who accumulated near the railway stations to their areas of settlement and "that they be provided with food, and that special care be taken to protect them from attack." [8] [9]

Consul Reports and United States Archives

Jesse B. Jackson the US consul in Aleppo reported to Henry Morgenthau (US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire) that he was allowed to visit the relocation camps of Armenian deportees once or twice a week and had permission to distribute food and money. The Ottoman government also distributed food and money but it was irregular and caused the deaths of many because of the lack of food in the Ottoman Empire (even the Ottoman Turkish soldiers were starving when going to battle). [10] German Consul Rossler confirmed that the Turks knew of the aid programs for the Armenians and allowed it. [11]

US consul J. B. Jackson sent a report to Morgenthau on February 8th, 1916. In it Jackson states that 500,000 Armenian migrants had indeed arrived in Syria's Aleppo province and were being provided with food and 500 gold liras each week was being spent on their well being. He provided a table of 486,000 Armenians in different regions who were being given aid. [12] [13] [14]


  1. ^ The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey by Guenter Lewy (2005), p. 154
  2. ^ DH. ?FR 55/291 -
  3. ^ DH. ?FR 55/341 -
  4. ^ DH. ?FR 55/347 -
  5. ^ DH. ?FR 55/291 -
  6. ^ The Story of 1915 by Yusuf Halacoglu (2008), p. 72-74
  7. ^ DH. ?FR 57/351 -
  8. ^ The Talat Pasha 'Telegrams' by Orel and Yuja (2008), p. 120
  9. ^ The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey - p. 190
  10. ^ The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey - p. 193
  11. ^ The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey - p. 194
  12. ^ US Archives NARA RG 59, 867.48/271 -
  13. ^ United States Official Records On The Armenian Genocide 1915-1917 by Ara Sarafian (2008), Vol. II, p. 112-113
  14. ^ The Story of 1915 by Yusuf Halacoglu (2008), p. 71