The Funeral Procession

When I was twelve years old, I witnessed an amazing funeral procession. We were living in Bardezag, an Armenian village of about 10,000 inhabitants.

In Asia Minor the farmers of country folk do not live on their lands for fear of murderers, and the country people of various nationalities group themselves together in villages. For example, the village we were living in was composed of the Armenians in that district. A few miles away there would be a Greek village and a few miles from that a Turkish, then a Laz village, then a Ceutacian village, etc. These Lazes were from Lazestan near the Caucasus and the Black Sea. Emigrants crowded Constantinople. They believed their troubles would end if they could only reach the City. Municipal authorities wondered what to do with the dozens of daily arrivals. They could only give them property in near-by regions of Asia Minor where they could settle, open up the country, and do their agricultural work. In Asia Minor were some of the first settled countries of the world and today there are still some virgin forests. The country of ancient civilization is all gine. At the time at which I am writing, it is sparsely settled, and one can wander for days through forests without meeting or coming upon any town or village. Now and then right in the depths of the forest one can find today the remains of an ancient village. The cobblestone roads of the Roman days are still discernible, the remains of buildings are now covered over by almost impenetrable vines. This part of the country is very mountainous, has precipitous heights, deep ravines, and in some parts, rolling hills. This is the reason that the peasantry live in scattered groups and villages.

The produce of the villages, for the most part, consisted of woven silk, so that their lands were planted with mulberry trees, and they grew fields and fields of tobacco, vineyards, olive groves and fig plantations.

The outlaws were also grouped in bands according to their nationalities. It was really a political grouping. For example, if an Armenian should get into a dispute with a Turk, he had very little chance of having the dispute handled in a just manner. No Christians composed the juries at this time. It was very difficult then to have anyone consider his side justly because of the Turkish judge and the jury. The only way of asserting one's rights was to join a band and have the band fight for Justice. Oc course, a curious state of affairs developed. Each band in order to keep living would have to loot one of the other bands. There was almost constant warfare and bickering among them.

When an outlaw was taken ill, he frequently was carried back to the village from which he came, and left there in hiding until he was well enough to flee again. So, here and there, in the different houses would be various hidden outlaws.

I have never forgotten a sight that I witnessed from the balcony of our house which overlooked a large part of the village. One of the outlaws had been ill and had been hiding in the house of his mother. His presence became known to the authorities and a band of armed Turks (policeman) had been sent over to the city of Ismid and they surrounded the house. The outlaw got out of his bed and climbed up through the trap door onto the roof of the house armed with two revolvers and before he was finally killed, he succeeded in shooting five policemen from behind the chimney. All the roofs of these villages are sloping and are covered with red tile. I witnessed the entire affair on this roof. I could see the outlaw perched behind the chimney. The police finally shot him in the leg and he fell, but recovered himself as he was rolling down the sloping roof. When he reached the gutter of the roof, he was still alive and he had the strength to fire several shots in succession before the policemen finally shot him in the head, and he fell to the street below.

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