Forrest D. Yowell1

Forrest Delacey Yowell (1882-1970) of Washington D.C was a US Army officer who later worked for the Near East Relief (NER) where he witnessed the persecution of Greeks and Armenians first-hand. After his time in the Army, Yowell worked for the Red Cross in Poland, Russia and Ukraine. Following the war, he volunteered his services to the NER as an expert accountant and general relief worker.2 He departed the US in August 1921 and from October that year was the director of American relief work in Harput, deep in the interior of Turkey. In 1922, Yowell and three other relief workers; Mark Ward, Ruth Parmalee and Isabelle Harley were forcibly expelled from Turkey. Soon after, Yowell and Ward released their eye-witness accounts to the media in Britain, shocking the public with harrowing accounts of the treatment of Christians by the Kemalists. Their decision to go public was in defiance of US policy in Ottoman Turkey since during this final phase of the genocide (1919-1922), news on the treatment of Turkey's Christians was suppressed by the US High Commissioner in Turkey Admiral Mark Bristol who feared that any adverse publicity would offend the Kemalist Nationalists and thus interfere with future diplomatic and commercial relations with Turkey.

Yowell's testimony:

I have been Director of American relief work in Harpoot since October. I was arrested March 5 for reasons which the Turkish officials refused to divulge and forcibly deported from the country, preceded by my three chief assistants, who were informally notified that unless they left the country they would be forcibly deported. We were nearly two months reaching Constantinople.

All the twenty American relief workers in the Harpoot district have been consistently treated by the Turkish officials with the utmost discourtesy and injustice despite the fact that they were doing a large relief work for Moslem orphans and refugees as well as for Christians. Our 200-bed hospital was operated virtually under the orders of the Turks.

The Armenians in this district are now in a state of virtual slavery. They are not permitted to travel even within the country and they are absolutely forbidden to leave the country. Since I have been in Harpoot I have been compelled to return $75,000 to people in America who have forwarded it to pay the travelling expenses of relatives desiring to leave the country.

All the property of the Armenians who died in the deportations has been confiscated by the Turks. Armenians have no rights in the courts. A recent Turkish law prevents any Armenians from inheriting property except from a father or brother; all other properties go to the Government. If the rightful heirs are deported to any other district they are prevented from taking possession by the law which forbids them to travel.

Armenian men and boys are thrown into jail without any reason except to extort money. Armenian women today are being forced into Moslem homes without the right of appeal to any tribunal. The Turkish officials, who are six months behind in their salaries, state frankly that the only way they can get money is by blackmailing Armenians.

The condition of the Greek minorities is even worse than that of the Armenians. The sufferings of the Greeks deported from the districts behind the battle front are terrible and still continue. These deportees began to reach Harpoot before my arrival in October. Of 30,000 who left Sivas 5,000 died before reaching Harpoot. One of the American relief workers saw 5,000 bodies on the road to Harpoot. Two thousand died on the roads east of Harpoot.

The Near East Relief has been giving aid to these refugees at stations located along the road from Sivas to Diarbekir. No American is permitted east of Diarbekir. All along the route the Turks are permitted to visit the refugee groups and select women and girls whom they desire for any purpose.

The deportations are still in progress. If American aid is withdrawn, all will perish. Their whole route today is strewn with the bodies of dead, being consumed by dogs, wolves and vultures. The Turks make no effort to bury these dead, and the deportees are permitted to do so. The chief causes of death are starvation, dysentery and typhus.

The Turkish authorities frankly state their deliberate intention to exterminate the Greeks, and all their actions support these statements.

At the present time fresh deportations and outrages are starting in all parts of Asia Minor, from the northern seaports to the southern districts.3

 

References

1. Find A Grave, database and images (www.findagrave.com : accessed 08 December 2019), memorial page for Forrest DeLacey “B” Yowell (12 Oct 1882–28 Feb 1970), Find A Grave Memorial no. 64403825, citing Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, USA ; Maintained by The Royal Fish (contributor 47381873) .
2. Sails for Relief Work, The Evening Star, Washington D.C, Aug 9, 1921, p.2.
3. Killing by Turks has been Renewed, The New York Times, May 6,1922, p.2.

 

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