Тhе Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire has been described by multiple eyewitnesses – not only those sympathizing with the Armenians, but those on the Turkish side as well. Venezuelan soldier of fortune, adventurer and writer Rafael de Nogales Méndez was among the most outstanding ones in their cohort.
In 1915, Nogales Méndez joined the German Army and was dispatched to Turkey where he commanded Ottoman artillery batteries bombarding Armenians besieged in the city of Van. His book “Four Years beneath the Crescent” carries large body of evidence of the Turkey-orchestrated mass annihilation of Armenians, as well as Ottoman leadership’s futile attempts to justify their genocidal policies.
The book exposes looting of Armenian population, initiated by the Young Turks who ruled the Ottoman Empire at the time – Talaat, Enver and Djemal – as well as their aides.
The book, a bibliographic rarity, as well as its author- an eyewitness to Turkish atrocities - have survived multiple attempts at destruction.
“At dawn I was awakened by the noise of shots and volleys. Immediately I mounted my horse and, followed by some armed men, went to see what was happening. Judge of my amazement to discover that the aggressors had not been the Armenians, after all, but the civil authorities themselves! Supported by the Kurds and the rabble of the vicinity, they were attacking and sacking the Armenian quarter, I succeeded at last, without serious accident, in approaching the
Beledie reis of the town, who was directing the orgy; whereupon I ordered him to stop the massacre. He astounded me by replying that he was doing nothing more than carry out an unequivocal order emanating from the Governor-General of the province to exterminate all Armenian males of twelve years of age and over,” Nogalez wrote recounting, the massacre of the Armenian population in Van.
According to Nogales, Young Turks, led by Ataturk, were the Dönme - Jews who converted to Islam, with Abud Hamid ousted over banning Jews from settling in Palestine.
Though a supporter of the Young Turks, Nogales provided accounts of great value.
“Beside the fact of the extermination of virtually every man aged over 12, Muslims succeeded in concealing the starvation deaths of over a million of women and children during the deportation. If discovered by the post-war Christian nations, the fact would become fatal to Ottoman Turks and the whole Muslim world,” the author wrote.
Nogales was naïve – the Christian world silently accepted the news of the extermination of the whole nation: a peace treaty of Lausanne was signed with Turkey in 1924. In 1918, Nogales left Turkey, promoted to the rank of an honorary general of the Turkish army.
“Four Years beneath the Crescent” was translated from Spanish into English in 2003.