Report to the Board of Health of the Ottoman Empire, Samsun, May 20, 1864

 

“Gentlemen –  I arrived at Samsun  six days ago. No words are adequate  to describe  the situation  in  which  I  found  the  town  and  the  unfortunate  immigrants.  Besides  the Circassians  (from  8,000  to  10,000)  heaped  up  in  the  khans,  the  ruinous  buildings,  and stables of the city, upwards of 30,000 individuals, coming from the encampment at Irmak and  Dervend,  encumber  the  squares,  obstruct  the  streets,  invade  enclosed  grounds, penetrate everywhere,  remain  stationed  there during  the whole day, and  retire only  late after sunset. Everywhere you meet with the sick, the dying, and the dead; on the threshold of gates  in  front of shops,  in  the middle of streets,  in  the squares,  in  the gardens, at  the foot  of  trees.  Every  dwelling,  every  corner  of  the  streets,  every  spot  occupied  by  the immigrants, has become a hotbed of infection. A warehouse on the sea-side, a few steps distant  from  the  quarantine-office,  hardly  affording  space  enough  for  30  persons, enclosed  till  the day before yesterday 207  individuals, all  sick or dying.  I undertook  to empty this hotbed of pestilence. Even the porters refused to venture in the interior of this horrible hole, out of which, assisted by my worthy colleague Aly Effendy, I drew several corpses in a state of putrefaction. This fact may convey a faint idea of the deplorable state of the immigrants whom they have allowed to take up their abode in town. What I saw at Trebizond will not admit of comparison with  the  frightful  spectacle which  the  town of Samsun exhibits.

The  encampments  present  a  picture  hardly  less  revolting.  From  40,000  to  50,000 individuals  in  the most absolute state of destitution, preyed upon by disease, decimated by death, are cast there without shelter, without bread, and without sepulture.

I  found  the  Mutessarif  dismayed,  and  altogether  at  a  loss  how  to  act  in  such  an emergency. Atta Bey is without money and credit; he has not got enough to pay the men who  remove  the dead.  In  the market nothing  is given him except  for  ready money, not even  a  few  yards  of  longcloth  for winding-sheets. There  is  no  one  to  take  care  of  the immigrants, no service organized for the burial of the dead, no horses, no carts, no boats, nothing.

I  considered  it  essential  at  once  to  devise  means  to  feed  the  immigrants,  the  greater number of whom had  received nothing  for several days.  I had  recourse  to several corn-dealers,  more  especially  to  Mr.  Serkiz  Kirorkian.  I  put  them  in  relation  with  the Mutessarif, and  it  is on  the  flour  they  supplied  that we are  living.  Ismail Bey, whom  I brought  with me,  takes  care  that  50  drachms  of  bread  be  given  daily  to  each  of  the immigrants. I obtained, also, some Indian corn-flour, and  it  is out of  these scanty means that we have been able to afford some relief to these 70,000 to 80,000 exiles.

My next care has been  to organize a service  for  the  removal of  the dead. For  this  I had recourse to the chest of the quarantine office, wherein I found a few hundreds of piastres. I then took steps for the evacuation of the town, and the landing of the Circassians I had detained  on  board  the  11  ships  and  the  seven  cutters  lying  in  the  harbour.  All  the   70 passengers were  landed at Kumjuzah, a few miles distant from  the  town. To  this place I sent 3,000 or 4,000  individuals I have during the last  three days extracted from  the dens they filled in the city. The evacuation is progressing, but the funds of the chest will soon have been exhausted.   

The question which we have to deal with is absolute deficiency of money and of a police force. Government must make haste  to send  these pecuniary supplies, as well as a body of police, in order to avoid disturbances. There are at present here from 70,000 to 80,000 individuals without bread, and  there  is no one  to keep  them down  in case of disorderly conduct. I wish it were possible that his Highness  the Grand Vizier could come here and witness the spectacle which this ill-fated town and the encampments present.   

I  am  fully  aware  that  it  is  not  easy  for  the  Turkish  Government  to  transport  quickly elsewhere so large a population; but it is the Government alone that is able to come to the assistance of  the Mutessarif, by  sending him  the  sum necessary  for  the maintenance of the  immigrants. With money  the  town and  the  Irmak will be evacuated;  the  immigrants may be kept  in healthy camps either at Kumjuzah or Dervend; clothing, linen, soap will be  readily purchased, supplies of provisions be secured.  I once more  repeat  it,  there are here  between  70,000  and  80,000  immigrants.  In a  few  days  hence  this  number will  be doubled. How is it expected that such a mass of men should be kept in order? How is it to be fed and provided for? This immigration thus left to itself is an actual calamity.

There  are  in  the  harbour  from  10  to  20  large  vessels,  which  I  sought  to  employ  in transporting  about  10,000 Circassians  to Bujuk Liman,  at  the mouth  of  the Bosphorus. Want of funds has obliged me to postpone their departure.   

I conclude by stating that the Mutessarif is without any money. There are between 70,000 and 80,000 people needing their daily bread, and  that if we had here an adequate supply of  flour  the  number  of  ovens  would  be  insufficient;  we  need  biscuits.  There  are individuals who die  from starvation, and  the number of  those who have been  four days without receiving their rations is very large.”

The Sanitary Inspector on Service, Barozzi

Reproduced in ‘The Circassian Exodus’, The Times, June 13, 1864, page 10.

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