Press cuttings



News of the occupation of the Ottoman Bank as it appeared in the French weekly L'Illustration, one week after the event

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  • Title: Press cuttings
  • Transcript: THE ARMENIANS AND THE OTTOMAN BANK What could be more unbelievable than to see that in a European capital, at the end of the nineteenth century, twenty-four armed men should be able to invade the Imperial Bank, already under the protection of all Europe, that they should be able to militarily occupy its premices and sustain a siege both against the army and the population, that they should not leave it before having imposed their conditions and obtained impunity? Yet this is exactly what happened in Constantinople on the 26th and 27th of August.Let us immediately note that this was a political move and not a common crime. The Armenian revolutionaries may have much blood on their conscience both through their own doing and due to the terrible reprisals they have caused, yet they are guilty of absolutely no attempt to steal.It was 1:30 PM on Wednesday 26th of August, when gunshots were fired in front of the Ottoman Bank building, an imposing and modern construction built in 1892 in Galata, the business district of the city. Four or five individuals were shooting at the doorkeeper of the institution. Upon this signal, other men appeared suddenly, and a large group of men stormed the main hall. The bank employees fled in all directions while the invaders closed and blocked the door behind them. While the assailants, armed with pistols and knives, dispersed along the corridors, went down to the basement, climbed to the elevated terrace that dominates the building, planting bombs everywhere, Sir Edgar Vincent, the British manager of the bank and some of his subalterns managed to escape through the rooftops. However, the majority of the staff remained prisoners, helpless witnesses to the shots fired by the rebels against the troops that had been dispatched and against the passersby. The fight between the besieged and the troops went on for a long time, before Mr. Gaston Auboyneau, a compatriot of ours, managed to talk to the leader of the band, a certain Garabet Bara: "We are not after your money or your lives" said the latter in good French. "We are Armenian patriots who want to promote our cause. If our demands are not met, we will blow the bank to pieces." A compromise had to be made. Mr. Auboyneau proposed to the " Armenian patriots to convey their wishes to the palace. They agreed, and, in the name of the Central Revolutionary Committee of the Armenian Federation, they formulated their demands, based on a project of reforms, coupled with threats and complaints, which they had already distributed that very morning to the ambassadors of the European powers.Meanwhile, a real war broke out in the streets. From all sides, the Armenian population, although innocent of what was happening, was attacked and massacred by Muslim Turks. European stores were sacked, while the police and the troops remained inactive.It was two in the morning when the negotiations with the rebels, by then in control of the bank for twelve hours, eventuated. It was possible to count them only upon their exit. There were fifteen of them, and they had left three dead and six wounded who were transported to the Russian hospital. The rebels were taken to Sir Edgar Vincent's yacht, and from there, to the French steamer Gironde. Although responsible for all the havoc, they were simply expelled from Muslim territory. During the massacres that continued for two days, two thousand victims died because of them in the streets of Galata, Pera and Istanbul. What were the aims of the Armenian committees who organised this bold move against the Ottoman Bank? The same as those of madmen who aimed shots at the President during his travels or in the session hall of the Parliament. They thought that there was more chance of drawing Europe's attention, by such heedless attempts. Unfortunately, their action has had bloody consequences, and, by and large, they have only succeeded in harming the Armenian cause, that they claimed to be serving.