‘Monster Zeki’: Armenian diplomat reveals mystery of the cruelest organizer of Genocide
YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 11, ARMENPRESS. Salih Zeki (Kusharkov), the most brutal one among the organizers of the Armenian Genocide, has been left in the shadow of historiography for decades.
Arsen Avagyan – head of the Department of Bordering Countries at the Foreign Ministry of Armenia, Doctor of Historical Sciences, professor at the Yerevan State University, gave an interview to ARMENPRESS, introducing his study of the Ottoman, Russian and Georgian archives, as well as his discovery of the mystery of Monster Zeki.
“Salih Zeki was born in 1883 in the city of Samsun, was a Circassian by nationality. His father migrated to the Ottoman Empire in 1864 during the major emigration of Circassians from the Kuban region of Northern Caucasus. In the Armenian sources, or in all memoirs relating to the Genocide or the events of that time, the name Salih Zeki is referred to as the Monster Zeki, who firstly was holding a position in Everek in 1915 and later was the governor of Deir ez-Zor which had the largest concentration camp. According to various reports Salih Zeki organized the extermination of nearly 200.000 Armenians. The problem with Salih Zeki is that there is less information about his past and future life. When we look at the sources, it seems he appeared in 1915, did his brutal work in 1916 and disappeared”, Avagyan said.
Arsen Avagyan found information about Salih Zeki in the Ottoman, Russian and Georgian sources, but in the Ottoman sources there are nearly 210 officials with the same name who were in office at that time, and this in its turn confuses the researchers.
“Since I served twice as Armenia’s Permanent Representative to the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization in 2001-2005 and 2015-2019, and since my monographs and scholarly articles have been published in Turkish in Turkey, in other words I am quite known there, I was allowed to use and examine the Ottoman archive. I conducted a research in the Ottoman archive for six years and collected various kinds of archival documents. In addition, there are also very important materials about Salih Zeki in the Russian archives. I have found some materials from the Georgian archives as well because Zeki lived in Tbilisi in 1925-1933. As for the Azerbaijani archive, my Turkish historian colleagues helped and brought some materials. Salih Zeki played an important role in the establishment of Soviet rules in Azerbaijan, and this is proved by the archival documents. He has been the deputy chair of the commission for developing Azerbaijan’s Latin alphabet, as well as the editor-in-chief of the Azerbaijani Dai Yildiz journal and Yeni Fikir newspaper”, Arsen Avagyan said.
Salih Zeki played a major role in the implementation of the Armenian Genocide. He was appointed Governor of Deir ez-Zor for his cruelty and brutality.
“Salih Zeki was appointed Governor of Deir ez-Zor by the proposal of that time Governor of Syria Abdul Halik Renda. Moreover, Renda stated that the previous Governor of Deir ez-Zor was very compassionate towards Armenians, he didn’t kill them, but even provided conditions for the displaced Armenians, but Renda said that someone is needed in order to carry out what has been planned against Armenians. Renda proposed Zeki’s candidacy, and the latter already had a major reputation in Everek with his cruelty. Many events in the history of the Armenian Genocide are connected with Salih Zeki, for instance a member of the Ottoman parliament Grand Murad together with his 8 friends were hanged by Zeki in Everek, as well as Zeki also exiled the family of Sargis Torosyan, a hero of Dardanelles, by violation of law”, Arsen Avagyan said.vagyan’s research showed that Zeki has used the converted Armenians for killing Armenians.
“Salih Zeki was using converted Armenians for killing Armenians. He told the converted ones that they should prove their faithfulness and kill their compatriots. Zeki also collected groups from the Chechens of the region and used them for killing Armenians. There are numerous eyewitness and survivors’ reports which mention the name of Salih Zeki. MP of the Ottoman Parliament Emanuel Emanouilidis says he met with Salih Zeki in 1917, who told him that he regretted that he killed 60.000 Armenians, burnt children, adding that he even wanted to commit a suicide. In 1933 in his short biography written in Moscow Salih Zeki, while describing the extermination of Armenians and the mass bloody actions taking place during the deportation of Armenians, confesses that: “as a Governor I bear a responsibility as I have taken part in that terrible act””, the Armenian diplomat said.
Salih Zeki left Turkey in 1918. In 1920 he was sentenced to death based on the decision signed by the sultan, but this decision remained on the paper and after that Zeki started his communist path where he was presented with the surname Kusharkov.
“Zeki became a communist, and it’s worth noting that he has also worked with Armenians at that time. This person cooperated with Armenian communists after killing thousands of Armenians. Moreover, Anastas Mikoyan helped Salih Zeki a lot during his communist activity”, he said.
Several circumstances linked with Salih Zeki contributed to his real image remain undisclosed for decades. The reports released in the Armenian media in 1918 also played a role on that.
“The Turkish historiography doesn’t deny the existence of Salih Zeki, but there is one problem as there is no study about him in the Turkish historiography, and there is also one interesting factor that those who briefly touched upon Salih Zeki, gave a wrong surname thus contributing to the disappearance of this person from the history. The Armenian newspapers wrote that in 1918 Zeki and his assistant were arrested and then killed by the troops of the Armenian legion near Beirut. According to other reports, Zeki was arrested and killed by Armenians in Syria. But in reality he was in Istanbul at that time, but left for Baku already in late 1918. He was afraid that he would be jailed for his crimes against Armenians. And that happened”, the Armenian diplomat said.
Salih Zeki was also a target in operation Nemesis.
Most of the people working with him knew who he was. No encroachment against him by Armenians has taken place.
Salih Zeki died on November 3, 1940, at the age of 57 in Moscow.
Interview by Norayr Shoghikyan
Edited and translated by Aneta Harutyunyan