Thomas Cosmades



Apraham Hoja of Aintab


Chapter 5


From Nezaret (Custody Detention) to Kanlı Mahpushane (Bloody Dungeon)


We were totally unaware of what lay ahead.  One day all twenty-seven of us were taken from the Nezaret to Kanli Dungeon.  The move was full of pageantry, drama, color and excitement.  As together we walked out of our Nezaret detention, we felt like sheep being led to the slaughter.  Immediately police and soldiers surrounded us.  Like a band of desperados we were jeered and mocked at by those watching our transfer.  Finally we arrived at Kanli Dungeon.  The place was closely guarded by soldiers.  Suddenly the iron gates flung open and we were thrust in.  While entering the prison, the police commissar took our Bibles and hymnbooks, tersely and defiantly yelling, “If your Jesus is able, let him save you from my clutches!”  The scene inside shocked us.  We were surrounded by approximately four hundred and fifty criminals and long-term offenders.  They mocked us, “Look, here come the ’Roohjular’ (the spiritual ones), about whom we have been hearing so much!”  We kept our composure.  Our company consisted of the following brothers: 



             1.  Hamparsum Kellejian             2.  Boghos Abajian                     3.  Panos Merjamian

             4.  Hagop Deghirmenjian             5.  Migirdich Misisian                 6.  Mihran Misisian

             7.  Takvor Jenikian                      8.  Arshavir Jenikian                   9.  Aram Mumjian

            10.  Moses Kazarian                   11.  Hovhannes Ganimian          12.  Nishan Karjian

            13.  Minas Filibosian                   14.  Harutiun Kanburian              15.  Panos Der Kazarian

            16.  Nishan Terzian                     17.  Bedros Agulian                    18.  Garabed Rubian

            19.  Bedros Mumjian                   20.  Karekin Vaneskehian           21.  Minas Keshishian

            22. Nazareth Kurdoglian             23.  Hovhannes Bonjukjian         24.  Setrak Matosian

            25. Haig Mincherian                    26.  Apraham Hoja Levonian      27.  Vartan Bilezikian


All of us innocent young people found ourselves in a terrible imprisonment.  This was a land of the shadow, an arena of sin and guilt, profanity, vulgarity and total confusion.  A bin of base brawlers, men sold to sin, slaves of all sorts of addictions.  In brief, this was a place that resembled hell.  We felt like Daniel in the lions’ den.  Of the twenty-seven, six were married men with families.  Undoubtedly, they suffered more than the rest of us.  The very first evening the prison authorities separated our whole group from each other and assigned us in one’s or in two’s to cells already filled with hardened criminals.  The cells were very small.  There was only a single window, allowing a little light from the outside so that prisoners could distinguish between day and night.  It may sound incredible, but between twenty and thirty criminals were crowded into each cell which was only large enough to hold a maximum of six people.  How could we rest?  How would we sleep?  I was in a cell with fifteen others.  The widest space I could squeeze in to rest my weary body at night was no more than half a square meter, and that at the feet of other prisoners.  These guys ordered me not to move so I wouldn’t disturb them.  As I found out later, the other brothers had fared no better.  The nights were an activity of gambling and profanity.  These prisoners were trying to find some pleasure in the midst of their plight. 


It was common knowledge that the charge against us was membership in a revolutionary conspiracy whose target was to overthrow the Ottoman government.  The guards and the prisoners were merciless and exact with us.  Contact with the outside world was denied.  Our families and friends were not permitted to visit us.  Furthermore, we were under constant surveillance to check what we were talking about with each other.  The suspicion of the authorities was beyond all imagination and resulted in our maltreatment.  As the Scriptures put it, ‘in patience we possessed our souls’ and in humility of heart we comforted each other with God’s promises.  Our lives and conduct were constantly proclaiming Christ to the fallen prisoners and to the guards, at whose mercy we were cast.  Our fellowship in prison was a true unitas fratum; our love for one another was something the others around us had not seen until then. This started having the effect of melting the icy hearts.  People’s attitudes were changing from day to day.  The guards and other prisoners began being friendly with us.  Our personal testimonies about the change in our own lives began to leave a deep impression on everybody.


I distinctly remember the names of our three guards: Ali Efendi, Omer Agha, and Abdulkadir.  They had strict orders to keep a watchful eye on us.  They studied us carefully; they listened to our words and followed our movements. It reached our ears that they sent a favorable report about us to the authorities: “These men are not the kind of subversive characters as we had supposed them to be. No doubt, there are prisoners in this place who are involved in political schemes.  But these young men are a totally different bunch.  They are very humble and God-fearing.  Their meat and drink is the Bible and worship of God.”  A certain influential official inquired from Ali what these ‘politikajis’ (political conspirators) were doing.  The reply he received was, “These people are not political conspirators, neither dangerous to the society.  We have thoroughly examined them and found nothing but a deep devotion to their God.”  Having won the confidence of our guards, at last we were permitted to receive visitors and converse with them.  This was a great relief to those both inside and out.