“Fabrikatör” (industrialist) Mehmet Effendi (1877 - 1932) saved most of the Piloyan family from annihilation in Malatya in 1915 by hiding all members of the family in his own house and by employing the male members of the family in his factory, which produced supplies for the Ottoman Army during World War I.
The close relationship between Mehmet Effendi and the Piloyan family began some time in 1897, when the Effendi, then 20 years old, asked Sarkis Piloyan for a loan of 20 gold lira to pay for his bedel (waiver fee) to avoid military service. The Effendi wanted to avoid going to the army because he was in a dispute with another Turk in the area over the ownership or control of a stream, which both men wanted to power the water turbines of their factories. Mehmet Effendi was concerned that he might lose control of the stream and therefore lose his factory if he were away from the area on military service.
Sarkis Piloyan was a Protestant Armenian, who was a former resident of Chungush (modern day Çüngüş), Malatya. He had worked and lived in the United States for ten years prior to his return to Malatya. During his stay in the United States, his first wife had been killed in the Hamidian massacres of 1895-96. He had returned to Malatya in 1897, at the age of 48, to marry Hripsime Hovnanian, who had also been widowed in the 1895-96 massacres. At that point, he had enough money to start a leather tanning business of his own in the Babukhti area, outside the city of Malatya. So when Mehmet Effendi came to ask him for the favor, he could afford giving him the 20 gold lira he needed. This amount of money could buy a small house in Malatya at the time.
Thanks to Sarkis Piloyan’s loan, Mehmet Effendi was able to avoid the conscription and to build a prosperous towel, linen, and clothing business in Malatya. He became one of the most prominent and influential men in Malatya at the time. When World War I started, he was contracted by the Ottoman military to make clothing, tents, and other similar supplies for the army.
Mehmet Effendi’s family and the Piloyan family maintained close social contact throughout the years between 1897 and 1915. The family regularly received gifts produced by Mehmet Effendi’s factory in those years.
In 1915, when the Armenian deportations and massacres began, Sarkis Piloyan asked Mehmet Effendi to save him and his family. Mehmet Effendi obliged readily and asked the entire Piloyan family to move into his mansion in old central Malatya to ensure round-the-clock safety for them. By this time, the Sarkis and Hripsime had five children of their own plus three children from Sarkis’s previous marriage. The eldest boy, Khachadour, had a family and home of his own. The Effendi employed all male members of the family in his factory, together with other Armenians he had saved from deportation.
The Piloyan family stayed in Mehmet Effendi’s house for about six months. During that time, Mehmet Effendi provided for all their needs and protected them from arrests and deportation. On one occasion, he had to intervene personally to extract one of the younger Piloyan boys (Setrag) from prison and saved him from certain death. Nevertheless, despite everything, he could not save Sarkis Piloyan’s eldest son, Khachadour, from getting arrested and killed. Some time in the summer of 1915, Turkish police arrested Khachadour in the street, when he sneaked out of the Mehmet Effendi compound. He was never seen again.
The Effendi also could not save Hripsime Piloyan’s two brothers (Aharon and Hagop Hovnanian) from getting arrested and murdered together with their families in Malatya. Those two brothers and their families had been hiding in a hospital that they built for a German mission but were eventually discovered and sent to their deaths.
After the deportations stopped and orders were issued that Catholic and Protestant Armenians would not be deported or killed, the Piloyan family moved out of Mehmet Effendi’s house and went back to their homes. The family stayed in Malatya, together with a very small number of Catholic and Protestant Armenians, for the next eight years.
After the end of World War I, Mehmet Effendi apparently had some political problems with the Turkish nationalists for unknown reasons. He was put on trial in Istanbul but was acquitted. Nonetheless, after the nationalist victory against Allied and the return of Ittihadists to power in the new republic, Mehmet Effendi advised the Piloyan family in 1923 to leave the country because he could no longer assure their safety.
The entire family left Malatya by caravan in the summer of 1923 never to return again. The Effendi provided armed guards to accompany the family on its trip to Aleppo, Syria, to ensure their safety. Subsequently, Mehmet Effendi sold the family house in Malatya and sent the proceeds to the Piloyans in Aleppo.The family emigrated to Mexico in 1925 and never heard from Mehmet Effendi again.
*: The story has been provided by Ara Arabyan. The picture is from the collection of Ovsanna Chitjian. It cannot be used in part or full without prior permission of Project Common Humanity. It can be cited as: Industrialist Mehmet Efendi, PCH-2008-01; www.projectcommonhumanity.com