Bitlis (or Baghesh) is located on the most important pass in the eastern (Armenian) Taurus Mountains. The evergreen city of Bitlis sits some 5000 feet above sea level.
Armenian population in the area of Baghesh/Bitlis and Daron, are mentioned in foreign inscriptions long before the first known Armenian Kingdom – several centuries before the Christian era.
Ancient Baghesh and Daron, medieval Duruperan and modern Bitlis and Mush, date back to Urartian/Araratian times. After centuries of rule by the Sghkuni and Vahevuni, and until the fifth century, comes valiant Mamikonian who united the whole region and ruled for centuries – followed by Pagratunis dynesty – up to the end of the tenth century A.D.
In the eleventh century began the uninterrupted foreign oppressive, dominion-Byzantine, Seljuk, Mongol, Kurdish, Turkman and Ottoman.
Baghesh/Bitlis was the home of several Armenian Monasteries in the area, among them the famed Amrdolu Surp Hovhannes Mkrdich (Saint John the Baptist) or Surp Garabed (Holy Precursor), which was active scriptorium for the copying of manuscripts.
The Baghesh/Bitlis region was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire between 1512-1520, the time of which Selim the Grim extended many privileges to the Kurdish notables in recognition of their assistance against Safavid Iran.
The relation was broken between Ottomans and Kurds in the mid-nineteenth century when the Ottoman army occupied Bitlis, upon which Bitlis and Daron fell within the Mush Villayet until 1880, and then all together incorporated into the new named villayet of Bitlis.
Daron was a wellspring of Armenian life since antiquity. The middle course of the Aratsani River and many other tributaries of Euphrates flow through the fertile plain with the town of Mush.
Daron was a core district of the ancient Armenian/Urartian kingdom. Daron was the religious, political and economic center of both pre-Christian and Christian Armenia. The birthplace of Mesrop Mashtods was nearby. Here was the region of the Armenian struggle against powerful Sasanian and then Arab and Turkic forces.
Armenian life continued in Daron, as a population proud of their identity. The Monasteries were important places of pilgrimage. Here was the great monastic complex of the Holy Apostles (Arakelots Vank), the Monastery survived destruction brought by the hordes Timur, and was repeatedly rebuilt and embellished. A little more distant, northwest of Mush stood the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist.
Daron later incorporated into the larger medieval principality of Duruperan. Daron is one of the richest and most fertile regions in all Armenia. Through the plain of Daron flows the middle course of the southern arm of the Euphrates River, usually called by the Armenians the Aratsani.
Daron was mentioned in the Urartian/Araratian and Assyrian inscriptions. In the early first century A.D. the Greek geographer Strabo mentions the Armenian acquisition of a place called Tamonities, while several scholars have corrected this name to Taronitis, which seams reasonable.
1915, in the Vilayet of Bitlis, the Young Turk government headed by Talaat, Jamal and Anwar, began the systematic deportation and genocide of the Armenian people, but some 8,000 families (80,000 individual) survived, because they forcefully converted to Islam – as written in the New York Times on January 25, 2007.
After World War I, the victorious Allied Powers along with representatives of Armenia and Ottoman Empire (by direct order from Sultan Mohamad), after very long meetings; signed the Sevres Peace Treaty on August 10, 1920. Article 89 of the Sevres Peace Treaty, signed by Sultan Mohamad’s authorized three representatives, authorized 28th president of USA, President Woodrow Wilson to draw the frontier between Armenia and Turkey in Western Armenia. Woodrow Wilson issued his arbitration award on November 22, 1920 by disposing 40,000 sq. miles land from Western Armenia to Armenia from the Vilayet of Bitlis, Vasbouragan, Erzrum and Trabizond. Arbitration awards never expire by international law.
By Turkish government official numbers, Turkey’s annual population growth is 0.07%, which means that from 1915 to 2008 the Turkish population increased by 6.5 times. Therefore, the 80,000 Islamicized Armenians of 1915 in Bitlis today total 520,000.