American Committee for Relief in the Near East: Wikis


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Near East Foundation (since 1930)
American Committee for Relief in the Near East (1919-1930)
American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief (1915–1919)
Formation January 1, 1915 (1915-01-01) (95 years ago)
Type STO
Legal status state foundation
Purpose/focus humanitarian
Headquarters NY
Region served Near East, Africa

The American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief was established in 1915 and after the end of World War I changed its name to American Committee for Relief in the Near East (ACRNE) in 1919, also known as Near East Relief (NER). In 1930 NER was renamed "Near East Foundation" and changed its status to State Incorporated (New York). Its current mission is to help people in the Middle East and Africa build better lives they envision for themselves and their communities through a variety of practical programs and grassroots development projects.

NER as a relief organization established during World War I primary aim was to alleviate the suffering of the Armenian people. Henry Morgenthau, Sr., America's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, played a key role in rallying support for the organization. Between 1915 and 1930, it distributed humanitarian relief across a wide range of geographical locations. ACRNE eventually spent over ten times of initial estimate, see original estimate, that amount and helped an estimated close to 2,000,000 refugees[1] ACRNE cared for 132,000 Armenian orphans from Tiflis and Yerevan Constantinople, Beirut, Damascus, and Jerusalem, Sivas. A relief organization for refugees in the Middle East helped donate over $102 million (budget $117,000,000) [1930 value of dollar] to Armenians both during and after the war.[2]

In 2006, NEF operated in 16 countries in Africa and the Middle East.


Armenian relief operations

Constantinople service center

The leadership of James L. Barton and Cleveland H. Dodge was the main instrument in this pledge.[citation needed]


Stage one, May 1915 – April 1917

In 1915, under the Tehcir Law, the Ottoman Empire began confiscating the possessions of the Armenians of Anatolia, while undertaking the forcible deportation of the Christian minority, ostensibly to Syria. The "American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief" was founded in the USA in 1915. The US Department of State's American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions" contributed to founding the Committee.[citation needed]

According to the agreements, the funds were delivered through the American Embassy in Constantinople. The Ottoman parliament passed a law[3] to coordinate the relief efforts originating from the Armenian immigrants (USA) and its distribution to the Armenians under the knowledge of the government by these institutions. The money and resources were directly transferred to the Armenians who were in need by the Armenian missionaries and USA consuls, without Ottoman government involvement.


1915 Aintab, Armenian refuge relief tents

In 1915 the relief effort fell into four categories:[4]

  • general relief (supply the needy with a daily ration of bread)
  • special relief (for those considered only mildly or temporarily destitute, such as transit or Sick "Armenian Soldiers")
  • medical work (the numbers are reaching thousands monthly)
  • missionaries (giving food, education clothing bedding to orphans)

ACRNE worked in concert with the American Councils in Syria to help over 150,000 refugees and "several hundred thousand" in Caucasus front.[4]


A 1915 or 1916 photograph promoting Near East Relief's work with Greek and Armenian refugee children. The original caption reads: "Making friends with the sea—These orphan children at Marathon, Greece, were brought from the interior of Asia Minor by the Near East Relief and never saw the sea before".

In 1916, relief activities increased, with funds being dispersed to Anatolia, beyond the initial Syria, Egypt and Greece.[4] In other places such as in Aleppo missionaries had enough support for 1,350 orphans and asking more founds to reach the others.[4]


On April 1917, the USA entered into war against Ottoman Empire. This disrupted the ground activities of the committee; however the emergency drive of the ACRNE continued with increasing amount during the next 14 months before the end of the World War I. In July 1918, James L. Barton (the chairman) said "$10,000,000 had already been raised and distributed from the onset of the program, the need would continue into the postwar years".

Stage two, December 1918 – 1930

With the end of the hostilities, Armistice of Mudros and the Occupation of Istanbul, Allies have access to Ottoman Empire with the assigned Allied High Commissioners ("military administration") (USA - Mark Lambert Bristol, British - Somerset Arthur Gough-Calthorpe). With the new structure the change in mission the committee had taken and committee renamed itself to the "American Committee for Relief in the Near East". These changes were incorporated to USA by act of Congress in 1919.

In this new stage, Red Cross nurses were also assigned to the American Committee for Relief in the Near East.

Activities, 1919–1930

A magic lantern slide produced by Near East Relief to publicise their work. The caption reads "The men were Taken by The Turks: The women by Americans".
In 1919 - "American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief:

The nationwide campaign for $30,000,000 to aid the Armenians and Syrians was begun in New York recently by the Armenian Committee for Relief in the Near East. In explanation of how the money is to be spent, the committee made the following statement:

There are nearly 4,000,000 souls to be fed, clothed, and started on a new life. Of these 2,000,000 are destitute and must be fed as soon as the funds are provided. It will cost exactly $5 a month for six months to feed each of the destitute. This makes a total of $4,500,000 for six months for food supplies. Four dollars for each person will be needed for clothing and bedding, making another item of $8,000,000.

One million seven hundred and seventy thousand persons [1,770,000] are at an average of 400 miles from home [non-Syrians in Syria] and must be taken back at a cost of $3 for each person, thus requiring $3,310,000 for this purpose. For these repatriated persons 50,000 temporary houses will be needed to replace the ones destroyed by the Turks. These will cost $50 each, making a total of $2,500,000. It will also cost 4,000,000 to provide orphanages for 400,000 orphans.

Finally to make these people self-supporting as soon as possible, another $2,500,000 must be spent for seeds, farm implements, etc. This makes a total of $38,110,000 of which New York's quota is $6,000,000.

—Near east report for Syria, The New York Times Current History Magazine

Relief efforts were astonishing. Early in January 1919, ACRNE opened a unit in Istanbul (Constantinople). The ACRNE received red-carpet treatment in the Ottoman Empire. Collaborating with the Empire ACRNE managed to deliver cereal at the rate of 5,000 tons a month. By the end of 1919, about 30,000 metric tons of food and clothing had arrived. Using Constantinople as a distribution center beginning in 12 February over a $1,000,000,000 worth of goods, including 2,000 tons of flour, 2,500 cases of canned foods, 500 cases of condensed milk, 18 trucks, 20 ambulances, 500 sewing machines, 200 oil stoves, 1,750,000 yards of cloth, 50,000 blankets, 800 hospital cots, 26 tents, 78 X-ray machines and 200 tons of coal moved to the Caucasus.

Between 1915 and 1930, the American relief organizations raised $116,000,000 of assistance, delivering food, clothing, and materials for shelter. ACRNE distributed goods worth nine million dollars in the first half of 1919 and dispensed much of ten million dollars in grain and other commodities. The Near East Relief placed thousands of orphans in mission facilities in the USA, with the expectation that these orphans would grow to manhood and womanhood

Methods of operation

ACRNE's methods of operation and fund-raising showed a departure from traditional methods. Instead of using clergy and volunteers, ACRNE used professional full-time employees with keen business skills, which was a drastic change from previously directed relief the efforts.[5] Near East relief, besides the traditional (Red Cross) methods of the Sunday observances across the USA; used the press corps much more effectively and routinely; used modern methods of communication and imagery to transfer the ideas were impressive.[5] “Between 1915 and 1928, over twenty different American magazines ran hundreds of stories on the Armenians, which by the relief committee's design, were central to raising money.”[6]

ACRNE's fund-raising showed a departure from traditional methods with increase in sophistication and intensity, during 1919. ACRNE adapted a monthly news bulletin and hired Talcott Williams of Columbia University's journalism faculty for the editorial. A newspaper article, also published in Literary Digest, adapted a script of fanatical Muslims forcing 500 chaste Armenian teenagers to accept Islam, so that they can be servants in harems.[7] This articles published in full-page. Another advertisement material included was depictions of lands made luminous by the footprints of Jesus, and Christ-led people rescuing needy fellow Christians.

A New York-based American development agency in 1930 renamed to "Near East Foundation" and changed its status to State Incorporated relief: 1930, New York.

Aurora Mardiganian

ACRNE also used a new method by putting a face to increase the dissemination among different sectors. The face and story was adapted from Aurora Mardiganian. The ACRNE also sent a team to Ottoman Empire to prepare a movie version to play in the theaters. ACRNE leased time from theatres in fifty cities.[7] The movie included wide variety of famous people. Scenes included flogging of girls who refused to enter harems, short of being raped. The most dramatic scene was the nailing of twelve Armenian maidens to crosses.

Renamed: Near East Foundation

In 1930 NER was renamed Near East Foundation.

Year, State Incorporated: 1930, New York.

Near East Foundation - Center for Development Services (CDS) - Cairo/Egypt
Near East Foundation - Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office
Near East Foundation - Sudan
Near East Foundation - West Bank/Gaza
Near East Foundation - Amman/Jordan
Near East Foundation - New Development Foundation - Amman/Jordan
Near East Foundation - Lebanon
Near East Foundation - Ethiopia
Near East Foundation - Morocco
Near East Foundation - GROW - Lesotho
Near East Foundation - Mali

NEF programs focus on promoting sustainable development in partnership with nationals, sponsoring a variety of innovative self-help initiatives that equip individuals and communities with information, training, skills, and technologies.

Current programs include: environment and natural resource management; agriculture and rural development; urban development and rehabilitation; micro-finance, community-based and bank-guaranteed lending; micro-enterprise promotion and income generation; employment and job creation; population, health, and family planning; human resource development and civil society building; leadership and institutional development; girls and women's development and education, basic education and literacy.

NEF programs help people improve their lives, increase incomes, assist others, and more confidently participate in their societies. Partners include local and international non-governmental organizations, bilateral and multilateral donors, foundations, financial institutions, project teams and government ministries.


  • Chief Executive: Alexander Papachristou
  • Chair of the Board: Shant Mardirossian
  • Vice President for Program Development: Roger A. Hardister
  • Vice President for Development: Andrea M. Couture
  • Board size: 19
  • Paid staff size: 150

See also


  1. ^ Suzanne E. Moranian. “The Armenian Genocide and American Missionary Relief Efforts,” in America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915, edited by Jay Winter. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004,
  2. ^ Goldberg, Andrew. The Armenian Genocide. Two Cats Productions, 2006
  3. ^ Coding Office, no 60/178
  4. ^ a b c d Jay Murray Winter "America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915" p.193
  5. ^ a b Suzanne E. Moranian. “The Armenian Genocide and American Missionary Relief Efforts,” in America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915, edited by Jay Winter. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, 200-210.
  6. ^ Suzanne E. Moranian. “The Armenian Genocide and American Missionary Relief Efforts,” in America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915, edited by Jay Winter. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, 194-95.
  7. ^ a b Joseph L. Grabill, (1971), Protestant Diplomacy and The near east: Missionary influence on American policy, 1810-1927

External links


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