During my stay I believed that the moment for the abolition of the Caliphate had arrived.
During my stay I believed that the moment for the abolition of the Caliphate had arrived. I will try to follow the course of this affair as it actually happened.
On the 22 nd January, 1924, 1 received from Ismet Pasha, President of the Council of Ministers, a telegram in cipher which I will read to you in full:
Telegram in cipher.
To His Excellency the President of the Turkish Republic.
The First Secretary of the Caliph sends me the following: For some time there have been articles in the newspapers concerning the situation of the Caliphate and the person of the Caliph, which give rise to misunderstandings. The Caliph is very much afflicted about the articles which seem to lower his authority without reason, and par ticularly the fact that the leaders of the Government coming from time to time to Stambul, as well as the official corporations, avoid him. The Caliph had thought of making his feelings and wishes on this question known either by sending a Chamberlain to Angora or by requesting that a trustworthy person should be sent to him, but he declares that he has abandoned this idea, because he was afraid that this step might be misinterpreted.
The General Secretary writes at length about the question of allocations, and asks that the question should be examined and the necessary steps taken in this matter according to the communications of the Government of the 15 th April, 1923, which stated that the Ministry of Finance would help if the expenses were beyond the means of the Treasury of the Caliphate or outside the obligations of the Caliphate. The question will be discussed in the Council of Ministers. I shall have the honour of informing Your Excellency of the result of the discussion. (Signed) Ismet.
In reply to this telegram, being myself by the side of the in strument, I sent the following reply to Ismet Pasha:
At the instrument. Smyrna.
To His Excellency Ismet Pasha, President of the Council
of Ministers, Angora.
Reply to the telegram in cipher of 22 nd January, 1924.
It is to the attitude and manner of acting of the Caliph himself that the origin of the misunderstandings and the unfavourable inter pretations regarding the Caliphate and the person of the Caliph must be attributed. In his private life and especially in his public appearances the Caliph seems to follow the system of the Sultans, his ancestors.
As a proof: the Friday ceremonies, the relations of the Caliph to foreign representatives to whom he sends officials; his drivings out in great pomp; his private life in the Palace where he goes even so far as to receive dismissed officers to whose complaints he is listening, mixing his own tears with theirs.
When the Caliph considers his situation, placing himself face to face with the Turkish Republic and the Turkish people, he must adopt as a measure of comparison the situation of the Caliphate and the Caliph towards the British Kingdom and the Mohamedan population of India, of the Government of Afghanistan and the people of Afghanistan.
The Caliph himself and the whole world must know in a categoric manner that the Caliph and the office of the Caliph as they are now main tained and exist, have in reality neither a material nor a political meaning or any right of existence.
The Turkish Republic cannot allow itself to be influenced by fallacies and cannot expose its in dependence and existence to danger.
To complete the analysis, the dignity of the Caliphate can have no other importance for us than that of an historical memory.
The demand of the Caliph that the dignitaries of the Turkish Republic and the official corporations should enter into connection with him constitutes a flagrant violation of the independence of the Republic.
The fact that he wants to send his First Chamberlain to Angora or his demand to inform the Government of his feelings and his wishes through a trustworthy person sent to him, shows likewise that he is taking up a position antagonistic to the Government of the Re public. He has no competency for doing this.
It is also suggested that he should commission his First Secretary to act as mediator in the correspondence between him and the Government of the Republic.
The First Secretary must be told that he must abstain from such impudence. Allocations inferior to those of the President of the Turkish Republic must suffice to secure the means of subsistence of the Caliph. Luxury and pomp are out of place.
The question is only to secure a decent living for the Caliph. I do not understand what is meant by the “treasure of the Caliphate.” The Caliphate has no trea sure, and ought not to have any. If this should be an inheritance of his ancestors, I request you to make inquiries and to give me official and clear information about this question. What are the obligations which the Caliph cannot fulfil with the allocations he receives, and what promises and declarations have been made to him through the communication of the Government dated the 15 th April?
I ask you to inform me of this. A duty which the Government ought to have fulfilled hitherto is to specify and fix the place of residence of the Caliph. There are a great number of palaces in Constantinople which have been built with the money raised from the bread of the people, and the furniture and valuable objects they contain; in short, all is given over to destruction, because the Government has not exactly defined the situation.
Rumours are spread to the effect that persons who are attached to the Caliph are selling here and there at Pera the most precious objects of the palaces. The Government must take the treasures which still remain under its guard. If there is a reason for selling anything it is for the Government to do so. It is necessary to submit the administrative functions of the Caliphate to a serious examination and reorganisation, for the fact that there are “First Chamberlains” and “First Secretaries” always sustains the dream of power in the mind of the Caliph.
If the French to-day, a hundred years after the Revolution, are still of the opinion that it would be dangerous for their inde pendence and sovereignty to allow members of the royal family and their confidants to come to France, we, on our part, in the attitude which we have to adopt in view of a dynasty and its confidants who are eager to see on the horizon the sun of absolute power rise again, cannot sacrifice the Republic for considerations of courtesy and sophism.
The Caliph must be told exactly who he is and what his office represents and must content himself with this situation. I ask you to proceed in such a manner that the Government takes fun damental and serious steps and to inform me of this.
(Signed) Ghazi Mustapha Kemal, President of the Turkish Republic.
After this exchange of correspondence Ismet Pasha and Kiasim Pasha, Minister of War, arrived at Smyrna for the “KriegspieL” Fewsi Pasha, Chief of the General Staff, was already there. We agreed about the necessity of suppressing the Caliphate. We had decided at the same time to suppress also the Ministry for Religious Affairs and the “Evkaf”*) and to unify public instruction.
On the I st March, 1924, I had to open the Assembly.
We had returned to Angora on the 23 rd February. I informed the competent authorities of my resolutions.
*) Religions institutions which represented a considerable value.
The discussion about the Budget began in the Assembly. This afforded us an opportunity of occupying ourselves for a short time with the question of the allocations to the members of the dynasty and the Budget of the Ministry for Religious Affairs and the Evkaf. My comrades began to make remarks and criticisms aiming at attain ing the proposed aid. The debate was intentionally prolonged. In the speech which I delivered on the I st March, the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Assembly, I especially emphasised the three following points:
1. The nation demands that now, in the future, for ever and un conditionally the Republic shall be protected from every attack. The wish of the nation can be expressed through the fact that the Republic will be founded a moment earlier and completely on the whole of the positive principles which have been put to the test.
2. We declare that it is necessary without loss of time to apply the principle of unity of instruction and education which has been decided by the vote of the nation.
3. We also recognise that it is indispensable in order to secure the revival of the Islamic Faith, to disengage it from the condition of being apolitical instrument, which it has been for centuries through habit.
The group of the Party was invited to a sitting on the 2 nd March. The three points I have just mentioned were brought forward and discussed. We were united in principle. Amongst other matters received, the following motions were read on the 3 rd March during the first sitting of the Assembly :
r. Draft of the law of Sheikh Safvet Effendi and fifty of his col leagues concerning the abolition of the Caliphate and the expulsion of the Ottoman dynasty from Turkish territory.
2. Draft of the law of Halil Hulki Effendi, deputy for Seerd, and fifty of his colleagues concerning the suppression of the Ministry for Religious Affairs, of the Evkaf and the Ministry of the General Staff.
3. Motion of Vassif Bey, deputy for Saruchan, and fifty of his colleagues concerning the unification of instruction.
Fethi Bey, who presided, announced: “Gentlemen, there are pro posals with numerous signatures, demanding immediate discussion of these questions of law. I put this demand to the vote.”
Without referring it to commissions Fethi Bey immediately put the motions to the vote, and they were accepted.
The first objection was raised by Halid Bey, deputy for Kasta- muni. One or two joined him in the course of the discussion. Numerous important speakers ascended the platform and gave long expla nations in favour of the propositions. Besides the signatories of the motions the late Sejid Bey and Ismet Pasha made convincing speeches which were of a highly scientific nature and which will always be worthy of being studied and borne in mind.
The discussion lasted for nearly five hours. When the discussion closed at 6.45 p.m. the Grand National Assembly had promulgated the Laws No. 429, 430 and 431. In virtue of these laws the “Grand National Assembly of Turkey and the Government formed by it is authorised to give legal form to the stipulations which are in force in the Turkish Republic with reference to public affairs and to carry through their application,” The Ministry for Religious Affairs and the Evkaf have been sup pressed.”
All scientific and educational institutions in Turkish territory all ecclesiastical schools, are transferred to the Ministry of Public Instruction.
The Caliph is declared deposed and the dignity abolished
The Caliph is declared deposed and the dignity abolished. All members of the deposed Ottoman dynasty are for ever forbidden to reside within the frontiers of the territory of the Turkish Republic.
Proposed at the last moment when the decisions were to be taken, that I should assume the office of the Caliphate.
Certain persons who wrongly believed that it was necessary, for religious and political reasons to maintain the Caliphate, proposed at the last moment when the decisions were to be taken, that I should assume the office of the Caliphate.
I immediately gave a negative reply to these men.
Let me emphasise another point which arose: When the Grand National Assembly had abolished the Caliphate, Rassih Effendi, an ecclesiastic and deputy for Adalia, was president of the deputation of the Red Half-Moon, which was in India.
He came back to Angora via Egypt. After soliciting an interview with me, he made state ments to the effect that “the Mohamedans in the countries through which he had been travelling demanded that I should become Caliph, and that the competent Mohamedan bodies had commissioned him to inform me of this desire.”
In the reply which I gave to Rassih Effendi, I expressed my thanks for the benevolence and affection which the Mohamedans had shown me and said: “You are a Doctor of Religious Right. You know that Caliph signifies Chief of the State. How can I accept the proposals and desires of people who are governed by kings and em perors?
If I should declare myself ready to accept this office, would the sovereigns of those people consent to it?
The orders of the Caliph must be obeyed and his interdictions submitted to.
Are those who want to make me Caliph in a position to execute my orders?
Consequently, would it not be ridiculous to rig me up with an illusionary role which has neither sense nor right of existence?”
Gentlemen, I must frankly and categorically declare that those who continue to occupy themselves with the chimera of the Caliphate and thereby mislead the Mohamedan world, are nothing but enemies of the Mohamedan world, and especially of Turkey.
They are only ignorant or blind men who could attach hopes to such jugglery.
Is it from love of our faith that such people as Rauf Bey, Tsher- kess Edhem and Reshid, all the “Hundred and Fifty”*), all members of the deposed dynasty of the Sultanate and the Caliphate with their adherents, all enemies of Turkey, are working with so much bitter ness?
Is the aim of those who are working so energetically against us, sheltering themselves under the words “holy revolution,” but who use means such as murderous attempts, and gangs of brigands, and who maintain organisation centres at our frontiers, who have always made the destruction of Turkey their aim is this aim actually a holy one?
Indeed, to believe this would mean that we were possessed of unmitigated ignorance and boundless blindness.
From now onwards it will not be so easy to suppose that the Mohamedan peoples and the Turkish nation would have fallen to such a low level as to continue in the abuse of the purity of the con science and the tenderness of the sentiments of the Mohamedan world to criminal aims. Impudence has its limits.