The affairs of the III rd Army Corps
I will now return to the affairs of the III rd Army Corps and take the opportunity to refer to Refet Bey and Selaheddin Bey.
I do so, because the English were spreading rumours to the effect that they were sending a battalion to Sivas. To meet every contin gency, military dispositions had been taken all along the differ ent routes leading to Sivas. An order I gave to the commander of the 5 th Division at Amasia on the i8 tjl July, contained the follow ing about Refet Bey, who was still at Amasia: “I want to draw the serious attention of Refet Bey to this matter. It is impossible, after he has considered the situation arising from this, that he will prefer to remain at Amasia.” The answer of the commander of the 5 th Di vision, dated the ig m July, included these remarkable expressions:
“Selaheddin Bey is still at Samsoon. I have not been able to get into touch with him until to-day. As there has not been any correspon dence of importance between us, I do not know what his opinions are or what he intends to do.
“Refet Bey, however, had given it to be understood that if he were called upon to do so he would not have the necessary courage to offer resistance to the English.
“Refet Bey left for Sivas on the i8 th July.” (Document 35.)
Then I sent the following telegram in cipher to Refet Bey: Telegram in cipher. Personal. No. 151. 19^ July, 1919.
To Colonel Ibrahim Tali Bey, Medical Inspector of the
III rd Army at Sivas. For Refet Bey.
“Have you handed my telegram to Selaheddin Bey? It is most important to find out what his attitude is. It is a patriotic duty to put an end to a situation that might possibly lead to disaster, which would certainly happen if we begin to hesitate or appear doubtful ; it is ab solutely necessary to get a straightforward answer from him yes or no and to decide accordingly. The only course left for him to follow is from the point where you left off. What has moved me to send you this telegram is the fact that we have not been able to get any positive news for about a week, and we have not been able to form any clear opinion about him since we heard from Constantinople. Besides, we have heard complaints that before his departure he had a secret meeting with Sadik Bey and is in close touch with him. It is your special duty to look into this and what consequences might ensue from it : for we must think what a very bad impression might be produced in any quarter of the population by the slightest injudi cious remark he might make that would not be favourable to the national cause, and the consequences it might lead to.”
(Mustapha Kemal) Kiasim, Colonel
C. O. S. of the III rd Army Inspection.
Here is Refet Bey s telegram, which is not only a reply to our tele gram but also to very many other questions. Very urgent. Strictly confidential. 1828. Sivas, 22 nd July, 1919.
To His Excellency Kiasiin Kara Bekir Pasha, temporary
Chief of the III rd Army Inspection at Erzerum. For His Excellency Mustapha Kemal Pasha.
1. I was unable to give your telegram to Selaheddin, because it did not reach me until after I had left.
You know Selaheddin, as everybody else knows him. He is a man of vacillating character. He has apparently come with no in tention of staying in this district longer than about ten days. He was very nearly running off to Constantinople without taking over the command. I calmed him down and reminded him of his duty as a patriot. There is no doubt about his love for his country, but he is incapable of any initiative. He is rather more useful than Reshid Pasha, the Vali He is well informed about military transports passing through the III rd Army Corps; he has been successful in organising this business in Constantinople.
He owes his appointment here to Djevad Pasha, so that he could not do anything harmful to the cause, nor could he possibly say any thing against it. On the contrary, he has promised to work for its success, but only in secret. I cannot believe the news about his re lations with Sadik Bey. Moreover, to work without a definite pro gramme, would mean to split up our forces. If, when you spoke to me about the position in the east, you had not allowed yourself to be influenced by exaggerated rumours, I could possibly have arranged matters better and would not have been obliged to leave my com mand. You will undoubtedly recognise that the men who are called upon to make decisions on their own initiative must be well informed about what is going on.
What have we to gain by frightening Selaheddin unnecessarily and force him to answer in the negative? He is already prepared to run away. Whom could we put in his place? I beg you to give me precise and clear orders. Will you kindly read your telegram referring to Selaheddin over again. From it, which begins stormily and calms down towards the end, I have not been able to guess what you really mean.
However, in a few days Selaheddin will return to Samsoon. I shall have a talk with him. In any case, I shall try to spare his feelings and induce him to work hard in the interests of the cause.
2. From the conversations I have had with the Englishmen, I gather that the landing of a battalion at Samsoon, which at the same time will give them an opportunity to embark the Indian Mohamedans. is specially intended to be a threat against the place where Your Excellency is living, because you are believed to be at Sivas. An English officer called on me at Kawak and tried to convince me that I ought to go to Constantinople. He has spread the report that I have been recalled because I have resisted the English; but his real in tention was to undermine you. Another supporter of Your Excellency is Kiasim Pasha.
He ought also to avoid giving any pretext to the English for similar demands. The fact that when he retired, Ferid Pasha asked Kiasim Pasha to represent him temporarily, indicates that some of the people in Constantinople have no evil intentions, but they cannot do anything on account of the attitude of the English. The provisional appoint ment of Kiasim Pasha is a further proof that Selaheddin Bey has not come here with the intention of working with Sadik Bey.
3. It is very likely that the English will formally insist on my being recalled to Constantinople, because there is an “official channel of communication” (sic) between me and the English. If this pressure should increase, I shall cover up my tracks, so that I shall not put Selaheddin Bey in a precarious position.
4. The rumour about Hamid Bey being transferred has not yet been confirmed. Selaheddin, as well as the English, have applied to Constantinople to make sure that he will remain where he is. The at tempt to replace him is attributed to his difference with the Ministry of the Interior. It is also doubtful whether Sedad Bey has yet arrived at Konia to succeed Selaheddin Bey.
Although he writes that he has heard that there will be a change of all the commanders, the provisional appointment of Kiasim Pasha proves that there is no truth in the rumour.
5. Have you heard anything about the telegram that the Grand Vizier has sent direct to aU the Valis about the congress that is going to be held at Sivas? It is reported that the officer commanding the division at Kara Hissar has issued a proclamation for the election of delegates to this congress.
Do you approve of this? Ought we not, judging from the German Peace Treaty and the calm that prevails in the East, to maintain a guarded attitude and wait till the situation is clearer?
You can have no doubt, at last, that so far as I am personally con cerned I have no cause for anxiety. But everything we do without a definite programme before us is liable to injure the cause. We must wait and watch and allow nothing to stand in our way, working openly and without losing time. But, whatever we do, do you really think that we shall gain any advantage from a congress publicly assembled at Sivas under present conditions? Or, do you not rather think that it is dangerous? An attack against Sivas from the south would be very dangerous indeed and would divide Anatolia into two parts, principally because the population in this vilayet seems to be quite apathetic.
As an indication of this, the aUeged neutral attitude recently adopted by this vilayet is of the greatest significance.
If it is absolutely necessary to convene this congress, would it not be better if it were held in a town farther to the east, provided that it could be ascertained that the delegates could get there easily?
6. The inhabitants of the towns of Sivas and Amasia are not worthy of it: those in the districts and villages are better in com parison. In future I shall act as I think best, according to circum stances.
7. In a letter I have received from Constantinople I am advised to pacify the English by showing them a manifesto of yours, in which you proclaim that the national movement aims at the salvation^ and the independence of the nation, but not in accordance with the indi vidual politics of any particular party or person.
If such a manifesto were published, I suggest that it would be advisable for this to be done in the form of a proclamation issued by yourself personally, but at the same time as a supplement to the resolutions passed at the Erzerum Congress.
8. The agencies are talking about parliamentary elections. What is your opinion about this? Refet> c.O.S. III rd Army Corps.
Here is the verbatim reply to this telegram:
Telegram in cipher, to be delivered personally by an officer. Urgent.
July 3 rd , 1919.
To Seki Bey, commanding the III rd Army Corps at Sivas.
For Refet Bey Effendi.
i. So that I can read it again, I have been looking everywhere for the telegram about Selaheddin, but I cannot find it. As far as I can remember, the statements about him came from Constantinople. It is seldom that I have the time to re-read all the information that comes to me, much as I might like to do so.
The news that came about the situation in the east is certainly not free from exaggeration, but I am certain that it vdll not have led us into error.
In making up our minds what to do, we did not rely on what was happening in the east.
Is it likely that we could have achieved all that we have done already if we had acted differently or had taken greater precaution in the organisation and the development of the national movement? Look at the results: The manifestation of the national demands at the congress, the co-operation of the Army in the national organisa tions, and the resolutions we arrived at as to what we considered we ought not to do in regard to the command and the arms, so as to avoid compromising the national cause.
In any case, the present situation is satisfactory all round.
2. The temporary appointment of Kiasim Pasha has been made just at the right time. He is trying not to give the English any ostensible reason for taking any steps whatsoever against us. But it cannot be said that we have been negligent, either in the question of arms or the resistance that would be offered to the landing of troops at Trebi- zond. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that we have not done precisely what the English would have liked.
3. The English strongly urged the Government and exercised all possible pressure on them to have me recalled to Constantinople. This is perfectly evident from the exchange of telegrams that went on for several days between the Government and the Sultan. I will tell you all about this correspondence when I see you.
After I retired from the Army, this pressure ceased. I gather from this that after my resignation they were not so anxious about you.
Nevertheless, I would in any case prefer to leave Selaheddin in a difficult dilemma than lose touch with you. The Government and the English have repeatedly put pressure on Kiasim Pasha, on account of Halid Bey. The latter is actually in command of his division, although he holds no official rank, because Kiasim Pasha persists in maintaining that nothing can be done to prevent this.
In his last telegram, Hamid Bey showed a stronger inclination to act rapidly than we do ourselves. We have kept him quiet for the moment.
5. I have heard nothing yet of the telegram about the Congress at Sivas. In fact, we may be quite sure that there are extremists whose opinions take a definite shape in some districts, while in others they assume reactionary forms.
I am satisfied that we must proceed so cautiously that our oper- ations will be assured of success, being guided by circumstances as they arise. A definite programme that will be intelligible to everyone will be adopted at the Congress at Erzerum, which has begun its work
to-day. _ _ 7 .
I expect important results from the Congress at Sivas. You will remember that I have anticipated the great probability of an attack being made from all sides, and that not only now, but ever since it was decided that a congress should be held at Sivas, I have urged that the necessary steps should be taken for our protection. We must think out in a practical way what is to be done about the number of delegates who will come to Sivas when the sitting of the Congress at Erzerum is over and when we can see what the probable result of that congress will be and what impression it produces.
6. I quite agree with you about the organisation of the work, but I hope, also, that the inhabitants of the towns will conform to national sentiments.
7. The aims and objects of the national movement will be an nounced in the way you propose, namely, by issuing manifestos while the congress is in progress.
8. Parliament will be convened, but not in Constantinople. It must meet in Anatolia. This question will be discussed at the congress, and after that the necessary steps will be taken.
I send you my fraternal greetings.
(Mustapha Kemal) Kiasim
Colonel C. O. S. III rd Army Inspection.
I think it is now my duty to refer with satisfaction to the deep impression made on me by the confidence and cordiality quite openly and unanimously shown to me after I retired from the Army by the entire population of Erzerum and the Erzerum Branch of the “League for the Defence of the National Rights of the Eastern Provinces/
In a letter, dated 10 th July, the Erzerum Branch of the League proposed that I should act as chairman of the Executive Committee, The names of five other persons were mentioned to me as having been selected to work with me. They were : Raif Eff endi, Suleiman Bey, a retired officer, Kiasim Bey, a retired officer, Nedjati Bey, editor of a newspaper caUed “Al Beirak,” Dursun Bey and Sade Djevad Bey. In the same letter I was told that Rauf Bey had been elected vice- chairman of the Excecutive Committee. (Document 36.)
At this time Raif Effendi was the chairman of the committee of the Erzerum Branch. Hadji Hafis Effendi, Suleiman Bey, Maksud Bey, Messud Bey, Nedjati Bey, Ahmed Bey, Kiasim Bey were members, with Djevad Bey acting as secretary.
In a telegram which they tried to have delivered at the headquar ters of the League in Constantinople, the Erzerum Branch requested them “to telegraph that I had been authorised to act in the name of headquarters/ (Document 37.)
Kiasim Bey, the retired officer, and Dursun Bey, as well as Djevad Bey, all of whom had been elected delegates to represent Erzerum at the congress, sent in their resignations to make it easier for them to take part in this assembly.