The principles and decisions Erzurum congress
1. The entire country within its national frontiers is an undivided whole. (Manifesto Art. 6: section regarding Regulations Art. 3, Art. i of the Regulations and the Manifesto.)
2. In the event of the Ottoman Empire being split up, the nation will unanimously resist any attempt at occupation or interference by foreigners. (Arts. 2 and 3 of the Regulations ; Art. 3 of the Manifesto.)
3. Should the Government be incapable of preserving the indepen dence of the nation and the integrity of the country, a provisional Government shall be formed for the purpose of safeguarding these aims. This Government shall be elected by the national congress, and, if it should not be sitting at the time, the Excecutive Committee shall proceed to elect it. (Regulations Art. 4; Manifesto Art. 4.)
4. The chief object is to consolidate the national forces into a ruling factor and to establish the will of the nation as the sovereign power. (Art. 3 of the Manifesto.)
5. No privileges which could impair our political sovereignty or our social equilibrium shall be granted to the Christian elements. (Manifesto Art. 4.)
6. It is out of the question to accept a mandate or a protectorate. (Manifesto Art. 7.)
7. Everything that is possible shall be done to secure the immediate meeting of the National Assembly and to establish its control over the proceedings of the Government. (Manifesto Art. 8.) Perhaps you will have observed already, or you will do so, that these principles and decisions, although they have been put forward in different forms, can be carried into effect without in any way losing their original character.
Gentlemen, while we were working in the congress to lay down the principles and come to the decision which I have just been talking about, Ferid Pasha, the Grand Vizier, published certain declarations. These declarations deserve to be described as a threat against the nation. On the 23 rd July, the Grand Vizier announced urbi et orui that:
fc Unrest has taken place in Anatolia. Without any regard to the Constitution, assemblies have been held under the pretence that they are parliamentary sittings. It is the duty of the military and civil authorities to prevent such proceedings.”
The requisite steps were taken to counteract this order issued by the Grand Vizier. On the other hand, we insisted on our right to assemble a parliament. (Document 39.)
As the congress was coming to an end, on the 7 th August I declared to the assembly that we had “passed serious resolutions and had proved in the face of the whole world the existence and the unity of the nation/ History, I added, will characterise the work we have done at this congress as a wonderful performance that has seldom been equalled.
I am convinced that time will show that what I said was no exag geration.
According to the regulations drawn up at the Erzerum Congress, a Representative Committee was formed. In the statement which, in accordance with the regulations, was put before the Vilayet of Erzerum on the 24 th August, 1919, to obtain the authority for the Representative Committee to meet, the names and rank of its members were the following:
Mustapha Kemal Pasha, formerly Inspector of the III rd Army
Corps, retired from the Army; Rauf Effendi, ex-Minister of Marine; Raif Effendi, ex-Deputy for Erzerum ; Izzet Bey, ex-Deputy for Trebizond ; Servet Bey, ex-Deputy for Trebizond; Sheikh Fewsi Effendi, Sheikh of the order of the Nakshibendi, of Erzingan;
Bekir Sami Bey, formerly Vali of Beirut ; Sadullah Effendi, ex-Deputy for Bitlis; Hadji Mussa Bey, Chief of the Mutki tribe.
Let me say, incidentally, that these people never met to work together.
Izzet Bey, Servet Bey, Hadji Mussa Bey and Sadullah Effendi never showed up at all. After taking part in the Congress at Sivas,
Raif Effendi and Sheikh Fewsi Effendi left the former for Erzerum and the latter for Erzingan and never put in an appearance again.
Rauf Bey and Bekir Sami Bey, who were present at the Congress 6o at Sivas, stayed with us until they entered the Parliament in Constantinople.
I would like to mention a less important matter while I remember it. As there had been some discussion about my taking part in the Erzerum Congress, there were some people who, when I joined this assembly, showed some hesitation about electing me Chairman.
If we may attribute that hesitation on the part of some of them to their good-faith and sincerity, it was not the case as regards certain of the others.
At that time there was no doubt that these latter were very far from being straightforward, but, on the contrary, were carrying on despicable intrigues against me. One, for instance, was Omar Fewsi Bey, who had come to the congress as a spy of the enemy, after he had succeeded in being elected a delegate for some place in the pro vince of Trebizond. His companions were of the same kidney.
The treachery of this man was discovered lately through his actions at Trebizond, after he had fled to Constantinople from that town.
Two or three days before the Congress came to an end, another question was discussed. Some of my confidential associates expressed the opinion that it might be difficult for me to carry on the work publicly as a member of the Representative Committee.
In a few words this is what these people thought: “It is evident that patriotic deeds spring from the heart and soul of the nation and that they are national in the fullest meaning of the word. That being so, these actions will gain in strength and will not be liable to be misconstrued by anyone : moreover, they will not make unfavourable impressions on the minds of foreigners.
“But if a man like myself is seen at the head of this national movement, who is in revolt against the Government, the Caliphate and the Throne itself and who is exposed to attack from every side, it is possible that his actions will be attributed more to his personal ambition than to purely national considerations.
“Consequently, the Representative Committee should consist of delegates selected from the provinces and the autonomous districts. In this way alone can national unity be expressed.”
I shall not attempt to show whether these conceptions were right or wrong. I shall only mention several of those points on which I lean to justify my attitude.
It was essentially necessary that I should take part in the congress and be its leader, for I was convinced of the importance of converting the national will into deeds and urging the nation to do what it will 6i
be called upon to do by deeds and arms. I considered it imperative for me to inform, enlighten and guide the people in such a way that I would be able to emphasise this view and induce them to accept it.
As a matter of fact, this is what actually happened in the end. I admit that I had no confidence in the ability of any representative body to carry through the principles and decisions I have described that were adopted by the congress.
Time and events have proved that I was right. Besides, I feel myself compelled to say quite frankly that I was not convinced that anybody could feel assured that we would be able to hold this congress at Sivas, the convening of which had already been decided upon at Amasia and brought to the knowledge of all the people by every possible means ; or that such a body was capable of representing the nation and the country as a whole by a single representative body and then, with equally energetic attention and care, give themselves up to finding a sure way to defend and liberate, not the Eastern Pro vinces alone but every part of the country. If I had thought this possible, I would have found an excuse to delay my departure and wait and see what would be the result of the efforts of those who had resolved to act, and in that case I should not have deemed it necessary to rebel against the Government and the Sultan-Caliph.
On the contrary, like certain hypocrites who fought in both camps, I need not have resigned my positions as Army Inspector and A. D. C. to His Majesty, both of which gave me high dignity and authority.
There was certainly more than one consideration that induced me to place myself openly at the head and assume the leadership of the entire national and military movement. But could this mean other wise than the liability of incurring the severest penalties, to which I personally, more than anybody else, would be exposed in the event of failure?
As for the rest, can those who call themselves patriots allow themselves to think for a moment about their own fate when the existence of the country and of the whole of a great nation is at stake? If I had allowed myself to be influenced by the imaginary fears entertained by certain of my comrades, two important things would have happened :
i . It would have meant that I admitted I had been entirely wrong in my judgment and decision, and that my character was devoid of energy.
Such a confession would have been an irretrievable mistake from the point of view of the undertaking which I had morally imposed upon myself. History shows irrefutably that in all great enterprises the conditio sine qua non of success lies in the fact that there must be a leader available who possesses special qualifications and untiring energy. At a time when all statesmen have been seized with despair and are paralysed by their impotence, when the nation is plunged into the darkness of night without any one to show them the way, when people of every possible description calling themselves patriots think and act in precisely as many different ways, is it possible for anybody to proceed with confidence, clear-sightedness and energy, and succeed in the end to achieve one of the most difficult of all aims when he feels himself forced to accept this or that advice, to succumb under a host of varying influences and avoid hurting the feelings of a multi tude of other persons?
Can history point to a single human being who has had the good fortune to succeed in such circumstances?
2. Could the situation and the object in view be placed in the hands of any representative body that was recruited, in all probability, from such miserable fellows as, let us say for instance, the Sheikh of Nak- shibendi or the Chief of the Mutki tribe, who had never learned any thing about governmental questions, politics or the army, and who had never had an opportunity of showing his aptitude for such work? And in confiding this to the hands of such men, should we not have made the grave mistake of deceiving ourselves and the rest of the nation, after we had solemnly pledged ourselves to save the people and the country? Even if the question had arisen of granting secret support to a representative body of this description, could that have been regarded as a proper way to inspire confidence?
I have no doubt that at the present moment the world will admit the undisputable truth of what I have just said, although it did not appear to be so at that time.
Nevertheless, from the standpoint of the social and political opin ion of the coming generation, I consider it to be my duty to support my assertion by certain events that are still fresh in my memory and by documents relating to the past.
What I have just been trying to make clear is still further borne out by events which I shall now touch upon.