Landing at Samsoon and Assessing the situation
I landed at Samsoon on the 19th of May, 1919. This was the position at that time :
The group of Powers which included the Ottoman Government had been defeated in the Great War. The Ottoman Army had been crushed on every front. An armistice had been signed under severe conditions. The prolongation of the Great War had left the people exhausted and empoverished. Those who had driven the people and the country into the general conflict had fled and now cared for nothing but their own safety.
Wahideddin, the degenerate occupant of the throne and the Caliphate, was seeking for some despicable way to save his person and his throne, the only objects of his anxiety. The Cabinet, of which Damad Ferid Pasha was the head, was weak and lacked dignity and courage. It was subservient to the will of the Sultan alone and agreed to every proposal that could protect its members and their sovereign.
The Army had been deprived of their arms and ammunition, and this state of affairs continued.
The Entente Powers
The Entente Powers did not consider it necessary to respect the terms of the armistice. On various pretexts, their men-of-war and troops remained at Constantinople. The Vilayet of Adana was occu pied by the French ; Urfah, Marash, Aintab, by the English. In Adalia and Konia were the Italians, whilst at Merifun and Samsoon were English troops. Foreign officers and officials and their special agents were very active in all directions. At last, on the 15 th May, that is to say, four days before the following account of events begins, the Greek Army, with the consent of the Entente Powers, had landed at Smyrna. Christian elements were* also at work all over the country, either openly or in secret, trying to realise their own particular am bitions and thereby hasten the breakdown of the Empire.
The Greek organization
Certain information and authentic documents that fell into our hands later on prove that the Greek organisation “Mawrimira” (Docu ment i), established by the patriarchate in Constantinople, was forming bands, organising meetings and making propaganda in the vilayets. The Greek Red Cross and the official Emigrants Commission supported the work of the “Mawrimira.” The formation of Boy Scouts in the Greek schools directed by the “Mawrimira” were rein forced by the admission even of young men over twenty years of age. The Armenian Patriarch, Sawen Effendi, also worked in con nection with the “Mawrimira.” The preparations made by the Armeni ans progressed side by side with those made by the Greeks.
A society called the “Pontus” at Trebizond, Samsoon and other places along the whole of the Black Sea coast, having their head quarters in Constantinople, worked openly and successfully (Docu ment 2).
New Turkish organisations being started.
On account of the appalling seriousness of the situation which was apparent everywhere, particularly in all the vilayets, certain prominent personalities had begun, each on his own account, to discover some way by which he could save himself. This resulted in new organisations being started. Thus, for instance, there were unions or societies at Adrianople and the surrounding districts called “Thrace” and “Pasha EH.” In the east (Document 3), at Erzerum and El Aziz (Document 4), the “Union for the Defence of the National Rights of the Eastern Provinces” had been formed, also with their headquarters in Con stantinople. Again, in Trebizond there was a society called the “Defence of Rights” and in Constantinople a “League for the Separ ation of Trebizond and its District.” Through the exertions of the members of this league (Documents 56), sub-committees had been established at Of and in the district of Lasistan.
Some of the young patriots at Smyrna, who since the 13^ May had noticed distinct indications of the approaching occupation of the town, had held meetings about the distressing condition of affairs during the night of the 14 th , and in principle had agreed to oppose the occupation by the Greeks, which at that time was considered to be practically an accomplished fact, designed to end in annexation, and resisted it on the principle of “no annexation.” During the same night, those of the inhabitants who were unable to meet at the Jewish cemetery at Smyrna drew up a protest and spread it broadcast. But as the Greek troops actually landed on the following morning this attempt failed to achieve the desired result.
Political aims of theseTurkish organisations.
I would like to give you a short account of the object and political aims of these organisations.
I had already had a conversation in Constantinople with some of the leaders of the “Thrace” and “Pasha Eli” Societies. They con sidered that the breakdown of the Ottoman Empire was extremely II probable. In face of the threatened danger of the dismemberment of their country, their first thought was to save Eastern Thrace and later on, if possible, to form a Turco-Mohamedan community that would include Western Thrace. The only way by which they thought they could realise this aim was to put their trust in England or, if this was not possible, in France. With this object they tried to get into touch with certain political personalities belonging to foreign countries. It was believed that their intention was to establish a Thracian Republic.
The object of the “Defence of the National Rights of the Eastern Provinces” Union, on the other hand (Art. 2 of the regulations), was to use all lawful means to ensure the free exercise and develop ment of their religious and political rights for all elements inhabiting these provinces; to defend, if it should become necessary, the historical and national rights of the Mohamedan population of these provinces; to institute an impartial inquiry for the purpose of discovering the motives, the instigators and agitators implicated in the extortions and cruelties committed in the Eastern Provinces, so that the guilty ones might be punished without delay; to do their utmost to remove the misunderstandings that existed between the different elements in the country, and to restore the good relations that had formerly existed between them; and, finally, to appeal to the Government to alleviate as far as it lay in their power the misery resulting from the war.
Acting on these principles that emanated from the Central Commit tee in Constantinople, the Erzerum Branch decided to undertake, in defence of the rights of the Turks, to inform the civilised world by means of convincing documents that since the deportation the people had been taking no part whatever in the excesses. Further, that the property of Armenians had been protected up to the time when the country was invaded by the Russians. On the other hand, that the Mohamedans had been compelled to suffer from the cruellest acts of violence and that some Armenians who had been saved from deport ation had, in disobedience of orders, attacked their own protectors. The Branch were doing their very best to resist any attempt to annex the Eastern Provinces. (Proclamation by the Erzerum Branch.)
The members of the Erzerum Branch of the “Defence of the Na tional Rights of the Eastern Provinces” resolved, as stated in their printed report, after having studied the propaganda circulated in these provinces as well the Turkish, Kurdish and Armenian questions, from the scientific and historical point of view, to concentrate their further efforts on the following points:
1, On no account to emigrate;
2, Forthwith to form scientific, economic and religious organi sations;
3, To unite in the defence of even the smallest part of the Eastern
Provinces that might be attacked. m
It can be seen that the headquarters of the “Defence of the National Rights of the Eastern Provinces” were far too optimistic in their ex pectation to succeed by working on religious feelings. They continued to exert themselves indefatigably in this direction. For the purpose of defending the rights of Mohamedans dwelling in the Eastern Provinces they published a French journal, which they called “Le Pays.” They acquired the right to publish a magazine called “Hadissat.” They also presented memorials to the representatives of the Entente Powers in Constantinople and tried to send a delegation to Europe
From the foregoing statements, it appears to me to be clearly evident that the possible cession of the Eastern Provinces to Armenia was the most important reason for this Society having been formed. They anticipated that this possibility might become a reality if those who tried to prove that the Armenians were in the majority in these provinces, claiming the oldest historical rights, were to succeed in misleading the public opinion of the world by alleged scientific and historic documents and by perpetuating the calumny that the Mohamedan population was composed of savages whose chief occu pation was to massacre the Armenians. Consequently, the Society aimed at the defence of the national and historic rights by corre sponding methods and arguments.
The fear also existed that a Greek Pontic State might be founded on the shores of the Black Sea. At Trebizond several persons had formed another society with the object of protecting the rights of the Mohamedan population, to safeguard their existence and prevent them from falling under the yoke of the Greeks,
Their political aim and programme is already sufficiently obvious from its name; “The Society for the Cession of the Territory of Trebizond,” whose head office was in Constantinople. In any case, they set out with the idea of separating this district from the Central Government. Besides these organisations, which were being formed in the manner I have described, other societies and enterprises began to make their appearance. In the provinces of Diarbekr (Documents 8 9), Bitlis and El Aziz, among others, there was a League for the Resuscitation of the Kurds, with its head offices also in Constan-
tinople. Their aim was to erect a Kurdish State under foreign pro tection.
Work was going on at Konia and the surrounding district for the formation of a league having for its object the revival of Islam also with its offices in Constantinople. The “Unity and Freedom” and “Peace and Salvation” parties had branch committees throughout almost the whole of the country.
In Constantinople there were numerous public and secret organisations, calling themselves parties or societies and pursuing various aims.
One of the most important of these, the “Society of the Friends of England” is worthy of special mention. It does not follow from its name that its members were necessarily friends of England. In my opinion, the founders of this society were people who thought, before anything else, of their own safety and their own particular interests, and who tried to secure both by inducing Lloyd George s Government to afford them English protection. I wonder whether these misguided persons really imagined for a moment that the English Government had any idea at all of maintaining and preserving the Ottoman State hi its integrity?
At the head of this Society were Wahideddin, who bore the title of Ottoman Sultan and Caliph, Damad Ferid Pasha, Ali Kemal, Minister of the Interior, Aadil Bey, Mehmed Ali Bey and Said Molla. Certain English adventurers, for instance a clergyman named Frew, also belonged to this Society. To judge from the energy the latter displayed, he was practically its chairman. The Society had a double face and a twofold character. On the one hand, it openly sought the protection of England by methods inspired by civilisation. On the other, it worked in secret and showed that its real aim was to incite the people to revolt by forming organisations in the interior, to para lyse the national conscience and encourage foreign countries to inter fere. These were the treacherous designs underlying the work of the secret section of the Society. We shall see later how Said Molla played just as active a part, or even a still more important one, in this secret work as in the public enterprises of the Society. What I have just said about this Society will become much clearer to you when I enter into further particulars later on and lay before you certain documents which will astonish you.
Certain prominent personalities amongst them some women in Constantinople were convinced that the real salvation of the country lay in securing an American protectorate over it. They stubbornly persisted in this idea and tried to prove that acceptance of their point of view was the only thing possible. About this I shall also have a great deal more to say at the proper time.
Condition of the military
So that you may clearly appreciate the general situation, I would like to point out exactly where and in what condition the military units were at the time of which I am speaking. Two Army Inspections had been established on principle in Anatolia. Immediately after the conclusion of the armistice the regular soldiers at the front were disbanded. Deprived of their arms and ammunition, the Army con sisted only of units having no fighting value.
The distribution of the troops under the second Army Inspection, with its headquarters at Konia, was as follows: The XII th Army Corps, with its Staff at Konia, consisted of one division the 41 st at Konia and another the 23 rd at Afium Kara Hissar. To this Army Corps was attached the 57 ta Division, stationed at Denisli, belonging to the XVII tla Army Corps, which had been captured at Smyrna. The XX th Corps and its Staff was stationed at Angora one of its divisions, the 24 th , in Angora itself and the other, the n* 1 ^ at Nigdeh.
The I st Division stationed at Ismidt, was attached to the XXV th Army Corps, which also included the io m Caucasian Division.
The 6i st and 56 th Divisions were quartered in the district of Balikesri and Brasa and formed the XIV th Army Corps, with head quarters at Panderma and directly under the command of Constan tinople. The late Jussuf Izzet Pasha commanded this Army Corps until the National Assembly was opened.
I was myself at the head of the third Inspection when I landed with my Staff at Samsoon. I was to have had two Army Corps under my personal command. One of them, the III rd , had its base at Sivas and was commanded by Colonel Refet Bey, who came with me to Samsoon.
One division of this Corps, the 5 th Caucasian, was at Amasia; the other, the 15 th , was at Samsoon. The second Army Corps under my command was the XV th , stationed at Erzerum and commanded by Kiasim Kara Bekir Pasha. One of his divisions, the 9^, commanded by Rushi Bey, was in garrison at Erzerum; the other, under the com mand of Lt. -Colonel Halid Bey, was at Trebizond. After Halil Bey had been called to Constantinople, he abandoned his command and hid himself at Bayburt. Another man took command temporarily of the division. One of the two remaining divisions of the Army Corps, the 12 th , was near Hassan Kale, on the eastern frontier, and the II th was at Bayazid. The XII th Army Corps consisted of two divisions stationed in the district of Diarbekr and was independent, as it was directly under Constantinople. One of its divisions, the 2 nd , was at Seerd, while the other, the 5 th , was at Mardin.
These two Army Corps were directly under my command and I was also authorised to give orders to other troops lying within the district of my Inspection, in all the vilayets comprised within it and in the neighbouring provinces.
In virtue of the authority vested in me, I had the right to enter into communication and correspondence with the XX th Army Corps at Angora, with its superior Army Inspection, as well as with the Army Corps at Diarbekr and the heads of the Civil Administration in nearly the whole of Anatolia.
You might, perhaps, be inclined to ask why those who sent me to Anatolia with the idea of banishing me from Constantinople en trusted me with such wide powers. The answer is, that they did not know themselves what they were doing. They invented the pretext that it was necessary for me to go to Samsoon to report on the spot on the unsettled condition of the district and to take the necessary measures to deal with it. I had pointed out that in order to do this I should be given special authority and special powers. There did not seem to be any objection to this. I discussed the question with men who were on the General Staff at that time and who to a certain extent guessed my intentions. These were the persons who conceived the idea of my taking up the position, but the order giving me full powers was drawn up from dictation. Apparently Shakir Pasha, the Minister of War, after reading them, hesitated to sign them and the seal that was attached to the document was scarcely recognisable.
Closer examination of the facts
Let us return to a closer examination of the facts, so that we may rapidly review them as a whole.
Morally and materially, the enemy Powers were openly attacking the Ottoman Empire and the country itself. They were determined to disintegrate and annihilate both. The Padishah-Caliph had one sole anxiety namely, to save his own life and to secure the tranquillity of himself and the Government. Without being aware of it, the nation had no longer any one to lead it, but lived in darkness and uncer tainty, waiting to see what would happen. Those who began to under stand clearly the terrors and extent of the catastrophe were seeking some means whereby to save the country, each guided by the circum stances that surrounded him and the sentiments that inspired him. i6
The Army existed merely in name. The commanders and other officers were still suffering from the exhaustion resulting from the war. Their hearts were bleeding on account of the threatened dismemberment of their country. Standing on the brink of the dark abyss which yawned before their eyes, they racked their brains to discover a way out of the danger.
The Nation and the Army and Caliph s treachery.
Here I must add and explain a very important point,the Nation and the Army had no suspicion at all of the Padishah-Caliph s trea chery. On the contrary, on account of the close connection between religion and tradition handed down for centuries, they remained loyal to the throne and its occupant. Seeking for means of salvation under the influence of this tradition, the security of the Caliphate and the Sultanate concerned them far more than their own safety. That the country could possibly be saved without a Caliph and without a Padishah was an idea too impossible for them to comprehend. And woe to those who ventured to think otherwise! They would imme diately have been looked down upon as men without faith and without patriotism and as such would have been scorned.
In seeking how to save the situation
I must mention another point here. In seeking how to^save the situation it was considered to be specially important to avoid irritating the Great Powers England, France and Italy. The idea that it was impossible to fight even one of these Powers had taken root in the mind of nearly everybody. Consequently, to think of doing so and thus bring on another war after the Ottoman Empire, all-powerful Germany and Austria-Hungary together had been defeated and crushed would have been looked upon as sheer madness.
Not only the mass of the people thought in this strain, but those also who must be regarded as their chosen leaders shared the same opinion. Therefore, in seeking a way out of the difficulty, two ques tions had to be eliminated from discussion. First of all, no hostility was to be shown towards the Entente Powers; secondly, the most important thing of all was to remain, heart and soul, loyal to the Padishah-Caliph.
What decision I ought to have arrived at in such circumstances to save the Empire?
Now, Gentlemen, I will ask you what decision I ought to have arrived at in such circumstances to save the Empire?
As I have already explained, there were three propositions that had been put forward:
1. To demand protection from England;
2. To accept the United States of America as a mandatory Power. The originators of these two proposals had as their aim the pre servation of the Ottoman Empire in its complete integrity and pre- ferred to place it as a whole under the protection of a single Power, rather tfian allow it to be divided among several States.
3. The third proposal was to deliver the country by allowing each district to act in its own way and according to its own capability. Thus, for instance, certain districts, in opposition to the theory of separation, would have to see that they remained an integral part of the Empire. Others holding a different opinion already appeared to regard the dismemberment of the Empire as an accomplished fact and sought only their own safety.
You will remember that I have already referred to these three points.
None of these three proposals could be accepted as the cor rect one, because the arguments and considerations on which they were based were groundless. In reality, the foundations of the Otto man Empire were themselves shattered at that time. Its existence was threatened with extermination. All the Ottoman districts were practically dismembered. Only one important part of the country, affording protection to a mere handful of Turks, still remained, and it was now suggested also to divide this.
Such expressions as : the Ottoman Empire, Independence, Padishah- Caliph, Government all of them were mere meaningless words.
Therefore, whose existence was it essential to save? and with whose help? and how? But how could these questions be solved at such a time as this?
In these circumstances, one resolution alone was possible, namely, to create a New Turkish State, the sovereignty and independence of which would be unreservedly recognised by the whole world.
This was the resolution we adopted before we left Constantinople and which we began to put into execution immediately we set foot on Anatolian soil at Samsoon. These were the most logical and most powerful arguments in support of this resolution: