This essay is shedding light on previously neglected historical material on the Armenian Genocide: the Istanbul press and the Ottoman parliament proceedings in the months directly following the Armistice and occupation of Istanbul by the allies. The press articles were selected from newspapers opposing the Committee of Union and Progress. Our study concludes with the hypothesis that while there were still heated discussions in the parliament about war crimes committed by many, the press try to place the guilt of the Armenian massacres on the shoulders of few, thus lifting the responsibility for the Genocide from the general Turkish/Muslim population. From there a strategy of denial and obfuscation gradually emerged and continued well into the Atatürk era and has not been questioned since. Equally, questions of victimhood, historical justice and morality have not been asked. Modern-day Turkey became a republic that –veiled in silence – has not mourned its dead and has not asked pertinent questions about its own past. In this light, the historical documents that are presented in this essay become important testimonies of a time when people were still speaking and asking questions about the Genocide in Turkey.
After the defeat of the Ottoman State in the First World War, an unconditional ceasefire was signed on 30 October 1918 and the leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) escaped to Germany via Russia in German submarines. Under these new circumstances, starting in November 1918, the censorship and pressure on newspapers in Istanbul decreased to some extent. Journalists could breathe again[i] and broke their silence to start to write about the defeat and those who were responsible for it, and the destruction of Armenian people during the war in the first major genocide of the 20th century. Newspapers published many articles about the possibility of prosecuting the leaders and executives of the CUP and about the massacres and the people who were responsible for this Genocide.
Newspaper articles from this period are important for two reasons: (1) the archives and important documents of the CUP were destroyed when its leaders escaped; and (b) after the Kemalists gained strength a prohibition was imposed on access to the remaining documents, together with the records of the discussions in the Ottoman parliament.
For example, local newspapers, such as Alemdar (supporter of the palace), Vakit (opponent of the Committee of Union and Progress), Sabah, Akşam and the semi-official journal Takvim-i Vakayi, showed great interest in the Turkish court martial trials of 1919-1920 and were reporting on daily basis about not only the conditions of the convicted but also about their alleged crimes. In this present essay, we will present a snapshot of newspaper articles from October 1918 – February 1919, starting with the closure of the Ottoman parliament up until the beginning of the Turkish Court Martials in Spring 1919. In these articles, we find much substantial evidence about the cooperation of the Committee with regional leaders (local directors of the Committee of Union and Progress and state officials and local key collaborators) but also long-ranging discussion, if not the whole nation, was responsible for the massacres of the Armenians. In a way, these newspapers articles ensured that vital historical information reached the present day.
In the first part of this essay, we will discuss the demands for justice in the local press by (1) presenting excerpts from three memoirs of Ottoman Turkish state officials that where published in various Istanbul newspapers during the years 1918-1919 and by (2) presenting selected newspaper articles that were all dealing with the question of who was to blame for –what was called at the time- the Armenian massacres. In a concluding perspective, we will then proceed in presenting some of the preceding discussions about the same question in the Ottoman parliament during autumn 1918. In our final reflections we will discuss what Kemal Mustafa Atatürk thought about the Armenian massacres and whom he charged guilty.
Demands for Justice in the Press
After the end of the war, many newspapers began to publish articles on the deportations and death marches. Foremost among them was the Journal Alemdar and its contributor Refi Cevad Bey (Ulunay).[ii] Ali Kemal[iii] of the paper Sabah also wrote many articles against the Unionist Committee. Other papers too, such as Aravod, Vakit, İçtihad, Hadisat and Tasvir-i Efkar paid attention to the issue of the Armenian Genocide, or what was called ‘crimes against humanity’ at the time, and demanded justice.
Memoirs – Testimonies
In the post-war papers, wide publicity was given to reports and eyewitness accounts from the Armenian-populated regions. This was in parallel with news on the ongoing trials, in Istanbul, of some of the perpetrators of the massacres. These publications are important as historical testimonies. The most important memoirs are of those by Aleppo Governor Mehmet Celal Bey, Ahmet Refik (Altınay) and Hasan Amca (Çerkes Hasan). Mehmet Celal Bey was governor (vali) in Halep and Konya, and eyewitnessed many events that took place during the Genocide. He was dismissed from his position for not obeying orders partaking in genocidal massacres of Armenians in his region. His statements are therefore important. Ahmet Refik’s testimony is also important, because for some time he was in Eskisehir, which was the main collecting point for Armenians being deported from the Western provinces of the Ottoman lands towards the Syrian desert, and he also saw the deportation of local Armenians from around the Eskisehir region. Hasan Amca’s accounts are important, since his duty was to set up an infrastructure in the Syrian regions for those Armenians who had remained alive after the death marches. He observed their suffering and their abandonment to death in their inflicted exile around Halep, Damascus (Sham), Beyrut, Trablusham, Hayfa, Yafa, Akka, Havran or Cebelt and did his best to ease their terrible situation. His testimony is very important as he was one of the few Ottoman officials exhibiting a humanitarian attitude.
The Aleppo Governor Mr. Mehmet Celal
In his reports on his observations, the Governor (vali) of Erzurum, Mehmet Celal Bey comments that the events that were taking place stemmed from the policy of the central state administration. The Armenians were being repressed by the Kurds, and because of this the Armenians were forced to emigrate to secure places to live. He also attests to their strong patriotism,[iv] which unfortunately did not save them from the death marches to follow. Mehmet Celal Bey’s testimony about the genocide was published in the newspaper Vakit between the dates of November 29th and December 12th 1919. He gives important information on his relations with Armenians and the central state administration during his governorship in Erzurum (Erzen-i Rum), Aleppo and Konya. As a state administrator, Celal Bey had been in contact with the Armenian communities long before 1915; here especially his duties in Erzurum are important. He points out that he undertook his position as governor of Erzurum just after the 31 March 1909 (13 April 1909) massacres of Armenians in Cilicia. He gives some examples of the usurping of many Armenian properties by Hamidiye regiments, and emphasizes that the most important issue between the Armenians and the Kurds were the lands confiscated from the Armenians by the Kurds:
Kör Hüseyin Pasha, the head of the Haydaranlı Tribe, had invaded five or six villages in this way. A rebel named Shah Hüseyin Beyzade Haydar Bey controlled a large portion of the district. A huge land between Karakilise and Beyazıd, which I was hardly able to cross by car in four hours, was included in the property of one of the high-ranking officers of the Hamidiye cavalcade.
For him, it was very clear that the lands confiscated by Hamidiye regiment commanders belonged to Armenian peasants. In the following excerpt from his memoirs, Mehmet Celal Bey gives us insights into the social situation in the region underlying his own intimate relations with all social and ethnic stratae in the region:
I’ve been all over the province. I’ve been the guest of Kurd rulers in tents and of Armenians in villages. There is no township in the province of Erzurum where I haven’t called and taken a rest for a day or two… There are Kurds who went to Istanbul or Smyrna to be porters or night-watchmen… Armenians who went to Russia or America to trade…
On the basis of his experiences during his two-year-duty in Erzurum, he says:
Those who were closest to us among the non-Muslims and who were most available to accompany us were Armenians. (…) I knew many traders among the Armenians of Erzurum who have in their hearts much love for their country and are highly concerned about the future of our country. None of these men are alive today. Without exception, they all died ghastly deaths, either in the secluded places of Erzincan or in the deserts of Diyarbekir, surrounded by thorns.
When Celal Bey was governor of Aleppo at the beginning of the war, again he could not believe his orders to deport Armenians:
I presumed that no government would be able to exterminate its own subjects, its human capital and the largest wealth of the country.[v]
He assumed that this was a measure to temporarily expel Armenians from the war zones as a war requirement, and he requested funds from the government for the purpose of lodging Armenians who were to be relocated to Der-eir- Zor. However, instead of funds they sent an officer with the title ‘Director of Tribes and Immigrants[vi]’, who was entrusted with deporting the Armenians with their children. This was in fact a means of bypassing Celal Bey,[vii] who was dismissed for not carrying out the deportation orders. He tell us with astounding clarity:[viii]
I disobeyed the written order concerning the deportation of Armenians in my capacity as Governor, since I know there is no reason to evict and deport Armenians in the province of Aleppo, who surely did nothing wrong. This disobedience caused my transfer from Aleppo to Ankara, and to Konya three or four days later.
In a letter sent to the government, Celal Bey says the following:
The Armenian race constitutes a significant part of our country’s population. Armenians hold a significant part of the general wealth and they run half of the country’s commercial activities. Trying to destroy them will cause damage to the country, which cannot be healed for centuries. If all our enemies sat down and thought for a month, they couldn’t find a more damaging thing for us….
After no reply, Celal bey decided to go to Istanbul, thinking he could explain the situation. There, he understood that he had obtained a promise to stop the deportation of Armenians from Konya and so he returned to Konya. On his way there, he witnessed the following:
I will never forget the tragic picture I saw in Ilgın. There was a helpless person both of whose legs had been cut off at the top among the hundreds of women, men, young and old persons who had been dispatched to the station and left outdoors waiting for the train for days. A piece of leather was tied around this helpless person’s backside and he had a pair of clogs on his hands and a shoe painting box hanging round his neck. He was earning his living by begging and painting shoes… This unfortunate person was not able to understand the reason he was being deported (Agos 30th July 2010).
Celal could not believe that a legless Armenian seemed dangerous to the Unionists. But the nightmare continued:
When I arrived in the capital (Konya), I saw the Konya Armenians being brought to the train station. Moreover, thousands of Armenians brought from provinces such as Izmit, Eskisehir and Karahisar were living in an open space, inside things looking like tents made from quilts, clothes and felts, living in miserable conditions and the sight of them was heartbreaking. I couldn’t do anything for those brought from other places. I sent the ones from Konya to their homes. I started to provide a stipend from the refugee funds to the others.
Celal Bey talks about Armenian exiles sent to Konya from other provinces because Konya was another centre in which Armenian exiles were rounded up. He summarizes his position in these words:
My status in Konya closely resembled that of a man standing on the edge of a river with no rescue equipment. The river was flowing with blood instead of water, and thousands of innocent children, blameless old men, weak women and strong youngsters were streaming along in this flow of blood toward nothingness. I rescued those that I could get a grip on with my hands, my nails, but others floated away, never to return… (30 July 2010 Agos).
Because of the delay to the convoys, the General Director of Tribes and Immigrants, Şükrü Bey, came to Konya. Among those who came to administer the exiling was Hamal Ferit,[ix] who was one of the leaders of the Special Organization[x] (Teshkilat-ı Mahsusa) acting on behalf of the Committee of Union and Progress.
Celal Bey was no longer governor and was removed from Konya.
The member of parliament for Konya stated that dispatching Armenians complied with the national mission. Celal Bey replied with the following words: “Which national mission…? Calling these kinds of cruelties the national mission is the worst slander and insult to the nation.” (30 July 2010 Agos). Celal bey continued –against all odds – to help the Armenians. Approximately thirty thousand Armenians who were brought from other locations were able to stay in Konya; and the Armenians from Konya itself were not deported.
The following two excerpts are again from Celal bey’s memoirs as published in Vakit newspaper December 1919. They are significant in that they are asking many important questions that might never truly find answers. Their historical significance cannot be underestimated and clearly show that (1) while local governors were able to avoid taking part in the atrocities for short periods of time, the Genocide was pre-mediated by officials on the state level and was followed through until the end goal was achieved; (2) no one was safe, not even close friends of officials, the Armenian nation and race was the target.
However, when I went to the workplace of the officer[xi] who took my place, while travelling from Akşehir[xii] and Ilgın, he ordered the deportation of Armenians and the dispatch of these Armenians was executed. I heard this later. The people who organized the deportation of the Armenians and who called this outrage a national mission finally understood my disapproval and my refusal to work with them on this task and they organized my dismissal. (…) In Istanbul I learned that, just on the evening of the day when I left, two officers[xiii] had said to the Armenians at Konya station, ‘Your daddy went, so you will also go!’ In order to try to prevent that disaster, I did everything possible in Istanbul. I applied to everyone, but I could not obtain any result. On the contrary, I incurred the wrath of those who said to me ‘You haven’t sacrificed your conviction for our national ideal!’. The government in that period was thinking as follows: ‘The Russians will attack the Sakarya valley and the Armenians will help them’. Therefore, they said, ‘As a precaution, we extended the deportation to Ankara, Konya and Eskişehir.’ During those days new Russian dreadnoughts had recently been deployed but we were commanding the Black Sea with Yavuz and Midilli, so it was not possible for the Russians to land troops in the Sakarya basin. Let’s also accept this possibility too (…) I wonder why the Armenians in Bursa, Edirne and Tekfurdağı were deported. Were these regions included in the Sakarya basin? What did they want from the Armenians, who were less than one twentieth of the general population of the province in Aleppo? Rightly or wrongly, if it was deemed necessary to deport Armenians from their locations for the salvation of the country, was this the way to carry it out? Did the government that gave the order to deport the Armenians to [Der-eir-] Zor think about the problem of sheltering these poor persons without food and housing among the nomadic Arab clans? If they thought about this, then I ask, ‘How much food did they send there and how many houses did they build there in order to accommodate the immigrants? And what was the purpose of deporting Armenian people who had lived a sedentary life for centuries to the [Der-eir-] Zor Desert, which does not have trees, water or construction materials?’
From this second excerpt, we learn about Krikor Zohrab Efendi and Ohannes Varteks Efendi, who were members of the Ottoman parliament and who were put on the death march:
Zohrab Efendi and Varteks Efendi were sent to Aleppo under police escort in order to be dispatched to Diyarbekir. These two miserable persons, who realised the destiny which was determined for them, were very sad. Many Muslim people applied to me and Cemal Pasha, who was in Aleppo at that time, and they demanded that Zohrab Efendi and Varteks Efendi stay in Aleppo. These two people were my friends. It was not possible for me to send them to their death with my own hands. In particular, Zohrab Efendi was suffering from heart disease. I wrote to Istanbul[xiv] to ensure they could stay in Aleppo. I could not get an answer. I promised not to send them as long as I stayed in Aleppo, and I kept my promise. One day after my resignation, Zohrab Efendi and Varteks Efendi were dispatched. These two wretched people were best friends of important people in the government of that period. They frequently visited Varteks Efendi at his house, and they kept in contact as best friends and companions. They even embraced and kissed him. And Zohrab Efendi hid in his house somebody who was one of the important members of the Party of Union and Progress, and who was in the government during his deportation, putting his comfort and maybe his life in danger during the 31st March Incident. Nevertheless these two people were dispatched to death, and they died!
Uncle Cherkess Hasan (‘Hasan Amca’, ‘Çerkez Hasan’)
More eyewitness testimony from Ottoman officials can be found in the memoirs of Uncle Cherkess Hasan (Hasan Vasfi Kıztaşı). These were published in the newspaper Alemdar between the 19th and 28th June 1919. He was assigned to dispatching and settling Armenians exiled to the area that was controlled by the Fourth Army under Cemal Pasha. Later, the Armenians did not forgot Uncle Hasan. At his funeral ceremony, which was held in the Osmanağa Mosque in Kadıköy on 15th March 1961, Hasan Amca’s[xv] relatives and his nearest journalist friends attended together with many Armenians. At the funeral ceremony the then Armenian Patriarch, Karekin Hachaduryan, loudly proclaimed, “We owe him a debt of gratitude. He saved us from hunger and misery in the war. If he had not been there, we would not be here now either.” In his memoirs, Uncle Hasan openly states that the Unionists exiled Armenians to Syria with the sole purpose of exterminating them. However, the publication of the memoirs was left unfinished; Alemdar made a snap decision to stop their publication.[xvi]
His memoirs are invaluable in that they attribute the rise of a Muslim bourgeoisie during WWI and in the immediate post-war years directly to the disappearance of the Christian merchant class during and after the Genocide. He observed state functionaries taking their first steps in commerce. He recounts seeing them stealing small things from stores, but also distributing rights to purchase railway wagons. Corruption was opening up ways to easily become rich to some functionaries, who steadily developed into a commercial bourgeois class while getting rid of the ones, who had previously been the commercial and industrial entrepreneurs: the Armenians. Functionaries on duty during the deportations later often became merchants and entrepreneurs. However, at first, he was one that did not believe the rumours of the mass-extermination of the Armenians in empire. When he visited his sister in Aleppo, he was overwhelmed with disbelief and guilt:
These mountains haven’t witnessed this much calamitous misery since their creation. This journey, which lasted four days, brutally showed me how wild and relentless so-called human beings could be, so I was scared and felt ashamed to be a member of mankind.
The decisions and practices of the Union and Progress government regarding the Armenian people seemed unbelievable to me. What I heard at that time seemed exaggerated… This bloody picture, which I thought of as exaggerations by my Armenian friends of their concerns and complaints regarding the incidents, and which I did not want to believe at first, came alive in my mind as an absolute truth when I went to visit my sister, who was living in Aleppo in a hotel.
He describes his mission to help wretched people who had been deported from their hometowns
People were reduced to very bad conditions. Uncle Hasan describes the bad situation of the Armenians and the violence of their deaths:
Suffering for necessities causes very disgusting results to human nature. What does a human being feel when he sees and hears his fellow creatures eats grass, carrion and even his child? What words can he use to describe this feeling and effect!
Uncle Hasan witnessed the death of refugees en masse every day. He notes that even the simplest disease resulted in mass deaths, since there was no medicine and there was no chance of medical attention. We know this also from Aram Andonyan’s personal testimonies from Der-eir-Zor, who writes:[xvii]
I preferred to sleep in the field that night. I could not stay. I saw a child choked by lice there. These billions of impure creatures, which invaded the entire body of the innocent child from his fingernail scratches completely covered the corpse. I waited for the morning to come leaning against the trunk of a plane tree. I was not able to close my eyes and sleep.
Uncle Hasan made an extraordinary effort to save many Armenians in little time, and he also transported a considerable number of Armenian exiles to safe places in the face of many administrative difficulties. However, the Istanbul government did not like this. In response to Uncle Hasan’s statement that “the Committee is not aiming to provide for the settlement of the Armenian people and their lives but it is proposing to handle this issue by cleansing”,there was an immediate intervention:
The Ministry of Internal Affairs at once repeated its death command to the province: “Command of the Ministry of Internal Affairs: The settlement issue of deported Armenian refugees is among the duties of the government. The interventions of the Army’s commanders are not valid anymore. Therefore, the transportation of any Armenian refugee from one town to another town will only be possible with the command and permission of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.”
The memoirs of Uncle Hasan finish here. The censor cut the publication of the memoirs at this point. The narrative was left half-finished. A point needs to be underlined here. Once it was understood that Malta would not be a Nuremberg, no important distinct change took place between the perspectives of the Istanbul and Ankara governments on the Armenians, the Genocide and genocide crime.
Mr. Ahmet Refik (Altınay)
Ahmet Refik bey’s memoirs were published in the Ikdam Newspaper between 17th December 1918 and 13th January 1919 under the heading “Two Committees; Two Massacres”. [xviii]
Ahmet Refik bey underlines that constitutionalism was an illusion, and summarizes the period of the Union and Progress government thus:
Since the 23rd July  incident the country has not been without martial law. Constitutionalism exists only in name. The Constitution was trampled upon in every act. The government was not implementing justice and the law. In any case, its existence was illegal and illegitimate (Refik 1994: 20).
He underlines the role of the Special Organization (Teskilati Mahusa) in the Armenian Genocide:
At the beginning of the war many gangs were sent to Anatolia from Istanbul. The gangs consisted of murderers and thieves who had been released from prisons. These people were trained for one week in the Department of Interior and were sent to the Caucasus border on the orders of the Special Organisation. In the Armenian massacres, these gangs committed the biggest murders (Refik 2006: 27).
Ahmet Refik starts his account as follows:
In no period was the Ottoman Millet wronged with such cruelty by its own members. In no period did the Ottoman State suffer from a disaster of such a degree, due to the villainy of four or five bullies.
He then he describes Eskishehir on the 3rd October 1915 when the palace and the government was moving to Anatolia because of the imminent danger of Istanbul being occupied.
The Imperial treasury had already relocated to Konya. The elegant Armenian houses around the railway station were empty. This [ethnic] element, with its wealth and commerce had shown superiority, obeyed the orders of the government and evacuated their houses and withdrawn to the suburbs of Upper Eskisehir and now their vacated houses with dozens of valuable carpets, elegant rooms and closed doors, were as though they were expectantly waiting for the arrival of the fugitives.
Eskisehir’s most beautiful and most refined houses were around the railway station. The houses near the railway station, suitable for residence, were assigned to Ittihad’s most important officials: the German school, with its exterior deprived of paint and not even plastered, to Sultan Mehmet Resat; a huge Armenian mansion to the prince; two canary yellow houses side by side in the area of Sarısu Bridge to Talat Bey and his assistant Canbolat Bey; a magnificent villa in the Armenian neighbourhood to Topal Ismail Hakkı (Refik 2006:12).
After that, the deportations started and the convoys of Armenian exiles arrived at the Eskisehir railway station.
One morning, an extraordinary scene was witnessed at Eskisehir railway station… Now the convoys coming out consisted of children and their mothers, old men and young women. This small convoy constituted such a sad, such a painful view that it would break your heart to see small children embracing their mothers with their soft arms, under the scorching sun of June, hungry and sweating and hanging their heads. Was that all, one wondered. It was said that “they were going to Konya” (Refik 2006: 29).
But in their pockets there was no money for the train ticket. And they were all poor, unfortunate villagers.
In the railway station, in front of the railing, was an old woman with a blond blue-eyed girl of five or six years of age in her lap and next to her a boy, sitting with his head bowed. I inquired. They were the family of a soldier; their father was taken to the army. Their mother had died. She was raising these unlucky orphans. I asked the girl’s name: Siranoush!
The poor innocent child dipped a dry piece of bread in her hand into water and ate it that way.
The illnesses and deaths came immediately. Almost every day, in Eskisehir’s Armenian Cemetery, the priest and behind him a few poor families would either bury one of their children or their mother or their old father. Neither the sound of a bell nor the chanting of a hymn would invite souls to pious reverence. This disaster would break your heart. One day, a husband and wife were walking and chatting. They were both sad. But the man’s sadness was greater. The woman tried to console him:
‘What can we do? God is great. He will look after us’, she said. The man immediately became angry and looked at the woman with a forceful stare: “Do you still invoke [the name of] God? Where is God? Is there God? If there is, what is this situation?”, he shouted. He walked towards the creek and wiped the tears from his eyes with his torn sleeves…
Eventually, one day a sinister order arrived. Eskisehir was also to be evacuated…
The next day, the helpless families, with baskets in their hands and their coats in their arms, boarded animal compartments on the train. Their eyes full of tears, their hearts broken, they left the houses they loved, where their families had lived for many centuries, their flower gardens, their cherished memories, and bade farewell to Eskisehir’s pretty skyline, the historic city which reflected Heroic Osman’s justice. They went towards the mountains, which surround Konya Valley, the rugged mountain pass of Pozantı, Mesopotamia’s hellish deserts, to hunger, to misery, wretchedness, towards death… (Refik 2006: 29-32)
Ahmet Refik tried to find solutions to save them. However, he was not able to. He remembers:
Was there no opportunity to save these innocent people? I talked to the German priest in Eskishehir. I asked him to send a telegraph to Istanbul, through the Austrian Ambassador, to at least get permission for the Catholic Armenians. He agreed. Next day, an order arrived from Istanbul stating that the Catholic Armenians, families of people in the military, and employees of the railway company could stay. These relationships were to save a lot of families’ lives. Some among them wanted to become Muslims, but the government would not allow it (Refik 2006: 32).
Ahmet Refik also witnessed pillage:
The houses with absentee owners were supposedly protected by the police. However, at night the carpets, possessions and valuable belongings were stolen in their entirety. The same situation emerged during the evacuation of Izmit and Adapazarı, where, after the goods were stolen, the houses were set on fire to cover any traces (Refik 2006: 34).
The nightmare of the Armenians involved the talents of the Special Organization:
The Armenians’ greatest fear was Pozantı. The attacks by the gangs over there made their hearts shiver. Who [constituted] these gangs? There were two gangs that the Ittihat government sent to the Caucasus in the name of its Turan policy, in the name of Islamic unity. These people were gang chiefs sent on the orders of the Special Organisation. Halil, in particular led a great military expedition on behalf of Islam. When the gang of Deputy Sudi Bey entered Ardahan, this fighter went to Artvin and routed the Armenians who were happily living in that beautiful city. I heard of this disaster when I was still in Ulukışla. The correspondent of a German newspaper, who hated the murders of the loathsome gangs, said: “If you saw how cruelly they behaved! I will be damned if I ever travel with these people again. Neither Islam nor Christianity; they do not recognize anything (Refik 2006: 40).
He watched miserable people coming from various provinces and passing through Eskishehir as the deportations continued day after day. He could not turn his eyes away from the direction in which the victims were going to an unknown destination:
My eyes turned involuntarily towards the railway and the land which ends by the purple mountains and the yellow trees. I thought of families, who, once, in the cold, in the darkness of night, slept, crying and seeing horrible dreams. Who knows where they are, in which mountain they became victims in the paws of which ruthless gang? Poor Siranoush, beautiful innocent girl, where are you?[xix]
Pozantı was the destination of the death march and the end-point of the journey of the Armenian exiles who came from the west of Asia Minor. Ahmet Refik’s mind was obsessed by Siranoush’s fate, did she die in this bloody passage or not?
Significance of Post-war Newspapers for the scholarship on the Armenian Genocide of 1915
The post-war Ottoman press is extremely important with respect to establishing and recognizing the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The extermination of the autochthonous people (Armenians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Nestorians, Hellenes, Pontos, Ezidies) who had lived in their historical homeland (historical Western Armenia, Pontos, Aegean, Mesopotamia) was forgotten by the other people living in the same lands because of their sense of guilt. The Genocide events did not leave open traces on the memories of the people who had been living together with the Armenians. However, with the articles published in the newspapers during the period 1918-1920 the facts were imprinted on the pages of history.
We must not forget the fact that most members of the post-war governments were Unionists. In addition, censorship was, as it remains to this day, an on-going oppression apparatus. Often and unpredictably, newspapers were closed down or parts of the news were censored through official censorship. Still, it is also clear that some reports escaped censorship or were –at the time- not seen controversial or deemed dangerous as the published memoirs by the Governor of Aleppo Mehmet Celal Bey, Ahmet Refik (Altınay) and Hasan Amca (Çerkes Hasan) have shown.
One such example is the Sabah newspaper of 11th December 1918 from which we learn that two important documents were captured in a search carried out at the headquarters of the Party of Union and Progress. Although few details are provided, we read that these documents were telegrams sent to Malatya by Talat pasa and that in one of the telegrams, Talat forcefully ordered:
“Exterminate the Armenians, material and moral responsibility belongs to me.”
Two days later (13 December 1918), Le Spectateur d’Orient and the Renaissance newspapers, which were published in French, followed the Sabah newspaper. Still a heated discussion abong rivalling journalists ensued: Yunus Nadi of the Yenigün newspaper (13 December 1918) attacked the editor of the Sabah newspaper and wrote everything is “untrue” in relation to the alleged document that was published. A sharp answer to Yenigün appeared on 14th December 1918, by another newspaper, was published under the heading “Answer to Yenigün”. On 11th December 1919, the Akşam newspaper wrote:
In a search which was performed on suspicion of documents being hidden in the house of Ahmed Ramiz, who was the chamber counsellor in the Ministry of War and who was the son-in-law of Bahâeddîn Şakir, documents in a suitcase were captured. These documents had been lost from the headquarters of the Union and Progress Party.
The article continues as follows:
These documents were opened four days later by the court authorities and it was found that they related to meetings during which conversations of the senior executives of The Union and Progress Party in relation to the extermination of the Armenian populations of the Empire were partly recorded (Dadrian&Akçam 46).
But examples are plenty and many journalists of the time were not shy to put the blame either on Ottoman officials or even on the Turkish nation as a whole. Here, is overview of what was written in the Ottoman Turkish Press, from November 1918 (- February 1919) right after Istanbul was occupied by the Allies and the press enjoyed the most freedom in terms of local censorship -. What we should not forget, however, is that this was also a time when the Allied forces set up an Allied military administration and were looking for suspects to be tried in the Turkish court-martial of 1919-1920. We see therefore not only the admittance of a general collective guilt in the pages of these newspapers but also a very clear categorization of who is to blame, and who not.
This nation-wide and broad search for the guilty starts in the Sabah newspaper on 5th November 1918, when Ali Kemal draws an analogy and describes the typical all-out slaughterer as follows:
In this 20th century, a perpetrator whose bloodline and lineage is low, who has no insight, who is uneducated, and who has no idea about law, freedom and government, comes into the picture, finds roughnecks like himself – we have a lot of roughnecks in this country – and performs irrational, unconscionable murders and insanities… We worshipped these skunks as chiefs and rulers for years. Now, if we meet with lots of disasters like this, this is the punishment for our actions, we are going to suffer.
This search for the guilty in the upper accolades of the Ottoman state is echoed back, on 21st November 1918, when Yeni Sabah published an article headed “Letter from the Senate to Mr. İbrahim, Former Minister of Justice” and asked the following questions:
Didn’t you get your inhuman orders from the gang by means of going to the house of Talat, who was your patron, early every morning when you were the minister of justice? After the decision by the gang which was called the headquarters of the Party of Union and Progress to deport innocent Armenians from their legal domiciles to exterminate them in a brutal and barbaric way, didn’t you release from prisons the most monstrous murderers, the most bloodthirsty galley slaves who had been sentenced to death in order to realize the killing of the innocent Armenians in the vicinity of their cities, towns and villages?
Tasvir-i Efkâr on 29th November 1918 agrees and writes:
“The people responsible have positions in the upper levels of our polity and their number is very large. Ministers, governors, members of parliament, and especially 250 members of the house of representatives and public servants, are among them.”
We see a change in course in Yeni İstanbul on 30th November 1918 which admits very blandly that “we are all perpetrators”. Zaman, on 23rd November 1918, agrees and writes that indeed “Turkey is under the shadow of a criminal charge.”
Finally, on 26th December 1918, Müşîr İzzet Fuad Pasha writes for the İctihad newspaper:
Disastrous “Unionist” behaviour against humanity which cannot be denied took place. Confession is the only solution. Therefore, an honourable, dignified unhesitating and glorious declaration about this circumstance is the most urgent mission of such a great nation.
In İkdam on 29th December 1918, it is again “the governors who shaped the murders in order to realize their felonious desires were with few exceptions the abettors” and Söz, on 28th December 1918, helps finding the guilty ones by classifying them into seven different categories: (1) persons who actively did evil; (2) persons who operated in secret by using the active ones as lightning conductors – key players of the headquarters of the Party of Union and Progress, heads of country clubs; (3) persons who worked for the secret organization, officers with relatively lower ranks, and soldiers and bullies who were released from prisons; (4) members of parliament who said nothing and even approved and who profited from the killings; (5) journalists and writers who applaud all kinds of murders; (6) persons who pursue profit and wealth; and finally (7) Sycophants.
Just two months before the Turkish court martial begin and amidst heated discussions in the press, the Alemdar’s Refi Cevad (Ulunay) tries to stifle the discussions and writes on 20th February 1919,:
The deportation and massacre problem… is not a complex incident. The problem is very simple. The Union and Progress gang ordered it, it destroyed entire basic elements. It hanged some of them, it cut off other parts and burned and finished the other parts. The mind which thought up this order, the mouth which gave this order, the hand which executed this order, are all in the paw of justice. It doesn’t take any particular investigation to go over this incident with a fine comb.
As we can see in this example, and others quoted above, a close reading of the post-war Istanbul press, then, might lead us to the discovery of vital historical material that might give us pathway into the minds of local and state-level officials, which in turn could maybe help us, historians, answer the ever-begging question of why the Genocide happened and how it was justified internally.
The uniqueness of these Turkish-language sources, produced by state officials or those in close proximity, cannot be exaggerated. As we all know too well, Turkish-language sources are far and few between when they concern the Armenian genocide. Many were either destroyed or are housed in state archives that are very difficult to access for historians with critical scholarship in mind. Just a word of caution, many Turkish scholars are recently falling into the trap of trying to prove ‘the veracity’ of the Armenian genocide with Turkish Ottoman sources or to write a history of the Genocide solely based on Turkish Ottoman sources. As historians, what merit can we draw from such endeavours we might ask?
The Armenian genocide, and this needs to be underlined, is not a disputed historical tragedy, it is a genocide that has been accepted as such by serious scholarship. We do not need to establish its veracity anymore, nor do we need to answer to the denialist historical claims by the Turkish state, this is not why local, Turkish Ottoman sources are so important to us, they are important to understand in historical terms why one neighbour turned against the other, why one people tried to kill the other, and how it was justified internally.
Let us turn now to the Armenian press in Istanbul and glimpse at the Armenian Ottoman perspective of the time.
So far, little attention has been paid to the Armenian press of Istanbul so far and further in-depth studies are needed to really grasp the immensity of historical documentation we find in their many pages. Much can be learned about the Genocide, the massacres in many parts of Asia Minor, and about the perpetrators in charge. The Armenian newspapers also give us much information about the trials of the Unionists and had an important role in informing public opinion.
For example, Aravot newspaper ın 28th April 1919 published information about the trials of the Genocide perpetrators and discussed the worsening conditions of the miserable exiles gathered in Giresun. It also mentioned a request for the restitution of confiscated food. An article by M. Suryan headed ‘Exile and Massacre – Stanoz and Ayaş’ even focused on the Genocide on the front page and gave accounts of the massacres in Stanos in Ankara, which contained 800 Armenian houses, and in Gradz Kar (Kireçtaşı), which was another Armenian village of 20 Armenian houses located in an area one hour away from Stanos. This is what the article writes:
The Armenian men of these two villages were all taken away and slaughtered. The women were sent to different Turkish villages and tortured and abused. In Ayaş Belin a military officer named Zeki with a Sergeant Hurşit from Crete slaughtered 23 (some witnesses gave this number as 33) intellectuals who had been exiled to Ayaş from Istanbul , and then he went to Stanoz. In Stanoz, this bloodthirsty murderer took away all the men from the town in order to satisfy his bloodlust. All of these men disappeared. Some of the first group of them were slaughtered in Stanoz and Ankara and the others were slaughtered a little way from Ankara. In the second group, more than 50 Protestant Armenians were slaughtered. The massacre was carried out at a rocky place in the Belören hills at a place called İncirce, which was an hour’s walking distance away from Stanoz. The bones can be found in the wells of this place.
The article narrates the massacre of the children from Stanoz and the despair of their mothers. It tells of the exact places and methods of the massacres. For example, Dr. Garabed Khan Paşayan, who was the member of parliament from Sivas, died a horrible death: he was slaughtered by having his eyes scooped out. Alongside the article, a murder list is published that incriminates along-side the district governor, police and military offices and even the villagers of Gayi.[xx] The murderers list in Aravot overlaps with the Exterminators list by Patrik Zaven.
Aravot also focused on the fate of the Armenian intellectuals who were exiled from Istanbul to Ayaş on 24th April 1915, in an article headed ‘Corpses of the Martyr Intellectuals’ on its second page. It provided, for example, information regarding the slaughtering of the Armenian leaders and the gaps in the rocks and wells at the bottom of a hill near Baş Ayaş[xxi] village which were used to dispose of the corpses. It requested the Patriarchate to transfer the bones to Istanbul:
We request the Patriarchate to send a priest there and to transfer these corpses to Istanbul under the supervision of the priest. If this is not possible, at least bury them in the Stanoz Armenian Cemetery. At the present time the Stanoz Armenian Cemetery has been desecrated by treasure hunters and looters. The gravestones were used as decoration material in the municipality garden a few years ago. I sent a file regarding the situation to the Patriarchate and suggested taking these gravestones from the municipality garden to the Armenian cemetery in Istanbul – Şişli. The answer was: “We have many things like that.”
Today those gravestones are no longer in the garden. Nobody knows where they went. A cemetery has been lost…
Discussions in the Ottoman Parliament and the Establishment of the Commission of Inquiry
As we have seen in the previous sections, the massacres of the Armenians and their near extermination by the Committee of Union and Progress was brought into question and discussed widely in many Istanbul newspapers after the war. Whether this search for the guilty ones was influenced by the occupation of Istanbul by the Allies and the imminent Turkish court martials raising questions beyond the scope of this article. However, there is another place where silence was broken and guilty ones ready be charged: the Ottoman parliament.
Here the questions of why and how were raised particularly by the Christian members of parliament. Their argument: the Committee of Union and Progress needed a holy war (Jihad) fatwa by the Caliph to ensure the mass participation of Muslims in the war. However, the Committee could not cope with the enemy at the front and could not succeed in winning their ‘holy war’ and therefore applied the Jihad fatwa to the Christian citizens living within their borders.
After long discussions in the parliament led especially by its Christian, one member of parliament from Divaniye, Fuad bey, entered a motion with ten articles on 28th October 1918 asking for the trial of the former government members in the supreme court. This motion was accepted and the first inquiry into the subject was started and an inquiry commission (Fifth Branch) established.[xxii] Very quickly, lawsuits against the people responsible were filed and trials were taking place.
In this spirit, Emmanuil Emmanuilidis, Members of Parliament from Aydın, and who was the chief instigator of these discussions in parliament, said the following about Halil Efendi (Menteşe), the President of Parliament, in the session on 4th November 1918:
I want to emphasize that I feel sadness because of this situation with Halil Efendi (Menteşe), who is one of the people responsible, taking part. I don’t know how you are going to accept his presidency in order to negotiate these problems.
Following his speech, Emmanuilidis Efendi proposed the election of a new president but the proposal was rejected in a secret vote. He then proposed a motion with 8 articles, which was co-signed by Dimitriadis Efendi, who was Member of Parliament from Çatalca, and Mimaroğlu Efendi, who was Member of Parliament from İzmir[xxiii]. The motion is a document of historical significance raising questions about the previous period:
To the Speakership of the parliament;
As you know, in this country in the last five years a series of unprecedented depressing incidents have taken place in the name of government.
1. A million people, including women and children, were killed and disappeared. Their only guilt was their Armenian identity;
2. 250,000 people of Greek origin, who had been citizens of this country for 40 centuries, were thrown out of the Ottoman borders before the general war and their property was confiscated;
3. After the declaration of war, a further 500,000 Greeks from the Black Sea, Marmara, Dardanelles and Aegean coast regions, their vicinity, and from other regions were deported, exterminated and their belongings were plundered and confiscated;
4. Trade by non-Muslims was prevented. A powerful class monopoly took control over trade. In this way, entire peoples were robbed;
5. Zohrap Efendi and Varteks Efendi, who were members of parliament, were killed;
6. Bad behaviour against the noble Arab part of the population was not considered inappropriate, and executions took place;
7. Mobilization was declared. By this means labour battalions were established and 250,000 people in these battalions were killed by means of misery and hunger;
8. The government participated in the general war for no reason. In order to have the fame for this terrible decision they let part of this country go to Bulgaria;
What does the new government know about the perpetrators of this incident? What does the new government think about the essence of the problem? When are you going to take the possible precautions? 2nd November 1918
(Signed by) E. Emmanuilidis (Aydın), S. Mimaroğlu (İzmir), Th. Dimitriadis (Çatalaca)
As we can see from this motion, Ottoman parliamentarians were well aware of what had happened during war and some of them like, Emmanuilidis Efendi, Dimitriadis Efendi, and Mimaroğlu Efendi, were ready to accuse and persecute state officials – and even fellow parliamentarians – for the killings and disappearance of 1 million Armenian, the deportation of 750 000 Greeks and the confiscation of the latter’s properties and of many more war crimes. They were also not shy in pointing out the obvious, that many Muslims enriched themselves with the misery and death of their fellow Ottoman citizens: the non-Muslims. The rise of a new powerful merchant class –so their argument- was only possible when they were able to take over trading from non-Muslims who were henceforth prohibited to do so or had been killed or disappeared.
Soon the Ottoman parliament was closed. According to the Greek newspaper Empros it was seen too much as “discussion platform” and elderly parliamentarians were considered “useless”.
With the closure of the parliament in November 1918, the discussions moved to front pages of various Istanbul newspapers, as we have seen at the beginning of our article.
In the present article we have presented a snapshot of publicly available documents from October 1918- February 1919. These included documents from the parliamentary records of the Ottoman parliament and newspaper articles from various Istanbul news agencies. There are many more vital historical documents, such as these, in the parliamentary records of the Ottoman parliament or in the archives of the historical press of Istanbul. A combined reading of these historical documents gave us an insight into the mind-set of state officials and journalists of the time. And we saw a complicated picture emerging. One that speak of the most atrocious crimes that humanity has seen, but also one that shows us that there was always a way and place to raise one’s voice and help. The question of who is a perpetrator, bystander or rescuer is one that is often raised in this context. There is much leeway for grey zones, and many incidents and stories that are too nebulous to really reconstruct. All of the stories and reports of the state officials mentioned in this article open up more questions. Were they really ‘rescuers’? Or maybe also bystanders at times, and even perpetrators? Why did they feel the need to tell their stories in the local press? Just to witness? Or to position themselves vis-à-vis political opponents? To avoid persecution by the allies? To set the record straight? – We need to look at their accounts again, in more depth and more closely. To mind comes the Turkish feminist, Halide Edib, who had presented herself, in her post-war memoirs, as the savior of Armenian orphans in Greater Syria, but then actually appears in historical testimonies of the time as a someone who assisted “when [Cemal] Pasha was feeding Turkishness with human corpses like a Moloch.” Maybe our main characters too were just presenting themselves as the ultimate ‘good Turks’ but in reality were not all that part of a rescuer saga.[xxiv] But maybe they were, who knows? Our caution, therefore, is to not use these unique historical sources to find the few good among the many bad, which seems to be developing into a new trend in our field of scholarship, but rather to evaluate these historical sources as what they are: subjective narratives that were written at a time when the whole world, including the Ottoman empire, was searching for someone to blame and convict. In retrospective, we can also that this was maybe the last time, when the whole world including –what is now called – the Republic of Turkey was making such an effort.
With Kemal Mustfa’s arrival at the political on the political stage of the empire, not many dared “to speak of the Armenian”. His was a position that did not allow for mourning or victimhood. His was a position that was summarized by his close friend and first prime minister of the Turkish republic as: (…) the Committee [of Union and Progress] which grabbed the government and also foreign intrigues are responsible for all the calamities which transpired in Turkey.[xxv] M. Kemal’s attitude to the Armenians was motivated by tactics[xxvi] and changed with his audiences. In an article he wrote for the Minber newspaper[xxvii] on November 9, 1919, he described the deportations as a mistake on behalf of certain people (and induced by their mentalities). In a later speech at a clandestine meeting of the parliament, we hear him justify the acts by arguing that the Armenians had tried to exterminate the Muslim people. And in a conversation with his close friend Rauf bey, he is remembered complaining that “[i]n America, France and England, killings and other murders are occurring, but none of them are being accused. Only Turks are deemed to be responsible for the massacre of eight hundred thousand of their own people (…).[xxviii]
As M. Kemal Pascha became stronger, he became bolder and a policy of denial and obfuscation gradually emerged. Questions of victimhood, historical justice and morality disappeared like the dead. Turkey became a republic that –veiled in silence – has not mourned its dead. Has not prosecuted its crimes and has not spoken about its past.
The articles in the Istanbul press and of the last proceedings in the Ottoman parliament can give us glimpse at what was spoken about before the veil of silence fell over Turkey. While we cannot speak of them as objective accounts of the Genocide, we can study them as personal stories and opinions of Ottoman state men and officials, or journalists and intellectuals searching for answers at a time when everyone was looking for the murderer. In their search, however, we saw that they did not mourn the dead nor did they not ask for forgiveness but mostly they were looking to put the blame on the shoulders of just a handful of evil perpetrators and free themselves and the general Turkish/Muslim population from the responsibility for the Genocide.
Written with Suzan Meryem Rosita AlJadeeah
Ahmed Emin Yalman, Yakın Tarihte Gördüklerim ve Geçirdiklerim, c.l (1888-1918), İstanbul: Yenilik Yay, 1970.
Ahmet Refik, İki komite İki Kıtal, Ed. Hamide Koyukan, Kebikeç Y. 1994.
Ahmet Refik Two Comitte, Two Massacres, Translate : Racho Donef, Firodol Publshing House, 2006.
Ali Çetinkaya- Mücellitzade, Mülkiye Tarihi 1859-1968, Mars M. 1968-69.
Arsen Yarman, Ermani Etıbba Cemiyeti (1912-1922) Osmanlı’da Tıptan Siyasete bir Kurum, Tarih Vakfı, 2014 s 279-280.
Behiç Erkin Hatırat , TTK, 2010.
Emmanuil Emmanuilidis, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Son yılları, Ed Sait Çetinoğlu, çev. Niko Çanakçıoğlu, Belge Y. 2014.
Rauf Orbay, Cehennem Değimeni,siyasi Hatıralar, Emre Y.1993.
Sait Çetinoğlu, Exterminators Patrik Zaven’in Ermeni Soykırımı Örgütleyicilerin listesi, Péri 2011.
Taner akçam, İnsan Hakları ve Ermeni Sorunu, İmge Y. 2002.
Taner Timur, 1915 ve sonrası Türkler ve Ermeniler, İmge Y. 2007.
Vahakn N. Dadrian- Taner Akçam, “Tehcir Taktil” İstanbul divan-ı harb-i örfîsi’nde ermeni soykırımı konusunda görülen davalar ve kararlar, Bilgi Üniversitesi Y.2008.
Vartkes Yeghiayan, Malta Belgeleri, Ed. Attila Tuygan, çev. Jülide Değirmenciler. 2007.
Yorgo Hacıdimitriadis’in Aşkale-Erzurum Günlüğü (1943) Ed Ayhan Aktar, İletişim, 2011.
Yusuf Kemal Tengirşek, Vatan hizmetinde, Kültür Bakanlığı Y.1981.
Wolfgang Gust, Alman Belgeleri, Ermeni Soykırımı 1915-16 çev. Z. Hasançebi&A. Takcan, Belge y. 2012.
 if not otherwise stated, all translations in the text were done by Serdar Koçman ve Niko Uzunoğlu.
[i] Ahmed Emin (Yalman), who was a journalist in that period, explained the reason for this silence as follows: There was no possibility of criticizing the war policy… Tasks such as Armenian deportation could not be mentioned in any way, a path different than that of The Party of Union and Progress could not have been followed.
[ii] Mr Ref’i Cevad raised questions about the death journey of the Armenians in Alemdar. Because of this, he was put on the list of traitors which was called the “One Hundred and Fifty (Yüzellilikler)” after the Treaty of Lausanne in 1924. After that he was expelled from his home country.
[iii] On 6th November 1922 a squad which was assigned by Mr Sadi, the assistant chief of police, caught Ali Kemal after an adventurous tramway journey near the Serkldoryan passage in the Marcel barber shop. They first took him to a house in Samatya in a commandeered taxi and then they took him to İzmit by motorbike. He was interrogated in İzmit by Necip Ali. Necip Ali after became a member of the Independence Court and also a member of parliament. After that, he was denigrated by “Bearded” Nurettin Pasha, who was the first army commander. Afterwards, Bearded Nurettin gave the following order to Mr. Rahmi (Apak), the Head of the Intelligence Department: “Now find one or two hundred persons and order them to gather in front of the big gate. Order them to lynch and kill Ali Kemal”. Mr. Rahmi, who was weak-hearted and a coward, could not implement this order and could not raise an objection. Therefore, he transferred the job to a military police captain whose name was Bald Sait. The crowd gathered together in a short period of time and descended upon Ali Kemal like “a black cloud”. Ali Kemal hopelessly clung to interrogation officer Necip Ali in for protection from the attack. First he was knifed in the belly and then his head was crushed with stones and sticks. The crowd which killed Ali Kemal did not forget to rob him and to take his ring, gold watch and money. His naked body was pulled through the streets by means of a rope tied to his legs. Pasha Nurettin did this to impress İsmet İnönü, who was planning to pass through Izmit on the way to the Lausanne Conference by train. A gallows was set up above a small tunnel near the station and the dead body of Ali Kemal was hung from it. Also see: http://www.taraf.com.tr/yazilar/ayse-hur/resmi-tarihin-unlu-haini-ali-kemal/369/
Boris Johnson, who is the son of Stanley Johnson, who is the grandson of Ali Kemal, is a parliamentarian in the English Conservative Party. He worked as Executive Editor of “The Spectator” magazine for a period and he won the London Mayorship as the Conservative Party candidate.
[iv] An explanation could be that the Muslims had not yet developed a sense of nationhood in that period. This is the reason for the Holy War declaration (asking for war in the name of Allah) with the Jihad fatwa from the Caliph during WWI. The people who took part in the war in the name of the nation (motherland) were the Ottoman people, who were not Muslim and who had a developed sense of nationhood. The Muslims died in the name of Allah and non-Muslim people went to war for the defence of the nation.
[v] Information in relation to Mr. Celal is given in German documents: “Rößler wrote the following before the Van rebellion on the date of 12th April: ‘After my return, Mr. Celal, the governor of Aleppo notified the following. It is seen that in the Turkish government a current with a tendency to accept all Armenians as enemies or an unreliable group came to the fore’. The Governor commented on this change as a mischance for his country.” 1916-01-03-DE-001 (Gust, 105)
[vi] ‘The General Directorate of Tribes and Immigrants’ is a bureaucratic organization which organised all the logistics of the Armenian deportation. Mr. Şükrü (Kaya) (1883-1959), who became the head of this organization in 1915 worked as the right-hand man of Talat Pasha, the Minister of Internal Affairs. After the civil war, Mr. Şükri was sent to Maltha in connection with the Armenian deportation. Şükrü Kaya, who was released by the English and who thus returned to Turkey, worked as a member of parliament and the Minister of Internal Affairs in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey between the years of 1923 and 1938. He was in the close circle around Kemal until the latter’s death”. (Yeghiayan, 469)
[vii] Mr. Şükrü, the General Director of Tribes and Immigrants, organized the deportation and was involved in it personally. Şükrü appointed Abdullah Nuri, who was a fanatic Unionist and who was the brother of Yusuf Kemal Tengirşek, who was the Minister of Internal Affairs in the Kemalist period, as the General Director of Tribes and Immigrants in Aleppo. The deportations were conducted by Abdullah Nuri. Yusuf Kemal was the Unionist member of the committee which wrote the report on the Cilicia Massacre of 1909. He did not put the Cilicia Report by Babikyan, who was a member of the Ottoman parliament and was disliked by the Unionists, on the parliamentary agenda. Before Babikyan’s questionable death, he is quoted in Kemal’s memoirs as saying the following to Yusuf Kemal: “You are going to be merciful to my children, Kemal, aren’t you?” (Tengirşek, 118). A. Nuri was arrested after the war on a charge of genocide. (Akçam 2002, 572-573).
[viii] Information in relation to the dismissals is given in German documents: “Many Turkish high-level officers were dismissed because they did not accept the things which were done to Armenians. Rößler wrote the following to Mr. Celal, who was one of the most important persons among these officers: “So far, he has not sent any Armenians from the province of Aleppo and he has guaranteed that they will stay calm”. Rößler made a prediction of the future: “The government wants to be a maverick here too.” 1917-05-09-DE-001. (Gust, 121).
[ix] Mahmut Ferit Hamal (1887-1951) is one of the figures symbolic of the continuity between the Unionists and the Kemalists. After he had graduated from law school, Ferit worked as a clerk and member of various courts, and as deputy prosecuting attorney in İstanbul. After 1908, he worked as a party secretary of the Union and Progress Party in Emirgan, İstanbul, and in August 1914, when Germany declared war against Russia, he was one of the group of the İstanbul Union and Progress Party secretaries that had broad authority to secretly organize the gangs of the Special Organization at the Russian border. Ferit Hamal participated in organising the work of the Special Organization at Erzurum, Bayburt, Trabzon and Artvin in that period. At the same time, he was appointed county governor of Borçka, Artvin, for a short period. Later, he joined the battalion of 2000 persons commanded by Yakup Cemil, one of the Unionist strongmen. Gangs of ex-prisoners that had been defeated by the Russians during gang wars, were later appointed for the Armenian Genocide. (Colonel Behiç Erkin, Deputy Chairman of the Army Department of the Turkish Military Academy, said in his memoirs that Yakup Cemil was executed in 1916 because of coup d’état attempt against the government, and indeed Yakup Cemil practised so many cruelties with his gangs that his execution was very right. Erkin , 155). In summer 1915, Ferit was appointed as a political secretary in Konya and organized the deportation there. He was exiled to Malta at the end of the war but after he had been released by the English he went back to Turkey again. In the Kemalist period, Ferit continued his political carrier in the Republican People’s Party. He was the Party supervisor of craftsmen’s associations. In 1939, he was the İstanbul delegate to the great congress of the Republican People’s Party; in 1942, he was the leading commission member dealing with the Wealth Tax, which was one of the final instruments of the economic and cultural genocide. Because of his success in the Wealth Tax commissions, he was chosen as a member of parliament for the Republican People’s Party in 1943 (Aktar, 113-125) .
[x] Teshkilati Mahusa was a widespread secret organization under the orders of Enver Pasha with the aim of carrying out irregular warfare actions within and outside the Ottoman Army. It organized and carried out crimes, such as ethnic cleansing or genocides, against the non-Muslim communities and those considered enemies. Although it started in the last period of the Ottoman Empire, the mentality continued during the Republican era. During the First World War, its manpower was estimated at 30,000 and its executives were among the founders of the new Republic. Teshkilati Mahsusa is a mentality that survived during the CUP, the Kemalist era, and is continuing today.
[xi] Mehmet Hüsni Zadil was discharged from the Konya governorship in October 1918 and retired. In the Kemalist period he was appointed member of the administrative body of the General Directorate of Monopolies and as member of the administrative body of the National Reassurance Insurance Company. He died in an elevator accident when he was a member of the Board of Consultants of the Istanbul Municipality (Çetinkaya, 272).
[xii] Mr. Ali Fehmi was in charge in Akşehir during the Armenian and Greek deportation according to his biography in the Civil High School’s history. Çetinkaya writes that he was murdered near his “Tiny Farm” in Kartal, Istanbul, in May 1919. The reason for the murder could not be determined and the murder could not be investigated by the official authorities (Çetinkaya, 376-377) .
[xiii] In the biography of Mr. Nabi, it is stated that Mr. Nabi, who was in charge of the Konya police department, was killed by militants of the Armenian resistance movement when he was hiding in Kars in 1921 as the deportation defendant (Çetinkaya, 1254).
[xiv] Celal bey sent a health certificate regarding Zohrab Efendi’s stay in Aleppo for additional ten days because of inability to travel to Istanbul (Sublime Porte 245 Ministry of Internal Affairs – Origin: Aleppo Cipher Office, Date of sending: 14th June, date of arrival in the office: 15th of June). It reads as follows: “Zohrab Eefendi will be sent to Diyarbekir. Therefore, he was sent here under custody and he has an illness of shortness of breath so he cannot easily travel. This situation was understood as a result of a medical examination. Therefore, he will be kept here for ten days together with Varteks Efendi with the approval of Pasha, who is here now. Respectfully submitted, 14th June 331.” – Celal, on behalf of the Governor of Aleppo. BOA DAH ŞF 14/36-8
[xv] Uncle Hasan was an opponent of the Party of Union and Progress and in the Kemalist period he was also an opponent of the Republican People’s Party, which was the successor of the Party of Union and Progress. He lived in İstanbul, Sophia and Athens until 1959 in order to hide. In the 1950s, two books by Uncle Hasan, who was working for the Dünya (The World) newspaper, were published with the following titles: “Unborn Freedom” and “Main Entrance of the Regular Army”. After “Unborn Freedom”, three additional books were planned but none of them were published. Uncle Hasan lived the last two years of his life wrestling with illnesses and died in 1961 because of cardiac insufficiency.
[xvi] AGOS, 23rd April 2012.
[xvii] Aram Andonian, (1875, Constantinople – 23 December 1952, Paris) was an Armenian journalist, historian and writer. He edited the Armenian journals Luys (Light) and Dzaghik (Flower) and the newspaper Surhandak (Herald).He then went on to serve in the department of military censorship of the Ottoman Empire. He was arrested by order of interior minister Talat Pasha of the Ottoman Empire on the eve of April 24, 1915 and joined the large number of Armenian notables who were deported from the Ottoman capital. Andonian was deported to Chankiri. Halfway there, he returned to Ankara and was deported again to the camps in Ra’s al-‘Ayn and Meskene. However, he survived in Aleppo in the underground. When British forces occupied Aleppo, a low-level Turkish official, Naim Bey collaborated with Aram Andonian in publishing his memoirs, an account of the deportation of the Armenians. The Memoirs of Naim Bey were published in 1920, and are sometimes referred to as the “Andonian Telegrams” or the “Talat Pasha Telegrams.” The telegrams are purported to constitute direct evidence that the Armenian Genocide of 1915–1917 was state policy of the Ottoman Empire. They were introduced as evidence in the trial of Soghomon Tehlirian.From 1928–1951 Andonian directed the Nubarian Library in Paris, and succeeded in hiding and saving most of the collection during the German occupation of Paris.
Other selected works by him: Shirvanzade (biography of Alexander Shirvanzade), Constantinople, 1911;
Badkerazard endardzak batmutiun Balkanean baderazmin, 5 vols., Constantinople 1912 (Complete Illustrated History of the Balkan War); Ayn sev orerun (Reminiscences of the Armenian Genocide), Boston 1919; The Memoirs of Naim Bey, London 1920.
[xviii] Mr. Ahmet Refik was dismissed from the university during the university redundancies in 1934. The last years of his life were spent in poverty and misery.
[xix] (Refik2006: 45)
[xx] The list of the murderers in Stanos:
The District Governor of Ayaş; Bayraktar Hasan; İbrahim – police officer; Şehirli İsmail; Ziya, the military officer from Crete; Sergeant Hurşit; Bıyığın Ali; Kadir, the military police officer of Beypazarı; Seraylı Hamdi; Bacılı Halil; Kütükçü Hasan; Mustafa, the military police officer of Stanoz; The villagers of Gayi
[xxii] (Dadrian&Akçam, 20-21)
[xxiv] (Yarman 279-280)
[xxv] .(Orbay, 276).
[xxvi] Turkish Historian Timur, who defined Mustafa Kemal as a politician, accepted that the Armenian massacre was performed by the Unionists and he also characterized the massacre as a sordidness on the one hand, but on the other hand he defended the right of the nation, which was put in the position of a slaughtered nation while the truth named it a slaughterer (Timur, 96-97). His position was clearly one of tactics.
[xxvii] “This mistake, which was the product of a few people’s minds, could not have had any other result than upsetting the serenity of these two populations which had lived together as neighbours for centuries in the same country, which participated together in social life, policy, economy and society, and thusly it did not. In all nations of the world fanatics can emerge; naturally this kind of people also exist among Armenians. However, aren’t you becoming more fanatics when you fantasize a more fanatic dream than those pathetic people when you fantasize the extermination of an entire nation by getting angry with a small fraction?”
[xxviii] (Orbay 276).