CHAPTER III

FIRST STEP IN YOUNG TURKS’ PROGRAM (1908-1911)

 

TO COMPREHEND this narrative thoroughly, one must remember that the East is unchangeable. The Turks of to-day are precisely the same as those who followed Mohammed the Conqueror through the gates of Constantinople on May 29, 1453, and they have amply demonstrated that they do not differ from those whom Gladstone denounced for the Bulgarian atrocities of 1876. Those who are building hopes on any other conception will be deceived; they will be painfully deceived if they make treaties or invest large sums of money on Western ideas of the Oriental character.

I am neither “pro-Greek,” “pro-Turk,” nor anything except pro-American and pro-Christ. Having passed the most of my life in regions where race feeling runs high, it has been my one aim to help the oppressed, irrespective of race, as will be shown by documents submitted later, and I have won the expressed gratitude of numerous Turks for the aid and relief I have afforded them on various occasions.

I am aware of the many noble qualities of the Turkish peasant, but I do not agree with many precepts of his religion, and I do not admire him when he is cutting throats or violating Christian women. The massacres already enumerated are a sufficient blot upon the Turkish name. They were made possible by the teachings of the Koran, the example of Mohammed, lust and the desire for plunder. They sink into insignificance when compared with the vast slaughter of more recent years, conducted under the auspices of Abdul Hamid, Talaat and Company, and Mustapha Khemal.

It should be borne in mind, however, that it was not until after the declaration of the constitution that the idea “Turkey for the Turks” took definite shape and developed into the scheme of accomplishing its purpose by the final extinction of all the Christian populations of that blood-soaked land—a plan consistent with, and a continuation of, the general history of Mohammedan expansion in the ancient home lands of Christianity.

At the time of the declaration of the constitution in 1908, I was in Athens. My first intimation of the event was a procession of Greeks carrying Hellenic and Ottoman flags, marching through the streets on their way to the Turkish legation, where they made a friendly and enthusiastic demonstration.

The idea in Greece and the Balkans generally was that the constitution meant equal rights for all in Turkey, irrespective of religion—the dawn of a new era. Had this conception proved true, Turkey would to-day be one of the great, progressive, prosperous countries of the world. The weakness of the conception was that in an equal and friendly rivalry, the Christians would speedily have outstripped the Ottomans, who would soon have found themselves in a subordinate position commercially, industrially and economically. It was this knowledge which caused the Turks to resolve upon the extermination of the Christians. It was a reversal of the process of nature; the drones were about to kill off the working bees.

During these days a member of the Turkish Cabinet made a speech at Saloniki, advocating the closing of all the foreign missionary schools, as well as native Christian, arguing: “If we close the Christian institutions, Turkish institutions will of necessarily spring up to take their place. A country must have schools.”

Immediately after the fall of Abdul Hamid, I was transferred to Saloniki. There was great rejoicing over the fall of the “Bloody Tyrant,” and the certainty prevailed that the subjects of Turkey had at last united to form a kingdom where all should have full liberty to worship God and pursue their peaceful occupations in security. The fall of Abdul Hamid had been made possible by the cooperation and aid of the Christians.

But the latter — Greeks, Bulgars, Serbs — were soon cruelly disillusioned. A general persecution was started, the details of which were reported to their various governments by all the consuls of the city. This persecution first displayed itself in the form of sporadic murders of alarming frequency all over Macedonia, the victims being, in the beginning, notables of the various Christian communities. A favorite place for shooting these people was at their doorsteps at the moment of their return home. It became evident that the Turkish Government, in order to gain control of the territory, was bent upon the extermination of the non-Mussulman leaders. Many of those murdered had been prominent in the anti-Abdul movement.

From the extermination of notables, the program extended to people of less importance, who began to disappear. Bevies of despairing peasant women who bad come to visit the vali (Turkish governor) and demand news of their husbands, sons or brothers, appeared on the streets of Saloniki. The answers were usually sardonic; “He has probably run away and left you,” or “He has probably gone to America,” were favorite replies. The truth, however, could not long be hidden, as shepherds and others were soon reporting corpses found in ravines and gullies in the mountains and woods. The reign of terror, the Turks’ immemorial method of rule, was on in earnest, and the next step taken to generalize it was the so-called “disarming”. This meant, as always, the disarming of the Christian element, and the furnishing of weapons to the Turks.

An order was issued that all persons must give up their guns and other weapons, and squads of soldiers were sent out through villages to put this edict into effect. That the object was not so much to collect hidden arms as to terrorize the inhabitants was soon made evident from the tortures inflicted during the search. Bastinadoing was a favorite measure. The feet of the peasants, accustomed to going barefoot, were very tough; they were therefore tied down and their toes beaten to a pulp with clubs.

Another form of torment frequently resorted to by the “Government of Union and Progress,” was tying a rope around the victim’s waist and slipping a musket between the body and the cord and twisting until internal injury resulted. Priests were frequent victims of this campaign of terror and hate, the idea being to render them ridiculous as well as to inflict hideous suffering. The poor creatures were made to stand upon one foot while a soldier menaced them with a bayonet. If the priest, finally exhausted, dropped the upraised foot to the ground, he was stabbed with the bayonet.

The prisons were bursting with unfortunate people existing in starvation and filth. An American tobacco merchant related to me that a prominent Greek merchant disappeared from the streets and for several days screams were heard issuing from the second story of a certain building. This Greek was not killed, but was finally released. He showed the American round pits all over his body. He had been tied naked to a table and hot oil dropped on him. When he had asked, in his agony, “What have I done!” his persecutors replied, “We are doing this to show you that Turkey has been freed for the Turks.” He was doubtless let go to spread the glad news.

A well-known British correspondent, a pro-Bulgar, stated that he had sent reports of these persecutions to the British press, but could not get them published. He had the obsession that the reason was because the whole British press was owned by Jews, but it is not easy to follow him in this deduction. The true reason is to be found in some government policy of the moment.

It was this indiscriminate persecution of Greeks, Bulgars and Serbs which drove them into the same camp and enabled them to chase the Turk out of Macedonia, even though they did fall at one another’s throats as noon am they got rid of the common enemy. Any one inclined to doubt the veracity of the above description must understand, if he knows anything of Balkan matters, that it needed a pretty serious state of affairs to cause Greek and Bulgar to fight on the same side.

The persecution to which all the races in the Empire were subjected, with the exception of the Turks, is well-depicted in the following article in the “Nea Alethia”, a conservative journal published in the Greek language, in Saloniki, which used all its influence in favor of harmony and moderation. The following is from the issue of July 10, 1910, or about two years after the declaration of the famous “Constitution”:

“Before two years are finished a secret committee is unearthed in Constantinople, with branches all over in important commercial towns, whose intentions are declared to be subversive of the present state of affairs. In this committee are found many prominent men and members of Congress. All discontent seen in the kingdom has its beginning in this perverted policy. Our rulers, according to their newly adopted system of centralization upon the basis of the domination of the ruling race have given gall and wormwood to all the other races. They have displeased the Arabs by wishing them to abandon their language. They have alienated the Albanians by attempting to apply force, though conciliatory measures would have been better. They have dissatisfied the Armenians by neglecting their lawful petitions. They have offended the Bulgarians by forcing them to live with foreigners brought purposely from other places. They have dissatisfied the Serbians by using against them measures the harshness of which is contrary to human laws.”

But for us Greeks words are useless. We have every day before us such a vivid picture of persecution and extermination that however much we might say, would not be sufficient to express the magnitude of the misfortunes, which since two years have come upon our heads. It is acknowledged that the Greek race ranks second as a pillar of the Constitution and that it is the most valuable of those contributing to the prosperity of the Ottoman fatherland.”

“We have the right to ask, what have we, Ottoman Greeks, done that we should be so persecuted? The law-abiding character of the Ottoman Greeks is indisputable. To us were given promises that our rights would remain untouched. Despite this, laws are voted through which churches, schools, and cemeteries belonging to us are taken and given to others. Clergymen and teachers are imprisoned, citizens are beaten, from everywhere lamentation and weeping are heard.”

“With what joy we Ottoman Greeks hailed the rise of the 10th of July! With what eagerness we took part in the expedition of April, 1909! With what hopes we look forward even to-day to the future of this country! It is ours, and no power is able to separate us from it.”

“The Greeks are a power in Turkey; a moral and material power. This power it is impossible for our compatriot Turks to ignore. When will that day come when full agreement will exist between the two races! Then only hand in hand will both march forward, and Turkey will reach the height which is her due.”

The following is from my Saloniki diary, dated December 11, 1910:

“Wholesale arrests, in some of the towns all the prominent citizens being thrown into jail together.”

“Series of assassinations of chiefs of communities, in broad day, in the streets. Fifty prominent Bulgarians thus shot down, and many Greeks.”

“The following figures were obtained from a report of the Turkish Parliament and locally confirmed:

In the Sandjack of Uskub, 1,104 persons bastinadoed; Villayet of Monastir, 285 persons bastinadoed; Saloniki, 464 persons bastinadoed; (of these 11 died and 62 were permanently injured.) Casas of Yenidje-Vardar, Gevgeli, Vodena, 911 persons were bastinadoed.

All the prisons are crowded with Christians; many have fled into Bulgaria and thousands of men, women and children are hiding in the mountains.”

This was the state of affairs two years after the declaration of the Constitution, and it was this common suffering which Greeks, Bulgars and Serbians endured, which drove them together and forced them to declare the First Balkan War, in October of 1912, in which the Turk was practically driven out of Europe until Christian statesmen of the Great Powers brought him back again. Turkish power has always been built upon Christian dissension and aid.

In the (at that time) pro-Turk “Progres de Saloniqne”, a journal published in the French language at Saloniki, appeared an article which expresses a state of feeling among Oriental peoples which has taken great distension since the date of the article (July 22, 1910). What was then a fire bids fair now to grow into a general conflagration, due to the building up, by Christian powers, of the sinister puissance of Mustapha Khemal:

“In the space of three years,” says the article, “the Orient, twice and from its two extremities, has marvelously astonished the civilized world: first, by the great victory won by the Japanese over the strongest of Occidental peoples, and next by the wonderful revolution in Turkey! In fact, it is a marvel, which is being accomplished to-day! There is no comparison between the Orient of to-day and that of ten years ago. What is more curious is that this Oriental movement has taken the form of two separate currents, which, starting from the two extremities of the Orient, are going to meet and their points of junction will be, in all probability, India.”

“At the head of these movement will be found the peoples belonging to the same race—the Mongolians. Each one possesses the unquestionable title to the moral and intellectual supremacy of the great countries over which their influence extents.”

“The Japanese are incontestably at the head of the peoples professing Buddhism, the doctrine of Confucius, etc.; the Turks, defenders of Islam for centuries, are the incontestable leaders of the people professing Islamism. Therefore, the two movements, starting from the two extremities of Asia, from the Bosphoros and Tokio, go spreading, each one in an appropriate field prepared in advance by history itself to accept it, then, since they are essentially the same, they will unite at their point of junction, to form a common and formidable Asiatic current. With this in view, the Occident is feeling uneasy and agitated.”

Immediately after the reestablishment of the Constitution, then, the first step of the dominant race was to solidify its supremacy by measures of suppression, oppression, and murder. The Turks also deliberately undertook to force all the non-Turkish races to become in language, laws, habits and almost all other particulars, “Ottomans.” (Professor Davis’ “Short History of the Near East”)

It is exactly this policy, in operation, which is referred to in the clipping from the “Nea Aletheia”, quoted above. A more foolish project was never conceived by the mind of man—that of forcing whole nations to change their languages and habits overnight. The impossibility of this scheme becomes all the more evident when the reader reflects that an inferior civilization was attempting to impose itself upon a superior one. The Turk never had any intention of giving equal liberty to all the peoples who were so unfortunate as to be in his power. Failing to “Turkify” them, as it has been called, his only next alternative was to massacre and drive them out, a policy not long in developing.

 

 

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