Page images

for the cause which they represent. One person is made a Governor General, another is appointed Commissioner of the local police, a third occupies the post of public prosecutor, a fourth commands the military forces, a fifth is at the head of the gendarmes. Military officers of high grades are especially favoured. In a word, all the strategical positions in the Empire are in the hands of Committee-men; and, so long as the army or a noteworthy section of it can be counted upon, all will be well. To this end the most strenuous endeavours of the Committee have been directed. For instance, every lever has been moved in order to atone for the policy which led to the loss of Tripoli. The Committee announced its resolve to throw overboard Hakki Pasha, who, as Grand Vizier, was technically responsible for that policy; but the disgraced Grand Vizier made no secret of his amusement at the comedy. Again, it was on the point of dismissing the War Minister, Mahmoud Shefket Pasha, and substituting for him the brave, generous, and honest General Nazim Pasha, whose beneficial activity as Vali of Baghdad it had systematically paralysed a short time previously. But more helpful and noteworthy than this was the vigorous and really splendid effort it made to organise resistance to the Italians in the invaded province. There everything that the instinct of self-preservation could prompt and enterprise sharpened by fear could execute has been done to expiate the criminal neglect which cost Turkey her most orthodox vilayet, and to uphold the honour of the army. But resistance to Italy was vain from the day on which Mahmoud Shefket Pasha, yielding to the advice of the Grand Vizier, Hakki Pasha-who in turn had taken counsel of the German ambassador, Baron Marschall von Biberstein-had withdrawn the troops from Tripoli. That insensate act entailed the abandonment of the province either to Italy or to her ally. What has since taken place could have been and was foreseen by politicians of average sagacity.

So long as the struggle continues, the chiefs of the Opposition will accept implicitly the government which the Committee has given them, and loyally co-operate with it for the prosecution of the war. But not much longer. Their standpoint, as they propounded it to me, is this: If we cannot drive the Italians into the sea,

they cannot drive us out of the desert and effectively occupy the invaded province for a long time to come. Meanwhile they must spend vast sums in prosecuting the war. If, then, we can protract the contest indefinitely, Italy will be bankrupt. This perspective, as soon as it looms in sharp enough outline, should, and probably will, compel the Italians to modify their hasty resolutions and make peace on terms less odious than annexation. Anyhow the experiment must be made, for it is a practical corollary of the present situation, and is indispensable to the dignity of the army.'

Italy, on the other hand, naturally eager to put an end to the drain on her soldiers and her treasury, holds that now is the acceptable time for peace. She has made it known that every reasonable demand of Turkey, short of the retention of the Sultan's suzerainty over Tripoli, will be favourably entertained. The religious supremacy of the Caliph will be recognised readily and upheld strictly by the Italian Government. Economic advantages of great value are also held out to the Turks; and a lump sum of money will be paid down ostensibly as an equivalent for the pious endowments known as Vakoofs, but in reality as a quid pro quo for the territory annexed. In a word, Austria's line of action in 1908 will be followed by Italy in 1911. Possibly a further condition will be proposed by Turkey and agreed to by the Marchese di San Giuliano, in the shape of a guarantee of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, to which the adhesion of the other Great Powers interested in the Near East will be duly requested by and by.

To negotiations for peace on these terms the Turkish Opposition, if I may judge by the emphatic statements made to me by its leaders, will offer an energetic demurrer. And the Opposition of to-day consists of something more than the scattered elements of a possible parliamentary group. It is a party with ramifications throughout the Empire, and organs to carry out the behests of the central board. One of the main internal sources whence its foe, the Secret Committee, hitherto drew strength was its admirable machinery for action. In this respect it was unique. No other political party in the Empire could boast an organisation. The Greeks, the Bulgars, the Armenians could and would have organised them

selves better even than their adversaries; but the PanTurkish authorities forbade them. Every effort of the Christian nationalities in this direction was frustrated; and the dissentient Turks who might have bound themselves together were sluggish. Over and over again I had received from Colonel Sadik Bey, from Lutfi Fikri Bey, and from other prominent patriots in Constantinople, the assurance that they were working at the problem, and that they and their friends would soon appear as a political entity with all the organs essential to vigorous party life and spirited action. But somehow the achievement, for which the date had more than once been fixed, failed to redeem the promise. At last the unexpected happened. On November 27, Damad Ferid Pasha obtained from his brother-in-law, the Sultan, permission to accept the presidency of the new Opposition, whose vice-president is the celebrated Sadik Bey. And on his return from the Dolma Baghtshe palace, the Pasha unfolded to me at length, in words of praiseworthy moderation, the patriotic aims of the new party and the legitimate means by which they intend to pursue them.

Meanwhile the men of the Secret Committee continue to give a distinctly Hamidian savour to the revolting absolutism which has grown up and thriven under their shadow. Of the abhorrent methods of this régime, which is unique in constitutional history, the western reader, for lack of trustworthy data, cannot form an adequate idea. Secrecy veils the origins of the most nefarious designs; and a cloud of factitious circumstance effectually hides or obscures the accompaniments of their execution. It has been credibly asserted that the Committee, misnamed of Union and Progress,' whose professed aim is the furtherance of fraternal relations among the warring elements of the population, actually compassed the extermination of culture-bearing sections of the Greeks, the Bulgarians and other nationalities. Men of honour claim to have been present at the time when these resolutions were adopted by the Committee. Winged words and historic phrases uttered by some of the speakers are textually quoted. That is one part of the evidence. In assassination and persecution we are told to seek the other. Not once, but on several occasions the ways and means of carrying out these

nefarious designs are credibly affirmed to have been discussed in council. At first wholesale massacre, after the manner of Abdul Hamid, was planned; and more Armenians were slaughtered at Adana under the shadow of the Committee than at Moush, Bitlis or Constantinople under that of the 'red Sultan.' But it was soon perceived that European public opinion would not brook these exhibitions of sickening carnage, whereupon quasiprivate assassination by hired desperadoes was resorted to.

The Metropolitan Archbishop of Grevena and one of his deacons were thus put to death and shockingly mutilated a couple of months ago. Long lists of Greeks, Bulgarians, Armenians, waylaid and slain by 'unseen hands,' have been presented to me by the heads of the Christian communities in the Empire; here four individuals laid low, there three or two, at another place one. The dagger and the revolver had no rest night or day; and the assassins invariably made good their escape. Some of them carried hardness of heart so far as to challenge the men whom they had designed as their future victims to complain to the Minister of the Interior!

Nor are the Christians the only victims of these political assassins. The Turks themselves, whenever they dared to protest against this outrageous policy, were done to death without scruple or remorse. Examples are so numerous that selection is difficult. One day a friend of mine, a well-known member of the Committee of Union and Progress, was presiding at one of its secret meetings when the life of Prince Sabah Eddine was demanded. That young and generous Prince, the Sultan's nephew, had incurred the wrath of the Vehmgericht by preaching equality for all races and creeds, and exhorting the Government and its reckless patrons to abandon a line of action which was manifestly pregnant with national disaster. My friend, resolved to frustrate the scheme, protracted the debate throughout the night and finally, before the resolution could be put to the vote, adjourned the sitting. Subsequently Prince Sabah Eddine quitted his country, and is now residing in Paris until the reign of terror is over.

The tragic death of the intrepid Turkish journalists, Zekki Bey and Samim Bey, and the escape of Mouhtar

Bey, will one day form instructive and unedifying chapters of the history of the Turkish revolution. All these and other public workers whose names were in the list of the proscribed, received warnings of their approaching end. Take one case as typical. The narrative was told to me by the best friend of the murdered publicist. Samim Bey, a man whose probity and civic virtue, aided by the marvellous power he had of drawing men towards him, gave dignity and weight to the efforts of Turkish patriots to establish good government, received the warning for the first time one afternoon as he was on his way to Kandili, a village on the Bosphorus about an hour from Constantinople. He was seated at a table in a restaurant when an officer, whose name I possess, rose and said: 'Samim Bey, you won our hearts by the sterling services you rendered our cause in bringing about the deposition of Abdul Hamid. You have a lion's heart. And now I have weighty tidings to give you. Your journal ("Sedai Milet "*) is the organ of the Greek patriarch. You are conducting a campaign in it against the Committee. Unless you cease from that campaign and quit that journal, the executive of the Committee has resolved that you shall die. But it has also decided to give you a warning and a reasonable time to make your choice.'

Samim Bey made answer: By advocating friendship between Turks and Greeks, Moslems and Christians, I believe I am furthering the vital interests of my country. Therefore your threat will have no effect upon my action, as you shall see. That is my answer to the Committee.' 'Your words pain me,' exclaimed the Committee's delegate, for they entail your death.'

That scene was enacted thirty-one days before the murder. A fortnight later, another delegate of the Committee, whose name I also possess, delivered the same message to Samim Bey in the restaurant of Yani in Pera, the only difference being that he twice took an oath saying: 'I swear, Samim Bey, that this is no empty threat. It is grim earnest.' These words were uttered in the presence of Shefket Bey Kibrizli, grandson of a

*The Way of the People.'

This was a falsehood; but whoever is not with the Committee is labelled a traitor and is generally accused of being in the pay of the Greeks.

« PreviousContinue »