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Occupation case studies: Algeria and Turkey
By K Gajendra Singh

"We studied history at school that taught us to say freedom or death. I think you know well that we as a people have our experience with the colonialists." - US ambassador April Glaspie to Saddam Hussein in Baghdad on July 25, 1990.

While formulating foreign policy options, political leaders also look to history for guidance. Unfortunately, the United State's history is only two centuries old, and to meet the challenge of terrorism, Frankenstein monsters partly of its own creation, the mujahideen, jihadis, the Taliban and al-Qaeda , the US can only recall a long genocidal war against its native Americans.

Those who resisted were called "terrorists" for defending their native land and way of life against foreign invaders. There are Hollywood films galore that depict the "American Indians" as savages to be hunted down by the US cavalry.

The same cavalry units now force Iraqis daily to lie face down in the land of their ancestors and describe those fighting to free their country from the occupying forces as "terrorists". The Iraqis, other Arabs and Iranians are the new "American Indians", and those who collaborate with the Bush administration are like the good Indians who helped the Americans fight and defeat bad Indians.

So the display of a seemingly drugged and unwashed Saddam Hussein was to assert white Christian supremacy over the natives. US policy in Iraq and the region is pure and simple, blatant neo-colonization.

After Vietnam and Afghanistan, the Middle East is the new American West. The US administration, scared of Islamic fundamentalism and religious fanatics, has yet to evolve a coherent policy to counter it. But it is turning occupied Iraq into an oligarchy of crony capitalism, after an ill-advised and illegal war on Iraq, set off and egged on by Christian fundamentalists at the core of the administration.

The idea of nationalism - developed by the West - socialism, rule of law, fraternity and equality, have been abolished in the discourse since September 11. But the sturdy plant of nationalism in Iraq cannot be eliminated by going into denial mode. According to Iraqi opposition and other sources, there are perhaps more than 50 different resistance organizations, including Ba'athists, communists, nationalists, cashiered soldiers discarded by the occupation, and Sunni and Shi'ite religious groups, as well as foreign elements. In reality, almost everyone is opposed to foreign occupation.

In an era of nation states based on patriotism and shared history, people just hate occupying powers. While Vietnam's example and its people's fight for freedom and making it a quagmire for US forces has been talked about, Iraq's comparison with post World War 2 Germany and Japan shows little historic understanding. The ground situation and the evolution of the war for independence in Muslim, Arab, and till now secular Iraq, is closer to the wars of independence in Algeria and Turkey.

In a November 2003 report by MEDACT, the London-based affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and Physicians for Social Responsibility, it was estimated that the number of Iraqis killed since the invasion in March was between 20,000 and 55,000, including at least 8,000 civilians, with upwards of 20,000 civilian casualties.

The Algerian war of independence lasted from 1954 to 1962, in which almost every family lost a member, a son, a cousin, a nephew, willingly or unwillingly sacrificed at the alter of freedom, self respect and dignity. After its defeat in World War 1, when the Ottoman empire lay supine under the heels of Allied power in its capital Istanbul with the Sultan Caliph a captive, the national leadership, led by Mustapha Kemal and his comrades, mostly former Ottoman soldiers, aroused the masses of Anatolia to make yet another supreme effort to expel the Greeks and other occupying powers.

Algerian case study
When I arrived in Algeria in 1964 from Egypt as a young diplomat, one saw very few young men between the ages of 14 and 40 years in the streets of Algiers, its capital . One million Algerians out of a population of 11 million had been killed in the war for independence against France. When president Ahmed Ben Bella was ousted by his defense minister Colonel Houari Boumedienne in June 1965, there was almost no violence. Algerians had had enough bloodletting. Ben Bella was quietly taken away from the president's palace, just across from my 4th floor apartment. The Battle of Algiers, now being screened for the benefit of US decision makers, was filmed in 1965.

Like Operation Iraqi Freedom and other US claims to usher democracy into Iraq and the Middle East now, during World War 2, Allied and Axis powers in their Arabic radio broadcasts promised freedom and a new world for the natives. Ferhat Abbas drafted an Algerian manifesto in December 1942 for presentation to Allied and French authorities for political autonomy for Algeria. Following General Charles de Gaulle's promise in 1943 for their loyalty, some categories of Muslims in North Africa were granted French citizenship, but this did not go far enough to satisfy Algerian aspirations. When Algerian nationalist flags were displayed at Sitif in May 1945, French authorities fired on demonstrators. In a spontaneous uprising, 84 European settlers were massacred. The violence and suppression that followed resulted in the death of about 8,000 Muslims (according to French sources) or as many as 45,000 (according to Algerian sources). That laid the foundations for the Algerian War of Independence, which began in earnest 10 years later.

A number of nationalist groups and parties were organized in Algeria even before World War 2, which became increasingly radicalized when peaceful means failed to obtain freedom. A radical paramilitary group, the Special Organization (Organization Spiciale; OS) formed in the mid 1940s was discovered in 1950 and many of its leaders imprisoned. In 1954, a group of former OS members formed the Revolutionary Committee of Unity and Action (Comiti Rivolutionaire d'Uniti et d'Action; CRUA). This organization, later to become the FLN, made preparations for military action. The leading members of the CRUA became the so-called chefs historiques (historical leaders) of the Algerian War of Independence: Hocine Aot-Ahmed, Larbi Ben M'Hidi, Moustapha Ben Boulaid, Mohamed Boudiaf, Mourad Didouche, Belkacem Krim, Mohamed Khider, Rabah Bitat, and Ahmed Ben Bella. They organized and led several hundred men in the first armed confrontations.

The Algerian war of Independence was ignited in 1954 in the Aures mountains. It was at first dismissed as just colonial trouble. The armed uprising soon intensified and spread, gradually affecting larger parts of the country, and some regions - notably the northeastern parts of Little Kabylia and parts of the Aurhs Mountains - became guerrilla strongholds that were beyond French control. France became more involved in the conflict, drafting some 2 million conscripts over the course of the war. To counter the spread of the uprising, the French National Assembly declared a state of emergency.

Jacques Soustelle arrived in Algiers as the new governor-general in February 1955, but his new plan was ineffective. Soon the situation developed into a full-scale war with French military rule, censorship and terrorism and torture. White French and European settlers known as pied noires (black feet) thrice challenged the central government in Paris.

The white European settler population was part of Algeria for generations, perhaps much longer than any other settler community in Africa, with the mother country just across the Mediterranean. The French were almost as numerous as the Muslim Algerians in the main cities and had rendered conspicuous services to Algeria.

A decisive turn in the war for independence took place in August 1955, when a widespread armed outbreak in Skikda, north of the Constantine region, led to the killings of nearly 100 Europeans and Muslim officials. Countermeasures by both the French army and settlers claimed the lives of somewhere between 1,200 (according to French sources) and 12,000 (according to Algerian sources) Algerians. A French army of 500,000 troops was sent to Algeria to counter the rebel strongholds in the more distant portions of the country, while the rebels collected money for their cause and took reprisals against fellow Muslims who would not cooperate with them. By the spring of 1956 a majority of previously non-committed political leaders, such as Ferhat Abbas and Tawfiq al-Madani, joined FLN leaders in Cairo, where the group established its headquarters.

The first FLN congress took place in August-September 1956 in the Soummam Valley between Great and Little Kabylia and brought together the FLN leadership in an appraisal of the war and its objectives. Algeria was divided into six autonomous zones (wilayat ), each led by guerrilla commanders who later played key political roles in the country. The congress also produced a written program on the aims and objectives of the war and set up the National Council for the Algerian Revolution (Conseil National de la Rivolution Algirienne) and the Committee of Coordination and Enforcement (Comiti de Coordination et d'Exicution), the latter acting as the executive branch of the FLN.

Externally, the major event of 1956 was the French decision to grant full independence to Morocco and Tunisia and to concentrate on retaining "French Algeria". The Moroccan sultan and premier Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia, hoping to find an acceptable solution to the Algerian problem, called for a meeting in Tunis with important Algerian leaders (including Ben Bella, Boudiaf, Khider and Aot-Ahmed) who were the guests of the sultan in Rabat. French intelligence officers, however, hijacked the plane chartered by the Moroccan government to Oran instead of Tunis. The Algerian leaders were arrested and imprisoned in France for the rest of the war. This act hardened the resolve of the Algerian leadership and provoked an attack on Meknhs, Morocco, that cost the lives of 40 French settlers before the Moroccan government could restore order.

After the meeting with the Moroccan sultan at Rabat at the end of 1957, Bourguiba again offered to mediate, but the French, deceived into optimism by some recent successes in the field, declined. Bourguiba wanted a peaceful solution, because of growing links between the FLN and Egypt. A Maghrib federation to include an independent Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia was also discussed.

From the beginning of 1956 and lasting until the summer of the following year, the FLN tried to paralyze the administration of Algiers through what has come to be known as the Battle of Algiers. Attacks by the FLN against both military and civilian European targets were countered by paratroopers led by General Jacques Massu. To stem the tide of FLN attacks, the French military resorted to the torture and summary execution of hundreds of suspects. The entire leadership of the FLN was eventually eliminated or forced to flee. The French also cut Algeria off from independent Tunisia and Morocco by erecting barbed wire fences that were illuminated at night by searchlights. This separated the Algerian resistance bands within the country from some 30,000 armed Algerians on the frontiers of Tunisia and Morocco.

Constitutionally declared a part of metropolitan France, the Frenchmen maintained a stubborn belief that Algeria was French, while others wondered why the French were unable to see that their days as rulers in Algeria were numbered. Like other colonists, the sudden descent from the first rank world colonial power was too much. The British in the Middle East after the retreat from India also made the mistake by hanging on to Egypt and even invaded it along with France and Israel in 1956. It ended in disaster.

After their retreat from Indo-China, senior French officers in Algeria took their role with a sense of mission which distorted their sense of proportion and led them in the end to jettison their oaths of allegiance and violation of human rights.

The settler French community arrogated to itself an authority which belonged rightly to Paris. The weaknesses and divisions of the governments of the Fourth Republic in Paris allowed this authority to be enhanced and exercised in Algiers recklessly until the return of General de Gaulle in 1958. Some French governor-generals in Algeria did try to alleviate their repression of nationalism with some economic developments and reforms, but the nationalists' aim was full independence.

In the first phase of the revolt after the defeat of the Faure government in November 1955, a fresh general election installed a minority government led by Guy Mollet. Mollet went to Algiers where he was pelted with garbage by pied noirs, while talks with the FLN leaders remained totally unproductive. A widely respected and liberal General Catroux appointed governor general by Mollet resigned his office without even leaving France.

By May 1956, Mollet felt that he had taken enough risks and in a trial of strength between Paris and the Europeans in Algeria, and Paris might not win. During the next 18 months political attitudes remained rigid, the French army and the FLN established positions in which neither could defeat the other. Terrorism mounted on both sides and even spread to Paris and other cities in France. Torture became a regular instrument of government, with retaliation by the FLN. The impasse seemed to be complete, politically and militarily. The European community's preoccupation with repression left little room for anything else.

On May 28, 1958, Pierre Pflimlin, the last prime minister of the Fourth French Republic, resigned, becoming the sixth victim of the Algerian war. On May 13, Algiers had rebelled against Paris planning to seize power in Paris by a coup on May 30. Most of Corsica had accepted the rebel regime and half the commanders of the military regions in France were believed to be disloyal. Then on June 1 emerged General de Gaulle, World War 2 hero of the French resistance who was invested with full powers. He flew to Algiers on June 4, but kept his cards close to his chest, but he probably saw the inevitable.

By a mixture of authority and ambiguity, he imposed his will and gradually acquired the power to impose a solution. It was a masterly performance, but it took him nearly four years. He did enough to retain the initiative, but would not reveal his plans, thus preventing potentially hostile groups from acting against him until it was too late. He normalized relations with Tunisia and Morocco, agreeing to withdraw French forces from both countries (except from the Tunisian naval base at Bizerta). He transferred from Algeria many senior officers who could not disobey the general. General Salan, a prime rallying point for rebels and leader of the May putsch, temporarily retained his command, but was relieved of his civilian duties.

After preliminary moves and with cautious deliberation, de Gaulle delivered his first major statement on the future status of Algeria in September 1959. He offered a choice (similar to France's colonies in western and central Africa in 1958)between independence, integration with France and association with France. The choice was to be made within four years from the end of hostilities, defined as any year in which fewer than 200 people were killed in fighting or by terrorism. It was followed by another pied noires revolt on January 24, 1960 when the European community opposed even de Gaulle. The revolt was a failure because the French government acted quickly in Algeria and at home. But to Algerians, de Gaulle's offer was no more than a half-way house. The FLN wanted full independence. Support for de Gaulle in France was more widespread in 1960 than in 1958. People felt that the war had gone on for too long and they were opposed to the violent means used.

Henri Alleg's book La Question focused on the use of torture by units of the French army. The trial of Alleg in 1960, followed by the disappearance and murder of the French communist and university lecturer Maurice Audin, the trial in 1961 of the Algerian girl Djamila Boupacha, protests by Roman Catholic cardinals occupying French sees and a manifesto signed by 121 leading intellectuals all contributed to turn French opinion against the settler French community and the French army in Algeria.

Toward the end of 1960 the leaders of the January revolt were themselves put on trial. But still one more settler rebellion occurred, in April 1961, led by four generals, which lasted for four days. Two of the four generals, Salan and Jouhaud, were subsequently sentenced to death in absentia and the other two, Challe and Zeller, who surrendered, were given 15 years imprisonment - all sentences were eventually reduced.

Out of the failed rebellion rose the Organization de l'Armee Secrete (OAS) which resorted to terrorism and by creating among the European population fears of reprisals by an independent Algerian government, provoked (as independence became inevitable ) an exodus which deprived the country of much-needed skills in administration, education and other public services. The lesson was well learnt by leaders in South Africa when it became independent at the end of an apartheid regime.

De Gaulle's efforts in Algeria did not improve relations with the nationalist forces. In September 1959, the FLN proclaimed a provisional Algerian government with Ferhat Abbas as prime minister and the imprisoned Ben Bella as his deputy. It then turned for help to Moscow and Beijing. During 1960 it became apparent that the non-combatant Algerians favored the FLN and its unequivocal demand for independence, which made de Gaulle turn to negotiations with the FLN.

In July de Gaulle, in a televised speech, unequivocally accepted Algerian independence, but the FLN adopted a more assertive line when Yusuf Ben Khedda succeeded a moderate Ferhat Abbas as the head of the provisional Algerian government. In the same month the OAS made an unsuccessful attempt on de Gaulle's life as its activities increased throughout France and Algeria, with rumors of the proclamation of a dissident French republic under General Salan in northern Algeria.

The first secret negotiations held at Melun in June were a failure, but after discussions between de Gaulle and Bourguiba, between FLN leaders and Georges Pompidou (then a private banker) and between the FLN and Moroccans, Tunisians and Egyptians, a conference was called at Evian in Switzerland .The problems were the FLN's claim to be recognized as a government, the right of the imprisoned Ben Bella to attend the conference, guarantees for the French who might wish to remain in Algeria, continuing French rights in the naval base at Mers-el-Kebir, Saharan oil, and the conditions under which the proposed referendum on the status of Algeria would be held.

Negotiations were opened in France with representatives of the Algerian provisional government ( GPRA) in May 1961. GPRA had long been recognized by the Arab and communist states, from which it received aid, though it (communism) was never been able to establish itself on Algerian soil. Negotiations were broken off in July, after which Abbas was replaced as premier by the much younger Ben Youssef Ben Khedda. Settler opposition around the OAS began to employ random acts of terror to disrupt peace negotiations.

The second Evian conference took place in March 1962. On March 18, a ceasefire agreement was signed. The conference also agreed on the terms for the referendum and presuming that the result would favor independence, further agreed (among other things), that French troops would be withdrawn progressively over three years, except from Mers-el-Kebir. France might continue its nuclear tests in the Sahara and retain its airfields there for five years and would continue its economic activities in the Saharan oilfields. France also agreed to continue technical and financial aid to Algeria for at least three years.

This announcement produced a violent outburst of OAS terrorism, but in May it subsided as it became obvious that such actions were futile. A referendum held in Algeria in July 1962 recorded some 6 million votes in favor of independence and only 16,000 against it. After three days of continuous Algerian rejoicing, the GPRA entered Algiers in triumph, as settler Europeans began to depart.

Algeria becomes Independent
On July 3, 1962 Algeria became an independent sovereign state. But its leaders could not remain together. Ben Bella returned to Algiers after six years' absence in prison and joined hands with army chief Colonel Houari Boumedienne to become the first president . But perhaps he alienated colleagues and followers by trying to reorganize the FLN on communist lines and playing a leading role in African and Afro-Asian affairs to the neglect of urgent domestic problems. In June 1965 Ben Bella tried to sideline conservative Boumedienne, now defense minister, but was himself overthrown, with the latter becoming the president. Ben Bella was imprisoned until 1978 and remained under house arrest until 1990. But Algeria remains a violent place and in the bloody confrontation between FLN/army and radical Islamic groups 100,000 Algerians were killed during the 1990s.

Civil wars and Turkey's war of Independence
After the Allied powers' victory in World War 1, the Ottoman government in Istanbul under the 36th and last Ottoman Sultan Caliph Mehmed VI Vahideddin (1918-22) decided that resistance to Allied demands was futile, but there remained many pockets of resistance in Anatolia. These consisted of bands of irregulars and deserters, a number of intact Ottoman units and various societies for the "defense of rights".

At this time, Mustafa Kemal (he became Ataturk "Father of Turks" later ), a hero of the Gallipoli front in the war was sent as Inspector of the army to eastern Turkey. Landing at Samsun on May 19, 1919, he immediately began to organize resistance and was soon joined by other military leaders like Ali Fuat Cebesoy, Kasim Karabekir, Ruaf Orbay, Refet Bele and others with their troops. The Association for the Defense of the Rights of Eastern Anatolia was founded and a congress at Erzurum (July-August) summoned. It was followed by a second congress at Sivas with delegates representing the whole country. A new Association for the Defense of the Rights of Anatolia and Rumelia elected Mustafa Kemal as the chairman of its executive committee to organize national resistance.

But the fire of resistance really flared up when the hated Greeks, with British encouragement, occupied Izmir (May 15, 1919). The Allied plans imposed in the Treaty of Sevres, which the Ottoman representative signed, would have created an independent Armenia, an autonomous Kurdish region, demilitarization and international control over the Straits and Istanbul, with the rest of the country parceled to the Greeks, the French and the Italians. Only a barren northeast rump of Anatolia would have remained with the Turks.

Negotiations were arranged between the Istanbul government and the Kemalists. A new parliament was elected, which met in Istanbul in January 1920. Kemal was against the meeting in Istanbul and stayed back in Ankara. The new parliament passed the National Pact, formulated at Erzurum and Sivas, which called for independence roughly within the October 1918 armistice lines. In response the Allies enlarged the area of occupation in Istanbul (March 16, 1920), arrested and deported many deputies and set out to crush the Kemalists. Most deputies escaped to Ankara and the die was cast.

To establish a legitimate basis of action the Grand National Assembly (parliament) met at Ankara on April 23 and asserted that the Sultan's government was under infidel control. It was the duty of Muslims to resist foreign encroachment. In the Fundamental Law of January 20, 1921, the assembly declared that sovereignty belonged to the nation and that the assembly was the "true and only representative of the nation". The name of the state was declared to be Turkey, and executive power was entrusted to an executive council, headed by Mustafa Kemal, who could now concentrate on the war of independence. Soon the Kemalists were faced with local uprisings, official Ottoman forces and Greek hostility supported by the Allies.

In response to the declarations of the Grand National Assembly in Ankara, the Istanbul government appointed its own extraordinary Anatolian general inspector and a new Security Army, later called the Caliphal Army, in 1920 to enforce its rule and fight the nationalists with British support. The Istanbul and Ankara governments issued fatwas against each other, specially against Kemal. Thus the stage was set for a full civil war. The situation was similar to the chaos in Anatolia in the early 15th century after Bayezit's defeat by Tamerlane, when rival Ottoman governments in Europe and Ankara contested control over Anatolia. The empire was threatened by foreign invasion and the land was infested by local rebellions and roaming bands. And in both cases it was the heartland of Turkish life and tradition, Anatolia, that produced the victor.

In this chaotic and lawless situation, many bands rose to seek wealth and power for themselves, in alliance with one or the other of the governments, sometimes at the instigation of the Greeks, the British, or even the communists. Sometimes the bands represented large landowners who were seeking to regain their power. Most degenerated into little more than bandit forces, manned by a motley assortment of dispossessed peasants, Tatars from the Crimea and Central Asia and Turkish and Kurdish nomads, always ready for a good fight against whoever was in power. These armies became so powerful that on April 29, 1920, the Grand National Assembly passed a law that prohibited "crimes against the nation" and set up independence courts (Istiklal Mahkemeleri) to try and execute on the spot. These courts became a major instrument of the Ankara government to suppress opposition long after independence was achieved.

Most famous of the private armies operating in Anatolia during the civil war was the Green Army (Yesil Ordu), which posed a major threat to all sides. It was organized during the winter of 1920 "to evict from Asia the penetration and occupation of European imperialism". Its members were former unionists, known to and respected by Mustafa Kemal, including its secretary general, Hakki Behic, Bey and Yunus Nadi, an influential Istanbul journalist, whose journal Yeni Gun (New Day) had just been closed by the British. Nadi in 1924 founded the leading newspaper of republican Turkey, Cumhuriyet (The Republic). Its objective was to counter the reactionary propaganda spread in Anatolia by agents of the Istanbul government and the Allies and to popularize the national movement and mobilize the Turkish peasants' support.

So the Green Army was supported and encouraged by Kemal. But many of its members wished to combine unionism, Pan-Islam and socialism and "establish a socialist union in the world of Islam by modifying the Russian Revolution". Soon it attracted a number of groups opposed to the Ankara government, including not only supporters of the Istanbul government but also anti-Kemalist unionists and communists connected with the Third International. This led Kemal to get Hakki Behic to disband the organization late in 1920, though its various anti-Kemalist elements continued to act on their own during the next two years.

There were two other independent armies, both led by Circassians, which were very active. They were mostly formed of Tatar and Circassian refugees driven into Anatolia by the Russians. A left-leaning guerrilla movement led by Cerkes Ethem was at first quite successful against the Greeks near Izmir in 1919. It supported the national movement for some time against the reactionary Caliphal army and the anti-Ankara movements that were active in the eastern Marmara region in 1920.

The other Circassian, Ahmet Anzavur, led a more conservative movement and force with money and arms provided by the Istanbul government and the British. He led two major revolts against the nationalists in the areas of Baliksir and Gonen in October-December 1919 and again from February to June 1920. For a time he even led the Caliphal army and his bands began to ravage the countryside. Kemal chose Cerkes Ethem, who was still with him to defeat and send Aznur on the run in April 1920. Anzavur soon raised a new army, but was defeated and killed and his army dispersed by the nationalists in May, 1920.

Ultimately, Cerkes Ethem became too big for his boots and increasingly rapacious towards the civilian population, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. He had allied with the Green Army, sometimes he supported various communist manifestos being circulated. And he was not inclined to follow Ankara's plans so essential for the success of the new nationalist army being raised. Finally, Kemal sent a major force to destroy Cerkes Ethem's army in January 1921, forcing him to flee to the Greeks and eventually to Italy into exile.

There were also strong local rebellions around Bolu, Yozgat, and Duzce, (halfway between Ankara and Istanbul). The last was led by the Capanoglu Derebey family, which tried to restore its old power. He and his followers were hunted down and dispersed by the nationalists. Its leading members were hanged in Amasya in August 1920. Such movements and revolts did not subside, even after the establishment of the republic. It took time to reduce the old family and tribal forces that were revived by the civil wars.

And finally there were the communists, with Russia sending propaganda literature into Anatolia. Kemal was opposed in principle but took little action initially as he needed the Bolsheviks' help. He even tolerated a number of communist activities during 1920, including a new joint communist-unionist organization in Ankara called the People's Communist Party (Tiirkiye Halk Istirakiyun Firkasi), which enabled the communists to come out publicly in Turkey for the first time.

It had some connection with the Green Army. On October 18, 1920, to please the Russians, Ataturk even allowed the formation of a separate Turkish Communist Party (Tiirkiye Komiinist Firkasi). But it was manned mainly by some of his close associates from the assembly. It was less radical than the first group and was used by the government as a tool to divide and confuse the communist movement and its supporters.

But when the former became too active it was suppressed. It had issued a joint declaration with the Green Army and Cerkes Ethem that they had "approved the Bolshevik party program passed by the Third International ... and joined to unite all the social revolutionary movements in the country", and adopted the name Turkish People's Collectivist Bolshevik Party. Communist agents became active around Ankara and Eskisehir and cooperated with unionist groups in Erzurum and Trabzon, which were centers of Enver Pasha's supporters throughout the war for independence.

This forced Ataturk to criticize the communists for working outside the organ of the people, the Grand National Assembly. After crushing the Green Army and chasing out Cerkes Ethem, he now turned on the communists. Their leaders were tried, but the final sentences were suspended until after a treaty was signed with Moscow in March 1921. As Russian support was important, the sentences were relatively light. The only violent action against the Turkish communists came when communist Mustafa Suphi and others entered Anatolia via Kars in December 1920. Though they met with top nationalist leaders like Ali Fuat and Kazim Karabekir at Kars in January 1921, they were arrested soon and sent by boat to Erzurum for trial. On the way they were assassinated by a group of pro-Enver supporters from Trabzon, apparently because of the fear that Suphi might expose Enver's plans.

As for the dashing Enver Pasha and his colleagues Cemal and Talat, who had led the Ottoman empire into World War 1, they fled from Istanbul on November 2, 1918, on a German freighter going to Odessa. Then they went over to Berlin, but lived under assumed names, since the victors had demanded their extradition for the "crimes" of their regime. Soon they were invited by Karl Radek to continue their work in Moscow, with full Bolshevik support for the "Turkish national struggle". Talat, who remained in Germany, was killed by an Armenian assassin on March 15, 1921. Cemal and Enver went to Moscow and later to Central Asia, where they undertook a series of political activities with the ultimate intention of using the Bolsheviks to regain power in Turkey once the nationalists were defeated.

With Bolshevik encouragement, Enver proclaimed the organization of the Union of Islamic Revolutionary Societies (Islam Ihtilal Cemiyetleri Ittihadi) and an affiliated Party of People's Councils (Halk 'uralar Firkasi), the former as the international Muslim revolutionary organization, the latter as its Turkish branch.

In early September 1920, he attended the Congress of the Peoples of the East at Baku. But while Ataturk generally encouraged Enver, hoping to use him to get Bolshevik aid, he never trusted him. Enver had some groups of supporters in Anatolia, including about 40 secret unionists in the assembly, working to install Enver in Ataturk's place at an opportune moment. Enver moved from Moscow to Batum in the summer of 1921 when the Greek offensive began, hoping to enter Anatolia if Ataturk nationalist forces were defeated. But following Kemal's victory over the Greeks at Sakarya (September 1921), Enver abandoned Turkey and went into Central Asia to lead its Muslims against both the British and the Russians. He was killed in a battle with Russian forces near Ceken while pursuing his pan-Turanian mission.

What was the role of the Sultan in the conflict? According to Sir Horace Rumbold, British ambassador in Istanbul, the Sultan did not understand the nationalists or their movement. He thought a handful of brigands had established complete ascendancy and stranglehold on the people as a whole. The Ankara leaders were men without any real stake in the country, with which they had no connection of blood or anything else. Kemal was a Macedonian revolutionary of unknown origins. Bekir Sami was a Circassian. They were all the same, Albanians, Circassians, anything but Turks. There was not a real Turk among them. The real Turks were loyal to the Sultan, who had been hoodwinked by fantastic misrepresentations, like his own captivity. They looked for external support and found it in the Bolsheviks. The Angora leaders might discover and regret too late that they would bring on Turkey the fate of Azerbaijan.(which was taken over by the Bolsheviks).

In the meantime, Kemal organized his national army to fight for Anatolia's independence, trained, disciplined and armed at a new officers' school established in Ankara. Russian arms and ammunition began to flow across the Black Sea in increasing amounts. In Istanbul after the Allied occupation a new and well-spread group was organized among the remaining civil servants and officers and called the National Defense Organization (Mudafaa-i Milliye Tefkildtt) to send information, arms and equipment to the nationalists.

During 1920-1921, the Greeks had made major advances, almost to Ankara, but were defeated at the Battle of the Sakarya River (August 24, 1921) and began a long and hasty retreat that ended in the Turks regaining Izmir (September 9, 1922) and the expulsion of Greek forces from Anatolia. The total dead in the war was; for Turks, 10,000 dead in fighting and 22,000 from disease. Greek dead and wounded were estimated at 100,000. During World War 1, with the front with Russian forces shifting in northeast Anatolia where Armenians were encouraged and hopeful of an independent state, terrible killings took place involving all sides. It continued even after wars. In the World War 580,000 Ottoman soldiers died, half from disease. Turkish official history calculates that 300,000 Armenians were killed. An Ottoman war crimes tribunal set up by the victors gives a figure of 800,000. But Armenian historians allege that 1.5 million died, practically the entire Armenian population in Anatolia.

The Kemalists had already begun to gain European recognition. On March 16, 1921, the Soviet-Turkish Treaty gave Turkey a favorable settlement of its eastern frontier by restoring Kars and Ardahan. Problems at home induced Italy to withdraw from the territory it occupied; and by the Treaty of Ankara (Franklin-Bouillon Agreement, October 20, 1921), France agreed to evacuate Cilicia (Adana region). Finally, by the Armistice of Mudanya, the Allies agreed to Turkish reoccupation of Istanbul and eastern Thrace.

A comprehensive settlement was eventually achieved at the Lausanne Conference (November 1922 - July 1923) which negated the Treaty of Sevres. The Turkish frontier in Thrace was established on the Maritsa River and Greece returned the islands of Gokge and Bozca. A compulsory exchange of populations was arranged, as a result of which an estimated 1,300,000 Greeks left Turkey in return for 400,000 Turks. The question of oil rich Mosul was left to the League of Nations, which in 1925 recommended its retention by Iraq. But Turks have never been reconciled to the loss of Mosul. The Lausanne Treaty also provided for the apportionment of the Ottoman public debt, for the gradual abolition of the Capitulations (Turkey regained tariff autonomy in 1929), and for an international regime for the Straits. Turkey recovered complete control of the Straits by the 1936 Montreux Convention.

On October 29, 1923, Turkey was declared to be a republic and elected Mustafa Kemal as its first president. The Caliphate was finally abolished on March 3, 1924, and all members of the Ottoman dynasty were expelled from Turkey. A full republican constitution was adopted on April 20, 1924; it retained Islam as the state religion, but in April 1928 this clause was removed and Turkey became a laic (secular) republic.

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Email Gajendrak@hotmail.com

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Jan 7, 2004



 

 
   
         
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