Thursday 21 September 2017 Last Update: 03:49 PM

The Spread of the 1909 Adana Events to Marash and the Judgements by the Marash Court-Martial Customary

Published: 06-09-2017


Ass. Prof. Dr. Nejla Günay

In 1908, Abdulhamid II declared a constitutional monarchy again. The government of the constitutional monarchy passed laws about equality and put them into force.

Armenians took action for these laws to be implemented and they started to open their hidden committees and societies, express their demands they had put forth beforehand, and openly implement their activities about Armenian independence. They even produced various symbols signifying these. The picture of a girl symbolizing Armenia and symbols ornamented with flags showing provinces like Van, Harput, and Diyarbakır as Armenia were drawn on cigarette papers and were used among people. The government ordered that products with such kind of symbols to harm the single nation politics of the government not to be definitely passed from the customs (BOA, DH. EUM. THR. 7/2). Some behavior of non-Muslim elements was creating unrest before the government. For example, the fact that Armenian representatives were preparing lists about the dismissal of officers and presenting these to the government were not taken kindly (BOA, DH. MKT. 2910/41). These behaviours of Armenians were disturbing Muslim citizens. The fact that some governors ignored the sensitivity of the society and gave close attention to Christians did not please some Muslims (Bağdatlıoğlu, 1942: 17).

The declaration of a constitutional monarchy was celebrated with the festivals arranged by both Turks and Armenians. However, the influence of clergies who had lost their excitement for the new regime in a short while and the unpleasantness for the various deeds of the government led to anxiety in the public. Each new regulation was triggering a clash of ideas between modernists and traditionalists and the reaction of the traditional groups (Kara, 2001: 47). The scholars, who did not have the power of stopping the innovation politics that the state started, tried to regain their lost reputation by attracting those with religious tendency in the society. Therefore, a state which seeks for the emancipation in modernization on the one hand and a society which finds each innovation attempt meaningless or at least is unaware of what is being done on the other hand, appeared (Okutan, 2008: 262).

The conflict continuing between Muslims and Christians on religious grounds since very old times appeared as a conflict in political grounds between Muslims who support the old regime and those who support the revolution, and this influenced the elections. In the 1908 elections, Muslims gained the majority and left Christians out. Christians who got angry at being defeated in the elections started to put all the blame on Muslims and reject the Basic Law. According to their claims, the government arranged the election places in a way which would make a Christian majority impossible. Christians were also saying that the threatening of violence and massacres caused the voters collectively to stay away from ballot boxes in many regions. However, the real reason behind the failure of Christians was that they did not support each other’s causes and did not do co-operation (Kansu, 2009: 273).

Another issue affecting the relations of the society with each other was economics. There were land disagreements especially between Armenians and Muslims. This disagreement reached to serious dimensions in Adana (Saharai 2011: 98-102). After a general amnesty was declared after the constitutional monarchy, many Armenian guerrillas got the opportunity of going back to their lands. The government had made it free for weapon trading and import just as “it made everything free” (Cemal Pasha, 1996: 359; Dadrian, 2007:215). This gave way for the people to get armed. Armenians were able to easily import weapons and bullets to the country by benefitting from the large freedoms that the constitutional monarchy administration gave to them (Sonyel, 1988: 1267). Along with all these, priest Muşeg’s various activities disturbing Muslims caused unrest in Adana. On the other hand, the fact that some newspapers in Adana made publications provoking the people, affecting the views of Muslims and non-Muslims about each other, played a great role in the breaking out of the events (BOA, DH. MKT., 2863/34).

The events starting in Adana on 14 April 1909 spread to the nearby regions in a short amount of time. Events also broke out in places like Antakya and Marash which were part of the Aleppo Province. After the events taking place in Marash in the beginning of May, the government declared martial law on 14 May 1909. This gave results in a short time and the events started to calm down and they completely ended on 25 May. The government decided on sending an investigation committee to Marash. Sadık Pasha, who was the Aged Soldier’s Battalion Commander of Iskenderun, was appointed to the chair of the committee. Many people were arrested and kept under surveillance to prevent the events from starting again (BOA, DH. MUİ, 2-1/11). The government also, on the other hand, started an aid campaign for thos and put this into force. The decisions on the decree released on this issue were as follows (İnkılab, 31 July 1909):

1- For the construction of temples, schools, and houses burnt during the unrest, the protection of those who are homeless and the provision of tools and materials for agriculture and industry shopkeepers, a fund of 20 thousands liras for the Aleppo Province, and of this, 100 thousand liras for the Adana Province has been granted.

2- A separate 100 thousand liras has been granted by the government for the artistry, trading, and agriculture class, who were damaged during the events, to be able to run their businesses again.

3- The Minister of Finance is responsible for these orders to be implemented.”

As a result of the studies of the military law committee, the names and addresses of those engaged in the events were determined. While some of these were arrested and tried, some escaped. Among those who escaped, there were 28 Armenians from Zeytun, 1 Armenian from Marash, and 38 Muslims (BOA, DH. MUİ, 98-2/15). Also, 60 people who were determined to have escaped after being involved in the events in Adana were arrested in Marash (Tanin, 30 May 1909).

The Marash Military Law Court rapidly completed the trials and concluded the cases. According to this, those who provided powder and weapon were accepted as first degree criminals in the breaking out of the events. Serkis and Ispator, who were determined to have brought powder from abroad, from the Alabaş Village of Zeytun, and Tüfekçi Bayezidoğlu Ali Usta who sold powder, were each punished with three years of hard labor. The grocery shopkeeper’s son Mehmet, Delioğlanoğlu Ökkeş (BOA, DH, MUİ, 33-2/1), Hacı Efendi’s son Mehmet, and Ökkeş’s son Hüseyin, who committed murder, were each punished with 15 years of hard labor; and Haşiroğlu Veli’s son Abdullah, who helped Hüseyin, was punished with four years of hard labor (BOA, DH. MUİ, 2-4/35). Çilingir Bilal’s son Veli, who provoked people and committed murder, was punished with the death penalty (BOA, İ. ASK, 1327/Za-80). The Marash Military Law Court tried many more people and punished them with various penalties. It is seen that those who committed murder or injured people were punished with 3-15 years of hard labor in the trials. Those who were guilty of seizing and looting were punished with 3-5 years of hard labor and the properties stolen were returned to their owners (Günay, 2009: 66-699).

To be able to investigate the events taking place in Göksun County, the traveller inquiry commission was sent to the region by the Marash Military Law Court. As a result of the studies of this commission, it was determined that the events mostly took place in the Anacık Village. Halil’s son Bayram, Küçük Ali from Tokmaklı Village, Köşker Bekir’s son Durdu (BOA, İ. ASK, 1327/Ş-69), Kara Ali, Veli Ahmet, and Süleyman who were determined to have committed murders and injured people were punished with the death penalty (BOA, DH. MUİ, 43-1/13). The court punished other people tried with 3-15 years of hard labor according to their crimes, in Göksun. The Marash Military Law Court also did studies about the events which took place in the Kişifli Village. Those who committed crimes such as murder, looting, and burning were punished with various penalties. These penalties were 1-15 years of hard labor and the penalty of death (Günay, 2009: 71-74).

At the end of the investigation that the court conducted in Zeytun, it was determined that some people of Zeytun founded societies and engaged in political activities and some of them produced weapons. From the Zeytun Armenians, whose trials were completed, and most of who were on the run, 20 were sentenced to 3-6 years of hard labor. Arabacı Garabet who was determined to have provided arms was sentenced to 10 years. It was decided that the Armenian representative Vagarşak Efendi was sent into exile for the crime of abusing his duty, and the Property Director Asador Efendi was to be dismissed from the civil service and to be banished from Zeytun for the same crime (BOA, İ. ASK, 1327/Z-21). On the other hand, on the grounds that they were guilty in the events, the Zeytun governor of the time, İbrahim Pasha, was decided to be banned from civil service for 3 years; Mehmet Efendi and İshak Ağa from former policemen and guards were first decided to be dismissed and then to be retired. This decision was implemented when İbrahim Pasha was dismissed from his duty as the Antakya governor on 26 November 1909 (BOA, DH. MUİ, 43-2/4).

After the events ended in Marash and the trials were completed, the government decided that the Marash Military Law Court was to be abolished. This decision was put into force on 21 October 1909 after the approval of the Sultan (BOA, İ. ASK. 1327/L-16). It is seen that the grounding on the crimes committed was paid attention to as the result of the trials by the Marash Military Law Court. It is seen that the fact that the criminals were Muslims or Armenians was not considered and Muslims and Armenians with the same crimes were sentenced with the same penalties. The court punished everybody involved in the events. Those who provoked the events and committed murder were punished with the heaviest penalties such as the death penalty and life-long imprisonment. The execution of death penalties was carried out in a short amount of time (Günay, 2009: 87, 90).

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