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The programme of the Young Turk party—The need of a strong army—The development of Turkey's resources— Taxation—The political programme of the Committee of Union and Progress—The Turkish electoral law—The elections—The attitude of the Greeks.
FoR some time before the elections for the Turkish Parliament took place, the Committee of Union and Progress was at great pains to explain its programme as fully and clearly as was possible to the people. From the articles which appeared in the newspapers of the party and the conversations which could be had without difficulty with members of the Committee one was able to form a fairly complete conception of the principal aims of the reformers. The title of the Committee, “Union and Progress,” well sums up these aims. Turkey is to be made strong and free, respected by the nations, first by union—by the union of all natives of Turkey of whatsoever creed or race. They are to enjoy equal rights. No advantage is to be given to any religion. The Young Turks announced that this tolerance was not to be merely a passive one, that where
Christian populations had no churches or schools these would be provided for them at the expense of the State, and that in these schools the teaching of such national languages as Albanian or Servian would be permitted. In the second place, Turkey is to be made strong by progress— the regeneration of a people whose energies have been sterilised by a long oppression, the restoration of prosperity to an impoverished land. The people are to be educated, and the vast resources of the country are to be developed. Instead of dreaming of impossible social reforms, the Young Turks have very practical ends in view. In the first place, they recognise that it is essential to the existence of Turkey that she should possess a strong army, as otherwise her very progress may prove her ruin, arousing the cupidity of those of her neighbours who have already divided among them so much of her rich land. So Turkey, having no desire to sow that others may reap, is determined to create an army equal in strength to that of any of the great military Powers. To possess such an army the Turks are prepared to make great sacrifices. The exemption from conscription enjoyed by certain cities and districts will be withdrawn gradually. The Moslems will no longer bear the \ whole burden of the conscription; for the future the Christians also will have to serve in the army, and the view of the Turkish Generals with whom I have spoken is that there should be no formation
of exclusively Moslem or exclusively Christian regiments, but that men of different creeds should be mingled in each unit. The Greeks, who want all the rights of Ottoman citizenship without its obligations, entertain a strong objection to service in the Turkish army. But Turkey cannot maintain a great army without money, and money she can only obtain by developing her vast mineral and agricultural resources with foreign capital. Under the old régime Court intrigue made all industrial enterprise precarious, and foreign capitalists were chary of ventures in a country where rights of property were so insecure. But by means of the good government which the Young Turks are introducing they hope to gain the confidence of foreign investors. They realise that, to quote from a Constantinople paper, “Turkey cannot have reform without money or money without reform; foreign capital she must have in order to carry out the reforms, and foreign capital will not come in until there is a satisfactory assurance that the reforms will be carried out, that the money provided will be spent properly and not be stolen and wasted as it was under the old régime.” The programme of the more necessary reforms was set forth with some detail by the Press of the Young Turk party during its electioneering campaign, and the abolition of the old corrupt
system of administration, whereby bribery and bakshish had to supplement the inadequate pay —often years in arrears—of the servants of the State, was of course insisted upon. The following are among the more important of the projects recommended by the Young Turk party —(1) The construction of many thousands of miles of roads to open out the country; at the present time some of the railway lines are of very little service, as roads to bring to them the produce of the neighbouring country at moderate cost are wanting. (2) The construction of four thousand kilometres of railway; certain railways are urgently needed if the enormous mineral wealth of the country is to be developed by foreign capital; the difficulties of transport now prohibit mining enterprise in most richly mineralised districts. (3) The bringing under cultivation again of the formerly productive arable districts in the Vilayets of Salonica, Smyrna, etc. (4) The construction of commercial ports at Dedeaghatch, Samsoun, Mersina, etc. (5) The construction of irrigation works in Mesopotamia and elsewhere; there are thousands of square miles of uncultivated land in Turkey only awaiting irrigation to make them exceedingly productive. (6) The engaging of French engineers to make navigable waterways of the Vardar, Maritza, Boyana, and Kizil-Irmak. (7) The foundation of an engineering college, coupled with a scheme for sending students who
have gained diplomas to Europe to gain practical knowledge. (8) The formation of navigation, commercial, and industrial companies, with the object of forwarding the prosperity of the country. It is outside the scope of this book to deal with the complicated question of Turkey's financial position, which, according to the experts, is not so unsatisfactory as was at first supposed; but there are, of course, immense difficulties to be overcome before Turkey can see herself fairly started on the road of progress. The late régime burdened her with obligations which stand in the way of all attempts at reform; but these obstacles might be removed by the co-operation of the Powers interested. Whenever some measure for Turkey's good is proposed there seems to jump up some capitulation or some privileged interest of one Power or another to block it hopelessly. The Bagdad railway concession, for example, with its kilometric guarantee, is like a millstone round the neck of Turkey. The Young Turks recognised that if their country was to be regenerated and to take its place among the nations the revenues would have to be greatly increased with the least possible delay. As to ways and means, the following may be taken as summing up some of the views which I heard expressed by Turks and others whose opinion carries weight. In the first