Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

state here, were perfectly confident, through those mid-April days when Turkey's future seemed so dark, that the triumph of the reactionaries would be but short-lived, that right would prevail, and that within a few days the provinces, strongly supporting the Young Turk cause, would compel the capital to submit to their will. I have postponed the writing of this final chapter until the last possible moment, in order that I might obtain a perspective view of these strange happenings in the Turkish capital. As may be gathered from the preceding chapter, there was a good deal of uneasiness in Constantinople for some time before the outbreak of the 13th. The bitter strife between the Committee of Union and Progress and the Liberal Union weakened the constitutional cause. A newly formed society called the Jemiyet-Mohamedieh (the League of Mohammed) was obtaining a hold upon the Moslem population. It professed to be in favour of the Constitution, but called for a strict application of the Sheriat or Sacred Law. It was the enemy of the Committee of Union and Progress, maintaining that the members of the Committee, including the young army officers, did not observe the precepts of the Koran, and by their irreligious ways set a bad example to the rank and file. These movements afforded an opportunity for mischief to the reactionaries, the men who cared little for religion or country, but desired the return of the absolutism with the corruption on which they had lived. So men from the Palace, together with ex-spies and dishonest Government employes who had been deprived of their posts by the new régime, began to intrigue with success, and were much helped by the fact that many of their own base order had wormed themselves both into the Liberal Union and the Mohammedan League. The Liberal Union apparently took the lead in the plot against the Government, and it became obvious that it was well provided with funds. I am told that for a considerable time before the outbreak the members of this association used to frequent the principal hotel in Pera, and made of it a sort of head-quarters. Here, spending plenty of money, they used to converse plausibly with foreign visitors, including the correspondents of newspapers; for it was part of their aim to gain foreign sympathy—and especially English sympathy—for their cause; their efforts were attended with some success, for while plotting with reaction they prated of liberty, and their arguments to the effect that in the Committee of Union and Progress Turkey had but found a new despotism in place of the old one were convincing to many. The acrimony of the strife between the two parties was much intensified by the assassination of the editor of a Liberal newspaper, presumably by some one in sympathy with the Committee; and as it became clear that the loyalty of the First Army Corps, forming the garrison of Constantinople, was being undermined by the agents of reaction, General Mukhtar Pasha, who was in command of that army corps, began to take due precautions; on April 12 he issued most stringent orders to his men, explaining to them that they were to shoot down even softas and other civilians if ordered to do so by their officers. I have already explained that the fidelity to the Constitution of this army corps, which included the pampered Palace Guards, had been doubtful from the beginning. The Young Turks, after the mutiny in November, had removed some of the least reliable battalions and had replaced them with troops from Salonica. They had intended to greatly reduce the Imperial Guard itself, but had refrained from doing so at the earnest wish of the Sultan. I have pointed out that before the revolution these Palace troops were officered with men risen from their own ranks—alaili—ignorant and faithful men who could be relied on to support their benevolent master the Sultan. The Young Turks had removed these rankers, replacing them with mektebsis, officers who have passed through the military schools, and therefore to a man are supporters of the Young Turk party, many of them being members of the Committee. There is no doubt that the rank and file bitterly resented this innovation, and there grew up a sullen discontent, which subtle agitators who appealed to Mussulman fanaticism could easily fan into a flame. The hodjas and softas were assiduously preaching in the barracks that the Committee was endangering the Moslem faith, and the minds of the men became poisoned against their officers.

But though there was uneasiness in the capital, the counter-revolution came to the citizens as a complete surprise. In the afternoon of the 12th, a British officer, who had just arrived in the capital, visited the various barracks, and found the troops peacefully drilling or performing their other ordinary duties, the officers and men alike seeming happy and contented, and an Inspector of Police of great experience informed him that the city had never been more quiet and orderly. During the early hours of the 13th, while it was still dark, people were awakened by the tramp of soldiery in the streets (successive bodies of men marching in silence), wondered a little what these unwonted movements signified, and then went to sleep again. When they went out a few hours later the citizens found the whole city at the mercy of nearly twenty thousand mutinous troops. The plot had been carefully organised with the same extraordinary secrecy that had characterised the Young Turk revolution of the previous July, and no one save those concerned had any suspicion as to what was about to happen.

Before dawn the troops, after shooting some of their officers and binding and imprisoning others, marched through the streets under the command of their non-commissioned officers, and concentrated in the neighbourhood of the House of Parliament. The Salonica Chasseurs, who, as Macedonian troops, had been regarded as being wholly loyal to the Young Turk cause, took a leading part in the revolt. A large number of marines also joined the mutineers and were guilty of the murder of many officers. When the sun rose the square outside the Parliament House and the Mosque of St. Sophia was packed with the mutineers and a great number of softas and hodjas in their turbans and flowing robes, who harangued the soldiers and inflamed their fanatical zeal. In front of St. Sophia waved the red and green banner of the Sheriat. Brave officers who occasionally arrived to remonstrate with their men were immediately killed.

It was apparent that the revolt had been very carefully planned, and that the troops had received detailed instructions which they obeyed to the letter, and there can be no doubt that they were assured that they were doing as the Padishah wished them to do. Bodies of troops were detached to seize the bridges and the telegraph offices, and dispositions were made to meet resistance from any point. It was made quite clear that the main object of the counter-revolution

« AnteriorContinuar »