The Ottoman Documents and the Genocidal Policies of the Committee for Union and Progress (İttihat ve Terakki) toward the Armenians in 1915 Taner Akçam Abstract

The author analyzes the Ottoman Archives as a source of information on the Armenian Genocide of
The Ottoman Documents and the
Genocidal Policies of the Committee for
Union and Progress (_
Ittihat ve Terakki)
toward the Armenians in 1915
Taner Akc¸am
University of Minnesota
The author analyzes the Ottoman Archives as a source of information on the
Armenian Genocide of 1915. He discusses the contradictory positions of two broad
groups of scholars on the reliability of these archives, concluding that the Ottoman
Archives agree with the information found in the archives of the United States,
Britain, Germany, and Austria. He discusses the various categories of Ottoman
documents, which mostly came out during the trials related to the Armenian
Genocide, which took place from 1919 to 1921, and makes clear that there was a
wide-ranging cleansing operation of the archives after the armistice in 1918. The
author explores the reliability of this evidence and, based on the existing documents
that remain, tries to reconstruct the structure and implementation of the genocide.
He concludes that the Ottoman documents clearly show the genocidal intent of the
Ottoman authorities and puts the Armenian genocide within the broader context of
an overarching plan to homogenize the ethnic population of Anatolia.
This article seeks to shed light on the issue of the ‘‘cleansing of the Ottoman archives’’
and to summarize some of the remaining documents, which could be classified as direct
evidence illustrating the genocidal intent of the policies enacted by the Committee for
Union and Progress (CUP) against the Armenians in 1915.1
The Categories of Ottoman Materials
Seven categories of Ottoman documents attest that during World War I, the CUP
maintained and executed a policy of extermination toward the Armenians:
(1) The Prime Ministerial Archive (Bas¸bakanlık Ars¸ivi), and especially the
archives of the Ministry of the Interior. When scholars speak commonly of the
‘‘Ottoman Archives,’’ they essentially refer to the archive in Istanbul known
as the Prime Ministerial Archives, or BOA (Bas¸bakanlık Osmanlı Ars¸ivleri).
The documents of the Interior Ministry there are considered the most
(2) Trial transcripts of the cases brought before the Military Tribunal (1919–1921)
against the central and provincial directors of the CUP, as published in the
official register of court cases, the Ottoman Gazette (Takvim-i Vekayi). Of the
twelve chronicled cases, we have complete transcripts of the two trials against
the responsible members of the CUP’s Central Committee, the ‘‘Special
Organization’’ (Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa), and the trial of the wartime cabinet
ministers, comprising the minutes of the hearings, indictments, and final
Taner Akc¸am, ‘‘The Ottoman Documents and the Genocidal Policies of the Committee for Union and
Progress (_
Ittihat ve Terakki) toward the Armenians in 1915.’’ Genocide Studies and Prevention 1, 2
(September 2006): 127–148.  2006 Genocide Studies and Prevention.
court rulings, fourteen in all. In one of the trials, that against the Party
secretaries (Katib-i Mesuller), only the first three of thirteen hearings,
along with the final ruling, were published in the Ottoman Gazette.
The remaining nine trials are documented either only as final court
rulings, as in the Yozgat and Trabzon trials, or as Sultan’s Approvals,
as in the Erzincan and Bayburt trials.
(3) The Istanbul press, 1919–1922. Contemporary newspapers published
detailed information about sixty-three separate trials, including complete
transcripts—which appear nowhere else—of the Erzincan and Bayburt trials.3
The criminal charges included the murder and deportation of Armenians
and the misappropriation of their possessions. Presented at length were
eyewitness accounts by such highly placed individuals as Third Army
Commander Vehip Pasha, Governor Celal of Aleppo, and ‘‘Circassian Uncle’’
(C¸ erkez Amca) Hasan, the officer in charge of Armenian ‘‘resettlement’’
in Syria.4
(4) The Archives of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem are the only known repository
of the documents and trial files of the Commission for the Investigation of
Evil Acts (Tedkik-i Seyyiat Komisyonu),5 along with the Military Tribunals
(Divan-ı Harb-i O¨ rfi). Armenians employed by the Military Tribunals during
the armistice years made handwritten copies of these documents, the originals
of which are missing. Even though the documents in Patriarchate archive are
handwritten copies, they are very valuable and can be considered first-hand
sources, since we can verify their authenticity.6
(5) The Minutes of the Fifth Department’s (Bes¸inci S¸ube) Inquiry Commission,
established in November 1918 by the Ottoman Chamber of Deputies (Meclis-i
Mebusani) to investigate the allegations against government officials during
the war years.7
(6) Minutes of the Ottoman Parliament during November and December 1918,
when the Armenian deportation and murders were the subject of intense
debate in the Senate (Meclis-i Ayan) and the Chamber of Deputies.
(7) Memoirs and certain diaries, including those published soon after the event.
There may be memoirs yet to be published.
It is not an exaggeration to say that there exists a double standard among
historians on the assessment of these documents. Just as with the Armenian Genocide
itself, two factions have formed around different assessments of the abovelisted Ottoman materials. Those who defend the ‘‘official Turkish thesis,’’ which
considers the events of 1915 unexpected consequences of the relocation during the war
years, rely exclusively on the Ottoman documents in the Prime Ministerial Archive
(Bas¸bakanlık Ars¸ivi) as the only trustworthy source. This faction not only distrusts the
US, British, German, and Austrian documents as politically motivated distortions of
the events but also considers the documents presented in points (2) through (7) above
unreliable. Most Western scholars, meanwhile, maintain that only the Western
archives are reliable, while the Ottoman archival materials in the Bas¸bakanlık Ars¸ivi
have been sanitized in order to cover up the genocide and are thus unreliable.
These scholars have used the materials presented in points (2) to (7) extensively to
corroborate the thesis of genocide.
My central argument in this article is that there is no major contradiction
either between different Ottoman materials or between Ottoman and foreign
Genocide Studies and Prevention 1:2 September 2006
archival materials. It is therefore erroneous to assume that the Ottoman documents
(the term refers here mostly to documents from the Prime Ministerial Archive) were
created solely in order to obscure the actions of the Ottoman government. In fact, as I
will show in a further article intended for this journal, they contain information that
runs completely counter to the official Turkish thesis, elucidating the intent of
Ottoman authorities and how the genocide was organized. Ottoman archival materials
support and corroborate the narrative of the Armenian Genocide as shown in the
Western archival sources. We should therefore change our selective approach to the
Ottoman materials, which is based on the belief that they are trustworthy only when
they confirm our positions, and begin to consider the archival materials as a whole.
The Matter of the Destruction of Documents
The following statement was published in the 7 November 1918 issue of the daily
newspaper Sabah: ‘‘Despite being researched by the government,’’ documents relaying
information about the ‘‘Armenian massacre have not been found’’; before abandoning
his office, ‘‘it is probable that Talaˆt Pasha and the officers under his command
had burned all documentation of the general directives regarding the massacres.’’8
The news was accurate.
The reliable sources cited below indicate that some of the documents from that era
were stolen or destroyed. The most explicit of this information can be pulled from the
indictment of what has come to be called the ‘‘Main Trial,’’ which is the action brought
against the directors of the CUP in the Istanbul Military Tribunal. The prosecutor’s
office stated that three separate groups of documents had been either destroyed
or ‘‘purloined.’’ The first group consisted of documents of the ‘‘Special Organization’’
(Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa), which were nowhere to be found. In the indictment, the words
of the prosecution are as follows: ‘‘Investigation of what had occurred reveals that
important documents pertaining to this office (Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa) … have been
The second group consists of documents belonging to the Central Committee of
the CUP. The prosecution’s indictment states that, again, ‘‘all of the documents and
ledgers of the Central Committee have been purloined.’’ Thus, in various hearings
led by the prosecution, witnesses Midhat S¸u¨kru¨, K. Talaˆt, and Ziya Go¨kalp would all
testify that the documents of the CUP had been taken by Central Committee member
Dr. Nazım. From those hearings:
Judge: The Union and Progress Party, which was transformed into the Reformation
Group [Teceddu¨d Fırkası] at the direction of the Central Committee, were the official
registers and other ledgers belonging to the Central Administration transferred to the
Reformation Group?10
Midhat S¸u¨kru¨ Bey: Of course, sir. However, later I heard that unfortunately
Dr. Nazım Bey had taken them. I learned that from conversations with other officials.
Judge: Was that investigated by the Reformation Group?
Midhat S¸u¨kru¨ Bey: No, sir. At the formation of the Reformation Group, your humble
servant was questioned; I was called before the Central Committee and questioned
about a document. Based upon the testimony of a Records official, it was learned that
the entire document had been taken by Dr. Nazım Bey.11
Another Central Committee member, Ziya Go¨kalp, was to give similar testimony:
Judge: It is being said that important documents such as these were removed by
Dr. Nazım Bey. Is that true?
The Genocidal Policies of the Committee for Union and Progress
Ziya Go¨kalp Bey: Your humble servant heard from the office of the general secretary
that Dr. Nazım Bey asked for the documents related to the society’s history. He had
reportedly said that he’d brought them from Europe and that he was taking them
for safekeeping. The office said, ‘‘Fine, then take them.’’ I heard this afterwards from
Midhat S¸u¨kru¨ Bey. However, even later, when I was in prison, I found out that they had
removed the other documents. Apparently, it turns out he’d taken all of the documents
in a trunk. I learned that later.12
The third group is composed of certain documents from the Ministry of the Interior
(Dahiliye Nezareti). In order to understand this category, one need only look at
the indictment: ‘‘Aziz Bey, former Director of General Security, revealed with solid
evidence and testimony that was laid out in a memo from the esteemed Ministry of
the Interior that important reports and information taken from the office by Talaˆt Bey
prior to his resignation were not returned afterwards.’’13 Thus, many memoirs of
the era recite an incident in which Talaˆt Pasha, prior to escaping out of the country,
had gone ‘‘to the shores of Arnavutko¨y, to the home of a friend … with a suitcase full
of documents’’ and ‘‘proceeded to burn them in the furnace on the first floor of the
Removal of documents was not confined to the Unionists; many documents
were taken out of the country by German officers. Despite promising that he ‘‘wouldn’t
take any documents’’ with him when returning to Germany, Hans F.L. Von Seeckt,
president of the Ottoman General Staff during the war years, did exactly that.
On 6 November 1918, Sadrazam Izzet Pasha made a vocal protest concerning the
removal of documents, and Berlin responded with promises to return the records,
but nothing was returned.15
It is also important to note that the removal and destruction of documents did
not occur solely during the post-war period. Directives sent by the CUP leaders by
telegram were ordered to be destroyed. In a telegram dated 22 June 1915, bearing
Talaˆt Pasha’s signature but issued by the Office of General Security, sent to all of the
regional and governor’s offices, instructions are given on how to behave toward those
who, in the process of being expelled, converted to Islam. After this message the
telegram includes the ‘‘demand that the copies of this telegram be seized from the
telegraph office and destroyed after this notice has been confidentially communicated
to those necessary.’’16
There are other sources of information that tell us that the directives sent to
the regional offices were ordered destroyed. For example, the indictment mentioned
earlier, for the trial of the directors of the CUP, states that the telegram sent to
the governor of Der Zor, Ali Suat, was ordered to be destroyed after it was read.17
In another case, during the third hearing for the Yozgat trial, on 10 February 1919, the
judge read out the statement given by the witness, Kemal, mayor of Bog˘azlayan, before
the investigating committee during the course of his arrest. The statement established
that the telegrams sent to Kemal had been ordered destroyed after being read.18
In the hearing on 24 March, the judge reminded Kemal of his statement ‘‘before the
Commission for the Investigation of Evil Acts [Tedkik-i Seyyiat Komisyonu] that some
of the documents related to the deportation had been ordered to be destroyed after they
were read.’’19
One other piece of evidence that the directives containing orders to annihilate
Armenians were ordered destroyed comes from Ahmet Esat (known today by the name
Esat Uras), director of the Second Precinct of the Office of General Security. Esat, who
was arrested by the British authorities, gave a statement that the many directives
regarding annihilation of the Armenians had been sent out to the regional governors
Genocide Studies and Prevention 1:2 September 2006
by couriers who had been ordered to read the messages and then return with the
originals, which were to be destroyed upon return.20 This information would be
confirmed by similar testimony from Yozgat Governor Cemal. In his written statement
to the aforementioned commission on 12 December 1918, Cemal reported that ‘‘Necati
Bey (Secretary to the Union and Progress party for the region) came to Yozgat… [H]e
executed the letter, signed by Governor Atif Bey, which he held in the palm of his
hand … I demanded the letter in question from the aforementioned Necati Bey but
he wouldn’t give it.’’21 This statement would be confirmed by similar testimony by
Governor Cemal at the eleventh hearing in the Yozgat trial on 5 March 1919. Cemal
stated that Party Secretary Necati showed him an order for the annihilation of the
Armenians and that, upon his request, Necati refused to hand over the paper; he only
showed it. This was also the written statement of Cemal to the aforementioned
The Destruction Continues after the War
Once it became clear that the war would end in defeat, the process of destroying
documents continued unabated. For example, the following testimony is taken from
the Istanbul Military Tribunal hearing that took place on 3 June 1919 for the trial
against members of the cabinet. The witness is the former minister of postal services,
Hu¨seyin Has¸im, and he is testifying as to how the documents from the War Ministry
were destroyed:
Judge: As was understood from the testimony given by the officials from C¸ atalca,
in their defense regarding the issuance of a directive to burn and destroy all
communications by telegraph, do you have any recollection as to why this directive
was issued?
Haˆs¸im Bey: I cannot remember anything, although there was in fact a notice from
Headquarters about the prevention of military communications falling into the hands
of the enemy. It was done in furtherance of that no doubt. In fact some of the telegrams
weren’t burned but were shredded and sold. It occurred two to three days before your
humble servant was working at the ministry. The ministry was dispatching accounting
department officials to the Military Tribunal and demanding that they be burned.
It’s likely that it’s related to that business. Your humble servant doesn’t recall.
Judge: Sir, it was related only to military communications?
Haˆs¸im Bey: Yes sir, it had to do with military communication and nothing else.
Military communication along with communications with headquarters.23
The individual referred to by the judge, the former deputy director of the C¸ atalca
Postal and Telegraph Office, Osman Nuri Efendi, would be prosecuted for burning
documents. His trial began on 4 August 1919. The defendant testified that ‘‘I was
following orders when I burned some documents. Under the authority of my
supervisors I was to burn certain documents from one year to another and I did.’’
We know that these documents related to military matters. [It is unknown what the
final judgment was.]24
After the defeat in war, the burning of documents continued during the armistice
period. Upon the resignation of the cabinet of Talaˆt Pasha, the new cabinet under
Ahmet Izzet Pasha was formed on 14 October 1918. Izzet Pasha took on the role of
minister of war. The first action the Pasha took was ‘‘to order the Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa
[Special Organization, otherwise known as the ‘Eastern Bureau’ within the Ministry of
War at the time] to stop all activities, destroy their archival records … .’’25 Ahmet Esat,
director of the Second Precinct of the Interior Ministry, gave similar testimony to the
The Genocidal Policies of the Committee for Union and Progress
British: ‘‘Just before the treaty to lay down our weapons, the staff went into the
archives at night and cleaned out most of the records.’’26
Nor were documents destroyed only in Istanbul during the armistice period.
Orders were sent out to the regional offices to destroy the documents in their
possession. Refik Halid Karay was the general director of the Postal-Telegraph Office
during that time. When Karay’s memoirs of the period were published in Aydede
magazine in 1948, he received a lengthy letter from H. Sadik Durakan, a longtime
employee of the Postal Telegraph and Telephone Office (PTT). Later, when Karay
compiled his work into a book, the letter was published in full, unedited. Here is an
I wish to recount to your honor, an event which I witnessed at that office during the
armistice period. As you know, following the Mondros Armistice agreement, the armed
forces of the Allied powers, coming in from all directions, began to capture and invade
our land. During this invasion, thinking that the documents and communications which
were in the possession of the PTT Central offices would be targeted, and in an attempt
to prevent those documents from falling into the hands of the enemy, Mehmet Emin
Bey, sending an official telegraphic notice to all of the offices, ordered that all official
documents, copies of telegrams and their originals, which were in our possession,
be completely destroyed.27
It is apparent that some of these telegrams fell into the hands of British forces.
On 24 October 1919, a telegram sent by the Ministry of the Interior to the Antep
regional office was in fact intercepted by the British. The telegram orders that all
original telegraphic messages sent to the region since the mobilization for war began
be destroyed.28 On 17 June 1919, the then minister of foreign affairs, Safa Bey, while
protesting the interception of communications in the presence of the British High
Command, admitted that a notice had been sent to the towns and townships of the
telegraph office of Diyarbekir to destroy all original documents received by them
between 1914 and 1918.29
Despite the fact that there was a systematic effort to cleanse certain documents
from the archive, no matter how thorough the effort may have been, a complete
purging of any trace of Ottoman policies toward its non-Muslim populations was
nearly impossible to achieve. While destroying all the records of the CUP, for example,
might be feasible, doing the same for all the communications that went back and forth
between the Ministry of the Interior and all the regional offices is another thing
altogether. A memo sent to one office was not registered only there but was
disseminated to other offices so often that the probability of its appearance elsewhere
is extremely high.
Although annihilation of the Armenians came onto the agenda as a party policy,
deportation was taken up as a state policy, and the entire state mechanism was put
into play in order to execute that policy. As a result, hundreds and thousands of
written communications were sent between state offices, between the smallest towns
and villages and their regional offices, and between those regional offices and the
highest political decision-making bodies. It would be impossible to destroy all that
Measures against Armenians Were Part of a General Population Policy
The available documents from the seven sources listed above lead inexorably to a
single conclusion.30 Before World War I, the CUP formulated a policy that they began
to execute in the Aegean region against the Greeks and, during the war years,
Genocide Studies and Prevention 1:2 September 2006
expanded to include the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Syrians, and especially
the Armenians, a policy that eventually became genocidal. The main goal of this
policy was, in the CUP’s own words, ‘‘liquidating the concentrations of non-Turkish
population that had accumulated at strategic points, and which were susceptible
to negative foreign influences.’’31 The origin of this plan (or plans), which I call ‘‘the
homogenization of Anatolia,’’ can be traced to the conclusion of the Balkan Wars.
The concrete preparation of these plans, according to the memoirs of many leading
figures, such as member of the ‘‘Special Organization’’ (Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa) Kus¸c¸ubas¸ı
Es¸ref, leading Unionist leader Halil Mentes¸e,32 and CUP Izmir Secretary Celal Bayar
(later third state president of Turkey), was made at the beginning of 1914 and
especially with the appointment of Enver Pasha to the Ministry of War in January
1914. Kus¸c¸ubas¸ı Es¸ref mentions a meeting with Enver Pasha in the Ministry of War on
23 February 1914,33 during which Enver laid out some thoughts about the importance
of getting rid of non-Muslims because ‘‘the non-Muslims had proven that they did
not support the continued existence of the state. The salvation of the Ottoman State
would be linked to stern measures against them.’’ In the words of Kus¸c¸ubas¸ı Es¸ref,
the non-Muslims were ‘‘an internal tumor’’ whose ‘‘purging’’ was a ‘‘matter of national
importance.’’34 In Kus¸c¸ubas¸ı’s words, ‘‘the first task was to separate the loyal from the
traitors.’’35 Halil Mentes¸e states in his memoirs that ‘‘Talaˆt Pasha made the removal of
all traitorous sources from the nation a top priority.’’36
For this purpose, according to Kus¸c¸ubas¸ı, the newly established Tes¸kilat-ı
Mahsusa devised a broad plan to eliminate the long-existing burden posed by dangers
from within the Christian communities of the Empire.37 Detailed reports were
prepared outlining the elimination of the Christian population. These measures were
implemented in the Aegean region in the spring of 1914.38
As in the case of the Armenian Genocide, the first measures against the Greeks
on the Aegean coast followed a two-track communication and operation system.
On the one hand, the Special Organization carried out the illegal operations, including
the ‘‘services which the forces of the government and public organizations could never
hope to perform.’’39 On the other hand, the government had official population
exchange agreements with Greece and Bulgaria, according to which Muslims and
Christians should be exchanged and resettled in their respective villages.
With the beginning of 1913, the Ottoman government, in separate treaties with
Bulgaria and Greece, had agreed to the exchange of ethnic populations across national
borders. The dozens of communique´s that appear in the records of the Ministry of
Interior’s Office of Tribal and Refugee Settlement (hereinafter known as the IAMM)40
prove that the resettlement of Muslim immigrants was organized in a systematic way
without waiting for final agreements with the respective governments in the Balkans.
In a telegram sent from the office of the IAMM to the province of Aydın, for example,
it is ordered that ‘‘even though we, upon the proposal of Venizelos, agreed to exchange
the Greek population in the Province of Aydın with the Muslim population in
Macedonia,’’ since it will take a long time to establish a commission to deal with the
details of the population exchange, it is advised to resettle the Muslims who have been
arriving step by step in the Greek villages.41 This document makes it clear that
measures were taken in a systematic way to settle Muslims in the villages of Western
Anatolia that had been emptied of their Greek inhabitants:
Information is needed as to which villages and towns from the region, the number of
residences and the number of Greeks who emigrated from them thus far, along with the
names of these villages and towns and number of residences and the property that was
The Genocidal Policies of the Committee for Union and Progress
left behind, the general and specific agricultural pursuits they pursued, their
industrial and agricultural trades, in type and kind and following their emigration,
if there have been refugees who have resettled in their place, whether or not they
intend to stay.42
As much as the writers of these communications use the expression ‘‘liquidation
of non-Turkish elements,’’ the real target to be purged was non-Muslims. Coded
telegrams issuing from the Ministry of the Interior made it clear that non-Turkish
Muslims who needed to be resettled were to be ‘‘assimilated.’’ For example, a telegram
sent by Talaˆt Pasha to Diyarbekir on 2 May 1916, after making it clear that the Kurds,
who would continue to maintain their identity in the region, should not be settled
in the areas of Urfa and Zor, states that priority should be given to ensuring that ‘‘they
[Kurds] should not be permitted to continue their tribal existence nor ethnic
identity.’’43 Similarly, on 4 May 1916 , a coded telegram to the governors’ offices in
Urfa, Marash, and Antep urged that the Kurdish refugees be ‘‘discouraged from living
communally’’ and that everything be done to ensure that ‘‘they abandon use of their
language and customs.’’44
It is helpful to think of this plan to create a new state composed primarily of Turks
as having two main goals. The first aim of the plan was to remove all non-Muslims,
regarded as a serious threat to the state, from Anatolia. The second aim was to make
changes in the structure of the population so that non-Turkish Muslims could more
easily be assimilated into the greater body of society.
These policies, which were put into force during the period between 1913 and 1917,
resulted in a complete change in the ethnic makeup of Anatolia.45 The estimated
17.5 million people who lived in Anatolia at the time were so uprooted that at the end
of this period, at least one-third of them had been either resettled somewhere else,
deported, or annihilated.
It is important that a clarification be made here in order to avoid confusion or
misinformation. What is not being claimed is that the deportation or resettlement
of the entire Anatolian population between 1913 and 1917 was the result of a
preconceived comprehensive plan. The coded communications of the Ministry of
the Interior of that period, in particular, point to forty-four different reasons for the
movement in population, among them the following:
(1) For the Greeks in the Aegean region and the Armenians in general, all
of whom were perceived as threats to the nation, forced deportation
was the main tactic of choice. This took the form of threats, looting of
businesses and homes, limited cases of murders, and forced deportation to
Greece; the Armenians were more often subjected to killings en route to
settlements elsewhere or were left for dead on the road, deserted in
remote locations.
(2) (a) The deportations and forced emigration of Christian citizens were justified
on the basis of military objectives; as an example, one can look at the forced
emigrations of Nestorians and Assyrians from the Van region at the end of
1914, while the same tactic was used against the Greeks of Ayvalik and the
Black Sea shore. The first deportations of Armenians that took place between
February and April of 1915 from the C¸ ukurova region would fit into this
category also.
(b) Some Arab families were deported for political reasons. The deportation of
Genocide Studies and Prevention 1:2 September 2006
Arab families and important individuals from Syria by Cemal Pasha fits into
this category.
(3) The settlement of Muslims who had escaped from the war zones into the
regions in the interior was necessitated by the resettlement policies.
There developed a planned policy of resettling the areas that had been emptied
of Armenians with Muslims who had come from the Balkans and Caucasus regions
at different times and were settled mainly in Western Anatolia.
It is undeniable that there were plenty of instances in which the categories
overlapped. For example, in September 1914, from the areas closest to Iran,
‘‘the Nestorians who were ripe for provocation from outside’’ were settled into
Ankara and Konya. In order to prevent them from creating a community in their
new locations, they were settled in Muslim-dominated areas with strict orders
that their settlements must not exceed twenty residences in number.46 When,
as a result of war conditions and the Russian advance, some Kurds were to leave
their places, despite the movement not being planned in advance, they had to
be resettled to the interior regions. In their resettlement special attention was
paid to keeping them from being too numerous in any of the newly settled
locations. A telegram from the Ministry of the Interior demands that attention
be paid to ‘‘ensuring that the Kurdish refugees who have been moved from the
war zones be kept apart from their leaders, Imams and Sheiks, and that they
not exceed 5% of the local populations in the interior of Anatolia where they have
been dispatched.’’47
It is extremely important to observe the parallels in organization and staff between
the forced emigration of Greeks, which began in the summer of 1914 in Western
Anatolia, and the equivalent action of Armenian cleansing from Eastern Anatolia
during the war years. Dozens of examples of similarities were documented and
reported by US Ambassador Henry Morgenthau and Arnold Toynbee, a British
diplomat, from the way the state kept itself in the background while the dirty work
was performed by the Special Organization (Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa) to the fact that people
were forced to emigrate under threats of terrorism and murder and the formation of
labor battalions by gun-wielding youths.48
The Decision That Followed Extensive Debate
As the above summary indicates, the decision to deport Armenians did not
arise as an objective of war but was a part of a larger plan. That decision was
also based on a deeper issue, known as the ‘‘Eastern Question,’’ and aimed to put
an end to the fragmentation of the Ottoman Empire. As one element of a
larger problem, the Armenian Reform Agreement signed with Russia in February
1914 for reforms in the eastern provinces can be viewed as the catalyst for a
decision that the Armenians constituted a serious threat to the existence of the
Ottoman state. The most important document to reveal the true intent underlying
the decision for the deportation of the Armenians is an official statement issued by
the Ministry of the Interior on 26 May 1915 and sent to the office of the Grand Vizier.
This document states that deportation of the Armenians needs to be undertaken
so that the Armenian question can be ‘‘brought to an end in a manner that is
comprehensive and absolute [esaˆslı bir suretde hal ve faslı ile ku¨lliyen izaˆlesi].’’
Although this document has been mentioned in various publications on the subject,
the complete text has not appeared in modern studies, except for an extensive
summary in one of them.49
The Genocidal Policies of the Committee for Union and Progress
This document was published in its entirety in the newspaper Ati during the
armistice period50 and explains the reasoning behind the deportation decision from a
historical perspective:
[A] reform that was entirely related to Ottoman internal affairs turned into an
international issue, wherein by some regions of the Empire coming under the influence
of foreigners certain privileges and special administrative organizational regulations
were demanded. As a matter of fact, it became bitterly clear that this reform and
reorganization, made under duress and foreign influence, caused the fragmentation
of the Ottoman nation. This problem, for which a real solution has been
sought…[as a result of various Armenian actions he describes], the state, by necessity,
after consultation with local officials and the military commanders, started … an action
believed to be completely within the interest of the state, begun necessarily according to
proper rules and procedures … .
One sentence that carries enormous weight in this passage is the following:
‘‘While the preparations and presentations have been proposed and considered
for a final end, in a manner that is comprehensive and absolute, to this
issue constituting an important matter in the list of vital issues for the State.’’52
Talaˆt Pasha made similar remarks to Henry Morgenthau. In his memoirs,
Morgenthau comments as follows on a meeting he had with Talaˆt on 9 July 1915:
‘‘Talaat said that they had discussed the matter very thoroughly and arrived
at a decision to which they would adhere. When I said they would be condemned by
the world, he said they would know how to defend themselves; in other words, he
does not give a damn.’’53
The fact that the decision about the Armenians was made after a great deal
of thought, based on extensive debate and discussion by the Central Committee
of the CUP, can be understood by looking at other sources of information as well.
The indictment of the Main Trial states as follows: ‘‘The murder and annihilation
of the Armenians was a decision taken by the Central Committee of the Union
and Progress Party.’’ These decisions were the result of ‘‘long and extensive
discussions.’’ In the indictment are the statements of Dr. Nazım to the effect
that ‘‘it was a matter taken by the Central Committee after thinking through all
sides of the issue’’ and that it was ‘‘an attempt to reach a final solution to the
Eastern Question.’’54
In his memoirs, which were published in the newspaper Vakit, Celal, the governor
of Aleppo, describes the same words being spoken to him by a deputy of the Ottoman
Parliament from Konya, coming as a ‘‘greeting of a member of the Central Committee.’’
This deputy told Celal that if he had ‘‘expressed an opinion that opposed the point of
view of the others, [he would] have been expelled.’’55
That the decision regarding deportation went beyond temporary military
expediency and was instead intended to resolve the ‘‘Eastern Question’’ forever can
be seen in a letter written by Bahaeddin S¸akir, published by Ahmet Emin Yalman in
his memoirs.56 In his work, Yalman introduces Bahaeddin S¸akir as a supporter and
defender of the policy of ‘‘complete annihilation’’ of the Armenians. S¸akir’s letter reads,
‘‘It is understood that the presence of Armenians, living as they do straddling the
Russian border, constitutes a major danger to the future of our nation. Our nation’s
salvation depends on doing whatever is necessary to remove this danger.’’57 Yalman
adds that the purpose of the policy was understood by ‘‘some politicians’’ to be
necessary for the ‘‘annihilation of the Armenians in order to create a racially
homogeneous Anatolia.’’58
Genocide Studies and Prevention 1:2 September 2006
The Aim of the Deportation Was the Annihilation of the Armenians
Many of the documents that came out during the trials state that the purpose behind
the deportation was the annihilation of the Armenians. The indictment of the
Main Trial refers to many documents that touch on this subject. Among these, the
testimony of Ihsan Bey, director of special letters of the Ministry of the Interior,
is a good example. While Ihsan Bey was mayor of Kilis, Abdu’lahad Nuri, who had been
sent from Istanbul to Aleppo, relayed to him that the deportation was being executed
for the actual purpose of annihilating the Armenians. Nuri tried to convince
Ihsan Bey of the wisdom of the policy by stating that ‘‘I was with Talaˆt Bey and was
given the orders about annihilation from him personally. The salvation of the nation
is dependent on it.’’59
Vehip Pasha, who had been appointed commander of the Third Army in February
1916, gave this written statement in December 1918 to the Commission for the
Investigation of Evil Acts (Tekdid-i Seyyiat Komisyonu), which had been assigned the
job of investigating the Armenian deportations and killings: ‘‘The massacre and
annihilation of Armenians and the looting and plunder perpetrated by their murderers
was decided and envisioned by the Central Committee of the Union and Progress
Party.’’ According to Vehip Pasha, ‘‘A program that had been pre-ordained and
executed under an absolute and clear intention for atrocities, firstly by the delegates of
the Central Committee of Union and Progress and secondly, pushing the law and
conscience aside, using the leaders of the state like tools for the furtherance of the
wishes and intentions of that party, having their orders and judgments and
persecutions performed.’’60 The Pasha added that the fact that government officers,
despite seeing and hearing of the crimes committed, did nothing to stop them
and, in fact, often aided and abetted the crimes shows without a doubt that the actions
were planned.61
Vehip Pasha’s assertion that there was direct involvement of state officials can
also be corroborated. Many governors and mayors who steadfastly tried to limit their
actions to deportation alone were relieved of their duties or, worse, killed. One
particular piece of evidence that the actual aim was the killing of Armenians relates to
an incident witnessed by the Trabzon representative of the CUP, Hazıf Mehmet Emin,
wherein Armenians were loaded onto boats and drowned at sea. During a session of
the Ottoman Assembly on 11 December 1918, when the incident was being debated,
Mehmet Emin Bey, considered an ardent Unionist, commented on the record, ‘‘[y]our
humble servant saw this incident, I mean, I saw an actual Armenian incident.’’
He then added, ‘‘There was a mayor in the Ordu district [a city on the Black Sea]. He
loaded up a boat with Armenians on the excuse that he was sending them to Samsun
and then proceeded to dump them into the sea. I heard that governor Cemal Azmi did
the same thing … . As soon as I got here [Istanbul], I relayed what I’d witnessed to the
Ministry of the Interior … But I couldn’t get anything done about the governor. I tried
for about three years but nothing. They said it was this, it was that, it was war;
in short, nothing came of it.’’62
What is understood from the dozens of transcribed telegrams issued by Talaˆt
Pasha documented in the indictment of the Main Trial is not that he wanted state
officials to prevent the killings or to initiate investigations but that he wanted all the
dead, the casualties of the policy, who were lining the roadways to be taken away.
In the telegrams he makes clear that anyone not following his orders to have
the corpses cleared from the roads would be punished. For example, a coded telegram
sent on 21 July 1915 to the governor’s offices of Mamuretulaziz, Urfa, and Zor
The Genocidal Policies of the Committee for Union and Progress
demands ‘‘the removal of the dead in the streets, with care taken that they
are not thrown into streams, lakes or rivers, and that their possessions left
behind in the streets be burned.’’ Again, a coded telegram from the governor of
Mamuretulaziz to the governor’s office of Malatya states that ‘‘despite the urgency
of the notice, the presence of so many dead in the streets’’ is being brought to
the attention of officials in Malatya and threatens ‘‘the harshest of punishments to
all officials who express any distress over this fact will be reported by office of the
Ministry of the Interior.’’63
We have other direct evidence to show that the decision to deport
Armenians was ultimately meant to lead to annihilation. A telegram dated
21 June 1915, sent by Bahaeddin S¸akir, member of the Central Committee of the
CUP, to the party secretary of Harput, Resneli Nazım, which was published in
the indictment of the Main Trial, contains the following statement: ‘‘Are
the Armenians who have been sent from there being liquidated? Are the troublemakers you told us you had expelled being exterminated, or are they just
being expelled?’’64 This telegram was not only used in the indictment of the Main
Trial but played an important role in the Mamuretulaziz and the party secretaries’
trials as well.
Similar examples of telegrams were read into the record during the Yozgat trial,
which started on 5 February 1919. By the ninth hearing (22 February 1919), twelve
telegrams had been read in court that contained statements related to deportation,
annihilation, and massacres. For example, in a telegram dated 5 August 1915
sent by the Bog˘azlıyan detachment commander, Mustafa, to 5th Army Corps Deputy
Commander Halil Recayi is the statement that a group of ‘‘troublemaker Armenians
obtained from town and by chance’’ were ‘‘sent to their destinations.’’65 Halil Recayi’s
response of the same date asks for an explanation of what the term ‘‘sent to their
destinations’’ means.66 The gendarmerie commander answered the same day with
‘‘Since the aforementioned Armenians were troublemakers …they were killed.’’67
From the same trial, a different telegram, this one from Bog˘azlıyan Gendarmerie
Commander Hulusiye, uses similar language, stating, ‘‘ ‘sent out’ means they were
One comes across many reports from German officers, as well as from the
German embassy and consulates, documenting their belief that the Unionist leaders’
plan for deportation had as its ultimate purpose the annihilation of all Armenians.69
One of the most damning pieces of evidence is a statement by Talaˆt Pasha
recounted by the head of the Armenian desk at the German embassy in Istanbul,
Dr. Holleg Mordtmann. In a telegram, Mordtmann states that Talaˆt Pasha had
told him, concerning the deportation, that ‘‘the subject of it was the annihilation
of the Armenians.’’70 Additionally, a ‘‘confidential’’ report dated 23 August 1915,
sent by one Colonel Stange, a German officer, to the embassy in Istanbul, is of
utmost relevance. Stange, who had worked with Bahaeddin S¸akir in 1914–1915
in the Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa (Special Organization), reports that based on his
observations, the deportation and murder of Armenians was not being done for
reasons related to war or to the military; the deportation, which so often
relied on taking advantage of certain circumstances, was the realization of a
‘‘plan that had been thought out over many years.’’ Stange further states
that the ‘‘deportation and annihilation was a decision taken by the ‘Young
Turks’ committee in Istanbul’’ and that Bahaeddin S¸akir was coordinating it
from Erzurum.71
Genocide Studies and Prevention 1:2 September 2006
How Were the Deportation and Massacres Organized?
There is no need to discuss in detail the process by which the final decision for
annihilation of the Armenians came about, as this topic has been covered elsewhere.72
However, the matter can be linked to the defeats of the Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa in the
Caucusus and Lake Van regions and to the defeat of the Ottoman army by the
Russians at Sarıkamıs¸ in January 1915. Bahaeddin S¸akir, who had lived through this
experience and had barely escaped death, was ‘‘of the opinion’’ that as a result of ‘‘the
behavior which the Armenians had exhibited towards Turkey and the support which
they extended to the Russian army … one needed to fear the enemy within as much as
the enemy beyond.’’73 S¸akir, who had obtained documents related to the activities of
Armenian gangs in the region, traveled to Istanbul near the end of February 1915
and tried to convince his friends in Istanbul that the country had to rid itself of
this threat.74
There is a very high probability that the decision to exterminate was made during
the debates that took place in Istanbul near the end of March. At the conclusion of
these discussions, ‘‘it was decided that Dr. Bahaeddin S¸akir Bey should turn away
from the Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa’s work that focused on foreign enemies and start dealing
with the enemies who are within.’’75 In other words, S¸akir had been assigned the task
of dealing with the ‘‘internal Armenians.’’ Arif Cemil commented that ‘‘the end result of
all this discussion and debate was that the promulgation of deportation had been
turned into law’’ and that ‘‘when Dr. Bahaeddin S¸akir Bey returned to the Caucasian
front, the new agenda completely took over.’’76 In fact, based on a telegram sent by
Talaˆt Pasha on 5 April 1915 from the Special Letters Office of the Ministry of the
Interior, which states that ‘‘Bahaeddin S¸akir Bey will be returning soon and special
appropriations will be sent for the refugees,’’ one can conclude that the decision
regarding deportation was made sometime between the end of March and the
beginning of April.77
According to the documents we have, the deportation orders for the complete
and fundamental elimination of this concern were sent to the regions by the Ministry
of the Interior sometime around the end of April or the beginning of May.78
The earliest document available is a telegram dated 24 April 1915 and sent to
Cemal Pasha, ordering that the Armenians who had already been sent to Konya
from the Zeytun and Marash regions be further dispatched in the direction of
Aleppo, Urfa, and Zor.79 Another telegram was sent to some of the regions on
26 April 1915. This telegram stated that the Armenians who are to be sent out of
‘‘Zeytun and Marash, Iskenderun, Do¨rtyol, and Hac¸in’’ were to be ‘‘sent to the
‘‘southeast and Zor and Urfa districts.’’80 Another coded telegram sent to
the governor’s office of Marash on 3 May 1915 ordered the Armenians of Zeytun
to be ‘‘completely expelled.’’81
Following these telegrams, Talaˆt Pasha began to send telegrams requesting the
numbers of Armenians who had been expelled and settled elsewhere. For example, a
telegram dated 5 May 1915 was sent to Aleppo, seeking information as to where the
Armenians who had been moved there could be settled.82 Another was sent to Adana,
asking, ‘‘How many Armenians have been expelled from Hac¸in, Do¨rtyol, and other
localities since 7 May 1915, and where have they been sent?’’83
When news of an uprising in Van reached Istanbul, the Ministry of the Interior
followed up with a coded telegram to the Van and Bitlis regional offices, dated 9 May
1915, stating that the Armenians in the region of Van were to be deported and that the
action must ‘‘be handled personally.’’ The telegram states that the deportation will
The Genocidal Policies of the Committee for Union and Progress
encompass Bitlis, the south of Erzurum, Mush, and the areas around Sasun and
that a similar telegram has been sent to Erzurum.84
Based on the coded telegram from Talaˆt Pasha on 5 April 1915, eyewitness
accounts, and the reports from German consular offices, it is possible to conclude
that the purging of Armenians from Erzurum and its surrounding villages started
in the second half of April. In his memoirs, Ragıp Bey, a high-ranking
Ottoman bureaucrat, after explaining that he arrived in Erzurum on 14 April 1915
and left on 26 April, states that, ‘‘as a result of the Armenian deportations, the poor
Armenian girls and women in the area were in the most deplorable, wretched and
miserable state. Our hearts were quite wounded at the sight.’’85 According to reports
issued by the German consulate, the emptying-out of the villages surrounding
Erzurum had started in early May: ‘‘by May 15th, all of the villages … had been
emptied out.’’86
It is probable that during March and April of that year, the CUP’s Central
Committee had taken two parallel decisions: one for deportation by the Ministry
of the Interior, the second for extermination. The Ministry of the Interior was in
charge of sending out the orders regarding deportation by way of its official lines
of communication to the governors. In contrast, the order to exterminate was
disseminated through the Katib-i Mesuller (Responsible Secretaries). The annihilation
was actually executed with the help of the Ministry of the Interior’s gendarmerie and
the CUP’s Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa (Special Organization) gangs.
The most revealing statement in support of the argument that the decisions
taken in March and April 1915 were on parallel lines comes from Res¸it Akif Pasha.
When Talaˆt Pasha resigned in October 1918, and the first government of the armistice
period was formed under Ahmet Izzet Pasha, Res¸it Akif Pasha was appointed
president of the Council of State. He gave a very important speech before the newly
formed Assembly on 12 November 1918. According to Res¸it Akif Pasha, the Armenian
genocide began with a secret order for deportation that was issued by the Ministry
of the Interior to all regional offices:
While humbly occupying my last post in the Cabinet, which barely lasted 25 to 30 days,
I became cognizant of some secrets. I came across something strange in this respect.
It was this official order for deportation, issued by the notorious Interior Ministry
and relayed to the provinces. However, following [the issuance of] this official order,
the Central Committee [of Union and Progress] undertook to send an ominous circular
order to all points [in the provinces], urging the expediting of the execution of
the accursed mission of the brigands. Thereupon, the brigands proceeded to act and the
atrocious massacres were the result.87
This speech was defined by many of the newspapers as ‘‘extremely remarkable and
noteworthy,’’ and it was published ‘‘in full for its special importance.’’88
The information given by Res¸it Akif Pasha was repeated by Vehip Pasha. In the
written statement noted above, Vehip Pasha relates how, based on the statements
of witnesses whom he had interrogated himself, the official orders were distributed
by way of the governors’ offices, while the orders related to the annihilation
were organized by Bahaeddin S¸akir. Vehip Pasha began an investigation of the
crimes and arrested the gendarmerie officers and their assistants whom he suspected.
These persons told Vehip Pasha that ‘‘Memduh Bey, from the governor’s office of
Erzincan, had given the order to take action this way, while those who had been
directly involved in the deplorable acts had taken their direct orders from
Dr. Bahaeddin S¸akir Bey.’’89
Genocide Studies and Prevention 1:2 September 2006
The mechanism operated in the following way: the official deportation command
moved from the Ministry of the Interior’s channels of communication to the governors,
who then transferred the orders down to the gendarmerie of the security branch of the
Ministry of the Interior. Meanwhile, the attack and annihilation of the caravans of
people were organized by the Central Committee through Bahaeddin S¸akir. The most
important service provided was by the Katib-i Mesuller, whose job it was to distribute
the coded orders to all regions.
The Role of the Katib-i Mesuller and Bahaeddin S¸akir
The responsible party secretaries (Katib-i Mesuller) played an extremely important
role in the Armenian deportation and killings. With the general mobilization on
2 August 1914, the Katib-i Mesuller were responsible not only for establishing the
units of the Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa but even for directing the actions of some of the gangs.
Many telegrams read out during hearings of the Main Trial established their role in
these actions.90 During the Main Trial, a statement in the second indictment brought
against the cabinet members refers to the Katib-i Mesuller as acting like erkani
Mahsusa (‘‘special high officials’’) in the party and constituting a secret branch of the
government.91 Because of the special role they played in the events being tried, their
prosecution was separated from that of others, and a separate action was initiated
against them. In the final court ruling for that trial, the Katib-i Mesuller were referred
to as the ‘‘secondary criminals on the side, for the society’s aforementioned criminal
There is a great deal of evidence that the Katib-i Mesuller were responsible for
disseminating the orders regarding the annihilation of the Armenians to the regions.
For example, during the Main Trial, the presiding judge repeated that there was much
evidence to show that the party’s commands were disseminated to the regions by way
of the secretaries and that there were many instances where governors did not obey
the orders and were removed from office. Additionally, the judge questioned almost
every witness with statements such as, ‘‘The responsible delegates went to Ankara,
Kastomonu, Erzincan, Yozgat, Trabzon, Sivas and similar places, giving the governors
and their offices sometimes confidential instructions. Were you aware of this?’’93
The Ankara governor, Mazhar Bey; the governor of Kastamonu, Res¸it Bey; and
the governor of Yozgat, Cemal Bey, all repeated throughout their testimony in
the hearings that they had been removed from their positions upon the application of
the Katib-i Mesuller.94
In fact, these governors all gave testimony before both the Commission for the
Investigation of Evil Acts and the hearings mentioned above to the effect that they had
been removed from their positions for failure to obey orders. For example, Mazhar Bey,
describing his particular situation, stated,
I pretended I didn’t understand the order that was sent from the Ministry of the
Interior for the deportation of the Armenians. As you know, while there were other
provinces that had already completed the deportation, I had never even started it. Atif
Bey came … he gave me the order to massacre and kill the Armenians, personally. And
I said, ‘‘No, Atif Bey. I’m the governor, not a criminal. I can’t do it. I’ll get up from this
chair and you come do it if you like.’’95
The story for the governor of Kastamonu, Res¸it Bey, was the same. The court ruling
against the Katib-i Mesuller indicates that because Res¸it Bey had stated, ‘‘I won’t paint
my hands with blood,’’ he had been removed from the governor’s office upon the
application of Katib-i Mesul Hasan Fehmi.96
The Genocidal Policies of the Committee for Union and Progress
The governor of Yozgat, Cemal Bey, gave a written statement to the Commission
for the Investigation of Evil Acts on 12 December 1918 that contained similar
information. In his statement he explained that Necati Bey, a Katib-i Mesul, had
shown him an official written order demanding that the Armenians be annihilated;
when Cemal asked for the written order, however, the Katib-i Mesul would not give it
to him. Cemal further stated that he told Necati Bey that, ‘‘since you don’t appear to
have official authority, I can’t at this juncture engage in a sinful act,’’ thus refusing to
obey the order. Within a few days Cemal was removed from office.97 At the eleventh
hearing of the Yozgat trial on 11 March 1919, Cemal recounted how Necati Bey had
told him that the order was in furtherance of the wishes of the Central Committee of
the CUP.98
Not only did officials risk of being removed from office, there were mayors
who were killed for failing to obey an order. The mayor of Lice, Hu¨seyin Nesimi,
did not obey the order to massacre the Armenians. When he demanded that the
order be given to him in writing, he was removed from office and later given orders
to travel to Diyarbekir; he was killed on the way there.99 In his memoirs, the mayor’s
son, Abidin Nesimi, recounts that the removal of state officials was done at
the behest of the governor of Diyarbekir, Dr. Res¸it, and that there were others
who were as unlucky. ‘‘Ferit, the governor of Basra, Bedi Nuri, the governor of
Mu¨ntefak, Sabit, deputy mayor of Bes¸iri, [and] Ismail Mestan, the journalist,’’ were
among those who were killed. The reason for the murders was clear: ‘‘the removal
of administrative staff who would oppose [the annihilation of Armenians] was
inescapable. In furtherance of this …the removal of the individuals named was
considered absolutely necessary.’’100 The mayor of Midyat was also among the dead,
‘‘by order of the Governor of Diyarbakir, for resisting the command to murder
the Christians living within his township.’’101 During the 11 May 1919 hearing of
the Trabzon trial, Justice Department Inspector Kenan Bey remarked that he
had gone to Samsun to conduct an investigation and, while there, ‘‘was a witness to an
occurrence in the deportation … [in which] the mayor of Bafra was killed.’’102
Along with the Katib-i Mesuller, Bahaeddin S¸akir ‘‘traveled around the eastern
provinces meeting with governors and others’’ in an effort to publicize the decision of
the CUP’s Central Committee.103 During the hearings of the Main Trial, the judge
declared that Bahaeddin S¸akir had become the commander of the body of all units
constituting the Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa.104 Additionally, he would question witnesses as to
whether they had knowledge of the fact that both Nail Bey (another Katib-i Mesul) and
Bahaeddin S¸akir had gone among some of the brigades of the towns in Trabzon
province and given secret commands.105 During the 2 August 1919 hearing for the
Mamu¨retu¨laziz trial, Erzurum Governor Tahsin testified that units of the Tes¸kilat-ı
Mahsusa under Bahaeddin S¸akir’s control were responsible for the annihilation of the
During the deportation of the Armenians I was in Erzurum …The caravans which were
subject to attacks and killings resulted from the actions of those who’d assembled under
the name ‘‘Tes¸-ı Mahsusa.’’ The Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa was composed of two units. When I
came back from Erzurum, the Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa had turned into a major power and
they’d become involved in the war. The Army knew about it. Then there was another
Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa, and that one had Bahaeddin S¸akir’s signature on it. In other words,
he was sending telegrams around as the head of the Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa … Bahaeddin
S¸akir had a code. He’d communicate with the Sublime Porte and with the Ministry
of the Interior with it. During the deportation he communicated with the Army as
Genocide Studies and Prevention 1:2 September 2006
well … Bahaeddin S¸akir had two different codes with which to communicate with both
the Sublime Porte and the Ministry of War.106
From the telegrams that he issued, which were used extensively to build
prosecution cases during the hearings, one comes to an understanding that
Bahaeddin S¸akir was responsible for all actions that took place in the region.
For example, in the following telegram, which was incorporated into the court
ruling of the Mamu¨retu¨laziz case, S¸akir asks the former governor of Antalya, Sabuˆ r
Sami Bey, ‘‘[s]ince there isn’t a single Armenian left in the vicinity of Erzurum, Van,
Bitlis, Diyar-i Bekir, Sivas, and Trabzon and they have all been sent to Mosul and Zor,
what’s been happening in Antalya?’’107 Another example of such a telegram is the
one from S¸akir mentioned earlier, during the discussion of the Main Trial: ‘‘Are the
troublemakers you told us you had expelled being exterminated, or are they just being
There is still other evidence to corroborate the fact that the Central Committee’s
decision to annihilate the Armenians was distributed by special couriers. After the
armistice, Ahmet Esat, director of the Second Precinct of General Security, which was
tied to the Ministry of the Interior, tried to sell to the British what he claimed were
the minutes of a meeting having to do with the massacres of Armenians. He gave the
British four separate documents, two of them in his own handwriting. According
to the information he provided, messages were supposed to be disseminated to the
various districts by couriers who were ordered to read them aloud and then return
with the originals, which were to be destroyed.109
Some Orders for Annihilation Were Sent by Telegram
There were instances in which the orders to annihilate had to be sent by telegram. The
final court ruling of the Bayburt trial confirms that the decision to annihilate was sent
by the Central Committee to the regions by way of special couriers. The ruling also
includes the statement of Nusret, who was convicted and executed as a result of this
trial. Nusret’s statement declared that he had received a confidential order from
Istanbul stating that not a single Armenian was to be left alive and that those who did
not obey this order would be executed.110
Evidence clearly shows that the orders sent by telegram were to be destroyed
immediately after they were read. For example, the indictment of the Main Trial
recounts that the governor of Der Zor, Ali Suat, was told to destroy a telegram after it
had been read.111 For another example, during the third hearing of the Yozgat trial
on 10 February 1919, the judge read aloud the statement given by the mayor of
Bog˘azlıyan, Kemal, before the Commission for the Investigation of Evil Acts. In this
statement, Kemal describes how he was sent telegrams that ordered him to destroy
them after they had been read.112 In the hearing of 24 March 1919, when the judge
read him his statement, Kemal denied the information with the explanation that he
was tired when he wrote it. The prosecutor remarked that Kemal had ‘‘thought over
[the statement] for about three to four hours’’ before writing it down.113 Finally,
I should add that the Katib-i Mesuller did not limit themselves to forming gangs and
disseminating the order for annihilation. Their activities also included putting on
demonstrations that inflamed the locals’ emotions against the Armenians and looting
Armenian properties, enriching themselves in the process. In the action brought
against them, witnesses were questioned on precisely these types of activities. The
final court ruling lists many examples of how the Katib-i Mesuller had inflamed
people’s emotions (as in the meeting organized by Dr. Mithat in Bolu), seized the
The Genocidal Policies of the Committee for Union and Progress
homes of Armenians, taken over their property and their accounts, and generally
organized looting against Armenians.114
These documents, taken mostly from the sources numbered (2) to (7) above, openly
show the genocidal intent of the Ottoman authorities and can be considered direct
evidence of the Armenian Genocide.
1. Some of the direct evidence in this article is presented for summary purposes and has
already been published. See, for example, Vahakn N. Dadrian, The Armenian Genocide in
Official Turkish Records, special issue of Journal of Political and Military Sociology 22,
No. 1 (Summer 1994) (reprinted with corrections, Spring 1995). See also Taner Akc¸am,
A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility
(New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006).
2. For more information on the Bas¸bakanlık Ars¸ivi, see Another
important archive is that of the General Staff ’s Military History and Strategic Studies
Institute, or ATASE (Askeri Tarih ve Stratejik Etu¨d Bakanlıg˘ı) in Ankara. The first
archive is open to researchers, but the second has many restrictions; if one is able to get
access to the ATASE, it is only with great difficulty. The administrators control the
materials very strictly and, in most cases, deny the requested files in whole or in part.
3. For a complete list of the sixty-three trials, see Taner Akc¸am and Vahakn N. Dadrian,
‘‘The Protocols of the Istanbul Military Tribunals on the Investigation of the Armenian
Genocide’’ (forthcoming, 2006, in Turkish and English).
4. The memoirs of Aleppo Governor Celal Bey were published in the newspaper Vakit in three
installments on 10–13 December (Kanunievvel) 1918. Vehip Pasha’s testimony was also
published in Vakit, on 31 March 1919. ‘‘Circassian Uncle’’ Hasan’s story was published as a
series called ‘‘Tehc¸ir’in _
Ic¸ Yu¨zu¨ [The Inside Story of Deportation]’’ in the newspaper
Alemdar, beginning on 19 June 1919 and ending on 28 June 1919 with the eighth
installment, despite a statement that it was to be continued. According to an Armenian
newspaper, the threat from the CUP against Alemdar caused it to stop publication. Vahakn
N. Dadrian, ‘‘The Naim-Andonian Documents on the World War I Destruction of Ottoman
Armenains: The Anatomy of a Genocide,’’ International Journal of Middle East Studies
18 (1986): p. 353, n. 78.
5. This commission was formed on 23 November 1918 for the purpose of investigating the
Armenian deportation and the crimes against Armenians. Vakit and Ikdam, 24 Tes¸rinisani
(November) 1918.
6. For example, Interior Minister Talaˆt’s cipher of 10/23 May 1915, reproduced by several
Turkish authors, can be found in the original Ottoman-Turkish, and in Armenian script in
the archive of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Series 17, Dossier H, nos. 571–72.
See Kamuran Gu¨ru¨n, Ermeni Dasyası (Ankara: Tu¨rk Tarih Kurumu, 1983), 2218;
Kamuran Gu¨ru¨n, The Armenian File (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985), 210; Muammer
Demirel, Birinci Du¨nya Harbinde Erzurum Ve C¸ evresinde Ermeni Hareketleri (1914–1918)
(Ankara: Generlkurmay, 1996), 52. Telegrams sent from the governor of Mamuretulaziz to
the governor’s office of Malatya regarding the presence of so many dead in the streets and
urging the cleaning of the streets, which was quoted in the indictment of the Main Trial,
can be found in Jerusalem. Vehip Pasha’s testimony, which was published in Vakit on
31 March 1919, is yet another example.
7. These minutes have been published as a book: Osman Selim Kocahanoglu, _
IttihatTerakki’nin Sorgulanması ve Yargılanması (Istanbul: Timel, 1998).
8. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations into English are my own.
9. Takvim-i Vekayi, no. 3540; from the first hearing, which took place on 27 April 1919.
10. The final congress of the CUP opened with a speech by Talaˆt Pasha on 1 November 1918.
On 5 November 1918, the party would announce that it was passing into history and would
formally dissolve. At the same congress the establishment of the Teceddu¨t Party
Genocide Studies and Prevention 1:2 September 2006
(Reformation Party) was announced. The constitutional makeup and the assets of
the CUP were transferred in total to the new party. The judge at the hearing is
questioning Midhat S¸u¨kru¨ about the transfer. Zeki Sarıhan, Kurtulus¸ Savas¸ı Gu¨nlu¨g˘u¨
Mondros’tan Erzurum Kongresine, vol. 1 (Ankara: O¨ g˘retmen Yayınları 1986), 19, 25.
For more information about the Teceddu¨t Fırkası, see Tarık Zafer Tunaya, Mu¨tareke
Do¨nemi, vol. 2 of Tu¨rkiye’de Siyasal Partiler (Istanbul: Hu¨rriyet Vakfı Yayınları, 1986),
11. Takvim-i Vekayi, no. 3543, 4 May 1919.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid., no. 3540.
14. S¸evket Su¨reyya Aydemir, Makedonya’dan Ortaasya’ya Enver Pasha, vol. 3, 1914–1922
(Istanbul: Remzi Kitabevi, 1978), 468.
15. The telegram of Ahmet Izzet Pasha was issued on 11 November and sent by way of the
Berlin Consulate for the German state. AA.Tu¨rkei 158/21, A48179.
16. BOA/DH/S¸FR, 54-100, coded telegram from Interior Minister Talaˆt dated 22 June 1915.
17. Takvim-i Vekayi, no. 3540.
18. Ikdam, 11 February 1919.
19. Alemdar, 25 March 1919.
20. UK Foreign Office [FO] 371/4172/31307, report dated 10 February 1919.
21. From the archives of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Carton 21, File M, no. 494.
22. Renaissance, 6–7 March 1919. Renaissance was a French-language newspaper published
in Istanbul.
23. Takvim-i Vekayi, no. 3573, from the hearing on 3 June 1919 (published 12 June 1919).
24. Alemdar, 5–6 August 1919. According to the Armenian newspaper Joghovurt, 6 August
1919, the order was meant for documents dealing with the deportation and massacres;
cited in Vahakn N. Dadrian.
25. Hu¨samettin Ertu¨rk, ‘‘Milli Mu¨cadele Senelerinde Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa’’ (typescript), 14,
‘‘Ankara Stratejik Aras¸tırmalar ve Askerlik Tarihi Enstitu¨su¨’’ (undated). Transcribed by
Bilge Criss, Is¸gal Altında Istanbul (Istanbul: Iletis¸im, 1983), 147.
26. FO 371/4172/31307, folio 385, from the report of Heathcote Smith, 4 February 1919.
27. R.H. Karay, Minelbab Ilelmihrab (Mu¨tareke Devri Anıları) (Istanbul: Inkilap Kitabevi,
1992), 271–72.
28. FO 371/4174/15450, folio 182, transcribed in V.N. Dadrian, ‘‘Documentation of the
Armenian Genocide in Turkish Sources,’’ in Genocide: A Critical Bibliographic Review,
vol. 2, ed. Israel W. Charny, 86–138 (London: Mansell Publishing; New York: Facts on File,
1991), 105, facsimile.
29. FO 371/4174/102551, folios 108–111, transcribed in Dadrian, ibid.
30. I will deal with the documents from category (1) in a subsequent article.
31. Celal Bayar, Ben de Yazdım, vol. 5 (Istanbul: Baha Matbaası, 1967), 1573.
32. Mentes¸e held important posts during the war years, such as parliamentary president, and
different posts in cabinet (foreign minister, ministry of justice, etc.)
33. Cemal Kutay, Birinci Du¨nya Harbi’nde Tes¸kilaˆt-ı Mahsusa ve Heyber’de Tu¨rk Cengi
(Istanbul: Ercan matbaasi, 1962), 10.
34. From the memoirs of Kus¸c¸ubas¸ı Es¸ref, who was in charge of running the ‘‘liquidation’’
operation to rid Anatolia of ‘‘not-Turcic’’ elements, as described in Bayar, Ben de Yazdım,
35. Cemal Kutay, Tu¨rkiye Nereye Gidiyor? (sohbetter #10) (Istanbul, Halk Matbaası,
1969), 69.
36. Halil Mentes¸, Osmanlı Mebusan Meclisi Reisi Halil Mentes¸e’nin Anıları (Istanbul:
Hu¨rriyet Vakfı Yayınları, 1986), 165.
37. Cemal Kutay, Birinci, 18.
38. Since I have written extensively on this subject elsewhere, here I will not go into details of
the plan and the preparations for it. See Akc¸am, A Shameful Act.
39. Cemal Kutay, ‘‘Tu¨rkiye Nereye Gidiyor?’’, 69.
The Genocidal Policies of the Committee for Union and Progress
40. The IAMM was established at the beginning of 1914 within the Ministry of the Interior.
On 14 March 1916, this office was transformed by a law that granted it expanded
authority, after which it comprised many sub-offices. It would grow in power and
influence as the years wore on. This new office was called the Ministry of the Interior’s
Directorate of Tribes and Immigrants (As¸air ve Muhacirin Mu¨du¨riyet Umumiyesi,
hereinafter AMMU).
41. BOA/DH/S¸FR, 37-1332-C25, coded telegram from Interior Minister Talaˆt to the province of
Aydın, 21 May 1914.
42. BOA/DH/S¸FR, 42-158-1332, telegram from the Ministry of the Interior (Baˆb-i Ali Dahiliye
Nezareti IAMM) to the Regional Office of Aydın, Governorship of C¸ anakkale (Kale-i
Sultaniyeve karesi Mutasarrıflıg˘ı), 30 July 1914.
43. BOA/DH/S¸FR, 63-172, coded telegram from Talaˆt Pasha to the regional office in
Diyarbakir, 2 May 1916.
44. BOA/DH/S¸FR, 63-187, telegram from Interior Minister Talaˆt, 4 May 1916, quoted in Fuat
Dundar, _
Ittihat ve Terakki’nin Mu¨slu¨manlari _
Iskan Politikası (1913–1918) (Istanbul:
Iletis¸im Yayınları, 2001), 141–42.
45. The aim of this article is not to deal with the general population policy of that time. For this
aspect of the problem, see Du¨ ndar, ibid.
46. BOA/DH/S¸FR, 46–78, coded telegram from the Ministry of the Interior to the regional
offices at Van, (26 September 1914).
47. BOA/DH/S¸FR, 63-188-1334.B.1, telegram from the Office of Tribal Refugees (IAMM) to
Ankara, Konya, Kayseri, Nig˘de, and other regional and governors’ offices, 13 May 1916.
48. Arnold J. Toynbee, The Western Question in Greece and Turkey (Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1923), 140, 143, 280; Henry Morgenthau, Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story (Garden City,
NY: Doubleday, Page, 1918), 212. This relationship needs to be the subject of further
49. The summary appears in Demirel, Birinci Du¨nya Harbinde, 53. Sources that mention the
document are Gu¨ru¨n, Ermeni Dosyası, 277–78; Azmi Su¨slu¨, Ermeniler ve 1915 Tehcir Olayı
(Van: Yu¨zu¨ncu¨ Yıl U¨ niversitesi Rekto¨rlu¨g˘u¨ Yayını, 1990), 110.
50. Ati, 24 February 1920.
51. Demirel, Birinci Du¨nya Harbide, 53.
52. Ati, 24 February 1920 (emphasis added): ‘‘Devlet-i Aliyye’nin Fihrist-i Mesail-i Hayatiyyesi
arasında mu¨him bir fasıl is¸tigaˆl olan bu gailenin esaˆslı bir suretde hal ve faslı ile ku¨lliyen
izaˆlesi esbaˆbının tehiyye ve ihzaˆrı tasavvur ve mu¨laˆhaza edilmekde iken … .’’
53. Henry Morgenthau, United States Diplomacy on the Bosphorus: The Diaries of
Ambassador Morgenthau, 1913–1916 compiled by Ara Sarafian (London: Taderon Press
with Gomidas Institute, 2004), 273.
54. Takvim-i Vekayi, no. 3540.
55. Memoirs of Aleppo Governor Celal, Vakit, 12 December 1918.
56. It is important to note here that there is a striking similarity between this letter by
Bahaeddin S¸akir, sent to Yalman, and other letters attributed to S¸akir by Aram Andonian.
See Aram Andonian, The Memoirs of Naim Bey (Newton Square, PA: Armenian Historical
Research Association, 1965), 49–52.
57. Ahmet Emin Yalman, Turkey in the World War (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press,
1930), 220. The same letter by S¸akir is described by Yalman in another work: Ahmet Emin
Yalman, Yakin Tarihte Go¨rdu¨klerim ve Gec¸irdiklerim, vol. 1 (1988–1918) (Istanbul:
Yenilik Basımevi, 1970), 332. The critical comments that appear in his English work do not
appear in the Turkish one.
58. Yalman, Turkey in the World War, 220.
59. Takvim-i Vekayi, no. 3540.
60. Written statement of Vehip Pasha to the Commission for the Investigation of Evil Acts of
the Office of General Security, 12 December 1918. The copy in my possession is located
at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, carton 7, file H, no. 171–82. This statement
by Vehip Pasha played an important role not only in the Main Trial but also in the
Genocide Studies and Prevention 1:2 September 2006
Trabzon and Harput trials. The entire statement was read into the record during the
second hearing of the Trabzon trial on 29 March 1919 and was incorporated into the court
ruling for the Harput Trial.
61. Ibid.
62. M.M.Z.C., Cycle 3, Assembly Year 5, vol. 1, 11 Kanunievvel (December) 1918, 24th Session,
p. 300.
63. Takvim-i Vekayi, no. 3540, first hearing (indictment), 27 April 1919.
64. Ibid.
65. Archives of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, carton 17, file H, no. 616.
66. Ibid., carton 21, file M, no. 511.
67. Ibid. For information on the ninth hearing, see accounts in Renaissance, Yeni Gu¨n, and
Ikdam from 23 February 1919.
68. Archives of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, carton 21, file M, no. 506;
Renaissance, 7 March 1919.
69. Just two examples: Grosses Hauptquarteer 194, Tu¨rkei 41/1, telegram from Count WolffMetternich to Foreign Minister Javo, 1 July 1916; PA/AA/R 14094, report from Scheubner
Richter, 4 December 1916.
70. PA/AA/Bo.Kons./Band 169, report from Head Consulate officer Holleg Mordtmann, 30 June
71. PA/AA/Bo.Kons./Band, report from Colonel Stange to German embassy in Istanbul,
23 August 1915.
72. See Akc¸am, A Shameful Act.
73. A. Mil, ‘‘Umumi Harpte Tes¸kilat-ı Mahsusa,’’ Vakit Gazetesi (10 February 1934),
installment no. 98.
74. ‘‘By putting them [the documents obtained] before the attention of the Union and Progress
Central Committee, Dr. Bahaeddin S¸akir Bey was occupied with the arguments in favor of
taking precautions to save the army from a very serious threat.’’ Ibid. (12 February 1934),
installment no. 100.
75. Ibid., installment no. 98.
76. Ibid., installment no. 100.
77. BOA/DH/S¸FR, 51-215, 1333CA20. I thank Fuat Dundar for bringing this document to my
78. I would like to emphasize that here I am only discussing the subject of annihilation
during the deportation. Prior to this date Armenians were deported and resettled for
reasons that were almost exclusively militarily motivated. For more information,
particularly about the deportations that started first in Do¨rtyol and Iskenderun around
February 1915 and later in March and April around the Zeytun and Marash regions,
see Akc¸am, A Shameful Act.
79. BOA/DH/S¸FR, 52-93-1333C9, telegram from the Ministry of the Interior to Cemal Pasha,
24 April 1915. For the document also see Prime Minister’s State Archives, General Office,
Osmanlı Belgelerinde Ermeniler, 23–24.
80. BA/DH/S¸FR, 52-112-1333-C11, coded telegram from the Ministry of the Interior to the
governors’ offices of Marash, Adana, and Aleppo, 24 April 1915.
81. BOA/DH/S¸FR, 52-253-1333-C21, coded telegram from the Ministry of the Interior to the
Governor’s Office of Marash, 6 May 1915.
82. BOA/DH/S¸FR, 52-267, coded telegram from the Ministry of the Interior to the governor of
Aleppo, 7 May 1915.
83. BOA/DH/S¸FR, 52-338, coded telegram from the Ministry of the Interior to Adana, 11 May
84. Prime Minister’s State Archives, General Office, Osmanlı Belgelerinde, Ermeniler, p. 28.
85. Ragıp Bey, Tarih-i Hayatim (Ankara: Kebikec¸ Yayınları, 1996), 59–60.
86. J. Lepsius, Der Todesgang des Armenischen Volkes, Bericht u¨ber das Schicksal des
Armenischen Volkes in der Tu¨rkei waehrend des Weltkrieges (Potsdam: Missionshandlung
und Verlag, 1919), 43.
The Genocidal Policies of the Committee for Union and Progress
87. Meclisi Ayan Zabıt Ceridesi [Register of Assembly Senate Minutes], Devre [Cycle] III,
Assembly year 5, vol. 1, p. 123 (Ankara: TBMM Basımevi, 1990). I use here the translation
made by Vahakn N. Dadrian, ‘‘The Complicity of the Party, the Government, and the
Military. Selected Parliamentary and Judicial Documents,’’ Journal of Political and
Military Sociology 22, 1 (summer 1994): 29–96, 81.
88. Ikdam, 5 Kanunievvel 1918 (18 December 1918).
89. Written statement of Vehip Pasha, 12 December 1918.
90. An example of this is a telegram sent by Katib-i Mesul Ru¨s¸tu¨, from Samsun on 27 May
1919, wherein he confirms that he has formed the gangs needed in his region. Takvim-i
Vekayi, no. 3554, 5th hearing, 14 May 1919.
91. Takvim-i Vekayi, no. 3571, 13 Temmuz 1919 (13 June 1919).
92. Takvim-i Vekayi, no. 3772 (Katib-i Mesuller trial, final court ruling, 8 January 1920).
93. For an example, see Takvim-i Vekayi, no. 3549, 4th hearing, 8 Mayıs 1335 (8 May 1919).
94. Takvim-i Vekayi, no. 3557, 6th hearing, 14 Mayıs 1335 (14 May 1919).
95. Archives of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, carton 21, file M, no. 492.
96. This information can be found in Takvim-i Vekayi, no. 3772, in the final court ruling dated
8 January 1920 for the Katib-i Mesuller Trial.
97. Archives of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, carton 21, file M, no. 494.
98. Renaissance, 7 March 1919.
99. Lepsius, Der Todesgang, 76.
100. Abidin Nesimi, Yılların _
Ic¸inden (Istanbul: Go¨zlem Yayınları, 1977), 39–40.
101. PA-AA/Bo.Kons./Band 169, telegram from Walter Holstein, Vice-Consul of Mosul, to
German Embassy in Istanbul, 16 July 1915.
102. Alemdar, 11 May 1919.
103. Hu¨seyin Cahit Yalc¸ın, Siyasi Anılar (Istanbul: Tu¨rkiye _
Is¸ Bankası Ku¨ltu¨r Yayınları,
1976), 236.
104. Takvim-i Vekayi, no. 3549, 8 Mayıs 1335 (8 May 1919).
105. Ibid.
106. Alemdar, 3 August 1919.
107. Takvim-i Vekayi, no. 3771, 9 February 1920, final court ruling from the Mamu¨retu¨laziz
108. Takvim-i Vekayi, no. 3540, 27 Nisan 1335 (27 April 1919).
109. FO 371/4172/31307, p. 396, report dated 10 February 1919.
110. Tercu¨manı Hakikat, 5 August 1920; Vakit, 6 August 1920.
111. Takvim-i Vekayi, no. 3540, 1st hearing, ındictment from the Main Trial, 27 Nisan 1335
(27 April 1919).
112. Renaissance, 12 February 1919; Ikdam, 11 February 1919.
113. Alemdar, 25 March 1919.
114. Takvim-i Vekayi, no. 3772, Katib-i Mesuller trial, court ruling dated 8 January 1920

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