National Geographic : 1912 Jan
THE YOUNG TURK* BY REAR-ADMIRAL COLBY M. CHESTER, U. S. NAVY DURING the better part of the past four years I have resided in Constantinople, making trips to the interior of Turkey, the islands of the }Egean Sea, Egypt, and several of the lost colonies of the Empire. I have dined in the palace of that arch fiend the recent noted ruler of the Turk ish Empire, Abdul Hamid; also in some of the homes of prominent Turks, and I feel warranted, therefore, in speaking of them from the standpoint of one who has known them at close range. During the early part of the year 1908 the growing discontent with the existing regime in the Ottoman Empire on the part of all the different races of this very cosmopolitan country-Turks, Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians, and Arabs aroused a cry of distress that was heard throughout all christendom. From out side the boundaries of Turkey, among the western nations of Europe, Christian people pressed their administrators for a declaration that should either put an end to the despotic rule of Abdul Hamid the Nero of the age-or drive the Turk out of Europe. Suddenly from Saloniki, in the south of Macedonia, Enver Bey and Niazi Bey, two young Turkish army officers of never-dying fame, raised the standard of revolution, and a wave of reform was started from within the Empire itself that spread from border to border with light ning rapidity. It was on July 4, 1908, the birthday of the United States of America and of republican government, that a new era was inaugurated in Turkey. It took a number of days to organize the rebel lious subjects of the Sultan, after these young officers had lighted the fuse which was eventually to blow this des potic ruler from his throne; so that it was not until an ultimatum wired to Constantinople demanding the proclama tion of the constitution was received and acted upon that it was finally granted to the people. On July 24, however, Abdul Hamid, learning that his last remaining support, the Albanian troops, whom he had for many years bribed to sustain his totter ing power, had deserted him, and that the threat to march on Constantinople with 200,000 men was to be literally car ried into effect, submitted to the inevita ble and signed the irade that was to make him a figure-head in governmental ad ministration. WHO ARE THE YOUNG TURKS? The term "Young Turk" is applied to that vast class of Moslem subjects who were disaffected by the growing burdens placed upon them by the despotic action of the ruling power. This term applies alike to young and old, male or female; those who lived in Turkey or were spread broadcast over the face of the earth by expatriation or the fear of death by residence in the fatherland. This so called Young Turk party comprised Christians and Jews, as well as Turks, and embraced parts of all the various races which go to make up the nation. The "Committee of Union and Prog ress" was a secret society organized within the kingdom, the ranks of which were recruited from the Young Turk party. Members were obliged to take a most sacred oath to devote their whole energies to the redemption of the coun try, to obey every order given through the channels of the society, never to re veal its secrets, and to kill any person, however near and dear to them, whom the committee might condemn to suffer death. The harshness of this creed was due to the necessity of fighting with fire the devil who ruled the nation, and who had organized the most diabolical espion age system ever conceived-a system that created suspicion between man and wife, brother and sister, or even mother * An address to the National Geographic Society, December 8, 1911.