chapter  3
Kemalism and state security
Pages 16

How was the new, and newly Turkish, state to find its place in the world? Territorially, by 1920 Turkish nationalists had accepted that western Thrace and the Arab lands could remain outside the new republic, and instead based their demands on the National Pact agreed upon that year by an Ottoman but elected and nationalist-dominated parliament meeting in Istanbul (Vali 1971: 14-21; Hale 2000: 44-59; Lewis 2002: 239-62; Zurcher 2004: 133-63). In effect, this declared the intention to base the new Turkish state on the ‘Ottoman Muslim’ – Turkish and Kurdish – people, thereby rejecting any desire to retain wider Ottoman territorial possessions. It also signalled the defeat of those Turkish nationalists who aspired to base the new state on pan-Turkic (or pan-Turanian) principles. This would have necessitated exploiting the difficulties of the new Soviet regime in a bid to incorporate central Asia and Azerbaijan. However, in 1920, Turkish nationalists were confronted both with the fact that Greek forces, inspired by their Greater Greece or megali idea and encouraged by the British in particular, were in occupation of the whole of Thrace and much of western Anatolia; and by the Treaty of Sèvres, drawn up by British and French diplomats and signed by the Sultan’s government, also in 1920 but after the adoption of the National Pact earlier in the year. The Treaty of Sèvres aimed to award Thrace and western Anatolia to Greece, envisaged the establishment of Kurdish and Armenian states in eastern Anatolia, offered zones of economic influence to France and Italy, restored the hated ‘capitulations’ that awarded privileges to foreigners in Turkey and to their economic interests, placed the country under external financial control and planned to put the straits – the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles – under international supervision. In addition, French and Italian troops had joined the British in occupying the straits and had landed on parts of Anatolia’s southern coastline. The Sultan’s administration, now a mere puppet of the allies, remained the recognized government until November 1922. It was Kemal Ataturk who took the credit for leading the fight – the

Turkish War of Independence – against the Greeks. Turkish forces attained

victory in late 1922, but not before widespread atrocities were committed by both sides against the civilian inhabitants of the region. The French and Italians had neither the unity nor the will to take on Turkey’s emerging nationalist forces, and soon signalled their readiness to enter into negotiations with them. The British, too, proved unwilling to back their political support for the Greeks with military force. In Anatolia’s north-east, Turkey had attacked the independent Armenian state in 1920 and in effect annexed much of its territory. The Soviets simultaneously took over what remained of Armenia, which led to the Turkish-Soviet Treaty of Kars establishing the Turkish-Armenian border at its present location, which ceded Kars, Ardahan and Igdir to Turkey, but incorporated Muslim Adjara and the port city of Batumi (in Georgia) into the Soviet Union. With victory assured, the nationalists under Ataturk’s leadership abolished the sultanate. They were now the de facto government of a new Turkish republic. International recognition soon followed with the Treaty of Lausanne, signed

in July 1923. This embraced some but not all of the terms of the National Pact of 1920. Turkey would be fully sovereign, with provincial and Anatolian Ankara rather than cosmopolitan and geographically vulnerable Istanbul as its capital. Neither a Kurdish nor an Armenian state would be carved out of Anatolia. Eastern Thrace would be Turkish, but most of the Aegean islands – some of which were to be permanently demilitarized – went to Greece. In light of the bloodletting that had taken place between ethnic Turks and Greeks, it was also agreed that a population exchange should take place between the two countries, involving the transfer of over 1 million Christians from Turkish territory and half a million Muslims from Greece – although this was in large measure a rubber-stamping of the population flows that had already occurred. A small Greek minority remained in Istanbul, and a Muslim minority stayed put in western Thrace, where it outnumbered the local Greeks by more than three to one, although some of the Muslims were Bulgarianrather than Turkish-speaking (Pomaks) (Vali: 1971: 224). Thousands of these Muslims have since emigrated to Turkey, and the number remaining is a source of dispute between Turkey and Greece, as is their treatment at the hands of the Greek authorities. The Greek population of Istanbul, at more than 100,000 (fourteen per cent of the city’s total) at the time of independence (Vali 1971: 222) also drifted to Greece in the ensuing years and was depleted still further in the mid-1950s in the wake of anti-Greek riots ostensibly provoked by the interethnic conflict in British-ruled Cyprus. Today there are only around 4000 Greek inhabitants of Istanbul, although tens of thousands more have retained their Turkish citizenship though residing in Greece. The status of Turkey’s Greeks, and especially of Istanbul’s Greek Patriarch, is similarly a source of tension today between the two neighbouring states. Both Greece and Turkey have been criticized for their approach to interethnic relations within their national boundaries (Council of Europe 2009). Three territorial issues remained after the signing of the Lausanne Treaty:

the Dodecanese islands and Rhodes; the province of Hatay/Alexandretta,

bordering Syria; and the largely Kurdish-populated Mosul province of what is now Iraq. The Lausanne Treaty gave the mostly Greek-inhabited Dodecanese islands to Italy. Although Turkey had retained a claim to them based on their Ottoman past, the Turkish minorities that still resided there and their proximity to the Turkish coastline, Ankara did not see fit to oppose the 1947 transfer of the islands to Greece. Turkey needed allied support against the Soviet threat, and was not in an especially strong diplomatic position given its wartime neutrality. Furthermore, its relations with Greece were good at this time. That the islands were to be demilitarized also sweetened the pill. With regard to Alexandretta, to Turkey’s south-east, the population of

which was over one-third Turkish with the rest divided between Sunni, Shia and Christian Arabs and Armenians, it had been agreed at Lausanne that it should be attached to French-ruled Syria, so long as it remained administratively distinct and the rights of Turks were protected. With the approach of Syrian independence, Ankara’s opposition to Arab rule of the province mounted. An inconclusive election in Alexandretta was ignored by the French who, keen to retain friendship with Turkey as the prospect of war in Europe loomed, instead allowed Turkish troops jointly to police the province. Another election was held, this time producing a Turkish majority, which enabled Paris to cede the province, called Hatay by the Turks, to Ankara. This was contrary to the undertaking that had been made by France to the League of Nations that it would not cede Syrian territory to any foreign power. Consequently, the League of Nations refused to recognize the transfer. More importantly, this arrangement angered the newly independent state of Syria that emerged in 1946, and undermined relations between Ankara and Damascus for decades to come (Hale 2000: 66-67). The most immediately problematic territorial issue left unresolved by the

Lausanne Treaty, and with major implications for Turkey today, concerned the former Ottoman province of Mosul in British-administered Iraq. Although in 1915 Sherif Hussein, whose son was in due course to become the new Iraqi state’s first King, laid claim only to the Ottoman Arab provinces of Baghdad and Basra, over which the British acquired a mandate at the end of World War I, the British had now attached Mosul province to their Baghdad and Basra protectorates (Catherwood 2004). This rendered the lower-lying Arab provinces more defensible and economically more viable. Furthermore, oil had recently been discovered around Kirkuk, thus strengthening the British desire to incorporate Mosul province into a new Iraqi state over which it could exercise control. Ankara, on the other hand, was determined that the new Turkish state should be made up of the non-Arab loyal Muslim inhabitants of the Ottoman empire, namely the Turks and the Kurds, and that Mosul province should become part of Turkey. Furthermore, Kurds – most of whom were in any case to be incorporated into Turkey – had generally fought alongside Turks in establishing the new Turkish state. The province was around three-quarters Kurdish, although Mosul city was mainly Arab and there was also a Turcoman population. Ankara even proposed that

a plebiscite be held to establish the wishes of Mosul’s population, which the British refused. Instead, the issue was left to a League of Nations International Commission of Inquiry to investigate, which Ankara believed was bound to favour the British perspective, not least because Turkey was not yet a League member. It did, and Mosul was awarded to Iraq in a 1925 judgement. Turkey protested but, unwilling to go to war with the British, had little choice but to back down, in return for a ten per cent share of the province’s oil royalties for a twenty-five-year period. In June 1926, Turkey and Britain signed a bilateral treaty recognizing the outcome. Iraq became independent in 1932 but, as we shall see (in Chapter 6), the fate of the Kurdish region of Iraq has again become a Turkish concern in recent years.