Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Halide Edib

Famine Hecatomb in Lebanon (1915-18)

Lebanon had a calamitous decade (1909-1918).

In 1909, waves of deadly diseases such as typhus, cholera, diphtheria… swept the cities and towns in current coastal Lebanon and in Mount Lebanon.

Many Lebanese, particularly Christians, immigrated. Their preferred destination was the USA and Egypt, but the ship captains would on many occasion drop the people in Africa and Latin America and telling them: “This is America

Linda Schatkowski Schilcher dissected the German and Austrian sources and achieves for her book “The Famine of 1915-18 in Greater Syria” and advanced the number of 500,000 victims of famine and related to famine in Syria and Lebanon, 200,000 of them died in Mount Lebanon, particularly in the districts of Byblos and Betroun and Tripoli.

For example, the village of Abdilleh lost 35% of its people and the town of Chabtine 63%.

How people die of Starvation?

“Due to absolute lack and bad quality of food, people experienced terrible feet swelling, and many fell exhausted on the roads, vomiting blood… The dead toddlers and kids were thrown with the garbage in the corners of the villages. Chariots collected them and dumped them in public ditches. These horror spectacles were observed in the villages of Bilad Jubeil and Bilad Batroun and the city of Tripoli…”

The Turkish feminist author Halide Edib wrote in her Memoirs: “The nights in Beirut were atrocious: You heard the whining and screaming of starved people “Ju3an, Ju3an” (I’m hungry, I’m famished)

Jubran Khalil Jubran wrote to Mary Haskell:

“The famine in Mount Lebanon has been planned and instigated by the Turkish government. Already 80,000 have succumbed to starvation, and thousands are dying every single day. The same process happened with the Christian Armenians and applied to the Christians in Mount Lebanon…”

What were the main causes for this endemic famine?

1. Turkey had joined Germany in WWI on November of 1914, and France landed in a few Islands on the coast such as Arwad, and established a maritime blockade that secured that no foodstuff reach Lebanon and Syria.

2. General Jamal Pasha instituted an internal blockade of cereals to enter Mount Lebanon, particularly the Christian Maronite Canton (Kaemmakam) that included the current districts of Kesrowan and Betroun. Consequently, the Lebanese could not receive wheat and cereals from the district of Akkar and the Bekaa Valley.

Mind you that the people in Mount Lebanon relied on the grains from Akkar and the Bekaa for immediate need, but relied on the grain arriving from Syria for the winter reserves.

3. In April of 1915, the locusts ate the green and the dry (akhdar wa yabess) of the harvests and plants for 3 months.

4. The Turkish troops had already emptied the grain reserves of the Lebanese homes at the start of the war, and there were no ways to replenish any foodstuff.

5. The war lasted 4 years, but the Lebanese suffered an extra year of famine: 10,000 kids were roaming the roads at the end of 1918, begging for crumbs of bread

Famished people from the coastal towns thought that they might get some relief in the higher altitude regions (Jroud of Bilad Jubail and Bilad Betroun) and they died there. In a single town, over 3,800 of them were buried in a communal ditch because the town refused to bury them close to the churches of the town.

Najib Murad-Diyarbakri mentioned in his book “Sinine al Ghala” (Years of expensive prices) a Lebanese epitaph that read as a poem:

“They died from famine along the roads,

No father or mother or anyone to pity on them

We witnessed couples perishing from the cold

In this rough climate…

And not receiving absolution from a priest or anybody

The Drums of war are beating their sad rhythm

And the living people, wrapped in their shroud

Believing the war will not last a year…

Dear God, may this fifth year be the end of it”

Even in 1933, Charles Corm noted: “In a single afternoon, I counted 823 houses without roofs, doors and windows between Kesrowan and Betroun…”

Note 1: Even in August 7, 1914, the Jesuit priest Joseph Delore urged the Catholic Missions in “Immense material and morale distress in Lebanon” to quickly come to the rescue.

Note 2: Stories are still being circulated in my hometown of Beit-Chabab (Metn district) that a few amassed wealth during the war by hoarding properties in exchange of a loaf of bread. The contraband from Syria was in full swing, and those with connections reaped wealth from the miseries of the little hapless people…

Note 3: Official Lebanon is doping its hardest to bury this famine calamity, on the ground that it is a shame to mention people dying of hunger.  Instead, Official Lebanon celebrate the hanging of 6 Lebanese by Jamal Pasha as martyrs.

Note 4: A decade ago, I knew a wonderful elderly couple in Montgomery County, originally from Adbelli, and they were in fine physical health. Jean was recounting how the people in the town were expecting to see the bed sheet displayed in the morning, as they got married in the town. Elizabeth would have nothing of that nonsense, and the sheet was never displayed from the window to show any red blotches.

Note 5: The locust came on whatever was still edible after the Turkish army grabbed the harvest for its war front on the Suez Canal

Story of Turkish dictator Mustapha Kemal “Ataturk”: As in Kenize Mourad book (Part 1)

The young general, Mustapha Kemal, was the hero of Turkey during WWI. He was the only military leader who successfully confronted two foreign armies:

1. Against the counsel of his superiors, Kemal defied the British troops and prevented them from occupying the Capital Istanbul. The British were getting ready to push forward from the Dardanelles and Kemal’s under equipped and outnumbered army stopped the British in Gallipoli.

2. Kemal recaptured the two cities of Bitlis and Mouch from the Czarist Russian armies (where genocides against Armenians were taking place by the Turkish troops).

Mustapha Kemal was nicknamed by the members of the royal women “Golden Rose” because of his blond hair.

Kemal was Albanian by origin and born in Salonika. His father was a low level custom employee in the Ottoman Empire.

Mustapha was considered handsome and arrogant. He enjoyed light skin, high cheek bones, blue eyes, and blond hair…

Sultan Vahiddedine liked to ask his judgement on the spirit of the army and listen to his non conformist opinions: the then young colonel was his aid de camp while visiting the Kaiser of Germany in 1917.

He had asked the hand of the Sultan’s favorite daughter Sabiha Sultan, and was eventually turned down while resuming the fight in Anatolia.

On March 16, 1920, the allied forces occupied Istanbul under the command of the British general Sir Charles Harington, nicknamed Gen. Tim.

The Turkish soldiers and officers left the capital and joined the resistance army in Anatolia under the command of Mustapha Kemal.

The occupying forces placed warning signs of “Death to anyone who hides a rebel” and the military police was after the woman author  and orator Halide Edib.

Former ministers and high officials were exiled to Malta.

While Kemal was organizing the resistance in Anatolia, Sabiha Sultana was wed to the Ottoman prince Omer Farouk.  Omer was from the branch in the royal family that was deposed by a military coup by the Young Turks officers.  He served as an imperial guard to the Prussian emperor and fought on the western front.

As Omer returned to Istanbul, he was attached as “aide de camp” to the Sultan and met with Sabiha and they fell crazily in love. The wedding put an end to the rivalry between the Abdul Mejid and Abu Aziz royal families.

The British pressured the Sultan to declare Kemal a traitor and to dispatch a Caliphate army to squelch the resisting Turkish army in Anatolia.  The caliphate army has initial successes but was defeated by Kemal’s army.

Mustapha was getting ready to try an attempt to reoccupy Istanbul, but the Greek army launched 8 divisions and Kemal’s army had to retreat.

In January 1920, Ismet Pasha blocked the advances of the Greek armies.

The Turkish peasants were very suspicious of Atatuk: They could not believe that Kemal was resisting to preserve the Caliphate and refused to cooperate.

Ataturk tried to lure the hereditary prince Abdul Medjid to ally with him. The prince wavered long enough for the British to get wind of the project and confined the prince to house arrest.

Prince Omer Farouk, the nationalist “Thunder”, managed to land in Anatolia, but Ataturk thanked him in a letter dispatched from Ankara and sent him packing to Istanbul.

The peace treaty signed in Versailles allocated the eastern part of Turkey to the new State of Armenia, part of the western region to Greece, particularly the city of Izmir, the southern regions of mostly Kurds were placed under French mandated power, and Istanbul was placed under international mandate.

Eventually, Mustapha Kemal counter attacked and regained all the Turkish territories that the peace treaty signed in Versailles dismembered Turkey of.

As  “Ataturk” (father of the Turks) snatched power by driving the Greek troops out of Turkey and all the foreign occupying armies vacated Turkey, the new dictator set about to enforce a secular State on the Turkish people:

1. He abolished the Caliphate and forced secular institutions

2.  Forbade women to veil their faces in public institutions

3. Forced the Latin characters to substitute the Arabic alphabet

4. Pressured France to cede the Syrian province of Iskandaroun to Turkey, which was renamed Hatai. France failed to keep its responsibility as a mandated power over Syria to retain the territory intact from foreign powers.

5. Ataturk burned the Christian houses and enterprises in Iskandarone and forced the Christian Syrian, Lebanese and Armenian to transfer to Syria and Lebanon.

6. This dictator moved the capital of Turkey to Ankara. In this quaint village, Ataturk built the government ministries and institutions and transferred the public employees to Ankara.

Note 1: Part of Ataturk biography was taken from Kenize Mourad book “From the Departed Princess“. Mourad published several books on her origin and was a specialist grand reporter in Middle-East affairs and India subcontinent for over 12 years.

Note 2: The French and Italian troops in Istanbul tacitly aided the resistance forces to steal weapons from the warehouses and cooperated in smuggling arms and ammunition to Ataturk army. Why?

France was upset that England got effective mandated power over Turkey, rich oil Iraq, Egypt, and Palestine. France was allocated just mandated power over Syria, completely surrounded by British power.

Italy was expecting to get the city of Izmir and its province, but England turned this city over to the Greek troops.




April 2023

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