Tall Armenian Tale


The Other Side of the Falsified Genocide


  Arthur Tremaine Chester Defends Turks Against Charges of Atrocities.  
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Mahmut Ozan
Edward Tashji
Sam Weems


Arthur Tremaine Chester, son of Rear Admiral Colby M. Chester, was the rare American of the period who got the chance to get up close and personal with the Turks. The representative of the U.S. Shipping Board in Istanbul, he would go on to build railroads for the newly formed Republic, and to head the "Chester Project," developing natural resources.

Like his father, Chester was one of the few Westerners who saw through the thick smokescreen of propaganda so effectively deployed by the Armenians and the Greeks who played to the very basic racist prejudices of the western world.

This article provides an exciting perspective of the Republic in the days of its infancy, and says volumes about the Armenian and Greek mythmakers of the day. Chester's words of outrage unfortunately ring no less true today as they did some four generations ago.    


"Angora and the Turks," as the article appeared in The New York Times


(From ATA-USA)


Angora and the Turks


                       (The New York Times Current History)

                                  Feb., 1923; pgs. 758-764         


Views of the son of Rear Admiral Colby M. Chester, on the basis of many years’ residence in Constantinople, of the Turkey of today—A spirited defense of the Turks against charge of atrocities.



  My first visit to Angora was to me a memorial occasion. Our party had driven from Ineboli over a nerve-racking road cut in the mountainside, with twists, turns, ruts and mud ditches beggaring description. After a complete breakdown, we finally reached Angora after dark.

  The following day the city stretched before us, and it was apparent that neither its size nor its attractiveness had made it the temporary capital of Turkey. One can understand why it was selected for housing the Government only by referring to the map. It is central, and, while near enough to the war in progress at that time, it was comparatively safe from attack, as the Sakaria River and desert of Touz-Tchul gave it a natural and formidable line of defense.

  Back of the city and overshadowing it is a hill from 200 to 300 feet high, surmounted by an old Turkish fort covering twenty or twenty-five acres of ground. The interior is completely filled with a mass of houses separated by narrow alleys. On the side of the hill facing the city is the burned section usually found in Turkish cities and villages, the disastrous fire, in this case, having occurred four years ago. Beyond this and on the gradual slope into the plain below the main part of Angora is situated. The railway is located on the other side of the low land from the city, and is about three-quarters of a mile distant.

  We visited the fort the first day, and, in spite of the fact being mentioned in the guidebooks, were surprised to see throughout its construction old Roman blocks of marble and granite, many of them faced with statues, carvings and inscriptions. The first impression was one of disgust that old Roman buildings or ruins had been demolished for fort construction, but in those days the urgent necessity of self-preservation may have made it obligatory As I looked at it with this thought in mind, I seemed to feel that the old fort symbolized the spirit of Turkey since the armistice, a spirit which has subordinated and sacrificed all—wealth, ease, beauty, even life itself—to the all-absorbing and imperative necessity of defending homes and country against the invader.

   For a few minutes, as I stood there, I considered myself a Turk and reviewed the wrongs that had been perpetrated upon my country since throwing off the yoke of absolutism in t908, with less bloodshed and more self-restraint than the history of any other country has recorded. I remembered Italy’s unprovoked attack upon us in Tripoli

   I saw the Balkan States, greedy for expansion, take advantage of our army’s absence in Tripoli and make an unwarranted invasion of our western territory. I saw our successful counter- attack, when troops could be withdrawn from the South, and the sacred city of Adrianople and our Turkish people rescued from subjection. I pictured our efforts to keep from being involved in the great war and our being forced in on the side of  Germany, not by the hopes of territorial expansion that animated the others, but by the sure knowledge that my country would be the fruit of victory in case the Allies won. This was not guess work, as has been subsequently proved. I remembered the collapse of Germany, and the great joy that went through our country when Wilson insisted on the principle of self-determination at the Versailles conference, as this was all we had been fighting for. Then our despair when, in spite of this principle, we found ourselves cut up to satisfy the greed of the Allies. We were to be a subject race and exploited by nations who throughout their histories had administered subject peoples, for their own selfish ends. I saw the cringing subserviences of our Sultan and Ministry in Constantinople, and their acceptance of terms that enslaved millions of people whom they were supposed to represent; the collection of a few patriots in Sivas to repudiate such action, the arrival of Mustapha Kemal, after leaving Constantinople for Anatolia by a ruse, the organization of the National Government and the army, and the patriots leaving comfortable houses in Constantinople for an easy life in Europe to join the great movement for freedom.

  I saw the new Government raise money where apparently none existed, suppress lawlessness without means of modern communication, when every mountain (and mountains cover most of Anatolia) was a refuge, inspire old men and women to do young men’s work and equip an army and build up a marvelous artillery corps where, for a long time, the greater part of the guns used were dismantled and obsolete ordnance, our army equipment having been taken by the Allies. This with no factories and only country blacksmith shop equipment.

  As I came down the hill I was an American again, but I was filled with resentment for the way the Turks had been misjudged, misrepresented and unjustly treated, and felt the greatest admiration for what they had accomplished against staggering odds.


 It has been the custom of those who wish to condemn the Turk to give religious intolerance as the cause of all disturbances in Turkey. I have never heard one of these people admit that politics, treachery, or any other similar cause had any connection with them. If an Armenian or Greek is killed, it is always referred to as the massacre of a Christian.

A Strong Government


  My work brought me in contact with the different officials of the Government. I wish some of the broad-minded people in America could meet personally and have a heart-to-heart talk with those at the head of the Nationalist Government. A country may be fairly well judged by the class of people it elects to govern it, and, if so, Turkey stands high among the nations.

  Turkish Deputies are paid $120 a month and Cabinet officers get $150; so these men, who have given up their personal affairs and comfortable homes, are not animated by mercenary motives in accepting positions under the Government. Raouf Bey, the Premier, a naval officer by profession, has lived in America and England, and, besides being a man of broad ideas and energetic and patriotic character, has a remarkable personality. I have never heard any one, no matter what his nationality, say a word of criticism about him. Feizi Bey, the Minister of Public Works, with whom I have been thrown more intimately than the rest, is a man who would stand out prominently in any country and any company. He has neglected large personal interests to work for his country, is keen, extremely human and has a rare personal magnetism. Adnan Bey, Vice President of the Angora Parliament and practically head of that body, as Mustapha Kemal Pasha only takes the active Presidency on special occasions, is exceptionally well fitted for such a position. His quiet, even temper harmonizes the different elements of Parliament Although in poor health, he sticks to his post where an ordinary man, less patriotic, would leave for a more healthful climate. His wife, Halide Edib Hanoum, is a graduate of the American College in Constantinople and the leading woman in Turkey. Between them they have a marked influence for good in their country.

  In this vein I could continue down the list. There is not a weak link in the chain. These men work together harmoniously and patriotically with two cardinal aims—first, that the Turks shall be ruled by the Turks, and second, that their country shall prosper by every modern and progressive means obtainable. The first they have practically accomplished, against the greatest odds imaginable, and the second they will accomplish in just as decisive a manner.

  It is remarkable that Turkey, of all the nations on both sides of the struggle that were down to the bitter end of their resources during the World War and as a result of it, was the only one to withstand the temptation to issue unsecured paper money. The Nationalists had the power and every excuse for doing so, more than any other country, due to their dire need of money, facing an invading nation backed by all the power of England. They did not issue one pound in Anatolia, and the finances of the country are just as they were when the armistice was signed. Economists consider this result, under the circumstances, as almost unparalleled.

  Two weeks after our arrival Mustapha Kemal Pasha returned to the capital for the first time since the Greek’s disastrous defeat. He alone had promised the ejection of the enemy. Many of the Nationalist Deputies were skeptical, though they hoped that the Greeks would be driven back to Smyrna. By his personality and perfect faith that right would win, Mustapha Kemal carried the weaker characters with him. He returned triumphant. Three temporary triumphal arches were erected over the road from the station to the Parliament Building. An automobile was ready to carry him the three-quarters of a mile he had to travel, but, refusing the conveyance, he walked up the road, surrounded by the Cabinet and the Parliament’s reception committee and followed by a mob of delirious admirers.

  I stood on the edge of the Parliament grounds and watched the slow-moving mass coming from the station with Mustapha Kemal hardly discernable from the rest, saluting the enthusiastic crowds that lined both sides of the road. As they slowly approached I tried to picture his thoughts. The recent victory was due to his inspiration, and he was returning after fulfilling his promises. Would he, as history has recorded in the case of most of the great conquerors, with a great trained army back of him, take unto himself the powers of a dictator, or let Turkey retain a constitutional Government? I answered my own question subsequently.

  Two days later Kemal Pasha made his report to the Parliament personally. I was fortunate in obtaining a front seat in the gallery. For the first time I saw the Great National Assembly of Turkey. The assembly room is so relatively small that the Deputies must crowd three on a seat designed to accommodate two, in order to permit the attendance of all.

  Regular parliamentary business was carried on under the chairmanship of Adnan Bey. During the proceedings Mustapha Kemal Pasha came in quietly and squeezed into a seat with two other Deputies in the rear. Routine business having been finished, Kemal Pasha’s report was announced. Every one stood as he made his way through the narrow aisle to the speakers’ platform, below and in front of the Chairman’s desk perched six or eight feet above the floor level.

Reflections on Ataturk


                                     A Great Personality


  Unfortunately, I could not understand Turkish, and only scraps here and there were translated to me. My time, therefore, was spent in studying the man himself. Although a Marshal and the ranking officer in Turkey, he wears the ordinary kalpak used throughout Turkey, while many of his subordinates have quite elaborate head coverings. His uniform is the simplest imaginable, and the only insignia of any kind is a piece of maroon velvet two inches square, sewed on the two corners of his collar and surrounded by a narrow gold band with a small star in the centre. In appearance he is tall, probably six feet, well proportioned, lithe and active. He is only 37 [Holdwater: In 1923, Ataturk was 42], and from the platform he looked younger. His hair is light, as is also his close-trimmed mustache. Every line of his face denotes strength. When he is animated his eyes flash fire. His hands are almost as delicately chiseled as those of a woman, and he uses them with exceptional grace. The Turk in his gestures observes a mean between the calisthenic motions of the Latin races and the utter lack of gesture of the average American. Kemal Pasha has the ability to express a shade of meaning by a simple motion of his hand better than any one I have ever seen.

  The victorious leader started his speech by thanking Parliament for its support of the army and himself. He had promised that the Greeks would be forced out of Anatolia, and this had been accomplished. He regretted the blood that had been shed, and to avoid it he had used every means known to diplomacy to stop the war, but all his efforts had been misconstrued by the enemy as signs of weakness. He gave the whole credit for the plan of campaign to his Chief of Staff, Feizi Pasha, and his praise for the army and its officers was unstinted. With great emotion he described the spirit that animated the officers and men, citing the case of his devoted friend, Colonel Rechad Bey. It seems that Rechad Bey was assigned to take a certain hill in the action against the Greeks, and at the time this was scheduled to be accomplished, Mustapha Kemal called him on the telephone to learn of his progress. He replied that the hill had not been taken, as he had not received the expected support of the artillery, but that he would take it within half an hour. At the end of that time Kemal Pasha again called up, and a note, written a few minutes before by Rechad Bey, was read to him. The note stated that as he had been unable to keep his promise by taking the hill in half an hour he considered it necessary to kill himself. Rechad Bey had shot himself immediately after signing the note. The Pasha then described in detail the plan and progress of the campaign, referring constantly to maps in front of him.

  All this was enunciated in a quiet, clear, penetrating voice. Toward the end, as he suggested plans and hopes for the future, his true oratorical powers became evident, and the personality that had made him one of the leading characters of the present day was inspiring, even to those of us who could not understand the words he uttered. At the close, and at his suggestion, every one arose and, in unison, a solemn prayer for the dead was raised to Allah. I left Parliament assured that Turkey had at last developed a leader in every sense of the word, and that her Constitution was as safe in his hands as ours was in those of Lincoln.

  A few days later Soubhy Zia Bey and I had an hour and a half joint meeting with Mustapha Kemal Pasha and Youssouf Kemal Bey. I cannot give the details or even the purport of our discourse, except to say that the Turkish Government wants America to know Turkey and the Turks as they really are, and not as represented by those who capitalize any and every thing said against them. It wants American cooperation in developing the natural resources of the country. It wants, above everything else, to keep out of intriguing and hypocritical international politics.

  I have known the Turks since the constitutional revolution, fourteen years ago, and before closing, I wish to add a few facts that I believe, in justice, should be recorded. In the first place, condemnation without hearing both sides is unjust and un-American, and yet many Americans have shown this injustice in regard to the Turks. In the second place, it is unfair to judge and condemn a nation on account of the acts of one or a few unscrupulous individuals of that nation, just as it would be unfair to claim that all Americans are lawless because a few unprincipled people lynch negroes in the South.


. . . but the Armenians were not satisfied with this form of treachery. The provinces in the rear of the army had a large Armenian population, and these people, feeling that there was an excellent chance of the Russians defeating the Turks, decided to make it a certainty by rising up in the rear of the army and cutting it off from its base of supplies.


                    No Religious Intolerance in Turkey


  It has been the custom of those who wish to condemn the Turk to give religious intolerance as the cause of all disturbances in Turkey. I have never heard one of these people admit that politics, treachery, or any other similar cause had any connection with them. If an Armenian or Greek is killed, it is always referred to as the massacre of a Christian.

  As a matter of cold, indisputable fact, there is more religious freedom in Turkey than in any other country in the world, more than has ever been recorded in history. There are two classes of laws in Turkey—the civil law, based on the Napoleon Code, and to which all Ottoman subjects must conform, and the Moslem or Sheri law, by which only Moslem subjects must be governed. The Sheri law covers all personal laws, such as those relating to marriage, divorce, inheritance and dower. Religious organizations, other than Moslem, are allowed to administer hospitals, homes for the destitute, and schools, as well as their churches. They make their own personal laws, and try cases coming under that classification. Only in cases where one or both parties prefer to have the case tried by the Sheri law courts do such courts have jurisdiction, and it is significant that in from 40 to 50 per cent of the cases involving Christians this provision is taken advantage of and these are cases tried by the Sheri courts. Can any one point to any other country that allows, or ever has allowed, numerous different religious organizations to make and administer laws relating to matters other than religious?

  In 1909 I visited the Turkish Parliament in session. At that time the Bulgarians separated from the Greek Church, and the rival religious factions in Macedonia were continually fighting, the conflict resulting in many deaths. The Turkish police were overworked trying to prevent these sanguinary conflicts between Christians. In Parliament there were representatives of all the different nationalities in the country, and the Bulgarian and Greek Deputies were continually wrangling, and almost came to blows on several occasions. The Bulgarians contended that if they had a majority in the church they had a right to take the church; to this the Greeks strenuously objected. One of these discussions was in progress on the occasion of my visit. The din was deafening, and apparently a free fight was imminent. Finally the Turks could stand it no longer, and Halil Bey, the floor leader of the Turks, after insisting that order be restored, proposed that where the majority in a church was Greek the minority Bulgarians should have no rights if they wished to leave, but if the majority was Bulgarian, the church should become Bulgarian, and the Turkish Treasury should pay the minority Greeks a sum equal to their proportional ownership in the church with which to build a new one.

  The Turks had absolute control of Parliament by a large majority, and yet these so-called Christian-hating people appropriated, from their depleted Government funds, money with which to build Christian churches in order to keep the Christians in their country from fighting among themselves. This depicts a characteristic of the Turk entirely at variance with the idea many Americans have of his character, based on the report of those who received or receive pecuniary benefits from painting it as black as possible, and of those fanatical Christians who can see no good in a Moslem and no evil in a Christian .


A Parallel Scenario


                        Armenians Deported for Treachery


  We hear a great deal about the deportation of Armenians from the Northeast of Turkey during the World War. The facts are that the Turks sent an army to the Russian border to defend their country against the threatened Russian invasion. The army consisted of Turkish subjects of all nationalities, being drafted just as ours are drafted. At the front the Armenians used blank cartridges and deserted in droves. This was bad enough, but the Armenians were not satisfied with this form of treachery. The provinces in the rear of the army had a large Armenian population, and these people, feeling that there was an excellent chance of the Russians defeating the Turks, decided to make it a certainty by rising up in the rear of the army and cutting it off from its base of supplies. Let me draw a parallel imaginary case. Suppose that Mexico was a powerful and rival country with which we were at war, and suppose that we sent an army to the Mexican border to hold back the invading enemy; suppose further that not only the negroes in our army deserted to the enemy but those left at home organized and cut off our line of communication. What do you think we as a people, especially the  Southerners, would do to the negroes? Our Negroes have ten times the excuse for hating the whites that the Armenians have for their attitude toward the Turks. They have no representation, although they have an overwhelming majority in large sections of the South, and have nothing to say in the making or administration of the laws under which they are governed. South of the Mason and Dixon line they are practically a subject race, while the Armenians in Turkey have not only full representation but special privileges not accorded by any other country.

  The Turkish Government ordered the Armenians deported from the districts they menaced That they did not have railways and other means of transportation was not their fault, and the deportation had to be carried out on foot. That this was not done in the most humane manner possible is undoubtedly a fact, and the Turkish Government has condemned the unnecessary cruelties that occurred; but I feel confident that if America had been put in the hypothetical situation above referred to, it would have stopped that insurrection if it had had to kill every negro in the South, and would not have gone to the tedious and laborious defensive act of deportation, in spite of our extensive means of transportation.

  I chanced to meet, not long ago, an American who was, in 1899, the consular representative of Turkey in New York. He told me that at that time there was an “Armenian massacre.” There was the usual hue and cry against the wholesale killing of Christians in Turkey. It became so intense that the Turkish Government decided to submit proofs that the “massacre” was the direct result of traitorous and revolutionary acts by the Armenians themselves. The consular agent, in his official capacity, submitted these proofs to the State Department, and the evidence so overwhelmingly vindicated the Turks that the matter was immediately dropped. These records are on file at the State Department.

  In the reactionary movement of 1909 the soldiers in Constantinople revolted and killed two hundred of their officers. Parliament, police and, in fact, every restraining force left the capital. For ten days the city was in the hands of unofficered, unrestrained and irresponsible troops. They were free to do anything they desired, and yet during that time not a woman was insulted nor a store looted. I can imagine no other race showing such such self-restraint under similar lawless conditions.

  There is no question that there have been instances where cruel individuals have done things against the Armenians and Greeks without provocation, and they should be condemned in the strongest terms; but it is safe to say that no massacre of any importance has occurred that was not the direct result of traitorous or threatening acts by the victims. It is a known fact that on several occasions Armenian leaders have intentionally instigated these massacres for the sole purpose of obtaining foreign sympathy and political aid.

  It must be noted that in almost every case the massacres have been confined to either Armenians or Greeks, according to which race did the overt act that caused the massacre. No members of either of these two races were killed because they were Christians any more than negroes are lynched because they are Methodists.

  Our papers refuse to publish the account of the barbarities and atrocities committed by the Greeks upon the Turks, although authenticated by unbiased foreign officials, including our own, and yet they are as inhuman and blood-curdling as any recorded in history.

  I have yet to meet a foreigner living in this part of the world and unbiased by politics, religion or pecuniary benefits derived from condemning the Turks, who has not most emphatically stated that of all the races represented in the population of the old Turkish Empire, the Turks are by far the best people.




Arthur Tremaine Chester's father, Rear Admiral Colby M. Chester, also defended Turks the previous year, in an article entitled, "Turkey Reinterpreted" (The New York Times Current History); he was viciously attacked by solidly established pro-Armenian forces.


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