Translation of an Editorial Article in the Turkish Journal "Hilal," 4th April, 1916,
Communicated by the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief
The telegraphic agencies gave us the day before yesterday summary of a lecture given in Vienna by the German deputy Traub, on his return from a journey to Turkey.. After having paid tribute to the military qualities of the Turkish soldiers whom he had occasion to know closely during his stay on the Penisula of Gallipoli, the eminent lecturer expressed the following opinion: "Turkey must not be considered by Europeans as a counttry to be exploited." Mr. Traub added that he was opposed to all misssionary activities in the Turkish Empire.
These words are of the highest value to us, because in proouncing them the Honourable German deputy expressed and recognized the profound change which has taken place in our country during these last years. In stating that foreigners must no longer consider Turkey as a vast field of exploitation, Mr. Traub has shown how the present situation of the Ottoman Empire differs from that of yesterday. At the same time he pointed out the necessity of abandoning the old ideas which had taken root with most Europeans as regards our country.
Turkey has always been considered by foreigners as a country where one could and should enrich himself by every possible means and without any charge or risk. For them it was a vast magnificent fief which was to be exploited as a feudal lord managed his estate. Make as much money as possible, that was the motto of those who came to our country and who, actuated solely by the grasping desire for lucre, had no scruples or were untouched the least noble or elevated considerations.
Whatever this conception may have been, and however reprehensible the conduct was of those to whom we refer, it would be unjust to consider them solely the result of the temperament of the Europeans living in Turkey. The regime of the Capitulations, odious for us, but full of delights for them, had contributed powerfully to form in our guests the strange ideas of which they were possessed. While the Sultan's own subjects had to submit to all kinds of charges and taxes, the foreigners residing in this Empire were not only entirely exempted, but also enjoyed privileges as numerous as they were important. This strange distinction justified the privileged ones in considering the others as creatures whose sole duty was to suffer everything and to assure the happiness of those to whom they had offered their hospitality.
The Hamidian administration also tended to support the point of view of the foreigners by encouraging tbem and permitting them all sorts of liberties.
The Sovereign, his ministers, and all officers of the adninistration had only one sure object in view, to assure for themselves a brilliant and easy life, without any anxiety. This confession alone.profoundly wounds our national self-respect. We do not hesitate, out of respect for the truth, to call the old regime, which only yesterday was still in force, the shameless exploitation of the Turkish People. As regards the latter, it bore everything, it was incapable of reacting, because it had not yet become self-conscious.
On the eve of the proclamation of the Constitution, Turkey resembled rather closely Peru or Mexico, which, having been conquered by Pizarro and Cortes, respectively, were for many centuries under an administration totally devoid of all scruples.
This situation did not change immediately after the 23rd July, 1908; a new regime had been introduced in Turkey, but a new spirit had not yet entered the mind of the Turkish People. It required- the great shocks of the Balkan War to revolutionise profoundly our souls and to give us self-consciousness. The day when under the influence of anxiety and suffering the Turkish People asked themselves: "What am I? What have I done? What shall I do?" -- that day was the real beginning of the new era for our country.
We need not dwell here at length on the changes which for nearly four years have taken place in all departments in Turkey. It is not our intention to write the history of the evolution of the soul of the Turkish People, and of the progress it has made. What we wish to speak of is the new situation which it has created for the foreigners.
The Turkish People, while it saw its own individuality develop, became conscious of its rights. It suddenly became evident to it that it was the only master in its own house and that nobody should exploit it or displace it in any field. The foreigners were in its eyes nothing but guests, who were entitled to its respect, but whose duty it was to become worthy of the hospitality they were enjoying.
The abolition of the Capitulations was the first manifestation of this new spirit we have just mentioned. Henceforth foreign subjects had to submit to the same burdens as the natives.
The suppression of the schools founded and directed by ecclesiastic missions or by individuals belonging to enemy nations, a measure which followed the abolition of the capitulary regime, was no less important. Thanks to their schools foreigners were able to exercise great moral influence over the young men of the country and they were virtually in charge of the spiritual and intellectual guidance of our country. By closing them the Government has put an end to a situation as humiliating as it was dangerous, a situation which, unfortunately, had already lasted too long. Other measures of a political and economic nature were taken to complete a work which might be called the taking possession of the country by its own sons, who had too long been deprived of their rights.
Thanks to this awakening, a little late but still in time, and. thanks especially to this activity, Turkey has to-day become "Fatherland," like Sweden, Spain, or Switzerland. Our country is no longer an estate or fief for any