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'''Mustafa Kemal Ataturk''' (1881 in Salonica (present-day [[Greece]]) – 10 November 1938 in Istanbul (present-day [[Turkey]])) was the founder of the modern Turkish Republic in 1923. He is revered throughout Turkey and in an interview published on August 1, 1926 in The Los Angeles Examiner, spoke unfavorably of the former [[Young Turks|Ottoman Young Turk government]] that orchestrated the [[Armenian Genocide]]:
:''These left-overs from the former Young Turk Party, who should have been made to account for the millions of our Christian subjects who were ruthlessly driven en masse, from their homes and massacred, have been restive under the Republican rule.''
On March 16, 1923, he said in a speech to the Adana Turkish Merchant Society:
:''"The Armenians have no right whatsoever in this beautiful country. Your country is yours, it belongs to Turks. This country was Turkish in history; therefore it is Turkish and it shall live on as Turkish to eternity... Armenians and so forth have no rights whatsoever here. These bountiful lands are deeply and genuinely the homeland of the Turk."''<ref>Corporatist Ideology in Kemalist Turkey: Progress or Order?, by Taha Parla and Andrew Davison, Syracuse University Press, 2004.</ref>
The Armenian Who Saved Ataturk's Life
Tufan Turenc, Hurriyet
There were many Armenians who were loyal to the Turkish nation. Here
is the story of one remarkable example, who came through when his
nation needed him the most.
The Story of Berch Keresteciyan
Istanbul 1919 ... a city of suffering under the pain of Allied
occupation ... Berch Keresteciyan Efendi, in those days, is the
Director of the Ottoman Bank.
Mustafa Kemal knows him from Selanik, as the president of the bank's
Berch Keresteciyan Efendi also happens to be the Vice President of
Hilal-i Ahmer (Kizilay), the "Turkish Red-Crescent".
In the Istanbul of those days, a city teeming with spies on every
corner, Berch Keresteciyan meets with Mustafa Kemal's attorney Sadettin
Ferit Bey and divulges the following information:
"You are, I believe, both the attorney and a close friend of the
Esteemed Pasha. The ship that the Esteemed will be taking to Samsun
will be sunk by a British torpedo boat outside the Bosphorus. Please
convey this warning to the Esteemed Pasha."
Sadettin Ferit showed up at Mustafa Kemal's house in Sisli with the
bad news, although it happened to be a rather late hour of the night.
As soon as he boarded Bandirma, the ship that would take him to Samsun
on the first leg of what would develop into the Turkish National War
of Liberation, Mustafa Kemal asked Captain Ismail Hakki Bey "is it
possible to cruise as close to the shore as possible?"
The captain hesitatingly admitted to the Pasha that this was his first
voyage in the Black Sea, and he didn't quite know where the rocks or
shallow banks were at.
Mustafa Kemal responded: "Then we'll sail with compass." When the
captain replied embarrassingly that the ship's compass did not work
either, Pasha smiled gently and said: "No problem. Great is Allah.
You still try to hug the coastal line to the extent possible."
Bandirma, by cruising as close as possible to the shore, reached
Samsun without any major mishaps." Berch Keresteciyan
The bank director warned of an attack planned for Atatürk's ship
After Mustafa Kemal launched the liberation campaign in Anatolia, Berch
Keresteciyan Efendi, as the Vice President of Hilal-i Ahmer Society,
personally oversaw the shipment of crates of medicine from Istanbul
to Anatolia on cargo barges. Through the same crates and barges,
Teskilat-i Mahsusa (the National Intelligence Organization of its
days) was also smuggling weapons to Anatolia as well. Mustafa Kemal
and his friends were carrying on the war under great privation and
difficulties, and were trying their best to stop the Greek occupation
forces marching towards Ankara. The enemy was stopped at Inonu. Both
armies were getting prepared for one final showdown.
The 2420th Rotary Regional Governorship has presented an honorary
certificate posthumously to a Turkish citizen of Armenian descent,
Berc Keresteciyan Turker, who saved Atatürk's Iife in 1919. The then
General Director of the Osmanli Bank, Berc Keresteciyan Turker,
informed officials that the ship on which Atatürk was to board
on May 19, 1919, would be attacked, and thus, saved Atatürk's
Iife. The honorary certificate was received on behalf of the Iate
Berc Keresteciyan who died 50 years ago by Deputy Patriarch of the
Turkish-Armenians, Krikor Damadyan, during a ceremony held at the
Cemal Resit Rey Concert Hall on May 30.
Keresteciyan was elected as a member of the Turkish parliament
At that point, however, the Turkish side discovered to their great
dismay that the firing mechanisms of the artillery pieces were in such
bad shape that they were unusable. The war could not be won if the
artillery could not fire. The firing mechanisms were sold in Istanbul's
black market. However 15,000 liras were needed; a great fortune in
the early 1920s. Nobody was able to produce the required amount.
At the end, Mustafa Kemal wrote a letter to Berch Keresteciyan Efendi,
asking for the procurement of the direly needed funds.
Berch Keresteciyan's reply to the Pasha's envoys was clear and simple:
"Come back at midnight and I'll have it ready for you." Keresteciyan
withdrew everything he had in his personal bank account and delivered
it to Mustafa Kemal's envoys. The missing firing mechanisms were
purchased and sent immediately to Anatolia.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
After the victory, Berch Keresteciyan Efendi retired from the Ottoman
Bank and was employed as a technical consultant at the state-owned
Ziraat Bank. After the surname Law passed the Turkish Parliament,
Mustafa Kemal gave the last name "Turker" to Berch Keresteciyan,
a man whose services the Pasha could never forget.
In 1934, Atatürk made sure that Keresteciyan was elected as a member
of the Turkish parliament from Afyon the same city from where the last
and decisive Pitched Battle of the Commander in Chief was launched
in August 1922. Thus Keresteciyan became the first Armenian member
of the Turkish Grand National Assembly. Berch Keresteciyan Turker
served in the Turkish parliament until 1942. He passed away in 1949.
So goes the story of Berch Keresteciyan Turker ... We have learned
about his story during a presentation by the American historian
Prof. Justin McCarthy, at a lecture he gave at the Rotary Club
in Istanbul. The Rotary Club, in a touching gesture of homage to
Berch Keresteciyan's exemplary memory, has presented a Certificate
of Honor prepared in his name. This very meaningful document was
delivered to the custodianship of Archbishop Mesrob II of the Turkish
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