The Turk Unveiled -ld19150626

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Published by Funk & Wagnalls Company (Adam W. Wagnalls, Press.; Wilfred J. Funk, Vice-Pres.; Robert J. Cuddiby, Treas.; William Neisel, Sec'y), 354-360 Forth Ave., New York

The Literary Digest for June 26, 1915

What a shock it is to find that we do not understand the Turk, and that we have all this long time been misjudging him! We were so sure of the accuracy of our mental impression--gained partly from "Ali Baba and Forty Thieves" and other "Arabian Nights," and partly from Pierre Loti. We picture him with startling distinctness--in fez and baggy trousers--lounging at the coffee-house, puffing a narwhale and playing chess; or lounging about his palace, with the full harem in attendance. Occasionally we saw him armed with a curved sword and an expression of unutterable ferocity; sneaking up behind an unsuspecting Armenian, only to fall prostate in terror when he discovered the supposed Armenian to be a Westerner. He was to some of us a combination of indolence, cruelty, cunning, childlike naiveté, and vanity. And his wives we thought of as pretty, frivolous, imprisoned butterflies. It was difficult to imagine him at war, and many of us have wondered vaguely how it was that the Allies have found it so difficult to push him off the Gallipoli Peninsula into the waters of the Dardanelles, and to march on triumphantly into Constantinople. That perplexity and others are explained when we are given a true side-light on the Turkish character, as in a letter recently printed in the New York Evening post. This letter, which sounds high praise of the Turk, is written by a British subject, Mr. Arthur P. Tully, manager of the Turkish offices of an English life-insurance company, and is address to his uncle, Mr. Stefen Farrelly, general manager of the American news Company, New York City. Mr. Tully writes, in part:

As an Irishman and a British subject, I consider the fighting at the Dardanelles about the most terrible thing that could well happen, and I can only liken my mental attitude to that of a man who is forced to act as a witness to a duel between his brother and his own dearest and most intimate friend. Nothing could ever alter my feeling toward the Turkish people, for I know them too well ever to misunderstand them, and this war will demonstrate once and for all to the world at large that Turkey can act, in war as in peace, with a humanity and a tolerance that need fear comparison with none, and that to speak of the necessity of capitulation's, foreign intervention, etc., etc., is the leeriest farrago of nonsense ever invented.

I can not, of course, comment on anything connected with the causes of, or responsibilities for, the war, or Turkey's part therein (beyond repeating that Turkey and Turkish affairs have always been most sadly misunderstood, and a little more political sympathy in the past would have worked wonders), nor can I comment on the attitude of the press here and elsewhere, for, just as I could not in war-time discuss the political policy of Great Britain, so I could not criticize the Turks among whom I live, whose mental attitude I understand, and of whom I count someone as my friends. I can, therefore, only try to refer to some more of the current misconceptions which it is only right that I should do my best to dissipate.

There seems, To begin with, to be an impression abroad that the Turks as a race are so sick and tired of war in general, and so uninterested in this war particular, that they would be only too glad to throw down their armies, surrender, and, generally speaking, get out on any terms. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Turkish soldier is second to none in bravery, discipline, and loyal obedience to orders, and the whole Turkish race is at the present moment incensed to the highest degree at the idea of their courage and patriotism being impugned in this respect. It is really not fair to them, and it is not war. Yet I can quite understand how those who know nothing of the Turks and take their impressions from the false traditions current, should be acting, in their own view, quite fairly in thinking and talking of the Turks as they do.

The difficulty is that it is practically impossible to force people to see facts and realize that there is generally more than one aspect of every case. It is unfortunately a very British characteristic to be too optimistic and to minimize difficulties. If my memory is not at fault, it was General Buller who, before the Transvaal Britain a hundred thousand men to carry it through, and for having express this opinion he was recalled. Yet it took us between two hundred and three hundred thousand men.

It is, therefore, of no possible utility for it to be thought in the present war that the Turkish troops are only waiting to be allowed to throw down their arms and surrender; They are not and never have been; and we, as a great and historic nation, should be prepared to allow the Turks to possess the same sentiments of patriotism, loyalty, and obedience to orders that we expect and find in our own countrymen. To act or think otherwise is, besides being a gratuitous insult to a brave and courteous foe, of no conceivable military or other utility.

The writer does not hesitate to admit that some years ago, under the old Hmiddian regime, many of the popular beliefs as to the conditions in Turkey were justified, but that these were due to inherent qualities in the Turks themselves headlines. They were the result solely of the "terrible one-man Government then in force." Turkey had a long, hard journey to make, once they were out of the realm of tyranny, to reach the advanced stage of Western civilization; but they were ready to make the effort. That they have failed in any respect, Mr. Tully holds, is due far more to the lack of assistance and encouragement on the part of stronger nations than to any failure in themselves. He adds:

If only the Power had at the outset of the Constitutional regime in 1908 been willing to give up the capitulation and stand by in a friendly and helpful manner while Turkey put her house in order and in a developed her internal resources by the free control of her own taxation and commerce! It is, of course, always easy to prophesy after the event, but I do think that the efforts our various Ottoman associations, so devotedly made in and out of Parliament to obtain a more sympathetic hearing for Turkey have been more than justified by the trend of events. If only we had had sufficient power and influence and had been able to exercise it in 1908 it is more than probable that the world at large would not now be at war, for, if the Balkan War had never taken a place, it is quite conceivable that Austro-Serbian relations might have taken quite another turn.

The Turkish people, both men and women, are in no need of "education" and "liberation," in the sense in which these poor words are something so misused. They only want a little sympathy, diplomatic courtesy, and leave to organize their own affairs free from foreign interference, and I personally feel sure that, after this war is over, they will at last be accorded this long-desired opportunity.

The nation of Europe will have too many dead to mourn and too many frightful ravages to repair to be able to devote their old attention to Turkey, and therefore, in all probability, the latter. her hands at last freed, will be able to set her house on order and take that place among the independent nations of the world to which her history, her humanity, and tolerance, and the chivalrous characteristics of her people in all human justice entitle her.

Among other misconceptions, the writer hastens to correct any notion we may have that Constantinople is a city cowering down behind the tottering defense of the armies in the Dardanelles. As he says:

Locally, matters are here much as usual. Severe precautions are naturally being taken against espionage, real or imaginary, and a few arrest have been made. The treatment accorded to those imprisoned has, however, been exceedingly good, and some of those concerned have afterward even expresst themselves as astonished (yet another breakdown of the "savage-Turk" theory). One can (I doubt whether this is the case in all countries)walk about freely, speaking one's own language and without the faintest trace of those "scowls and black looks" which I remember to have seen so frequently referred to by certain journalists of too fertile imaginations during the Balkan War. Food is, on the whole, cheap, and bread in particular is little above the normal price; but there has been a substantial rise in such kinds of preserved provisions, etc., as used previously to be imported by sea--largely from France and England.

Our chief trouble is that life is somewhat dull, as expert for cinematography and concerts, etc., given in aid of the Red Crescent and other objects of a kindred nature, there is really little to do. The Red Crescent Society, as also the Defense Nationals and the Association in Aid of the Families of Soldiers, are working miracles in their efforts to care for the wounded arriving from the Dardanelles, and in this connection it is especially worthy of note that Turkish ladies are taking a leading part in the collecting and organizing work, and cooperate in the most efficient way with the central organizations.

This will probably create yet another start of surprise to those who still have the old impression of the traditional Turkish woman. As a rule, the real in this world falls short of the ideal, but in this particular instance it is quite the reserve. To put it briefly, the educated Turkish lady is a lady in exactly the same sense of the word as in Europe or America, and the restrictions on her outward freedom in such matters as going in public unveiled, etc., have quite misled the majority of observers and writers on Turkey. In some respect--notably with regard to managing her own business affairs independently of any control on the part of her husband, her position is a good way ahead of that of her Western sisters, and many an American girl who clings fondly to the myth of the "secluded" and "tyrannized" Turkish wife would be astonished beyond measure did she but once get a glimpse of the real facts.

A hard copy of this article or hundreds of others from the time of the Armenian Genocide can be found in The Armenian Genocide: News Accounts From The American Press: 1915-1922

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