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An Address by MR. TAUFIK MAHARRIJ before the Empire Club of Canada, on April 10, 1913
Mr. President and Gentlemen,
I thank you all indeed for your kind sympathy in inviting me to address you. I want to tell you in a few words the difference between your country and ours. That difference is this: In your country the Christians eat turkey, in our country the Turks eat the Christians. (Laughter) I know Turkey because I was born there. By birth I am a Turk, by education I am an American, as I have studied in the American Mission Schools before I came to finish my education at Columbia University.
And now, in order that you may follow me intelligently, I desire to explain in a few words just exactly what the Balkan States are and where they are situated. These little Balkan States which are now making war upon Turkey are situated in the Balkan Peninsula between the Danube on the north and the Ægean Sea on the south. The land of the Balkan Peninsula is fertile, the climate is perfect, the country is the most beautiful on God's green earth. Yet the nations are sad and are filled with tears and have been so for more than 600 years; the Greeks in the south, Montenegro in the west, the Servians in the north-west, and Bulgaria in the east. At the beginning of the fourteenth century the Turks came from the Central part of Asia and swept into Europe, driving before them every race and every nation until they conquered the whole south-east and eastern part of Europe and ruled it for the past six centuries. The Turks once ruled over the land which now we call Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria, Servia, Montenegro.
Now, Turkey is not so bad as the average person thinks. The Turks have been separated from the whole civilized world for the last 600 years. There were no schools, no colleges, no education of any worth, and this kept the lower classes of the Turks behind the other civilized nations of Europe. And more than that, the policy of the European powers was to keep Turkey exactly where it is. They never gave the Turk a chance to grow and nearly crushed him to death. I know you are all British here and I am sure you are proud of it. I am a Turk and I want to bring before you some facts which you will never blame me for. I want to say that this was the policy of the European powers and especially England, since it is of great importance to her to have a weak nation on the Mediterranean shore. First, because the European powers or England realized that, if Turkey was a strong power standing on the Mediterranean shore, it meant death to European commerce in the Orient. And, on the other hand, if Turkey was divided Constantinople would go to Russia and Russia with Constantinople in her hand will go ahead, build a magnificent fleet, make the Mediterranean a Russian lake and threaten Egypt, Cyprus, the Suez Canal, Persia, the Persian Gulf and, above all, India. And because of those two reasons the English statesmen—and I praise them for that, because that is the best thing for the British policy—have been trying to keep the Turk exactly where he is. Disraeli and other statesmen would never permit Turkey to be divided up, and if it had not been for England, Turkey would have been divided long ago. I have to thank you and say that we owe our existence nowadays to the British Empire and to the British statesmen. Now, let me speak of the present war.
This war is one of the most terrible wars that the Turks have ever faced, and it is the first war, for centuries, in which the Mohammedans have been defeated by the Christians. Did you ever think of that? For 600 years the Mohammedans have never had a defeat like this defeat by a Christian nation. In the Crimean war they were defeated for a time by Russia; then all the other European powers came and helped Turkey to defeat Russia. I am glad, because this war will open the eyes of the Turks and show them that for 550 years they have been on the wrong track. This war will show the Turks that though they once ruled this land yet because of their ignorance and fanatical ideas they have lost all this beautiful land in Europe. Now, that the time has come when they will have to go back to Asia, they are beginning to realize that. You have seen how the Turks tried to keep Adrianople because Adrianople was the first capital for the Turks before they took Constantinople; and they were unable to take Constantinople until they captured Adrianople. They realize nowadays that Adrianople is the first step towards Constantinople, and that when Adrianople is taken, Constantinople every moment is in great danger. And that is a very serious position for the Turks nowadays. Now, let me tell you the causes of this war.
There are hundreds of causes for this war but I will mention, as my time is short, four. The first cause of this war is the disregard of the Treaty of Berlin by the European powers. For 600 years those Christians in the Balkan States have been suffering under the Turkish rule. Their wives and daughters have been attacked, their villages destroyed every now and then, and their children taken as slaves. And they have been appealing to Christian Europe to save them and Europe, because of its selfish ambitions, could not settle their problem. At last the conditions reached so very bad a degree that they called for the interference of the European powers, and all the European powers came into a conference that was held in the City of Berlin in the year 1876. The result of the conference was the Treaty which is known as the Treaty of Berlin. In that Treaty the European powers agreed to keep and maintain the individual existence of ali the Balkan States under the protection of Turkey. But that Treaty was not kept at all. A few years ago Austria, with the consent of Germany, tore up the Treaty of Berlin by annexing two of those Balkan States, namely, Bosnia and Herzegovina. There were six states in number but because of that seizure you hear nowadays of only four states. And when the other little four Balkan States saw that that Treaty which guaranteed their
individual existence was not going to be regarded any more, they became frightened and thought that Russia might do to-morrow what Austria had done or that Austria might help herself at another time to more of their territory. They were under the protection of Turkey; but poor Turkey, because of its ignorance, was persecuting them instead of protecting them. The only thing then to be done was to unite, and so these little powers united together and started preparing for this war. They intended to wait until the spring of 1914, but Italy having declared war upon Turkey, it gave them their chance to declare their own war.
The second cause of this war is the promises that Turkey was giving but never redeeming. For six centuries the policy of the Turkish government was to give its Christian subjects all kinds of promises but never to redeem any of them. Suppose one of those promises which the government gave to the Christians is violated by a Mohammedan. Then the Christian has to carry his case to a Mohammedan court where the Judge is a Turk and where a Christian cannot be justified. So those promises were absolutely of no value.
The third cause of this war is the difference in religion. I do not mean to say that this war is a religious war. Not at all! But I mean to say that religion is playing a very important part in this war.
This war differs from all kinds of wars in modern history; it is not a nation against another nation; it is not one country against another country. It is one class of people under a government trying to fight that government and to get rid of it. And that which makes it worse is that these people are Christians while the government itself is a Mohammedan government. If it were not for this difference in religion, these people in the Balkan States would never fight Turkey and would never ask for their liberty, even if they were suffering under Turkish rule. Because, believe me, there are millions and millions of Mohammedans in the central parts of Asia who are suffering ten times as much as the people in the Balkan States. They never complain, simply because they prefer to suffer under Mohammedan rule. It is from this point of view that religion enters into this war. Go to the Bulgarian government or to the Turkish Cabinet and ask them, and they will tell you that this war is a political, economic war. But go to the people who are in war against each other; go to the thousands of the Bulgarian army and ask them about this war and you will find that the Bulgarian is fighting with such a religious zeal not the Turk as a Turk, but the Turk as a Mohammedan who has persecuted him and massacred his people for the last six centuries; or go to the other side and ask the poor Turks about this war and they will tell you the same. You will find that they are fighting, in the name of their religion and their prophet, the Bulgarian not as a Bulgarian but as a Christian.
My brethren, I am not going into details about the Bulgarian, but I want to tell you a few words about the Turkish army.
It would be difficult for you to believe that 80 per cent. of the Turkish army does not know with whom they are fighting ; does not know what they are fighting for. They were forced by arms to leave their farms and villages and houses and wives and children and go and fight. When they asked with whom they were to fight they were told: “You are to fight the enemies of your religion, you are to fight the unbelievers." And so these people went to fight without having any true idea as to what the war is about. A letter I received gave me a clear idea that thousands of these people in Asia and other places never heard about the Turkish defeats at all. They do hear about the Turkish victories, and many of them are under a strong impression that Turkey has been victorious in this war and that the people in the Balkan States have been defeated. These poor soldiers, all of them, or at least 80 per cent. of them, are anxious to leave the battle-field and go back to their wives and to their children and farms which have been neglected since they left.
I will mention the fourth cause of this war. It is education. Turkey is unprogressive, while those people in the Balkan States are starting to be progressive. What is the real cause of that? It is education. When the American missions were sent in from the United States,