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 Advent of the Young Turk Regime and the 1909 Two-Tier Adana Massacre

The scope and intensity of the Hamit-era massacres had demonstrated the broad latitude that the monarch was domestically and internationally allowed in the exercise of his sanguinary tyranny. But, the tentacles of that tyranny reached beyond the confines of the Christian Armenians, deep into the community of his Muslim subjects as well—albeit not in the form of massacres, but through a variety of methods of individual persecution. Consequently, a select group of Armenian revolutionaries, Dashnaks in particular, joined hands with the emerging Young Turk revolutionaries to topple "the Red Sultan." Through jointly held public demonstrations and great fanfare heralding a new era of Muslim-Christian fraternity and solidarity, a new regime was ushered in. By reinstituting the 1876 Constitution, which the sultan had first expediently embraced only to prorogue it with equal expediency within a year, the constitutional form of monarchy was thereby restored. But the unfolding of some precipitous events culminating in a new major massacre against the Armenians underscored the tenuousness of this Muslim-Christian fraternity and the fragility of the guarantees of the newly restored constitution.

 Unhappy with the secular and egalitarian aspects proclaimed by the founders of the new Young Turk Regime, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), the apostles of fundamentalist Islam, the advocates of Sheri, the canon law of Islam, staged an uprising that was suppressed in short order. Coincidentally, however, there erupted in the city of Adana and its environs a major conflagration, historically known as the 1909 Adana massacre, to which some 25,000 Armenians fell victim.

 Several factors converged in the outbreak of this bloodbath, the levels of fiendishness and ferocity of which exceeded those of all other episodes of mass murder against the Armenians, including the World War I genocide. Foremost among these factors was a large number of disaffected partisans of the partly dethroned monarch, who, together with a host of Islamic religious leaders and local military officers who likewise identified with the monarch, gladly joined in precipitating and consummating the bloodbath. Another factor involved was the accumulated wealth of the region's Armenians who had been spared from the death and destruction of the 1894 to 1896 massacres because of the fear of the nearby, combative Armenian mountaineers of Zeitun. That wealth served as a magnet for the lethal cupidity of the perpetrators. An equally important factor concerned the aggressive nationalism of some Armenian community leaders. Intoxicated with the new spell of freedom, these Armenians, suddenly relieved of the centuries-old Ottoman-Turkish yoke, openly vented their spirit of defiant nationalism, thereby challenging their erstwhile Muslim overlords. However, the most potent factor in question was the clandestine, instigative role of the CUP, egged on by the CUP's Saloniki branch leaders, headed by Mehmet Nazim, one of the architects of the subsequent Armenian Genocide. Through coded messages they directed the local CUP members and their fellow perpetrators in the operations of the two-tier Adana massacre (April 1–14 and April 14–27, 1909).

 Two postmassacre official investigations concluded that the massacre was premeditated and organized. One of them, which was issued by a CUP deputy of Armenian extraction (Hagop Babikian), placed the blame squarely on the CUP as the arch culprit. He had been dispatched by the Ottoman Parliament along with another Turkish deputy (Yusuf Kemal) to investigate the matter on the spot. The results of the other investigation were reported by Grand Vizier Hilmi Pasa during an address before the Ottoman Chamber of Deputies. In it he denounced "the criminal scoundrels who were bent on massacring and plundering the Armenians through a surprise attack." Notwithstanding, there was very little retribution as far as the arch organizers were concerned and hardly any significant restitution or rehabilitation as far as the survivors were concerned. The vulnerability of the victim population proved once more to be a warrant for the kind of mass murder that would again escape any meaningful punishment.


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