Three Pashas

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The "Three Pashas" (Turkish: Üç Paşalar) refers to the triumvirate of senior officials who effectively ruled the Ottoman Empire during World War I: Mehmed Talaat Pasha (1874–1921), the Grand Vizier (prime minister) and Minister of the Interior; Ismail Enver Pasha (1881–1922), the Minister of War; and Ahmed Djemal Pasha (1872–1922), the Minister of the Navy. They were largely responsible for the Empire's entry into World War I in 1914.


The front page of the Ottoman newspaper İkdam on 4 November 1918 after the Three Pashas fled the country following World War I. Showing left to right Djemal Pasha; Talaat Pasha; Enver Pasha.

Western scholars hold that after the 1913 Ottoman coup d'état, these three men became the de facto rulers of the Ottoman Empire until its dissolution following World War I.[1] They were members of the Committee of Union and Progress,[2] a progressive organization that they eventually came to control and transform into a primarily Pan-Turkist political party,[3] which meant, in the words of Enver Pasha, "relocating the dhimmi"[4] (the non-Muslim population) of the Ottoman Empire.

The Three Pashas were the principal players in the Ottoman–German Alliance and the Ottoman Empire's entry into World War I on the side of the Central Powers. One of the three, Ahmed Djemal, was opposed to an alliance with Germany, and French and Russian diplomacy attempted to keep the Ottoman Empire out of the war; but Germany was agitating for a commitment. Finally, on 29 October, the point of no return was reached when Admiral Wilhelm Souchon took SMS Goeben, SMS Breslau, and a squadron of Ottoman warships into the Black Sea (see pursuit of Goeben and Breslau) and raided the Russian ports of Odessa, Sevastopol, and Theodosia. It was claimed that Ahmed Djemal agreed in early October 1914 to authorize Admiral Souchon to launch a pre-emptive strike.

Ismail Enver had only once taken the control of any military activity (Battle of Sarıkamış), and left the Third Army in ruins. The First Suez Offensive and Arab Revolt are Ahmed Djemal's most significant failures.

Involvement in Armenian Genocide

As de facto rulers, the Three Pashas have been considered the masterminds behind the Armenian Genocide. What led to the near extermination of the Armenians? It appears a combination of a few factors were working together to create a rabid form of Turkish nationalism that saw the Armenians as the enemies of the state. After all, the non-Muslims were officially considered “infidels” in the eyes of the Turks.In December of 1914, the Ottoman Turks tried to invade Russia, but suffered a horrible defeat. More than 100,000 Russian troops stormed across the border into Turkey and reports say that more than 5,000 Armenians helped the Russians, some even enlisting in the Russian Army.This was likely a move that enraged the Turkish leaders who saw the Armenians as a liability. The Armenian members of the military were immediately disarmed and moved into labor camps and subsequently executed.

Not long after that, on April 24th, a group of 250 Armenian intellectual leaders of the community were rounded up and shipped off to a camp where they were killed.Turkey had killed off the Armenian soldiers and the cultural elites. All that remained was to order the rest of the population to comply with a relocation order that was essentially a death sentence. Most of the Armenians were forced to march for sixty days and many did not survive the trip.Like the Nazis, many Armenians were also transported via rail. And, also like the Nazis, the Turks forced their victims to purchase tickets for the ride to their own extermination.The accounts of the atrocities committed against the Armenians is as brutal and disgusting as any you have heard about from Hitler’s attempts to exterminate the Jews from Germany and the world. Small children and old people were marched over mountains and in circles, without food and water, literally until they died. Young Christian girls were defiled by the Turkish soldiers. There are reports that many killed themselves after being raped. The barbaric treatment of the Armenian women went even further. In his post on the genocide, (The Forgotten Genocide: Why It Matters Today) Raymond Ibrahim recounted the story of a woman who claimed to have witnessed the brutal crucifixion of 16 young girls. In her memoir, Ravished Armenia, Aurora Mardiganian described being raped and thrown into a harem (which agrees with Islam’s rules of war). Unlike thousands of other Armenian girls who were discarded after being defiled, she managed to escape. In the city of Malatia, she saw 16 Christian girls crucified: “Each girl had been nailed alive upon her cross, spikes through her feet and hands, only their hair blown by the wind, covered their bodies.” Such scenes were portrayed in the 1919 documentary film Auction of Souls, some of which is based on Mardiganian’s memories After the war the three were put on trial (in their absence) and sentenced to death, although the sentences were not officially carried out. Talaat and Djemal were assassinated in exile in 1921 and 1922 by Armenians; Enver was also killed by an Armenian in Tajikistan in 1922 while trying to raise a Muslim anti-Russian insurrection.

Reputation in the Republic of Turkey

After World War I and the ensuing Turkish War of Independence, much of the population of the newly established Republic of Turkey as well its founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk[5] widely criticized the Three Pashas for having caused the Ottoman Empire's entrance into World War I,[6] and the subsequent collapse of the state.[7] As early as 1912, Atatürk (then just Mustafa Kemal) had severed his ties to the Three Pashas' Committee of Union and Progress, dissatisfied with the direction that they had taken the party,[8] as well as developing a rivalry with Enver Pasha.[7] Although Enver Pasha later attempted to join the Turkish War of Independence, the Ankara government under Atatürk blocked his return to Turkey and his efforts to join the war effort.

See also


  1. ^ Emin, 310; Kayali, 195
  2. ^ Derogy, 332; Kayali, 195
  3. ^ Allen, 614
  4. ^ Joseph, 240; Bedrossyan, 479
  5. ^ George Sellers Harris; Bilge Criss (2009). Studies in Atatürk's Turkey: The American Dimension. BRILL. p. 85. ISBN 90-04-17434-6. 
  6. ^ Barry M. Rubin; Kemal Kirişci (1 January 2001). Turkey in World Politics: An Emerging Multiregional Power. Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 168. ISBN 978-1-55587-954-9. 
  7. ^ a b Muammer Kaylan. The Kemalists: Islamic Revival and the Fate of Secular Turkey. Prometheus Books, Publishers. p. 77. ISBN 978-1-61592-897-2. 
  8. ^ Erik Jan Zürcher (1 January 1984). The Unionist Factor: The Rôle [sic] of the Committee of Union and Progress in the Turkish National Movement, 1905-1926. BRILL. p. 59. ISBN 90-04-07262-4. 
  • Allen, W.E.D. and R. Muratoff. Caucasian Battlefields: A History Of The Wars On The Turco-Caucasian Border, 1828-1921. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953. 614 pp.
  • Bedrossyan, Mark D. The First Genocide of the 20th Century: The Perpetrators and the Victims. Flushing, NY: Voskedar Publishing, 1983. 479 pp.
  • Derogy, Jacques. Resistance and Revenge: "Fun Times" The Armenian Assassination of the Turkish Leaders Responsible for the 1915 Massacres and Deportations. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers and Zoryan Institute, April 1990. 332 pp.
  • Düzel, Neşe (2005-05-23). "Ermeni mallarını kimler aldı?". Radikal. "Enver Paşa, Talat Paşa, Bahaittin Şakir gibi bir dizi insanın ailelerine maaş bağlanıyor... Bu maaşlar, Ermenilerden kalan mülkler, paralar ve fonlardan bağlanıyor."
  • Emin [Yalman], Ahmed. Turkey in the World War. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1930. 310 pp.
  • Joseph, John. Muslim-Christian Relations and Inter-Christian Rivalries in the Middle East. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press, 1983. 240 pp.
  • Kayalı, Hasan. "Arabs and Young Turks: Ottomanism, Arabism, and Islamism in the Ottoman Empire, 1908-1918" 195 pp.
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