Djemal Pasha

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Djemal Pasha
Ahmed Djemal - Project Gutenberg eText 10338.png
Born (1872-05-06)6 May 1872
Midilli, Ottoman Empire
Died 21 July 1922(1922-07-21) (aged 50)
Tbilisi, Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, (present day: Georgia)
Allegiance  Ottoman Empire
Years of service 1893–1918
Rank Birinci Ferik
Unit Minister of Marine
Commands held Fourth Army
Battles/wars Balkan Wars, Sinai and Palestine Campaign, Mesopotamian Campaign, 1915-1917,
Other work Revolutionary

Ahmed Djemal Pasha (Ottoman Turkish: احمد جمال پاشا‎, modern Turkish: Ahmet Cemal Paşa; 6 May 1872 – 21 July 1922), commonly known as Djemal Pasha to Turks, and Jamal Basha in the Arab world, was an Ottoman military leader and one-third of the military triumvirate known as the Three Pashas that ruled the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Djemal was also Mayor of Istanbul.[1] There is discussion about his role in the Armenian genocide, the Greek genocide, and the Assyrian genocide.[2][3]


Djemal Pasha (1909) when he was Vali of Adana.

Ahmed Djemal was born in Mytilene, Lesbos, to Mehmet Nesip Bey, a military pharmacist. Between 1908 and 1918, Djemal was one of the most important leaders of the Ottoman government.

Destined for the army, Djemal passed out from Kuleli Military High School in 1890. He went on to the Military Academy (Mektebi Harbiyeyi Şahane) in 1893, the staff college in Istanbul. He was posted to serve with the 1st Department of the Imperial General Staff (Seraskerlik Erkânı Harbiye)[citation needed], and then he worked at the Kirkkilise Fortification Construction Department bound to Second Army. Djemal was assigned to the II Corps in 1896; being appointed two years later, the staff commander of Novice Division[citation needed], stationed on the frontier Salonica.

Meanwhile, he began to sympathize with the reforms of Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) on military issues. It was in 1905, when Djemal was promoted to major and designated Inspector of Roumelia Railways. The following year he signalled democratci credentials, joined the Ottoman Liberty Society. He became influential in the department of military issues of the Committee of Union and Progress. He became a member of Board of the III Corps, in 1907. Here, he worked with future Turkish statesmen Major Fethi (Okyar) and Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), although Atatürk soon developed a rivalry with Djemal Pasha and his colleagues over their policies after they seized power in 1913.[4][5]

His grandson, Hasan Cemal, is a well known columnist, journalist and writer in Turkey.

Balkan Wars[edit]

Main article: Balkan Wars

In 1911 Djemal was appointed Governor of Baghdad. He resigned to rejoin the army in the Balkan Wars on the Salonika front line, attempting to bolster Turkish European possessions from encroachment. In October 1912, he was promoted to colonel. At the end of the First Balkan War, he played an important role in the propaganda traced by the CUP, against negotiations with the victorious European countries. He tried to resolve the problems that occurred in Constantinople after the Bab-ı Ali Attack (Coup of 1913). Djemal played a significant role in the Second Balkan War, and with the revolution of CUP on 23 January 1913, he became the commander of Constantinople and was appointed minister of public works. In 1914 he was promoted as the Minister of the Navy.

World War I[edit]

Ahmed Djemal on the shore of the Dead Sea in 1915.

When Europe was divided in two blocks before the First World War, he supported an alliance with France. He went to France to negotiate an alliance with the French but failed and sided with Enver and Talaat, that favoured the German side. Djemal, along with Enver and Talaat took control of the Ottoman government in 1913. The Three Pashas effectively ruled the Ottoman Empire for the duration of World War I and were the three main perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide, the Greek genocide, and the Assyrian genocide. Djemal was one of the designers of the government's internal and foreign policies, nearly all of which proved disastrous for the Empire. His policy for example to oppose the powers in Eastern Europe caused a dramatic escalation and the 'balkanisation' of the Slavic republics. Multiple contradictory allegiances in a redundant balance of powers strategy added immense complexity and immeasurable difficulties to Turkish logistics across thousands of miles of desert.

After the Ottoman Empire declared war on the Allies in World War I, Enver Pasha nominated Djemal Pasha to lead the Ottoman army against British forces in Egypt and Djemal accepted the position. Similar to Enver, he proved unsuccessful as a military leader. Snubbed therefore by the Allies Djemal switched his attentions to an alliance with the Central Powers, although he was at first opposed to a full alliance with Germany. He Nevertheless, agreed in early October 1914 to use his ministerial powers to authorise Admiral Souchon to launch a pre-emptive strike in the Black Sea, that caused Britain and France to immediately declare war on the Ottoman Empire the same month.

Governor of Greater Syria[edit]

Djemal Pasha with Iraqi tribal leaders, celebrating the completion of the al-Hindya dam on the Euphrates river near al-Hilla, south of Baghdad.

Djemal Pasha was appointed with full powers in military and civilian affairs as Governor of Syria in 1915. A provisional law granted him emergency powers in May of that year. All cabinet decrees from Constantinople related to Syria became subject to his approval. His offensives on both his first First Suez Offensive and second attacks on the Suez Canal failed. Coupled with the wartime exigencies and natural disasters that afflicted the region during these years, this alienated the population from the Ottoman government, and led to the Arab Revolt. In the meantime the Turkish army usually commanded by Colonel Kress von Kressenstein pushed towards and occupied Sinai. The two men had a thinly-disguised contempt for each other, that was a weakness for the command.[6]

He was known among the local Arab inhabitants as al-Saffah, "the Blood Shedder", being responsible for the hanging of many Lebanese, Syrian Shi'a Muslims and Christians wrongly accused of treason on 6 May 1916, in Damascus and Beirut.[7]

In his political memoirs, the leader of the "Beirut Reform Movement" Salim Ali Salam recalls the following:

Jamal Pasha resumed his campaign of vengeance; he began to imprison most Arab personalities, charging them with treason against the State. His real intent was to cut off the thoughtful heads, so that, as he put it, the Arabs would never again emerge as a force, and no one would be left to claim for them their rights … After returning to Beirut [from Istanbul], I was summoned … to Damascus to greet Jamal Pasha … I took the train …, and upon reaching Aley we found that the whole train was reserved for the prisoners there to take them to Damascus … When I saw them, I realized that they were taking them to Damascus to put them to death. So … I said to myself: how shall I be able to meet with this butcher on the day on which he will be slaughtering the notables of the country? And how will I be able to converse with him? … Upon arriving in Damascus, I tried hard to see him that same evening, before anything happened, but was not successful. The next morning all was over, and the … notables who had been brought over from Aley were strung up on the gallows.[8]

During 1915-1916 Jamal had 34 political opponents executed as martyrs.[9]

At the end of 1915, Djemal with Viceroy powers is said to have started secret negotiations with the Allies for ending the war he proposed himself to take over the Ottoman governmen as an independent King of Syria. These secret negotiations came to nothing, in part because the Allies reportedly could not agree on the future territory of the Ottoman Empire: France objected strongly, and Britain was unwilling to fund the Imperial operations.[10] McMeekin casts doubt[clarification needed] on Djemal having made any such overtures to the Allies.[11]

His most successful military exploit was against the British Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force, which had arrived in early 1915 from India. 35,000 British troops marched north on Baghdad, hoping to take the citadel with relatively few casualties. Djemal Pasha was appointed in command, marshalled a vast army, ultimately led by General Halil Kut that by the time of the siege of Kut al-Amara numbered 200,000 Turks and Arab allies. The British had evacuated wounded, with Djemal's consent, and attempted over the duration of the surrounding of the city on three sides, to send emissaries to request permission to leave. Djemal refused to compromise his winning position; strafed eenemy attempts to relieve with a Tigris Corps up the river by boats. They had underestimated Djemal's considerable administrative capabilities, and will to resist the allied armies. The Turks fought hard at Battle of Ctesiphon, but the subsequent fate of POWs and civilians later enhanced Djemal Pasha's wartime reputation as a capricious and cruel general. Nonetheless the successes, impressed T E Lawrence to write a significant account of their diplomatic encounters, provides for "a colourful character", when finally Kut fell in April 1916.[12]

The ever-present threat of Arab Revolt fomented by British intelligence was rising throughout 1916 and 1917. Djemal instituted strict control over Syria Province against Syrian opponents. Djemal's forces also fought against the Arab nationalists and Syrian nationalists from 1916 onwards.[13] Ottoman authorities occupied the French consulates in Beirut and Damascus, confiscated French secret documents that revealed evidence about activities and names of the Arab insurgents. Djemal used this information from these documents as well as from others belonging to the Decentralization Party. Djemal believed that insurgency under French control was the main reason for his military failings. With the documents he gathered, Djemal moved against the insurgency forces which were led by Arab political and cultural leaders. This was followed by the military trials of the insurgents known as "Âliye Divan-ı Harb-i Örfisi" in which they were punished.

Commander of Fourth Army[edit]

Gaza's head of garrison Major Tiller, had 7 infantry battalions, a cavalry squadron, and some camel troops. The British under Colonel Chetwode already had 2,000 troops in front of the city. Reluctantly Jamal marched with 33rd Division to relieve Gaza. Kressenstein was delighted to have repelled the British assault, and wanted to mobilise aggressively by driving into Shellal, Wadi Ghazze, and Khan Yunis, but Djemal absolutely forbade it. The British had a whole division in retreat, so a two battalion sortie would have been anihilated; the decision was correct.[14] One of Djemal's associates in Iraq, was engineer Colonel Heinrich August Meissner who built both the Hejaz and Baghdad railways, was employed on an ambitious project to construct a railway to the Suez canal at Bir Gifgafa. By October 1915 the Central Powers had already built 100 miles of track as far as the oasis of Beersheba. Dejemal insisted an extended railway would be needed to attack British Egypt.

Known to be both ruthless and brutal by Western standards, he was completely committed to Turko-German military machine, and Britain would not relinquish ambitions to control Syria.[15] Kemal and Jamal became increasingly sceptical of german capabilities, but Jamal worhsipped the national hero, and was not yet prepared to openly back the german allies. He insisted on the possibility of a planned allied assault behind the Yildrim Army, as Seventh Army gathered at the Turko-German Aleppo Conference.[16] In the shake-up that followed Jamal was demoted to a command of Fourth Army under Geberal von Falkenhayn. They now adopted a similar plan to Kress Plan for Gaza, and sent the Yildrim to Baghdad. It was not until October 1917 that the Seventh Army could march south to face the growing threat from Allenby, hampered by the single-gauge railway, built away from the coastline to avoid a Royal Navy salvo.

On November 7, the British captured Gaza, but Jamal had long since been forced to evacuated. Although chased, he managed to retreat at speed.[17] In December the Turks were driven out of Jaffa, Djemal's army still in retreat, the city fell without a fight. Falkenhayn had ordered evacuation on 14th, and the enemy had begun to enter the same day.[18] But now the Turkish Eighth formed a much stronger dug-in line; Djemal's organized defence of Gaza had been better than anticipated by the British. His army delayed them further at the vital Junction railway station. But the British were probably unaware of its importance.

The fighting in the hills was all but over by 1 December. On 6 December Jamal Pasha was in Beirut to make a speech publicizing the allied deal to 'carve-up' partition and influence for Syria-Palestine in the Sykes-Picot agreement.[19] At the end of 1917, Djemal ruled from his post in Damascus as a near independent ruler of his portion of the Empire. But he had resigned from the 4th Army and returned to Constantinople. On 9 April and then 19 April 1918, Jamal ordered evacuation of civilians from Jaffa and Jerusalem. Arabs were left to fend for themselves as the Ottomans would not accept responsibility for feeding them. The Germans were furious and rescinded the order; revealing the chaos in the Ottoman Empire. Jamal's ambiguous attitude to the subjects played into the hands of British rule. The Turkish line was solidified in readiness for the final onslaught at Nebi Samwell and Nahr-el-Auja. To the south of Nebi were the defences of Beit Iksa, the Heart and Liver Redoubts before Lifa, Deir Yesin, two systems behind Ain Karim. In all 4 miles of fortifications.[20]


Djemal Pasha as Naval Minister.

In the last congress of Committee of Union and Progress held in 1917, Djemal was elected to the Board of Central Administration.

With the defeat of the empire in October 1918 and the resignation of Talat Pasha’s cabinet on 2 November 1918, Djemal fled[21] with seven other leaders of the CUP to Germany, and then Switzerland.

Military trial and assassination[edit]

A military court in Turkey accused Djemal of persecuting Arab subjects of the Empire, and sentenced him to death in absentia. Later in 1920, Djemal went to Central Asia, where he worked on modernisation of the Afghan army.[citation needed] Due to the success of the Bolshevik Revolution, Djemal travelled to Tiflis to act as a military liaison officer to negotiate over Afghanistan with the Soviets. Together with his secretary he was assassinated on 21 July 1922 by Stepan Dzaghigian, Artashes Gevorgyan, and Petros Ter Poghosyan, as part of Operation Nemesis, in retribution for his role in the Armenian Genocide and the First World War. Djemal's remains were brought to Erzurum and buried there.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Mango, Andrew (1999). Atatürk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey. Woodstock, NY: The Overlook Press. p. 113. ISBN 1-58567-011-1. 
  2. ^ Benz, Wolfgang (2010). Vorurteil und Genozid. Ideologische Prämissen des Völkermords. Böhlau Verlag. p. 54. 
  3. ^ Scott Anderson (2014). Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Anchor Books.
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Muammer Kaylan. The Kemalists: Islamic Revival and the Fate of Secular Turkey. Prometheus Books, Publishers. p. 77. ISBN 978-1-61592-897-2. 
  6. ^ Djemal, Memories; Kress, Zwischen Kaukasus und Sinai; RUSI journal 6, p.503-13; Grainger, Battle for Palestine, p.17
  7. ^ Cleveland, William: A History of the Modern Middle East. Boulder: Westview Press, 2004. "World War I and the End of the Ottoman Order", 146–167.
  8. ^ Salibi, K. (1976). "Beirut under the Young Turks: As Depicted in the Political Memoirs of Salim Ali Salam (1868–1938)," In J. Berque, & D. Chevalier, Les Arabes par leurs archives: XVIe-XXe siecles. Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.
  9. ^ Elie Kedourie, England and the Middle East, pp.62-4
  10. ^ Fromkin, David, A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East. New York: Avon Books, 1989, p. 214.
  11. ^ McMeekin, Sean (2011). "The Russian Origins of the First World War". Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press. pp. 198–201. 
  12. ^ Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom
  13. ^ Provence, Michael (2005). The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism. University of Texas Press. p. 42. ISBN 0-292-70680-4. 
  14. ^ Grainger, p.35
  15. ^ Fromkin, The Peace to End All Peace, p.214-15; P G Weber, Eagles on the Crescent, pp.107 and 153-4; Grainger, p.69-70
  16. ^ Djemal, pp.183-4
  17. ^ Official History, 2.1.75; Grainger, p.149
  18. ^ Grainger, p.173-5
  19. ^ Kedourie, Middle East, p.; Grainger, p.202
  20. ^ Grainger, p.202-3
  21. ^ Findley, Carter Vaughn (2010). "Turkey, Islam, Nationalism, and Modernity". Yale University Press. p. 215. 


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External links[edit]

Media related to Ahmet Cemal Paşa at Wikimedia Commons