Salonica, Ottoman Empire
|Died||October 3, 1963
|Buried at||Zincirlikuyu Mezarlığı
|Allegiance|| Ottoman Empire
|Years of service||Ottoman: 1899–1919
Turkey: July 13, 1919 – December 8, 1926
|Commands held||Division of the intelligence of the headquarters of the Fourth Army, 10th Division, 3rd Division, 11th Division, Inspector of the Rear Area of Jerusalem, 53rd Division, XXII Corps (deputy), XX Corps, Gendarmerie General Command, III Corps
Minister of the Interior, Southern Part of the Western Front, Minister of Interior, Minister of National Defense, Representative of the TBMM government in Istanbul
First World War
War of Independence
|Other work||Member of the GNAT (Izmir)
Member of the GNAT (Istanbul)
He was born to a family in Thessaloniki in 1881. He took the surname Bele because of his grandfather who was originally from Byala/Bele, Bulgaria. Because of the troubles in the Balkans his family moved first to Istanbul but settled later back to Thessaloniki when he was an infant. He studied in the military academy, enrolled in the army and became a member of the Committee of Union and Progress. He took part in the Italo-Turkish War (1911) and then in the Balkan Wars(1912-1913) in which his hometown was lost to the Greeks.
He took part in World War I and served with distinction at the Palestine front and at the Second battle of Gaza. After the British advance in 1918 he was cut off by his troops but managed to reach the Ottoman base at Tyre 75 miles north, after travelling one week through British lines. He did not speak English but because he moved at night and responded to questions with saluting and riding on a walk he avoided to be captured. He returned to Istanbul after the Armistice of Mudros in 1918.
While in Istanbul, most of Anatolia began to be occupied by foreign powers, the Greeks landed at Smyrna in 1919 where an anti-Turkish massacre took place. In response to the occupation he decided to join the Turkish nationalist movement and crossed over to Anatolia to organize resistance. He took part in the Amasya Circular of 1919 and later in the Erzurum Congress, Alaşehir Congress and Sivas Congress. He later served as minister and later as commander at the Western Front against the Greek armies. He put down several local revolts against the Ankara government. However he had several political disputes with Atatürk and became out of favor. He was tried in court but acquitted of the assassination of Atatürk in 1926. In 1926 he retired from the army and parliament deputy. In his later life he took several different occupations including a second deputy time. He died in Istanbul in 1963.
Claims regarding Greek genocide
Refet is claimed to have been active in the Greek genocide. According to the Austrian consul of "Amisos"(Samsun) on November 1916 a certain "Rafet Bey", it is unknown if this is Refet Bele, supposedly stated “We must finish off the Greeks as we did with the Armenians… today I sent squads to the interior to kill every Greek on sight…”.
- T.C. Genelkurmay Harp Tarihi Başkanlığı Yayınları, Türk İstiklâl Harbine Katılan Tümen ve Daha Üst Kademlerdeki Komutanların Biyografileri, Genkurmay Başkanlığı Basımevi, Ankara, 1972, p. 91. (Turkish)
- Sonyel, Salahi Ramadan (2008). Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) ve Kurtuluş Savaşı: yeni belgelerle, 1918-1923, Volume 1. Türk Tarih Kurumu. p. 296. ISBN 9789751620118.
Rafet (Refet) Bey
- Great Britain. Foreign Office, Sir Ernest Llewellyn Woodward (1970). Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919-1939. H.M. Stationery Office. p. 528.
Rafet [Refet] Pasha is the most powerful personality in Mustapha Kemal's government and has complete control over Mustapha Kemal himself.
- Sami, Böcüzade Süleyman (1983). Kuruluşundan bugüne kadar Isparta tarihi. Serenler Yayını. p. xxx.
Rafet Bey (= General Rafet Bele).
- Falls, Cyril (2003). Armageddon, 1918: The Final Palestinian Campaign of World War I. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 54. ISBN 9780812218619.
- Midlarsky, Manus I (2005). The Killing Trap: Genocide in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge University Press. pp. 342–43. ISBN 978-0-521-81545-1.
Under these conditions, genocide of the Ottoman Greeks simply was not a viable option. Many (Greeks), however, were massacred by the Turks, especially at Smyrna (today’s İzmir) as the Greek army withdrew at the end of their headlong retreat from central Anatolia at the end of the Greco-Turkish War. Especially poorly treated were the Pontic Greeks in eastern Anatolia on the Black Sea. In 1920, as the Greek army advanced, many were deported to the Mesopotamian desert as had been the Armenians before them. Nevertheless, approximately 1,200,000 Ottoman Greek refugees arrived in Greece at the end of the war. When one adds to the total the Greeks of Constantinople who, by agreement, were not forced to flee, then the total number comes closer to the 1,500,000 Greeks in Anatolia and Thrace. Here, a strong distinction between intention and action is found. According to the Austrian consul at Amisos, Kwiatkowski, in his November 30, 1916, report to foreign minister Baron Burian: “on 26 November Rafet Bey told me: ‘we must finish off the Greeks as we did with the Armenians…’ on 28 November Rafet Bey told me: ‘today I sent squads to the interior to kill every Greek on sight.’ I fear for the elimination of the entire Greek population and a repeat of what occurred last year, Or according to a January 31, 1917, report by Chancellor Hollweg of Austria: the indications are that the Turks plan to eliminate the Greek element as enemies of the state, as they did earlier with the Armenians. The strategy implemented by the Turks is of displacing people to the interior without taking measures for their survival by exposing them to death, hunger, and illness. The abandoned homes are then looted and burnt or destroyed. Whatever was done to the Armenians is being repeated with the Greeks. Massacres most likely did take place at Amisos and other villages in Pontus. Yet given the large number of surviving Greeks, especially relative to the small number of Armenian survivors, the massacres apparently were restricted to Pontus, Smyrna, and selected other ‘sensitive’ regions.
Media related to Refet Bele at Wikimedia Commons