Tehcir Law

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The Tehcir Law

The Tehcir Law (from tehcir, a word of Arabic origin in Ottoman Turkish and meaning "deportation" or "forced displacement" as defined by the Turkish Language Institute), or, officially by the Republic of Turkey, the "Sevk ve İskân Kanunu" (Relocation and Resettlement Law)[1] was a law passed by the Ottoman Parliament on May 27, 1915 authorizing the deportation of the Ottoman Empire's Armenian population. The resettlement campaign resulted in the deaths of anywhere between 800,000 to over 1,800,000 civilians in what is commonly referred to as the Armenian Genocide. The bill was officially enacted on June 1, 1915 and expired on February 8, 1916.


Further information: Armenian Question

The Tehcir Law was part of the "special measures" (declared in a euphemistic language) against the Armenian population taken by the Ottoman Empire during World War I. This was coupled with a second set of orders given to the "Special Organization" for systematic elimination of the evacuated population during the death marches,[2] also including the alleged taking care of the vacated properties.[3]

The Ottoman archives document that the Armenian deportations started as early as March 2, 1915.[4]

After the expiration of the Tehcir Law, deportations and massacres still occurred. On September 13, 1915, the Ottoman parliament passed the "Temporary Law of Expropriation and Confiscation," stating that all property, including land, livestock, and homes belonging to Armenians, was to be confiscated by the Ottoman authorities.[5]


Before the Ottoman parliament implemented the "Tehcir Law", there was a circular by Talaat Pasha.[6] In the night of April 24, 1915, Mehmed Talaat Bey, who was the minister of interior at the time, ordered 250 Armenian intellectuals to be deported from Constantinople.[7]

In May 1915, Mehmed Talaat Pasha requested that the Ottoman Cabinet and the then Grand Vizier Said Halim Pasha legalize a measure for relocation and settlement of the Armenians to other places. Talaat's words were "the Armenian riots and massacres, which had arisen in a number of places in the country are a threat to national security."[8]

The nature of the law[edit]

Tehcir Law was officially a "temporary" law that expired on February 8, 1916. It was a civil law, planned, implemented and enforced with an office (created by the law) to coordinate the activities under the name of “Migrant General Directorate” (Ottoman Turkish: Muhacirin Müdüriyet-i Umumîyesi). The civil law gave the military an enforcing power only if there were parties opposing the implementation. The rules and regulations of the law, as published in the Takvim-i Vekayi (Ottoman official newspaper), were public and they were shared with all the political parties.


The Tehcir Law was allegedly about

  1. the military measures against those opposing government orders, national defense, and the protection of peace and against those organizing armed attacks and resistance, and killing rebels during aggression and uprising in wartime,
  2. the transfer and resettlement on a single basis or en masse, the people living in villages and towns who are found to be engaged in espionage or treason,
  3. the temporary law’s effect and expiration, and
  4. the definition of the responsible parties (application).

One Ottoman Archival material, dated from July 12, 1915 suggests that massacres were part of those measures implemented against the Armenians.[9] The Turkish Martial Court supports this by referring to documents that claim that the main reason for the evacuation was annihilation.[10]

Although this law was directed against one particular ethnic group (the Armenians), the Assyrian population of the Ottoman Empire also fell victim as did some other Christians from the East.[11]

In the text of the law, there is no explicit mention of the Armenian Question, and the text contains that: (1) the ill, (2) the blind, (3) Catholics, (4) Protestants, (5) the soldiers and their families, (6) the officers, (7) merchants, some workers and masters were not subject to evacuation. If conditions got worse, these groups are ordered to be settled in the city centers.[12]

Capitulations of the Ottoman Empire granted missionaries a protectorate state (see:Protectorate of missions). There is a group of rules that grant rights to missionaries under the Ottoman Empire. Another decipher orders the Catholic Armenian missionaries not to leave the Ottoman Empire until the next order.[13] This message was not respected in some centers, such as Maraş and Konya.[14]

Fate of the subjects[edit]

The alleged intention of the law, which was published during World War I, was a "temporary movement of the Ottoman citizens" during the conflicts and not the permanent displacement as there was a decree (regulation, or adjunct) with respect to the relocated citizens by the "Tehcir Law" who wanted to return; it claimed "except those people [affected by the Tehcir Law], no one else will be touched."[15][16] Also if we look at the fourth section of the Tehcir law, it was specifically designed to hold the enforcer units responsible to follow up and record the properties owned by the subjects of the immigration.[17] The law included a responsible party for the protection of properties the owners could/will return in a later term.[17] Another law was passed to regulate the enforcement of this section On 10 June 1915.[18] In this section, it was demanded that there would be three copies of this information; one kept in the regional churches, one in the regional administration, and one kept by the commission responsible for the execution of the law. The second and third parties of this law were held responsible for the protection of the properties until the immigrants' return.[17][19]

While on the surface the law was allegedly temporary, the main reason of the law was to settle the Armenian Question once for all, therefore permanently. Kamuran Gurun has released archival material from the minister of war that provides the aim of passing the law. In that letter Enver takes it as permanent and not temporary with the aim of fixing the Armenian problem once and for all.[20]

While it is claimed that the debts of the evacuated population were to be completely canceled, and recurring tax debts (property tax) of the Armenians were to be postponed until their supposed return,[21] the Armenian properties were seized by the government, sold or given to the Muslim residents or immigrants.[3] A significant amount of money made from the sale of the seized properties was transferred and secured in Berlin.[22]

Financial aspects[edit]

A fund was initiated with the law. The control of the fund was assigned to director Şükrü Bey, a directorate under the immigrants general office (Immigrant and Tribe Settling). He was accused of complicity during the courts-martial in the destruction of the Armenian population. Also considered to maintain the link between the Ittihadists and the Special Organization. From the documents:

Budget for the Tehcir
June 1, 1915 to February 8, 1916
İzmit province 150.000 kuruş
Eskişehir 200.000 kuruş
Ankara province 300.000 kuruş
Konya province 400.000 kuruş
Adana province 300.000 kuruş
Halep province 300.000 kuruş
Musul province 500.000 kuruş
Suriye province 100.000 kuruş
Total 2.250.000 kuruş

Also, the Ottoman government under the international agreements assigned within the capitulations, enabled fund transfers using the missionaries and consuls. Armenian immigrants from the United States sent funds, which were distributed to the Armenians under the knowledge of the government by these institutions.[23] The American Near East Relief Committee, a relief organization for refugees in the Middle East, helped donate over $102 million to Armenians both during and after the war.[24]

It has to be noted that the funds within the provinces aided the immigrants, whose money allocations were sent under provincial budgets depending on the condition of needs.

Those are contradicted by the Ottoman barring access to its own allies relief to the starving Armenian population.

Repeal of the law[edit]

The law was repealed on February 21, 1916,[25] with an order sent to all Ottoman provinces, while the destruction of the Armenian population continued. Claimed political detainees continued to be displaced to the Der Zor province.[26] All the activities finalized on March 15, 1916.[27]


  1. ^ "Sevk ve İskân Kanunu" (in Turkish). Research Centre for Turkish–Armenian Relations, Ataturk University. Retrieved April 25, 2010. [dead link]
  2. ^ America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915, by Jay Murray Winter, Cambridge University Press, (2004), pp. 94–95
  3. ^ a b Legislative Provisions of the Ottoman/Turkish Governments Regarding Minorities and Their Properties, Anastasia Lekka, Mediterranean Quarterly 18.1 (2007) pp. 138–139
  4. ^ The Deportation of the Armenians of Dörtyol, Ciphered telegram from the Ministry of the Interior to the Province of Adana, BOA. DH. ŞFR, nr. 50/141
  5. ^ Vahakn N. Dadrian (2003) "The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus" Berghahn Books page. 224.
  6. ^ Archive code BOA. DH. ŞFR, nr.52/96,97,98
  7. ^ Balakian, Peter (2003). The Burning Tigris, pp. 211–2. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-019840-0.
  8. ^ Balakian. The Burning Tigris, pp. 186–8.
  9. ^ Ciphered telegram from the Ministry of the Interior, BOA. DH. ŞFR, nr. 54/406
  10. ^ Ihsan Bey, Director of the Special Office of the Interior Ministry confirms that Abdulahad Nuri Bey, who had been sent from Istanbul to the office in Aleppo has stated: The main reason for the deportations is annihilation, Takvim-i Vekayi, April 27, 1919 Number 3540
  11. ^ Massacres, Resistance, Protectors: Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia During World War I By David Gaunt, Gorgias Press LLC, (2006)
  12. ^ Coding Office, no 56/27; no 67/186
  13. ^ BOA. DH. SFR, nr. 54/55 archive, which stats: Ermeni Katolik misyonerlerle sörlerin simdilik orada kalmalari daha münâsibdir
  14. ^ See for example BOA. DH. SFR, nr. 58/2 for Konya or BOA. DH. SFR, nr.63/157 for Marash,
  15. ^ REPUBLIC OF TURKEY MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND TOURISM (2005). "The Definition And Purpose Of Relocation (Tehcir)". Retrieved 2007-08-09. The Arabic originated word "tehcir" means "emigration / immigration", it definitely does not mean "deportation" or "exile". Hence the law commonly known as the "Tehcir Law" is the same as "Temporary Law On The Military Measures To Be Taken For Those Who Resist The Governmental Acts And Supplementation's." The word used to explain the implementation in line with this law is "tenkil" in the Ottoman language and means "transport- not the equivalent of "deportation", "exile" or "proscription" in Latin originated languages. 
  16. ^ REPUBLIC OF TURKEY MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND TOURISM (2005). "The Definition And Purpose Of Relocation (Tehcir)". Retrieved 2007-08-09. In the letter sent by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Mustafa Pasha, to the Prime Ministry in January 1919, it is indicated that orders have been given to the related places for the transportation of the Armenians, who wanted to return to their former locations and that the necessary precautions have been taken. (6) The decree of return prepared by the government, dated December 31, 1918 is as follows: 1- Only the ones, who want to return, will be migrated, except those people, no one else will be touched
    2- The precautions necessary will be taken for assuring a good journey, and for preventing housing and catering shortage in the returning locations; the migration and returning transactions will be started after contact is established with the administrators of the regions they will return to and after the necessary precautions are taken.
    3- The abandoned houses and lands will be returned to the owners.
    4- The houses of the ones, where formerly immigrants have been placed, will be evacuated.
    5- A few families may be settled in the same location temporally in order to provide sufficient housing.
    6- Buildings such as churches, schools and the income generating locations will be returned to the society they belong to.
    7- If requested, the orphans will be returned to their guardians, who will be carefully determined, or to their societies, after their identifications are carefully determined.
    8- The ones, who have converted their religions, will be able to return to their former religion if they want to.
    9- Among the Armenian women, who have married to Muslims and converted their religions will be free to return to their former religion. In this case their marriage act will be automatically canceled. The problems relating to the ones, who do not want to return to their former religion and not wish to divorce from their husbands will be dissolved by the courts.
    10- The Armenian properties, which are not in anyone's ownership, will be returned to their first owners and the return of those that have become the property of treasury will be decided with the approval of the property officers. Further explanatory minutes will be prepared about this issue.
    11- The property sold to the Muslim immigrants will be delivered to their first owners gradually as their owners return. Article 4 will be definitely applied.
    12- If the Muslim immigrants have made repairs and additions in the houses and stores that will be returned to their former owners, or if they have planted the lands and olive groves, the rights of both sides will be observed.
    13- The immigration and expenses of the Armenians in need will be met from the Military College Allowance.
    14- The amount of transportation made until the current time and the amount of transportation made and the target location of such transportation will be notified on the fifteenth and last days of each month.
    15- The Armenians, who have left the Ottoman borders and who want to return, will not be accepted until a new order is issued. ...
  17. ^ a b c REPUBLIC OF TURKEY MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND TOURISM (2005). "The Relocation Law". Retrieved 2007-08-09. These commissions are to determine Armenian properties in the villages and towns that are evacuated, and to keep detailed record books. One of the books is to be kept in the regional churches, one to be submitted to the regional administration, and one shall be kept by the commission. Non-durable goods and animal stock shall be auctioned and the money shall be kept. In location where a commission is not appointed, the provisions of the communiqué shall be enforced by the officers in the regions. Both the commission and the regional administrators shall be responsible for the protection of these properties until the Armenians return. 
  18. ^ ATBD, December 1982, ibid., no:81, document 1832
  19. ^ ATBD, December 1982, ibid., no:81, document 1832
  20. ^ The Armenian file: the myth of innocence exposed. By Kamuran Gurun. New York : St. Martin's Press, (1985), p.209
  21. ^ Coding Office, no 54-A/268
  22. ^ Armenia and the Near East, Fridtjof Nansen, G. Allen & Unwin Ltd (1928)
  23. ^ Coding Office, no 60/178
  24. ^ Goldberg, Andrew. The Armenian Genocide. Two Cats Productions, 2006
  25. ^ Coding Office, no 57/273; no 58/124; no 58/161; no 59/123; no 60/190
  26. ^ Coding Office, no 61/72 The original source of this code can be seen from the Ottoman Archives web side: The institution of Ottoman Archives (2005). "Mahrem ve müsta‘cel" (in English-Turkish). Retrieved 2007-08-09. link to original 
  27. ^ Coding Office, no 62/21; The original source of this code can be seen from the Ottoman Archives web side: The institution of Ottoman Archives (2005). "That the deportation of Armenians be ceased" (in English-Turkish). Archived from the original on 2007-08-07. Retrieved 2007-08-09. link to original