Constantinople, 24 March 1916.
Dear Mr. Foreign Minister,
It is still especially the question about getting the most vital foodstuffs that concerns the population here [one illegible word]. It therefore created quite a stir the other day when it was rumoured that the authorities had requisitioned all the flour that was to be found in the capital. It now turns out that it was the City Prefect, Ismail Djambulat [Jambulat] Bey, who requisitioned the flour to prevent [it being taken by] the commissary general, Ismail Hakki Pasha [Ismail Hakki Bey], who, despite the newly adopted law that forbids the requisitioning of the capital’s foodstuffs, wanted to take the flour to use for the army.
Besides from increasing the fears and insecurity of the population, the requisitioning has had the effect that the local importers of Rumanian flour have cancelled their orders in Rumania, meaning that the danger of an even more severe bread scarcity has grown. It is being said that there is flour at several places in Asia Minor, but the military authorities have exclusive use of the railways, and there is a famine in many parts of Asia Minor, especially among the Christian population.
A Danish workshop engineer employed at a cement factory built by the company F. L. Schmidth [F. L. Smidth] in Copenhagen, a factory located between Constantinople and Ismid, told me yesterday a few things that are probably characteristic of the conditions in the provinces. When flour was brought to the two towns that were located near the factory, out of which one is a Muslim town of only about 1500 inhabitants, while the other one is Greek and has about 5000 inhabitants, one could always be sure that the small Turkish town would get 3-4 times as much flour as the relatively large Greek town. Because of the lack of bread, the Greek women had to risk their lives gathering herbs in the mountains. All the fields in the region were uncultivated – from lack of seed corn and manpower and out of fear of requisition; poultry and fruit, etc., had been taken by the numerous members of the territorial army that were quartered there, and whose officers overlooked and benefited from all sorts of abuse, etc., etc. All Armenians in said town had been deported, but a couple of months ago there passed a convoy of Armenian women and children who, forced by starvation and crying, tried to beg a little bread. 2 Greeks, whose execution has been mentioned in the daily papers, had only been arrested because they had been found near the railway bridge which an officer from an English submarine had tried to blow up. They were two workers from the factory who probably had nothing to do with espionage.
The other day the authorities announced that it was now possible to buy kerosene at a comparatively cheap price, but when the poor part of the population, who quickly hurried to the place, came with their empty kerosene cans to have them filled, they were not given kerosene, but their cans were requisitioned instead as the military needs them for the fortifications because they lack sacks to fill with dirt. Under such conditions it is no wonder that the population has an increasingly gloomy outlook and becomes more and more dissatisfied.
C. E. Wandel