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Source: DK/RA-UM/Gruppeordnede sager 1909-1945. 139. D. 1, ”Tyrkiet - Indre Forhold”. Pakke 2, fra Jan. 1917 – 1. Jan. 1919
Edition: Danish diplomatic sources
Departure of telegram: 02/18/1917
Arrival of telegram: 03/02/1917
Embassy/consular serial number: No. 38
Translated by: Matthias Bjørnlund
Last updated: 03/23/2012

The minister in Constantinople (Carl Ellis Wandel) to the Foreign Minister (Erik Scavenius)


No. 38

Constantinople 18 February 1917.


Mr. Foreign Minister,

At a dinner party which the American ambassador threw the other day to honor the new Grand Vizier, His Highness Talaat Pasha, His Excellence Minister of Justice Halil Bey told us that the imminent Turkish judicial reform now takes up all his time - as already reported, it is about the codification and secularization of the Sharia Law - and when one of my colleagues over the table asked His Excellency whether he did not fear that such a reform would meet strong resistance from the clergy and the opposition, and [said] that the present time was not favourable for such a radical change of the fundamental elements of the Empire, he answered that it was exactly about seizing the opportune moment now when no opposition exists in the Parliament. My colleague argued that it was a serious matter to touch the foundation of Islamism in such a way, something that could easily agitate the religious and fanatical layers of the population, and after having dwelt a little upon the disadvantages connected to the project, he put in a remark that, on the other hand, he did understand that the envisaged reforms were a condition sine qua non when it came to the fulfilment of the new treaties with Germany, and, overall, for its future coexistence with the Occident on a basis of equality and reciprocity.

That last remark was not actually well received, as the Minister of Justice hastily ensured that the government did not bow to any pressure applied from Germany (Turkey does not receive orders), and he repeated that the government's motivation was particularly that it believed the time was right.

Other leading Young Turks have, by the way, also told me recently that it was precisely now, during the state of war and siege, that the time is right to, as much as possible, bring the part of the Sharia Law that is still being used - the jurisprudence derived from the Koran and the Sunna - in accordance with European law.

But, as I understand it, this time it shall not be Code Napoléon [French civil code]like in 1857, but more likely Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch [German civil code], that shall serve as model for the new Turkish codification.

His Highness the Grand Vizier's somewhat vague statements in the government's manifesto the other day about the untimeliness at the moment of thorough, long term reforms do therefore probably not apply to the judicial reform.

With the highest esteem I remain, Mr. Minister, yours faithfully


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