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Source: DK/RA-UM/Gruppeordnede sager 1909-1945. 139. D. 1., "Tyrkiet-Indre Forhold", pakke 1, til 31 Dec. 1916
Edition: Danish diplomatic sources
Departure of telegram: 12/16/1915
Arrival of telegram: 01/03/1916
Embassy/consular serial number: Nr. 198
Translated by: Matthias Bjørnlund
Last updated: 03/23/2012

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


Nr. 198
Constantinople, 16 December 1915.

Mr. Foreign Minister,

In the Turkish daily newspapers that are published here it was announced on the 12th of this month that preparations are now being made in Lebanon [Mount Lebanon] for the election of the representatives this province are to have in the Ottoman Parliament, and that the Governor [Ali Munif/Mounif Bey] has ordered the drawing up of those lists on the basis of which the number of representatives will be determined.

The last remnant of the autonomy Lebanon's population enjoyed according to the Protocols of 1860, 1864, and 1912 thus seems to be about to disappear.

His Excellency Joussouf Pacha Franco [Mutassarif Franko Kusa Yusuf Pasha], who was Lebanon's governor until 8 July 1912 and with whom I had a conversation today, has given me the following interesting pieces of information about these interesting events.

As a consequence of the abovementioned protocols, Lebanon has from 1860 been ruled by a Christian governor; every 6th year the Porte appointed a new governor, but said person had to be chosen between 3 candidates appointed by the [European] Protecting Powers and had to belong to one of Turkey's 5 Catholic Churches (Roman Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Catholic, Maronites, and Melkites). The Lebanese population were largely exempted from military service, as the whole of the province with about one million inhabitants only had to contribute a gendarmerie corps of c. 1000 men for local use. In the province Turkey also had - at least on paper - a cavalry regiment, but apart from that the Turkish military men always acted very carefully in order not to offend the feelings of the freedom loving and martial population. And concerning revenues, too, Lebanon occupied an exceptional position, in that the taxes that were levied on the province, taxes that were, by the way, very low, could only be used for the administration of the province itself.

When the Young Turks came to power through the Revolution in 1908, it was only a natural consequence of their efforts to create unity in the Ottoman Empire that they sought to limit or revoke the Lebanese privileges, and they did in fact announce that elections for Parliament should be held in Lebanon. However, the population preferred autonomy to representation in the Chambers, and the government had to give up its plans at that point.

Circumstances are different now. After the abrogation of the Capitulations, the government once more proclaimed that Lebanon's exceptional position, which was founded on the regime of the Capitulations, had to be abandoned, and this time the population did not have its Protecting Powers to fall back on. This summer it was decided to put the then governor, Armenian Catholic Couyoumdjian Pacha [Ohannes Kuyumjian/Kouyoumdjian Pasha], former Under-Secretary in the Foreign Ministry, on "leave," and at the same time a Muslim, the former Under-Secretary in the Interior Ministry, Ali Munif Bey, was sent to Lebanon as governor. Simultaneously, the Lebanese have been made to do military service, and the taxes levied in Lebanon are sent to the capital. As a final sign of Lebanon's incorporation into a purely Turkish area of administration the abovementioned announcement has appeared, according to which the province is to send "worthy" representatives (i.e. blind supporters of the Young Turk Commitee) to the Chamber of Deputies. It is also reported that it is the government's intention now to transform the province into a regular Vilayet with a position that is in every way identical to the position of the other Vilayets.

The question of the abolishment of Lebanon's autonomy can, however, no more than the abrogation of the Capitulations be said to be finally solved - that actually depends on how the war develops. What is certain is that the Lebanese population will do anything to, at a later point, regain its relative independence. As industrious and wealthy as it must be said to be as opposed to the remainder of the Turkish population, it is not well served by being exploited by the central government. Furthermore, large parts of Lebanon's population have spent a number of years in overseas countries (South America and Australia, etc.) - each year c. 20,000 inhabitants emigrate from Lebanon and, after having worked a number of years abroad and increased their fortune five-fold, return to their home country, thus increasing the country's fortune - and from abroad they have brought an outlook on life which will be hard to reconcile with Turkish administration.

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


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