On 27 May 1915, the Union and Progress Party government passed a legislation requiring the deportation of Armenians across Anatolia.

The government's orders were followed by some local authorities and refused by others. Here are the names few of these brave officials;

Celal Bey, Mayor of Konya

Faik Ali Ozansoy, Governor of Kutahya

Mehmet Cemal Bey, Governor of Yozgat

Hasan Mazhar Bey, Mayor of Ankara

Resit Pasa, Mayor of Kastamonu

Huseyin Nesimi Bey, Governor of Lice

Sabit bey, Deputy Governor of Lice

Mustafa Aga Azizoglu, Mayor of Malatya

Tahsin Bey, Mayor of Erzurum

The story of Faik Ali Ozansoy:

When the governor received orders from the government to deport Armenians, he not only refused to do so but also gave orders for the protection and care of Armenians who fled to Kutahya from other towns. This angered local supporters of the UPP, who reported the governor's refusal to Talat Pasha. The governor was immediately called to Istanbul and questioned by Talat, who told him that this order was to be fulfilled everywhere, including Kutahya. In protest to the orders, Ozansoy submitted his resignation but Talat allowed him to return to his post and did not accept his resignation.

When he eventually returned to Kutahya, he found that the local police chief ordered local Armenians to either convert to Islam or get ready for deportation. Fearful for their lives, a large number of Armenians submitted petitions to convert to Islam and be registered as Muslims. The governor was furious with the acts of the police chief and fired him. He gathered the city council and with the backing of various important voices, including the city's Mufti, the governor said to the Armenians; "the reason behind your conversion is clear. Nobody will show the immorality to send you to exile. Here are your petitions, rip them to pieces before the council."
The governor also hosted Armenians fleeing deportations in Balikesir, Afyon, Izmit and Adapazari. In order to prevent a visible large Armenian population in the town centre, he relocated all of the refugees to various towns and villages. The Armenians collected 500 pieces of gold in gratitude to the governor and donated it to the Turkish Crescent. The governor distributed these gold to all of the poor Armenians who sought refuge in Kutahya and set up a soup kitchen and a school for Armenian children.

The story of Celal bey, Mayor of Konya

Celal bey and people of Konya were already providing food and water to groups of Armenians passing near by the city. When the mayor received orders to deport the Armenians of the city, he refused to obey them. He sent Armenians fleeing from other cities to be housed in various villages and towns. However, in October 1915, the government fired him from his post and for many years, he was not allowed to hold any jobs in the state sector. He suffered years of poverty. Eventually, he was posted at the Mayor's office in Adana, following a request from the French government. While in Adana, he joined the Kuvayi Milliye movement and worked along side many people who played a role in Turkey's independence, including Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Along with Celal bey, Sufi orders in Konya also played a major role in protecting and taking care of the vulnerable Armenians. Following Celal Bey's decommissioning, numerous high ranking Sufi sheikhs and followers were sent to exile.

The story of Hasan Mazhar Bey, Mayor of Ankara

Hasan Mazhar Bey vehemently refused obeying orders from the central government. He has been reported to say; "I am a mayor, not a thug. I cannot do this job. Let someone else come, take my seat and do it." His refusal resulted him losing his seat in August 1915 and being fired from the civil service. Eventually, Hasan Mazhar Bey would be a part of the official commission tasked by the new Turkish state to look into the crimes committed against Armenians.

These stories are only short accounts of personal risks taken by Turkish officials at a truly dangerous time to do so. The untold stories include the fates of

* Resit Pasha of Kastamonu who was decommissioned after refusing to deport Armenians;

* Huseyin Nesmi Bey of of Lice, who was killed en route to a meeting in Diyarbakir he was summoned to after refusing to carry deportation orders;

* Mayor Mustafa Azizoglu, who could not stop deportations but saved many Armenians by hiding them in his house. He was murdered by his own son, who was a member of Union and Progress Party.

These and many others whose stories are awaiting to be documented reflect courage, virtue and humanity found in all of us, no matter what the circumstances are.


Tuncay Opcin, "Ermenilere Kol Kanat Gerdiler" Yeni Aktuel, 2007, Issue 142

Taner Akcam, The Young Turks' Crime Against Humanity, Princeton University Press, 2012

Racho Donef, "Righteous Muslims during the Genocide of 1915", November 2010, Sydney


  1. Katherine Tattersfield said...

    This is a truly inspiring story of courage and compassion. Thank you for recognizing these heroes on the other side of the tragedy.  


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