Armenians in Lausanne Peace Treaty

The military victory of the Turkish Independence War came to a conclusion with the Mudania Armistice on 11 October 1922. The point in question after this was the construction of permanent peace with a diplomatic struggle. There was no article about Armenians in the Mudania Armistice. The first article of decisions of the 14 articles about the principals to be followed during the negotiations given by the Council of Ministers to TBMM committee invited to Lausanne Peace Treaty was “The issue of Eastern border (Armenian Land) cannot be of concern, if it does the interruption of negotiations becomes required.” In Ankara, a very determined policy about the Armenian problem at the cost of not signing the treaty by informing that any of the demands or pressures would not be accepted about the Armenian problem in Lausanne. Moreover, it was decided that a population exchange for Armenians living in Anatolia would be indirectly taken as a principle by the statement that minorities are needed to be exchanged in the ninth articles of these instructions. On the other hand, while the studies for Lausanne Conference started, Armenians demanded to attend the conference as the Armenian Committee for the issues related to minorities and Armenians to be concluded in Lausanne and did a very large preparation.

Armenians wanted to defend their cause in the Lausanne Conference by union of the committee representing the Armenian Republic and founded with the name the Armenian Republic Committee under the leadership of Aharonyan and Hadisyan with the committee named Armenian National Committee founded under the leadership of Noradunkyan and Leon Paşalıyan more with the influence of the Dashnakian Organizations. As a result, it was decided between these two committees to act in full alliance about all issues concerning Armenians (Beyoğlu, 130-131).

The Armenian problem was discussed in the context of negotiations on the protection of minority rights in the sessions dated 12, 13, 14-20 of December 1922 and 6-9 of January 1923. Lord Curzon claimed in his opening speech on 12 December 1922 that the solution to this problem was smoothed by the move of a large population as a result of the war. Curzon declared that there were presumably 130,000 left in Istanbul and in Yerevan, part of Soviet Republic, there was the existence of a so-called Armenian state which could not accept any more population as it had 1,250,000 Armenians already. The Turkish delegate, Ismet Pasha, briefly summarized the condition of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and the current situation by citing from foreign sources as well. Ismet Pasha explained the fact that it was impossible to establish an Armenian state within Turkish borders:

Turkish Nation gives to the minorities the rights that the civilized world recognizes but cannot accept any new offer which would put its independence under risk; the best way of emancipating minorities is not to provoke them to relations which would stain them abroad and to protect them from such relations. They should not depend on a compassion coming from abroad. Then, all of them can live among Turkish citizens after the peace treaty. Both sides will recover soon if the organizations working abroad to use Armenian problem as a maintenance tool or a weapon are destroyed. Armenians who wish to stay in Turkey can live comradely with Turkish citizens. However, there is no possibility that Turkish lands can be separated from homeland for an Armenian state neither in eastern provinces nor in Cilicia. Turkey has already signed contracts with current Armenian Republic. Turkey cannot even imagine the establishment of a new Armenia”

(Karacan, 192-193)

Ismet Pasha declared clearly in this speech that Armenians who wished to stay in Turkey could continue living comradely with Turkish citizens, not even a piece of land of Turkey either in east or in Cilicia could be given to Armenians, the population of Armenians in Anatolia could never be 3,000,000 as Curzon claimed, Armenians could not be more than 2,500,000 according to British sources as well and 2,500,000 Muslims became the victims of the war during the World War. The interesting side of the story is that Curzon avoided using the Blue Book as a reference while Ismet Pasha based the numbers of population that he had on British sources and the Blue Book (Ertan, 218-219).

Turkey’s borders were drawn with the treaties of Gyumri on 3 December 1920, Moscow on 16 March 1921, Kars on 13 October 1921 and the government of the Great National Assembly closed down the Armenian problem. However, Armenians made it possible for this problem to be discussed again in Lausanne by applying to various conferences, congresses and especially the United States of America and carrying out all kinds of influences. Britain, France and Italy helped the issue to be discussed in Lausanne. Hence, on 2 February 1923 the Armenian delegation presented a memorandum to the Allies and asked for a place to be found for Armenian migrants by emphasizing that 700,000 Armenians and over 100,000 orphans are without land and helpless of earning their keep. All efforts of these committees were to get the gains they had with Sevres accepted in Lausanne. As a result of this decision, the “Combined Armenian Committee” informed their demands to the Lausanne Conference with a memorandum. According to this memorandum:

  1. During the general war, Armenians clearly fulfilled their duties towards the Allies and were defined as good combatants and an allied nation by these states.
  2. This war took as many victims as impossible to have comparison. Out of 2,250,000 Armenians of Turkey Armenia, 1,250,000 of them have been massacred. 700,000 of them migrated to Caucasia, Iran, Syria, Greece, the Balkan countries and other places. Currently, there are only 130,000 Armenians in villages and 150,000 Armenians in Istanbul in Turkey Armenia. These are also always ready for migration.
  3. The Armenian problem, of which the origin is very old, was born with the Berlin Congress in 1878 and is one of the fragile issues which acquired an international character. The definite and eventual solution of this issue will influence Middle Eastern peace.
  4. The states publicly declared the independence of Turkey Armenia. This issue is currently in the Alliance of Nations Regulations and all peace contracts.
  5. Its main points have been put into voting in the first and second meetings of the League of Nations and the establishment of the “National Centre (Armenian Country) was accepted unanimously.

Ismet Pasha who attended the Lausanne Conference as the representative of Turkey presented the opinions of the Grand National Assembly in three articles:

  1. Recovering the fates of Turkey’s minorities: first of all, is dependent on the elimination of the possibility for all kinds of foreign intervention and provocations.
  2. This goal, merely and before all, can be realized with the population exchange of Turkish and Greek people.
  3. The best guarantees for the safety and development of minorities, apart from the implementation of precautions for mutual population exchange, are the guarantees that both state laws will provide and the liberal policies of Turkey will give to all communities whose members perform their duties as Turkish citizens (Beyoğlu, 547-548).

 

In conclusion, we can say that all propagandas and activities against Turkey were left inconclusive by the Turkish committee. It is understood that Western countries used Armenians as a tool to compress Turks and put aside the Armenian State that they wanted to establish when they saw the determination of the Turkish side on this issue.

There were important political, social and military reasons behind the discontinuity of the insistences of Allied forces on the Armenian issue. If we are to list these: the absence of an Armenian population in East Anatolia; conflicts of interest among the Allied forces; the USA’s avoidance of the American mandate (though wanted by Armenia); the existence of Armenia needing political, economic and military help; the occupation of Armenia, which was founded in Yerevan on 28 May 1918, by the Soviets in December 1920; that Turkey solved the problem of the Armenian-Turkish border with treaties signed with Armenia and Soviet Russia after the great success of the Turkish Independence War; and the determined attitude of the Turkish side on this issue had been influential in the absence of Armenian problem in Lausanne Treaty. For this reason, the Armenian issue was negotiated only in the minorities’ part of the treaty. The Turkish thesis being accepted in the treaty, the existence of Armenian citizens as an inseparable part of Turkey within a complete citizenship law without any privileges has been ensured (Beyoğlu, 549-550).

There are no special provisions about Armenians in the Lausanne Treaty. The status of Armenians left in Turkey was regulated in the 37th and 45th Articles of the Lausanne Treaty like other non-Muslim minorities. Apart from these minority rights, with Articles 30, 31 and 32, the application right in two years was given for everyone who wanted to switch to Turkish nationality. The articles where the status of minorities is dealt with in Lausanne Treaty are as follows:

 

  • Article 37: Turkey undertakes that the stipulations contained in Articles 38 to 44 shall be recognised as fundamental laws, and that no law, no regulation, nor official action shall conflict or interfere with these stipulations, nor shall any law, regulation, nor official action prevail over them.
  • Article 38: The Turkish Government undertakes to assure full and complete protection of life and liberty to all inhabitants of Turkey without distinction of birth, nationality, language, race or religion. All inhabitants of Turkey shall be entitled to free exercise, whether in public or private, of any creed, religion or belief, the observance of which shall not be incompatible with public order and good morals. Non-Moslem minorities will enjoy full freedom of movement and of emigration, subject to the measures applied, on the whole or on part of the territory, to all Turkish nationals, and which may be taken by the Turkish Government for national defence, or for the maintenance of public order.
  • Article 39: Turkish nationals belonging to non-Moslem minorities will enjoy the same civil and political rights as Moslems. All the inhabitants of Turkey, without distinction of religion, shall be equal before the law. Differences of religion, creed or confession shall not prejudice any Turkish national in matters relating to the enjoyment of civil or political rights, as, for instance, admission to public employments, functions and honours, or the exercise of professions and industries. No restrictions shall be imposed on the free use by any Turkish national of any language in private intercourse, in commerce, religion, in the press, or in publications of any kind or at public meetings. Notwithstanding the existence of the official language, adequate facilities shall be given to Turkish nationals of non-Turkish speech for the oral use of their own language before the Courts.
  • Article 40: Turkish nationals belonging to non-Moslem minorities shall enjoy the same treatment and security in law and in fact as other Turkish nationals. In particular, they shall have an equal right to establish, manage and control at their own expense, any charitable, religious and social institutions, any schools and other establishments for instruction and education, with the right to use their own language and to exercise their own religion freely therein.
  • Article 41: As regards public instruction, the Turkish Government will grant in those towns and districts, where a considerable proportion of non-Moslem nationals are resident, adequate facilities for ensuring that in the primary schools the instruction shall be given to the children of such Turkish nationals through the medium of their own language. This provision will not prevent the Turkish Government from making the teaching of the Turkish language obligatory in the said schools. In towns and districts where there is a considerable proportion of Turkish nationals belonging to non-Moslem minorities, these minorities shall be assured an equitable share in the enjoyment and application of the sums which may be provided out of public funds under the State, municipal or other budgets for educational, religious, or charitable purposes. The sums in question shall be paid to the qualified representatives of the establishments and institutions concerned.
  • Article 42: The Turkish Government undertakes to take, as regards non-Moslem minorities, in so far as concerns their family law or personal status, measures permitting the settlement of these questions in accordance with the customs of those minorities. These measures will be elaborated by special Commissions composed of representatives of the Turkish Government and of representatives of each of the minorities concerned in equal number. In case of divergence, the Turkish Government and the Council of the League of Nations will appoint in agreement an umpire chosen from amongst European lawyers. The Turkish Government undertakes to grant full protection to the churches, synagogues, cemeteries, and other religious establishments of the above-mentioned minorities. All facilities and authorisation will be granted to the pious foundations, and to the religious and charitable institutions of the said minorities at present existing in Turkey, and the Turkish Government will not refuse, for the formation of new religious and charitable institutions, any of the necessary facilities which are guaranteed to other private institutions of that nature.
  • Article 43: Turkish nationals belonging to non-Moslem minorities shall not be compelled to perform any act which constitutes a violation of their faith or religious observances, and shall not be placed under any disability by reason of their refusal to attend Courts of Law or to perform any legal business on their weekly day of rest. This provision, however, shall not exempt such Turkish nationals from such obligations as shall be imposed upon all other Turkish nationals for the preservation of public order.
  • Article 44: Turkey agrees that, in so far as the preceding Articles of this Section affect non-Moslem nationals of Turkey, these provisions constitute obligations of international concern and shall be placed under the guarantee of the League of Nations. They shall not be modified without the assent of the majority of the Council of the League of Nations. The British Empire, France, Italy and Japan hereby agree not to withhold their assent to any modification in these Articles which is in due form assented to by a majority of the Council of the League of Nations. Turkey agrees that any Member of the Council of the League of Nations shall have the right to bring to the attention of the Council any infraction or danger of infraction of any of these obligations, and that the Council may thereupon take such action and give such directions as it may deem proper and effective in the circumstances. Turkey further agrees that any difference of opinion as to questions of law or of fact arising out of these Articles between the Turkish Government and any one of the other Signatory Powers or any other Power, a member of the Council of the League of Nations, shall be held to be a dispute of an international character under Article 14 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. The Turkish Government hereby consents that any such dispute shall, if the other party thereto demands, be referred to the Permanent Court of International Justice. The decision of the Permanent Court shall be final and shall have the same force and effect as an award under Article 13 of the Covenant.
  • Article 45: The rights conferred by the provisions of the present section on the non-Moslem minorities of Turkey will be similarly conferred by Greece on the Moslem minority in her territory

Even though the Armenian problem was solved from the Turkish side with the Treaty of Lausanne, Armenians did not stop their claims. They presented these reasons for this:

  1. There is no article about Armenians or Armenia in the Treaty of Lausanne.
  2. Armenia is not a party totheTreaty of Lausanne.
  3. The fact that this treaty left the majority of Armenian lands to Turkey and the rejection of the establishment of an Armenian country by Allied Forces are in contradiction with the self-defence principle of the treaty.
  4. The Lausanne treaty does not include issues in Sevres. The parties in the two treaties are not the same. The signers of Sevres have not been called to the Lausanne Treaty in contradiction with international rules. For this reason Lausanne has not replaced Sevres. Similarly, Armenian researcher Toriguian has not recognized Gyumri, Moscow, Kars and Lausanne treaties and stated that he recognized the Sevres Treaty which gave rights to Armenians. However, one issue he did not consider was that the Ottoman Empire signed the Sevres Treaty and that it never came into force. After all, the Ankara government invalidated all treaties that the Istanbul government signed after 16 March 1920 by a law they passed. With the expression of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, the problem of an Armenian state in Anatolia has been eliminated with the Lausanne Treaty (Bakar, 253-254).

Bibliography

Bakar, Bülent (2009), Ermeni Tehciri, Ankara.

Beyoğlu, Süleyman (2006), “Sevr ve Lozan’da Ermeni Sorunu”, Türk-Ermeni İlişkilerinin Gelişimi ve 1915 Olayları Uluslar arası Sempozyumu Bildirileri, Yay. prep. Hale Şıvgın, Ankara, p. 541-554.

Karacan, Ali Naci (1971), Lozan, Istanbul.

Lozan Barış Konferansı Tutanaklar ve Belgeler (LBKTB), trans. Seha L. Meray (2001),  VIII, Istanbul.

Ertan, Temuçin F. (2000), “Lozan Konferansı’nda Ermeni Sorunu”, Kök Araştırmalar, c. II, Vol. 2, p. 209-245.

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