The Yıldız Assasination Planned Against Abdulhamid II and the Diplomatic Crisis with Belgium

Armenians who were not able to get the desired results from their protests in Istanbul in 1895 and 1896 attempted to draw the attention of big powers by assassinating Abdulhamid II and carrying out big protests, and in this way, reach their goals by weakening the Ottoman Empire. Within this framework, it was decided to start intensive activities in Istanbul and İzmir in the Dashnaksutyun congress carried out in Sofia in January of 1904. According to this, the Sultan would be assassinated and then the government centre, Galata Bridge, Tunnel, Ottoman Bank, foreign embassies and some other private and official institutions would be blown up. Therefore, a great unrest and revolution would be created and Istanbul would be left in blood and fire and then the intervention of the European countries would be ensured.

The Armenian defenders started their preparations in the light of these decisions. The most significant role among the intriguers was played by the Russian Armenian Samuel Fain (Kristafor Mikaelyan), his daughter Robina Fain, and Lipa Rips (Konstantin Kabulyan). These made connection with the Belgian Edward Jorris who had an anarchist spirit.

Servet-i Fünun No 901

Servet-i Fünun No 901

The assassins started to follow the actions of Abdulhamid II. They decided on Friday when the Sultan went to the Yıldız Mosque and the official ceremony was held as the most appropriate time for the action. According to their detections, the arrival of the Sultan to his cart and move after the prayers was taking 1 minute and 42 seconds. As for the plan they made within this framework, a cart where a time bomb was placed would be brought near the mosque and the time bomb would blow just when the Sultan was passing by that spot.

The Armenian assassins came to the Yıldız Mosque with their cars on 21 July 1905 Friday as they had planned. When the prayers were over they activated the time bomb. However, at the end of the prayers Sheikh ul-Islam Cemaleddin Efendi came to the Sultan. They had some quick words. In the meantime, before the Sultan got in the cart, the time bomb, which had been set already, blew up creating a huge noise outside the mosque. The Sultan, who was coincidentally kept busy by Sheikh ul-Islam, was saved from the assassination. However, many people around the exploded cart died and were injured.

According to the statement of Tahsin Bey, the First Secretary of the Palace, the Sultan demonstrated a great example of courage (Tahsin Pasha 1990, p. 158). Abdulhamid II shouted, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid” to be able to calm down the panic. Those who saw his calm state of condition, soldiers and officers immediately got back to their places. The Sultan got in his cart saying, “Don’t worry. Don’t let anybody get injured by the confluence.” He took the law in his hands. He started to climb the hill by using the cart more slowly than before. In the meantime, the Austrian ambassador was shouting “Vive le Sultan – Long Live the Sultan” (Osmanoğlu 1986, p. 59).

This assassination arranged by Armenians for Sultan Abdulhamid was announced in the newspapers the following day (Tercüman-ı Hakikat, 19 Cemaziyelevvel 1323). In the meantime, big reactions came from both inside the country and outside of the county. Many Ottoman citizens condemned the attack against the Sultan. All kings and presidents of the time sent their telegraphs of good wishes to the palace and stated that they condemned the event. The first report on the assassination was prepared by Beşiktaş Police Commandership. According to this report, 26 people, four of which were journalists and three of which were soldiers, died in the attack and 56 people were lightly or heavily injured. Also about 20 animals had died and many cars were wrecked. In the assassination attempt, a bomb called “Machine Enfernal” and which had 80 kilos of explosive substance was used.

The real investigation was carried out by a commission created under the chairmanship of Necip Melhame Pasha. While the investigation was on-going, a rubber piece found in the Yıldız hill made for an important clue. Carts with rubbers were not often used in Istanbul. When the number 11123 and the writing of Neseldorfer were determined in the wreck of the exploded cart, it was understood that it was made in a factory in Vienna. Then, the course of the event was revealed with the evidences found one after another. Meanwhile, Edward Jorris and some suspects from the chiefs were arrested and some to be counted as chiefs had managed to escape abroad. The statements of Edward Jorris were quite useful in the revelation of the event.

According to the results of the investigations, the development of the assassination took place as this: Armenian revolutionist defenders took action after the decision for the assassination was taken in Sofia. The guerrilla Kendiryan got in touch with the Belgian anarchist Edward Jorris who was one of the officers of the Singer factory. Jorris did not have any idea about the Armenian claims. However, they got along well as they both had anarchist spirits. They came to an agreement about the assassination against the Ottoman Sultan. Kendiryan introduced other guerrilla members Samuel Fain, his daughter Robin Fain, and Lipa Rips with Jorris. These people discussed the assassination plan until mornings in a house they rented in Istanbul.

When the form of the assassination was decided, firstly the supply of the cart was tackled. A woman called Mari Zayn came to a car factory in April of 1905 and chose a phaeton in the style she showed the picture of. Then a person called Silviyo Ricci (Köse Aristidi) ordered this cart. The cart sent to Istanbul was removed from the customs with the help of people called Mateo and Mihal and was put in a barn in Şişli, as chosen by Silviyo Ricci beforehand. The people named Mıgırdıç and Yervant started to take care of the cart and horses here.

On the other hand, Lipa Rips, who was residing in a house in Beyoğlu, rented a cart from a charioteer named Vafyadis. Mıgırdıç went around on Istanbul streets with this cart for 10 days and learnt the ways. With the fake permission they got from the Russian consulate they entered many times to Friday service parade and planned how they could assassinate the Sultan from the place reserved for foreigners. In this way, the actions of Abdulhamid II were carefully followed. It was determined how long it took the Sultan to get in his cart after he left the mosque.

After this, the bomb to be used in the assassination was bought from Paris. The bomb was brought to Istanbul through Varna and Athens in many separate pieces and was received by Silviyo Ricci. According to the statement of Jorris, both the purchase of the cart and the expenses for the assassination came to be around 300 francs. This money was mostly sent from Armenians in America, Russia, and Bulgaria.

On 21 July 1905 when the assassination would take place, the wheels of the cart were covered by rubber to prevent the vibration, and the cart which now Mademoiselle had a bomb of 80 kilos was brought to Yıldız Mosque. There were Lipa Rips and Robbina on the cart. Everything was carried out as planned beforehand. The time bomb in the cart was arranged according to the time the Sultan would take to leave the mosque and come to his cart. However, Abdulhamid II was kept busy after the prayers, unlike always. At that very moment, the time bomb set beforehand exploded with a great noise outside (for the investigation records, Attantat 1905). Therefore the assassination was unsuccessful. All of the plans of the Armenian anarchists went to waste.

Belgian Edward Jorris, who was among the arrangers of the assassination, was brought to the court after the investigation was completed. As he had confessed his guilt, it was for sure that he would be punished with the death penalty. A day before the court decision, an unplanned development took place on 17 December 1905. The Istanbul Ambassador of Belgium applied to the Ottoman Government and informed that he would ask for the return of the suspect referring to the agreement on 3 August 1838. According to the ambassador, since the arrest, his government had carried out all kinds of easiness, and as the event was completely enlightened, there was no need in keeping the suspect in the Ottoman country. If Jorris was convicted, he should have submitted to Belgium to bear his punishment (for the complete correspondences, BOA, İ. Hus, no.48, 22 Z 1323, lef.1 and continued).

The following day Edward Jorris was sentenced to death. The ambassador reapplied to the Ottoman government on 19 August and asked for Jorris to be submitted to him for bearing his punishment in Belgium as he had demanded before. The Ottoman government stated that the agreement on 3 August 1838 did not give such a right to Belgium and rejected the demand. The government explained the rejection reason as follows:

“In the agreement on 3 August 1838, just as there is no special reason to give broader legal privileges to the Belgium government than other foreign countries, the Supreme Court does not intend to recognize such an exemption. The rights given to other foreigners at the time were given to Belgians as well. For this reason, it is not possible that Belgium has a special privilege for its own citizens in murder cases. Fundamentally the practices to be carried out in such situations have been clearly stated in the agreements of the Ottoman Empire with Britain and France in 1673 and 1740. According to this, a consulate officer can be present in the murder or offense cases where foreigners and Ottoman citizens engaged together. However, the Ottoman courthouse is the only authority in the judgments and decisions. These articles which are quite clear do not need any further clarification. The 1838 agreement with Belgium was done in the context of rights given to the British and the French. The practice is on-going for 65 years. The Belgium government should do a good research about these issues. Also, we regret the attitude of Belgium government on such an issue which is closely related to the public order and peace of the country and on an assassination arousing hatred from both the Ottoman country and foreign countries.”

The point of view of the Belgium government was as follows:

“The rights given with capitulations were carried out in a broader way in the practice. For instance, the agreements with America in 1830 and with Belgium in 1838 constituted a practice absolutely accepted. When the agreement was being signed, as our deputies informed the Belgian government, no Ottoman deputy objected to the French text giving the right of trying and punishing our own citizens to us. We did some changes in our own laws depending on this article. We regulated the articles of trying Belgium nationals committing murder or crime in the Ottoman country with a special law on 31 December 1851. The mentioned law is still in force. If the articles of this law have not been practiced and we never demanded the practice of these rights given to us, the reason for this is that a serious event requiring the demand of this right did not happen. In the meantime, even if we accepted the authority of Ottoman courts in some insignificant crimes, this situation doesn’t mean that we gave up on the rights that 1838 agreement gave to us. No matter how much we got sad about a Belgium national’s attack to the Sultan, we are extremely happy that the Sultan did not get harmed by the assassination. We should express this as well that our demand is not the right of trying but the submission of Jorris to our side. We don’t ask the submission of Jorris to save him from a punishment he deserves. The Belgium government doesn’t want to give up on the rights given to it by the agreement which always stayed in force regardless of the significance of the case.”

While the diplomatic crisis and war of law between the parties went on like this, another development took place. The comment of Paul Wauwermans, one of the famous lawyers of the country, was published in the copy on 14 January 1906 of the newspaper Conservateur de l’Eparne of Belgium. In his writing putting forward the wrongfulness of the Belgian government, Wauwermans pointed out these:

“The controversial issue on the Jorris case is Article 8 of the 3 August 1838 agreement. At first glance, the written expression that “The criminals will be tried by ambassador, acting ambassador, consul or vice-consul and will be punished as the method about Franks requires” arouses the impression that Belgium has a right in its claim. However, this assessment has been in contradiction with the verdict “the murders committed by Belgians in non-Christian countries will be recognized by our Braban Murder Court” in Article 32 of our consulate regulations on 31 December 1851. The fact is that the 1838 agreement can only be considered within the traditions and legal laws of the time. Actually the issue is nothing more than the use of the capitulations we have and the rights we got in favour of our people. The expressions in these capitulations that ‘Franks will be tried and punished in accordance with their traditions’ don’t only cover the French. This expression means that Belgians will also get the same treatment as the French. Therefore, if we look at the way the capitulations were practiced, it is said that ‘when a crime is committed by the French against other French it is subject to be tried in their own courts’ in Article 15 of the capitulations in 1740. In this situation, Ottoman courts are the authority in the cases which took place between foreigners and Ottoman citizens. Many examples were also experienced related to this point.

Also, a similar point appears in the Edirne Treaty between the Ottoman Empire and Russia in 1829. Here, Russian consulates were given authority in the cases between Russian nationals. However, when any Ottoman citizen was involved in the event, the authority of Ottoman courts was finically protected. Therefore, as it can also be understood from the reasons we showed, Belgium is in an unjustified position before its demand from the Ottoman Empire. The thing that Belgian government can do could be to get permission from the Ottomans for a point that no demand was required until now. Besides, assurance about that it would properly perform justice should also have been given. However, it is not possible to get the impression that the Belgian government, which is under some articles in the press and meetings, could be fair in the Jorris issue.”

As it is apparent, Belgium was found wrong even by its own lawyers. The Ottoman Empire displayed its absolute attitude on the issue by this answer given to Belgium on 1 February 1906:

“The Belgian government which depends on evidence from the French text of the approval of the 1838 agreement by Belgium has a baseless attitude as if the Ottoman government gave exceptional rights to its own citizens. However, the Ottoman government holds itself accountable for only its own contracts. Therefore, the claims of a foreign country depended on a translated agreement text which is not in accordance with its original cannot be accepted.

If there is a difference between the Belgium’s text and the Turkish text approved by the Sultan, the copy to be accepted as valid is the Turkish one. In the Turkish copy, Belgium is not given any rights when it is about the penalty of cases. As it is with other Franks, Belgium is given only the right of keeping one consulate member available in the case. The fact of the matter is that foreigners have been subjected to the trial authority of Ottoman courts in the mixed crimes since very old times. Therefore, it is not possible for the Belgian government to demand more than the practices performed for the other nations.”

After these reasons were put forth, a list of French, British, Russian, Italian, and Austrian national foreigners who were punished in the Ottoman courts for their crimes and also completed these penalties in Ottoman prisons was presented to Belgium. Actually, when all these discussions were on-going, it was known that Jorris would not be executed; because Abdulhamid II, who didn’t like the penalty of death, had turned the punishment of the Belgian anarchist into life imprisonment. Within the framework of later developments, Edward Jorris was not submitted to Belgium, but his passport was given to him and sent to Europe.

Bibliography

BOA, İ.Hus, no.48, 22 Z 1323, lef.1 and continued.

Enquete sur l’Attantat Commis dans la Journee du 21 Juillet a l’Issue de la Ceremonie du Selamlık, Constantinople 1905.

Osmanoğlu, Ayşe (1986), Babam Sultan Abdülhamid, Istanbul.

Tahsin Paşa (1990), Sultan Abdülhamid Yıldız Hatıraları, Istanbul.

Tercüman-ı Hakikat, 19 Cemaziyelevvel 1323.

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