Ottoman Sons Become Saviors of the Nation
By 1914 Ottoman military academy graduates formed a highly educated, multilingual, cosmopolitan, corps who shared the abiding conviction that the future survival of the state properly lay in their hands. As in Germany, France, and Britain, army officers saw themselves as an elite national vanguard. Their collective failure in late 1918 must have been unimaginably bitter.
Yasin al-Hashimi was born in 1884, the son of a neighborhood headman (mukhtar) in Baghdad. Neighborhood headmen, then and now, are the bottom rank of local officials. A headman would, however, be well acquainted with the potential benefits of government education and higher employment, and al-Hashimi senior enrolled all three of his sons in subsidized, tuition-free local military schools. He also had two daughters, Shafiqa and Zaynab, who seemed to have attended school. The family was fortunate to reside in a major Ottoman city and provincial capital, which had enjoyed significant state investment in educational institutions. The distance between their neighborhood, family home, and state schools was a matter of a few minutes' walk. Like his older brother Da’ud, and his younger brother Taha, Yasin attended military middle and preparatory schools in his native city, and after eight or nine years, at the age of 15 or 16, he traveled to the imperial capital of Istanbul, over two thousand kilometers west, to begin study at the military academy.55
Yasin completed his studies near the top of his class after three years around 1902. He was immediately selected to attend the general staff college (Erkan-i Harbiye Askeriye) for a further three years, an honor accorded to the top cadets. While the military academy enrolled over 1,000 and yearly graduated 500 or more cadets, the staff college enrolled fewer than fifty students at any given time. Among al- Hashimi’s classmates in a class of fewer than twenty officers, was Mustafa Kemal, who graduated from the staff college in the same year of 1905, and eventual Arab nationalist exemplar cAziz cAli al-Misri who had graduated at the top of his class the year before, and had been posted to Macedonia.56 Syrian national hero Yusuf al-cAzma graduated from the staff college the following year in 1906. All were secret members of the Committee of Union and Progress (Committee of Union and Progress).57 Al-Hashimi was sent to Mosul, and Kemal was sent to Damascus, where he started the first CUP-affiliated secret society in that city. Al-Hashimi shortly went to Damascus also, where both he and Kemal would have been teaching in the military preparatory school as staff captains. Yusuf al-cAzma was sent to Germany for further training.
Yasin al-Hashimi was married around 1910 at the age of 26 to Rafiqa cAbd al-Majid. Married Ottoman officers lived with their families, who moved with them to different postings, if transportation over the vast distances was available and practical. In the frequent case of arduous journeys and long distances, they lived in barracks with other officers, in which case they visited their families during infrequent home leaves. Yasin and Rafiqa had four children; three daughters, and a son who died in childhood. The daughters were Madiha, born 1911, Sabiha, born 1913, and Nicmat, born 1915. As a young man of modest background, whose life and prospects were transformed by modern education, Yasin al-Hashimi insured his daughters received the best education available.58
Yasin al-Hashimi began the Great War a major (binba§i) and ended it a Major General (Mirliva) on the Palestine Front. In 1914, al-Hashimi shared command of a division in Syria, and then received a promotion to lieutenant colonel (Kayamakam) in 1915. He served with distinction in the defense of Gallipoli, as chief of staff under his comrade Kemal, who had been promoted to lieutenant colonel in March 1914, months before the outbreak of the war.59 Yasin al-Hashimi met Amir Faysal at Damascus in 1915, but considered Faysal’s proposal for the Arab Revolt foolish and its prospects counterproductive; a view seemingly shared by a majority of Ottoman Arab officers. Al-Hashimi was repeatedly promoted and received a host of Ottoman and German decorations during the war. He played an important role in Central Europe in 1917 in the last campaign against the Russians before the Russian Revolution, and was decorated by the Kaiser himself. In a war with few heroes, his reputation survived the defeat. In September 1918 he was in command of the Fourth Ottoman army corps in Palestine. His old comrade and sometime rival Mustafa Kemal Pasa arrived to command the Seventh Army Corps on September 1, 1918, immediately before the defeat at the Battle of Nablus and just in time for the final retreat north.60 Yasin ended the war at the same senior rank as Kemal, but he was younger and had begun the war one promotion behind, meaning Yasin was promoted faster between 1914 18 than Kemal.
Yusuf al-cAzma is famous in Syrian historiography, but his fame is based partly on error. Al-cAzma was killed leading the defense of Syria against French invasion and occupation in July 1920. He has long been considered the first hero of the Syrian nation. Syrian schoolbooks and nationalist legend maintain that he joined Faysal’s Arab revolt and fought both the “Turks” and the French. Along with Saladin, and Hafez al-Asad, al-cAzma is one of the only Syrian heroes honored with a statue and square bearing his name in Damascus. But part of Yusuf al-cAzma’s legend is fiction. He was educated in the Ottoman system and spent most of his life in the Ottoman army far from his birthplace in Damascus, including at least two years in advanced training in Germany. He was a graduate of both the military academy and the Ottoman staff college. In education, culture, politics, and language, Yusuf al-cAzma died as he had lived: part of a highly educated Ottoman elite. His widow and children returned to Istanbul after his death.
Yusuf al-cAzma hailed from a notable Damascus family originating in the Maydan quarter and was born in 1884.61 By the time of his birth the family had moved to a large courtyard house in central Damascus in the Suq al-Qutn neighborhood. He attended primary, military middle, and military preparatory school in al-Marja quarter, the new nineteenth-century Ottoman administrative quarter, a few hundred meters from his family home. The cAzmas often chose military careers for their sons, and apparently did not possess the traditional Damascus notable distaste for martial vocations. Yusuf was accepted and traveled to Istanbul for training at the military academy around 1899. He clearly distinguished himself, and upon graduation, he continued directly to the staff college (Erkan-i Harbiye Askeriye). Graduates from the normal three-year military academy course received commissions as third lieutenants (Piyade Mulazim), but most staff college graduates, like Yusuf, received commissions as staff captains (Yuzba§i).
Yusuf al-cAzma seems to have surpassed his staff-officer comrades in early distinction and official favor. Like his fellows, he received an immediate posting to Damascus, but unlike Mustafa Kemal and Yasin al-Hashimi, he escaped the unglamorous duty of teaching in a provincial military preparatory school, and within months, he was sent to Berlin. There he spent a further two years of service and study in the Prussian Kriegsakademie, which in 1907 would probably have been considered the world’s foremost military academy.62 While at the Kriegsakademie he translated and published at least one textbook on military training from German into Ottoman Turkish.63 From there, he returned to Istanbul and became chief secretary of the Ottoman Legation in Egypt. At the outbreak of the Great War, al-cAzma hurriedly returned to Istanbul where he received a posting as chief of staff to the twentieth Ottoman infantry division, and then to the twenty-fifth division in action in Thrace.64 He was next detailed an aide to Ottoman war minister Enver Pasa and accompanied him on a tour of Anatolia, Syria, and Iraq. He thereafter served with distinction on the Caucasus front. At the end of the war he was a 34-year-old staff colonel a very high rank among Ottoman officers of his generation.
After the armistice, Yusuf al-cAzma went home to Damascus. But he was a stranger in his native city, and apart from a brief posting in 1907, he had not lived in Damascus for almost two decades, during which time both he and the city had changed tremendously. Damascus was a city under British army military occupation, in concert with its Arab allies, few of whom were Syrians. In defeat, his friends and comrades from twenty years of Ottoman army service had scattered to the winds, some like Enver, under threat of arrest by allied occupation forces, some in Istanbul, and he found himself in a city he no longer knew, occupied and dominated by the enemy he had fought. He probably felt more at home in Istanbul, speaking Turkish, a language he spoke at home with his Istanbul-born wife and children. Like Yasin al-Hashimi, his brother officer of twenty years, former fellow student at the staff college, al-cAzma accepted an offer of employment in the nascent government of Amir Faysal, and requested official release from Ottoman service, which was duly granted and recorded in December 1919.65 Within eighteen months he was dead, and destined to become the pre-eminent heroic martyr of the Syrian nation.
Yasin al-Hashimi’s younger brother, Taha al-Hashimi, was born in Baghdad in 1888, and educated there at the same military middle and preparatory schools as his two older brothers. He completed his preparatory-school studies and traveled to Istanbul to enroll in the military academy in 1903. Taha graduated a second lieutenant in 1906, and immediately entered the staff college and graduated first in his class in 1909. He was appointed a staff captain to the Fifth Ottoman Army in Syria, and participated in the Hawran repression operations south of Damascus with General Sami Pasa al-Faruqi in 1910. By late 1910 he was chief of staff to the 8th brigade at Damascus. He served as a staff officer during the Balkan wars, and in 1913 requested permission to go to Yemen to organize the Ottoman defense of the province. The journey took two-and-a-half months during peacetime, and he traveled by ship from Istanbul to Beirut, by train to Damascus, and Aleppo, overland to Mosul, and by riverboat to Baghdad and Basra, and by ship between Basra and Yemen. He arrived in Yemen in March of 1914, in time to engage British forces probably even before the Ottoman state officially entered the war. Taha spent the entire war a staff officer of the seventh Ottoman brigade, in numerous engagements against British forces in southern Yemen. At the time of the armistice in late 1918, he was a lieutenant colonel. Taha al-Hashimi began a year-long journey north with remnants of his force, to report to the imperial capital, which he reached after an arduous journey in late October 1919.66
Fawzi al-Qawuqji may be the most famous perennial rebel of the last Ottoman generation.67 His fame stems not from his forgotten two decades in Ottoman school and military service, but from his quixotic and unsuccessful role as a tragic hero of Arab nationalism and the struggle for Palestine. Qawuqji was born in Tripoli, in today’s Lebanon, in 1890. Tripoli was an important Ottoman Mediterranean sea port, on par with Haifa to the south and Alexandretta to the north. Inland trading and agricultural export towns had their seaports, and Tripoli served the Syrian towns of Homs and Hama.
Tripoli was a stunningly beautiful city at the turn of the last century. The town nestled at the bottom of a hill capped with an ancient stone castle predating the Crusades, and renovated in the 16th century with an inscribed gate in the name of Ottoman Sultan Sulayman. The Abu cAli river flowed down from snow-covered peaks due east and cleaved the hill between castle and foothills to the east. The Ottoman city covered the plain below the castle to the west, and the city was separated from its Roman and Phoenician harbor by a mile-long road running through verdant orange groves. The town had been important for millennia and was well endowed with clean, cold water, brilliant sunlight, and Mediterranean breezes. It had several Mamluk public baths, many mosques and churches, and a strong and growing central government presence in the form of state schools and administration buildings.
The town had received a significant amount of state investment, and by 1900 had a broad central square and municipal garden surrounded by modern buildings, shops, a hotel, and a government office of post and telegraphs. When Qawuqji was ten years old, he would have witnessed the construction and inauguration of the grand Hamidian clock tower in the square that remains a city landmark today. (See Figure 1.5.) Shortly before the war in 1911, the rail line linking Tripoli to Homs, and the Ottoman rail network, was completed. Ottoman citizens like Qawuqji were acculturated to the benefits and symbols of Ottoman modernity.
Qawuqji attended elementary school in his neighborhood. Six days a week over the course of three years, he walked the short distance along the ancient lanes of the city, and spent his days learning the kind of basic skills state elementary schools around the globe instilled in the
Figure 1.5. Hamidian Clock Tower, Jaffa (Lemke Collection) final decades of the nineteenth century. He went home in the afternoon and had a big lunch and spent the late afternoon playing in the neighborhood with other children. At nine or ten years of age, Young Fawzi would have begun his studies at the state middle school. There was a state civil middle school established at Tripoli by 1897, but his family probably did not possess the financial resources to pay the expensive tuition, and Fawzi would have left his family behind to attend school in Damascus or Beirut as a boarder at the tuition-free military middle school. Decades later, Qawuqji began his memoir with the words, “I opened my eyes on the world and found myself in the Ottoman school system.”68 After middle school and perhaps a summer spent at home in Tripoli at the age of 12 or 13, Fawzi continued at the Damascus military secondary school. He graduated from the preparatory school at the age of 17 or 18 and made the long trip to the imperial capital.
Qawuqji graduated from the Ottoman imperial military academy a second lieutenant of cavalry in 1912. He seems to have been a fairly indifferent student, and did not attend the staff college. Like his brother officers, Qawuqji was posted to a far-flung province, in his case to Mosul. He then traveled west to fight in the Balkan wars. In the months after the entry of the Ottoman Empire into the Great War in late October 1914, Qawuqji traveled to Baghdad as part of the first Ottoman reinforcements to arrive in January 1915 under the command of Suleyman Askeri Bey. The counteroffensive against British-occupied Basra failed after an extraordinarily difficult battle and both Qawuqji and Suleyman Askeri Bey were evacuated to hospital in Baghdad. Despondent over the defeat, and already a famous army officer, Suleyman Askeri shot himself with his sidearm in the hospital.69
Qawuqji spent months recovering from his wounds, and finally persuaded the Ottoman military doctors to allow his return to active service. He did not rejoin his unit, but opted to travel west to join the defense of his native region. He first sailed upriver to Mosul, and then, with an officer companion, rode for twenty days on horseback between Mosul and Aleppo in early summer 1915. He took the train south from Aleppo to Homs and Tripoli and reported to the summer headquarters of Cemal Pasa at cAlayh in Mount Lebanon above Beirut. Qawuqji noted that the cool heights of Mount Lebanon were his first real rest in years, but he also noted with disapproval the luxurious circumstances enjoyed by Cemal Pasa and his favorites.
Fawzi found much to complain about, including his observation that Cemal was busy imprisoning notable Arab leaders and intellectuals and sending Arab officers and conscripts to Anatolia, while he imported non-Arab officers to defend Syria. Fawzi enjoyed his stay and struck up a passionate friendship with a local Christian woman during his time in the mountains. Despite the complaints of his memoirs, which seem to bear the stamp of mid-twentieth Arab nationalist claims about “Turkish tyranny,” Fawzi enjoyed good relations with Cemal and was allowed to remain in greater Syria. He claimed without irony that, “Cemal sent the Arabs to Galipoli while Syria was emptied of quality defenders.”70
In 1916 Qawuqji received orders to travel to Jerusalem and report to the garrison town of Beersheba on the Palestine front. He traveled by train from Mount Lebanon to Damascus and from there to Palestine. His female friend accompanied him to the cAlayh train station, and rode with him on his train journey. From Damascus they traveled south by train, and enjoyed a long holiday in the Roman town of Sabastia near Nablus in today’s West Bank. He was pleased his unnamed lady friend was able to accompany him on this part of his journey.
In his off-duty activities Qawuqji was like many other officers of his generation. Ottoman officers considered themselves an educated modern elite. They commanded mostly illiterate conscripts, and were outnumbered by career officers who had risen through the ranks and were often barely literate. The educated officers, by contrast often of modest background, had received years of schooling, possessed skills in multiple languages (in Qawuqji’s case, Turkish, Arabic, French, and German), and had often spent time abroad posted in Germany. They had traveled the empire itself, which in the closing decade of the nineteenth century was still breathtakingly cosmopolitan and diverse. Their education in the Ottoman school system emphasized the sacred duty to serve as the vanguard defenders of the Ottoman sultan, caliph, Muslim people, and the Islamic religion, but displays of outward religious piety were hardly expected. Part of their modern cosmopolitanism often seemed to instill an enthusiastic appreciation for the company of liberated women and drinking alcohol.71
In the first few months of 1916, Qawuqji arrived at Beersheba. Despite its Biblical antiquity, Beersheba was built as a late nineteenth- century Ottoman garrison town and administrative center. The town resembled a cavalry outpost in the American West, surrounded as it was by desert and barren hills. It existed to extend central and provincial government presence into the nomadic and rural frontier regions. The town comprised a central square and municipal garden laid out in front of the government Saray, office of posts and telegraph, army office, and after 1915, a train station for a spur line of the Hijaz railroad. With the coming of the war to the Ottoman realms, Beersheba became the last outpost separating Ottoman greater Syria from British- occupied Egypt and the Sinai. While the town had been built from scratch with Ottoman State investment, it was a small settlement, and the garrison was mostly billeted in tents.
From Beersheba, Qawuqji participated in long-range mounted reconnaissance patrols into Sinai, to probe the British lines to the south.72 Qawuqji was decorated for his service in the campaign, and developed an appreciation for the German chief of staff of the Eighth Ottoman Army, Kress von Kressenstein. Decades later, Qawuqji remained proud of the trust von Kressenstein had placed in him. He fought in the first battle of Gaza in March 1917 and the second battle of Gaza in April 1917. Like many Ottoman officers of his generation, Qawuqji viewed the German military with admiration and fondness, especially when contrasted with what he, and many others among his fellow Ottoman officers, considered the continual perfidy of the British.73
Qawuqji continued to command long-range mounted reconnaissance units during the Ottoman defense of Palestine and Syria. He took orders from Mustafa Kemal, ranged through Palestine and the Hawran region, and learned well the topography of the area between Damascus and Jerusalem. He was present at the final defeat at the battle of Nablus, and the retreat north. Qawuqji was in Damascus at the moment of the British entry to the city. Officers who had not retreated north with Mustafa Kemal Pasa hastened to doff their army uniforms and put on civilian clothes. Scattered remnants of the army tried to escape the city, but found they were tracked and fired on by British aircraft. Qawuqji followed the railroad track on horseback, traveling by night to avoid airplanes, and went first to Rayaq, the rail junction and Ottoman airbase town in the Biqac. He made his way to Homs, where Kemal planned and then aborted an attempted regroup and defense of the city.
At Homs, Qawuqji had a final meeting with Mustafa Kemal Pasa. Kemal lamented the certain defeat due to the relentless harassment by British aircraft and cavalry, and sadly admitted that now was the time for all to return to, and defend, their native regions. Qawuqji claimed Kemal wished the Arabs freedom and success, and when Qawuqji requested dismissal from the Ottoman force and return to Tripoli, Kemal granted permission. The remaining defenders retreated to Aleppo. Qawuqji noted that Homs fell on 17 October 1918, the same day he arrived in Tripoli. He had returned to his native city after an absence of more than a decade, a defeated officer of a defeated empire.74
Necessity dictated similar arrangements among many less prominent former Ottoman officers. Sacid al-cAs had been born in modest circumstances in 1889 in the central Syrian town of Hama. He attended the Damascus military middle and preparatory schools and went to Istanbul, where he graduated from the military academy as a second lieutenant in 1907. He was immediately posted to Damascus, where he taught a year in the military preparatory school he had attended. There he would have known Mustafa Kemal, who was posted to the school and Fifth Army headquarters between 1905 and 1907. As noted, Kemal also took part in the first Damascus chapter of the secret society Watan, later merged with the Committee of Union and Progress.
In 1908, al-cAs was accepted to the staff college and returned to Istanbul. In the imperial capital he witnessed the 1908 Constitutional Revolution and graduated a staff captain in 1910. (See Figures 1.6a and 1.6b.) Between 1911 and 1913 he fought in the Balkan wars, first against guerrilla forces, under the command of cAziz cAli al-Misri, and finally against the regular armies of the Balkan states. Al-cAs later noted that his views on the effectiveness of guerrilla warfare were formed in this period. In 1913 he became the Director of the military preparatory school at Damascus under the command of Yasin al-Hashimi.75 During the war al-cAs fought the Russians in eastern Anatolia, and took part in the defense of Galipoli in 1915.76 The following year he was posted to Syria and in 1917 he was tried and convicted for his political activities, which included writing pseudonymous articles critical of the wartime Ottoman leadership in Syria. The court martial took place at
Figure 1.6a. Two Views of the Ottoman Constitutional Restoration, 1908 9 (Lemke Collection)
Figure 1.6b. Two Views of the Ottoman Constitutional Restoration, 1908 9 (Lemke Collection)
the summer headquarters of Cemal Pasa at cAlayh in Mount Lebanon. He was initially sentenced to hang, like the others tried at cAlayh, but his sentence was commuted and he spent six months in prison in cAlayh, and the final year of the war imprisoned in the citadel at Aleppo. As a highly educated and seasoned staff officer, he was probably a major or perhaps a colonel at the time of his sentence and imprisonment. He was released the day Faysal arrived in Aleppo on 26 October 1918.
Late Ottoman military education often included a measure of social engineering. Ramadan Shallash was born around 1879, a son of the shaykh of the upper Euphrates tribe al-Bu-Saraya. His father sent Ramadan to attend the first class at the Ottoman Imperial Tribal School, from which he graduated in 1898, and entered the military academy. Shallash certainly would have needed the specialized remedial curriculum of the Tribal School. After his five-year course of study, with its emphasis on religion, Ottoman history and culture, and basic reading and writing skills, he may still have had difficulty competing on an equal footing with military academy students, many of whom were younger than he, and who had already received eight or nine years of intensive elite schooling to his five years.77 Imperial affirmative-action policy may have played a role in insuring students like Ramadan graduated, though nearly 10 percent of students washed out of the Imperial Military Academy.78
The experience of the Tribal School or military academy did not embitter him and Shallash served the Ottoman army well into the Great War. He composed an autobiographical entry fifty years later and continued to use by then deeply unfashionable lofty honorific titles to refer to the Ottoman state and its sultan.79 He eventually graduated and was commissioned a captain in the Ottoman army, probably in some special cavalry unit. Shallash may have benefited from sultanic favor or imperial policy favoring the sons of rural shaykhs. The average graduate would be a 20-year-old second lieutenant, while Shallash claimed to be commissioned as a captain at graduation. Shallash went to Libya in 1911 to fight the Italian invasion of that Ottoman province. There he met, or become reacquainted with, the three most prominent commanders of the defense, all provincial products of the Ottoman education system, cAziz cAli al-Misri, Enver Pasa, and Mustafa Kemal Pasa.80 Other young officers like Sacid al-cAs, Fawzi al-Qawuqji, Yasin al- Hashimi, and Jacfar al-cAskari also saw action in Libya, and experienced the consequences of European designs on the Ottoman homeland they had been trained to defend.
Jacfar al-cAskari was born in Baghdad in 1885. He attended Ottoman primary and military middle school in Mosul and then traveled to the Baghdad military preparatory school in 1897.81 Around this time the Baghdad military preparatory school enrolled 551 boys. In 1901, he graduated and embarked on a 44-day journey to Aleppo on foot with a pack donkey, after which he continued by ship to Istanbul.82 In Istanbul, al-cAskari spent three years in the Imperial Military Academy, from which he graduated a second or third lieutenant of infantry in 1904. He was sent back to the Euphrates and Syrian desert region, where he served in various internal campaigns for the next six years. For eighteen months he taught at the Baghdad military middle school, an assignment he considered marginally better than the endless campaigns against recalcitrant rural shaykhs and various tax-evaders, who, Jacfar claimed, thought bribes would solve their problem with the Ottoman authorities.
Al-cAskari considered such corruption emblematic of the autocracy of Sultan Abdul-Hamid and welcomed his deposition in 1909. Al-cAskari apparently benefited from the new regime, led as it was by another alumnus of the Baghdad military preparatory school, Mahmud Ss evket Passa, because he was quickly selected to take part in a mission to Germany in 1910. In Berlin he met Enver Bey, the new Ottoman military attache to Germany, who impressed him greatly. Berlin and the
German army was a source of constant wonder to al-cAskari, but he spent only a few months in Berlin before he was detailed to a German Grenadier regiment in Karlsruhe. He cherished the comradeship of his German brother officers and especially enjoyed “beer night” at the rustic officer’s lodge.
Al-cAskari stayed in Germany for three memorable years, and only returned when he was ordered to report for duty at the beginning of the Balkan wars in October 1912. He was appalled by the state of the Ottoman forces he encountered during the wars in 1912 and 1913, but he served with distinction, and seems likely to have been on the cusp of being promoted to captain. At the end of 1913 he was appointed an instructor of military tactics at the Aleppo military preparatory school. In mid-summer 1914, al-cAskari finally passed the entrance examination for the Ottoman staff college at Istanbul, but was unfortunately denied his opportunity by the Ottoman entry into the war; instead of school, he reported for immediate front-line duty at Gallipoli.
Early in 1915 al-cAskari went to the Libyan Egyptian border region around Benghazi, where he helped organize a guerrilla campaign against the British, as had his more senior comrades, Enver, Mustafa Kemal, and cAziz cAli al-Misri against Italy in 1911. A year of incredible adventures followed, during which Cemal Pasa, military governor of Syria, and commander of the Fourth Ottoman Army, upon hearing al-cAskari's scheme to return to Libya by a small ship carrying munitions, replied, “I have no one under my command crazy enough for such a mission.”83 Al-cAskari purchased a dilapidated freighter in Beirut, raised money, and purchased weapons in Aleppo and Damascus and waited in Beirut to run the Anglo-French sea blockade with cAdil Arslan, younger brother of Shakib Arslan. In Libya they joined up with Nuri Passa, the brother of Ottoman war minister Enver Passa, who al-cAskari had met in Berlin.
In February of 1916 he was wounded in close combat by a sword- wielding English cavalryman, and was taken prisoner to Cairo. Al-cAskari was probably a captain, or perhaps a major, and after recovering from his wounds and several months in a prison camp, his brother-in-law, Lieutenant Nuri al-Sacid, persuaded him to defect to the British side of the war. Nuri al-Sacid later claimed to have deserted the Ottoman army before the war while he was still a student at the staff college, and after the outbreak of the war, he was captured and held in a prison camp in Basra in southern Iraq, from which British intelligence officers recruited him to switch sides. The defection was a difficult decision for al-cAskari. His memoir is at pains to emphasize his wish to help the “Arab cause” of Sharif Husayn, but he also makes clear that many of his imprisoned brother officers considered him a traitor to the Ottoman state.84
Jacfar al-cAskari's memoirs show no Ottoman officers freely deserted the Ottoman army service to join the Arab Revolt. All were recruited from British prison camps, or intercepted while fleeing Cemal Pasa’s dragnet in Syria, and all appear to have been recruited through the intervention, and personal touch, of a handful of British intelligence officers. Once recruited, Jacfar attempted to persuade his fellow captured officers to switch sides at the various prison camps around Cairo.
Officers born in the late 1880s and 1890s comprise the last Ottoman generation. Such men finished the war as mid-ranking officers and were likely to have seen more direct combat than older, more senior officers. They were consequently both less likely to have survived the war, and more likely to have taken part in the various insurgencies that followed the armistice. They were well represented in all the Ottoman successor states and independence movements into the 1940s. The Arab Revolt, made famous by T.E. Lawrence, and a century of disproportionate attention, relative to other aspects of the Great War, included a small number of such mid-level ex-Ottoman officers. The vast majority of younger Ottoman officers, whatever their origins, remained in Ottoman service throughout the war, and most who survived probably fought in the Anatolian insurgency, and became citizens, and pensioners, of the Turkish Republic, whether or not their birthplaces were within the borders of the Turkish Republic. The handful of Arab officers who joined the British-sponsored revolt of Sharif Husayn and his sons, appear to have been generally lower-ranking, less distinguished, and exclusively recruited from allied prison camps. None seem to have freely abandoned their Ottoman posts and joined the Arab Revolt.
Arab and Turkish nationalist historiography has claimed Turkish or Arab ethnic nationalism, and territorial ambitions for ethnically defined Turkish or Arab states predated the Great War. Later nationalist myth, probably originating with George Antonius, claimed the CUP was a “Turkish” club and that al-cAhd was an “Arab” club, and that both served as the seedbed for Turkish and Arab nationalist movements. Both organizations, however, had Arab, Turkish, Kurdish, Bulgar, Albanian, Circassian, and Muslim Greek military students and young officers among their ranks, and none of the secret societies had the doctrinal and ideological rigidity or the ethnic chauvinism later claimed for them. cAziz cAli al-Misri, founder of al-cAhd, later reported that the aim of al-cAhd was to foster Ottoman unity and heal rifts between Arab, Anatolian, and Balkan officers.85