Military officer, statesman and politician. (B.1881, Thessaloniki – D. 2 October 1963, Istanbul). His full name is İbrahim Refet Bele and he is the son of Mehmet Servet Bey and Emine Adviye Hanım. He is also known as Refet Bey or Refet Pasha. He started his primary and secondary education in Thessaloniki and completed it in Istanbul. He graduated from Military College he entered on the 13th of March 1896 with the rank of lieutenant on the 26th of December 1898. He was assigned to the 67th and 65th legions under the command of 3rd Army. He promoted to first lieutenant on the 29th of December 1903 and was assigned to the 107th Aged Soldiers Battalion. Next year he was transferred to Vodine Squad of the Central Gendarmerie Battalion of Thessaloniki. He became a captain in 1906. He entered War Academy in October 1909. While he was a 3rd class student he joined Trablusgarp War in June 1912 and Balkan War on the 16th of September in the same year and appointed General Headquarters Staff Officer. The same year his being a staff officer was approved and he promoted to major on the 7th of January 1913. Later he was assigned to the Command of Gendarmerie Battalion in Edirne. Again the same year he was appointed Staff Officer in the German Military Reformation Council.
Refet Bey during the mobilization of the 1st World War (1914-18) became the Director of 4th Army Intelligence. He promoted to lieutenant colonel on the 28th of February 1915 and was assigned to the 10th Division Command. Later he was appointed Commander of 3rd Division. Thanks to his success in the war while he was Inspector of Jerusalem Front he promoted to colonel on the 13th of December 19l6 and assigned to the Command of 53rd Division. In 1917 he became the second in command in the 22nd Army Corps and then the commander. On the 17th of October l918 he was assigned to General Command of Gendarmerie. In 1919 he was appointed Commander of 3rd Army Corps and went to Samsun with Mustafa Kemal on the 19th of May 1919 leaving Istanbul.
Refet Bey signed Amasya Declaration prepared by Mustafa Kemal on the 23rd of June 1919 by Mustafa Kemal Pasha and which was the first sign of the national struggle. He was taken off from his duty by Istanbul Government on the 13th of July 1919 because of joining the national struggle. He was elected to the representation council in the Erzurum congress he joined. Although he was one of the defenders of American mandate in Sivas Congress of 4-11 September, he did not insist on that. He was assigned by the representation council on the 23rd of October 1919 to see the situation in Western Anatolia and to make unity among commanders possible. On the 10th of December 1919 he became the Commander of Aydın National Forces. Even if he was selected Parliament Member from Izmir during the last period of Istanbul Parliament he did not enter this parliament claiming he was sick.
He was called to Nazilli front in order to quell Bolu rebels during the preparation of establishment of Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM). He played an efficient role in quelling Çerkez Ethem’s Forces and other units. He participated with a cavalry unit to the quelling operation of Yozgat revolt started by Postacı Nazım on the 14th of June 1920. The same year he came to Ankara on the 18th of August and was chosen on the 6th of September Minister of Internal Affairs by the General Council of TBMM as a Parliament Member from Izmir. He was assigned to quell Konya revolts which started by the beginning of October and quelled it with the help of other military divisions in the zone. He returned to Ankara on the 23rd of October. On the 9th of November he was granted the Command of Southern Front after the Western front was divided to Western and Southern divisions. He dismantled Demirci Mehmet Efe’s forces around Dinar who rebelled on the 11th of December. He also dismantled Çerkez Ethem forces who did not want to take place in the regular army. Thanks to his services in the wars in İnönü and Kütahya regions, he promoted to major general on the 10th of January 1921. He resigned from the ministry on the 18th of March 1921 since the situation of the country was not appropriate for continuing this duty for a long time. In May of the same year Western and Southern divisions of the Western front were united and İsmet Pasha was appointed the commander. Therefore he left the command of the Southern division.
Refet Pasha was appointed the Minister of Internal Affairs on the 30th of June for the second time. He was chosen to the Ministry of National Defense on the 5th of August 1921 which was led by Chief Commander Mustafa Kemal Pasha. He administrated the Ministry of Internal Affairs vicariously until Fethi (Okyar) Bey was chosen on the 10th of October 1921. In a critical period of the Independence War he made great services to provide materials, transportation and manpower to the army where and when needed. He resigned from the Ministry of National Defense on the 10th of January 1922 claiming he needed some treatment and rehabilitation. He was awarded with a letter of appreciation due to his works on the 12th of January by TBMM. After the Great Victory (30 August 1922), he was assigned to receive the Eastern Thrace upon the decision of TBMM. He was also assigned to apply the decision of TBMM to separate the caliphate and sultanate from each other on the 1st of November, to abolish the sultanate and to capture Istanbul rule.
İbrahim Refet Bey became a parliament member from Istanbul in the general elections of the 2nd period of TBMM. When his duty ended on the 16th of December 1922 he was appointed Commander of Thrace. When this command was abolished on the 8th of October 1923 he returned to his duty in the parliament. He resigned from CHP on the 9th of November 1924. He was one of the founders of Progressive Republican Party which was established after the foundation of the republic. After the party was closed by a cabinet decree on the 3rd of June 1925, he continued his legislation duty independently. He was arrested in Istanbul and sent to Izmir due to a claim of being involved to Atatürk’s conspiracy (Izmir conspiracy) on the 17th of June 1926. After his trial in Ankara Independence Tribunal he was acquitted and released on the 13th of July 1926. He resigned from his parliament membership on the 1st of November and retired from the army on the 8th of December by his own will.
Refet Bele stayed away from politics until 1935. In 1939 and 1946 he was again selected as a parliament member from Istanbul and kept his duty in TBMM until 1950. On the 8th of April 1950 he was assigned to The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East in Beirut (UNR-WA) and resigned from the Turkish delegation on the 22nd of February 1961. He passed away in Istanbul on the 2nd of October 1963 and inhumed to Zincirlikuyu Cemetery. His corpse was not transferred to the State Cemetery upon his and his family’s testament.
Refet Bey married on the 2nd of October 1952 and had a daughter from this marriage named Asuman Begüm. Thanks to his services in the parliament and in the front he was awarded among 25 first people with red-green war of independence medal by TBMM’s decision dated 21 November 1923. He spoke French and German.