Military man, statesman, minister of seas (B. 6th May 1872, Midilli–D. 21st July 1922, Tbilisi). His real name is Ahmed Cemal and he is the son of a military pharmacist named Mehmed Nesib Bey. A famous journalist, Hasan Cemal, and an academician, Ahmet Cemal, are his grandfathers. Upon graduating from Kuleli Military High School (1890) and Mekteb-i Harbiyye-i Şahâne (War Academy, 1893) he obtained staff officer education and acquired the title of staff captain (1895). He worked for a period for Serasker at Staff Office First Branch and Kırkkilise (Kırklareli) Military Engineering and Construction Branch which was connected to the second army. In 1898 he was assigned in Thessaloniki as the Chief of Staff in Aged Soldiers Battalion connected to the third army. Meanwhile he felt near to military organization works conducted by the Ottoman Party of Union and Progress but did not hurry to take part in it.
Cemal Bey who became a major in 1905 was interested in Young Turks movement intensified in the region and became a member of the Party of Union and Progress in October 1906. He drew attention within the military cadre of the party after the 1908 Young Turks revolution. Cemal Bey was in this way one of the ten people sent by the party to maintain the political situation in Istanbul under control. Later he promoted to district governor and was sent to Anatolia as a Hey’et-i İslâhiyye (reformation council) member. Upon the 31 March incident (13th April 2009) he came to Istanbul and joined the Action Army in Ayastefanos (Yeşilköy) and its operation in Istanbul. When the situation in Istanbul was under control he was assigned as district governor in Üsküdar. He drew attention with his rigid measures during his duty.
Cemal Bey was sent to Adana as a prefect and “Commander of Organization Powers” upon the incidents started by the Armenian (14th April 1909). He was successful at quelling the incidents and punishing the responsible. Becoming sick in 1910 he returned to Istanbul. He was assigned as a prefect in 1911 to Baghdad. He showed great effort here especially about preventing works of Arab nationalists. Since he did not want to work with the “Grand Cabin” founded by Gazi Ahmet Muhtar Pasha on the 22nd of July 1912 he resigned and returned to Istanbul. He took office as the commander of Konya Aged Soldier’s Battalion during the Balkan War with his own will. When the battalion commanded by him was defeated in Pınarhisarı, he retreated to Çatalca line of defense. He promoted to colonel in October 1912. Upon being infected with cholera he returned to Istanbul. Kâmil Pasha Government tracked the Unionists and during this he was put on trial in War Crimes Tribunal with the claim of “propaganda against the grand cabin”. However he was released before the start of his trial. He returned back to Çatalca and was assigned to Command of 2nd army corps forth legion and later to general inspection of post.
He played important roles in the propaganda operation conducted by the party of union and progress against negotiations done by Kâmil Pasha Government with major states after the 1st Balkan War. He supported the coup attempt led by Enver Bey (Pasha).He was assigned to Guardianship of Istanbul with the order of Mahmut Şevket Pasha who was appointed to Prime Ministry with the upon Babıâli Raid led by Enver Bey on the 23rd of January 1913. Cemal Bey who started his duty immediately fulfilled important duties to quell the disorder after the coup. Protecting the ministers who were hated by the Unionists he enabled them to leave Istanbul. He tried to soothe the situation by writing articles for newspapers in a soft style and content. He sent Ali Kemal and Rıza Nur Bey, members of “Ten Opponents”, to Austria and France.
Aside from his duty as the Guard of Istanbul he was also the commander of the army in Çatalca. During his duty he was essentially busy with works of opponents of the Unionists against the government. He also took measures against smuggling and especially sale of smuggled tobacco. He pushed down the attempt of governmental change of the opponent group, prepared by Satvet Lütfi Bey who was the clerk of Prens Sabahattin Bey, in its preparation phase. His rigid measures against the opponents caused some problems for his relations with leaders of Unionists and Grand Vizier Mahmut Şevket Pasha. Cemal Bey wanted to arrest Prens Sabahattin but he escaped abroad upon the notice of Talat Bey (Pasha).He applied house arrest to the ex-Grand Vizier Kâmil Pasha and tried to force him to leave the country but the British Embassy intervened upon this development. Cemal Bey resigned from his duty, Guard of Istanbul when Mahmut Şevket Pasha objected to his measures in this field. But his resignation was not accepted. After Mahmut Şevket Pasha was killed on the 11th of June 1913 the realization of measures in order to prevent coup attempts of the opponents was left to Cemal Bey. Thus, he took the situation in the internal politics to the control of Unionists and strengthened his position within the party.
Cemal Bey was assigned to ministry of public works in November 1913. He promoted to brigadier general in December 1913 and became minister of seas in February 1914. During this duty he acted in unison with Enver Pasha in his intra-army regulations and applications in naval forces. He played an effective role in making recapture of Northern Aegean isles from Greeks the primary political and military purpose of the Unionists. He was sent to France in 1914 in order to gain the support of the French to solve the problem of isles and to prepare and environment for the Ottoman-French alliance. He suggested the French to make an alliance with the Ottoman. However the French said that they would not make any political contract unless their allies approve it.
Cemal Pasha took part in the pro-war group during the governmental crisis which started with the attack of Ottoman fleets to Russian Black Sea fleet and Russian harbors. After the entrance of the Ottoman Empire to the war, Enver Pasha suggested Cemal Pasha to lead a military operation against the English in Egypt. In addition to the ministry of seas he was also assigned to the Command of 4th army. He put a plan called Channel Operation into practice in order to take the English out of Egypt. On the 7th of January 1915 Ottoman forces started the operation against the English but the aimed results could not be achieved.
Cemal Pasha also fought against Arab nationalists in Damascus and took rigid measures against their leaders. He was in disagreement with the government and the Unionists about the realization of Armenian deportation in 1913 and places to where Armenians would be sent.
In December 1917 when the Ottoman army was defeated several times by the advance of English General Allenby, Cemal Pasha left the command of the 4th army upon the critics’ campaign started by the minister of internal affairs İsmail Canbolat within the government and the party. He returned to Istanbul. In the last general assembly of the party of union and progress in 1917 he was assigned to general secretary.
Cemal Pasha who escaped abroad with seven leaders of Unionists on the 12th of November 1918 first went to Berlin and later to Munich and Switzerland. He coordinated abroad activities of the unionists. His activities during the war were investigated in his absence by the Fifth Office and by the Martial Law Court in 1919. Cemal Pasha was condemned to execution during the investigations of the Fifth Office because of causing the revolt of Arab nationalists.
Cemal Pasha later went to Russia and gained the support of Chicherin, Soviet Commissioner of foreign affairs. He accepted the suggestion of Afghan commander Emanullah Han to modernize the Afghan army. He negotiated between Mustafa Kemal Pasha and the Bolsheviks, when he was in Moscow. He came into disagreement with Enver Pasha about relations with the Bolsheviks and the attitude to be taken towards the Anatolian movement. Upon the change in Bolshevik politics and propaganda of Hacı Sami Bey against him his position in Afghanistan was shaken. He went to Tbilisi to conduct some interviews. He was killed here with his helpers on the 21st of July 1922. He was inhumed in Tbilisi and later brought to Erzurum and inhumed here.
There are various claims about his killers. The strongest possibility is that he was killed as a result of the assassination chain started by the Armenian committees and whose first victims were Talat and Sait Halim Pasha. Armenian sources claim that two Armenians killed Cemal Pasha and support this claim with several documents. Halil Pasha on the other hand said that he was informed about an assault of the Russian secret service. According to an article about this issue, Cemal Pasha was killed by Georgian committees upon the order of Moscow.
Cemal Pasha was the second man in the military wing of Ottoman party of union and progress after Enver Pasha and owed his reputation mainly to that. Including Mustafa Kemal Pasha, many prominent Ottoman officers supported Cemal Pasha. However his role within the party of union and progress was limited in comparison with Enver Pasha in terms of military and general politics. His published memories are a very important source especially about the political developments between 1913-17.
WORKS: Plevne Müdafaası (1898), Alte Denkmaeler aus Syrien, Palastina und West Arabien (Ancient Monuments in Syria, Palestine and Western Arabia, Berlin 1918), Hâtırât: 1913-1922 (Istanbul 1922. Published in Munich in German and in London in English. Published in Latin alphabet by Metin Martı 1996), Birinci DünyaHarbi’nde Suriye Hâtıraları (Ed.: Ali Fuad Erden, 2003).