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31 March Incident

Part of a series on the
History of the
Ottoman Empire
Coat of Arms of the Ottoman Empire

The 31 March Incident (Turkish: 31 Mart Vakası or 31 Mart Olayı or 31 Mart Hadisesi or 31 Mart İsyanı) was the put down of the Ottoman countercoup of 1909 by the Hareket Ordusu ("Army of Action"), which was the 11th Salonika Reserve Infantry Division of the Third Army (Ottoman Empire) stationed in the Balkans commanded by Mahmud Shevket Pasha on 24 April 1909. The counter coup began on 31 March on the Rumi calendar, which was the official calendar of the Ottoman Empire, but 13 April 1909 in the Gregorian Calender. What was referred as rebellion (some rebellious Ottoman soldiers) from the point of view of Constitutionals began 13 April 1909 and put down on (by some other Ottoman soldiers) on 24 April are two different events 11 days apart. Ottoman historiography link two events under the name 31 March Incident but refers to the Hareket Ordusu, the consequences of restoration of constitution one more time (that is the third time; 1876, 1908 and 1909) with the deposition of Abdul Hamid II with his younger brother Mehmed V.


  • Background 1
  • Event 2
  • Outcome 3
  • Memorial 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The Young Turk Revolution, which began in the Balkan provinces, spread quickly throughout the empire and resulted in the Sultan Abdulhamid II announcing the restoration of the Ottoman constitution of 1876 on 3 July 1908. The Ottoman general election, 1908 was put in effect during November and December of 1908. Senate of the Ottoman Empire reconvened for the first time in over 30 years on December 17 1908 with the living members from the first constitutional area. Chamber of Deputies first session was on 30 January 1909. On 13 April 1909 Ottoman countercoup of 1909 was the rebellion of conservative reactionaries in Constantinople against the restoration of the constitutional system. From 30 January 1909 to 13 April 1909 there were 70 days. The countercoup attempted to put an end to the nascent Second Constitutional Era in order to re-affirm the position of the Sultan Abdul Hamid II as absolute monarch. The counter-coup, instigated among some parts of the army in a large part by a certain Cypriot Islamic extremist[1] Dervish Vahdeti, reigned supreme in Constantinople for a few days.


Dervish Vahdeti and supporters were put down by the Hareket Ordusu ("Army of Action"), that was 11th Salonika Reserve Infantry Division of the Third Army (Ottoman Empire) commanded by Mahmud Shevket Pasha. Among the officers who entered the capital was Mustafa Kemal.[2] The unit laid siege on 17 April 1909.

The Sultan he remained in the Yildiz and had frequent conferences with Grand Vizier Tewfik Pasha who announced

His Sublime Majesty awaits benevolently the arrival of the so called constitutional army He has nothing to gain or fear since his Sublimity is for the Constitution and is its supreme guardian.[3]

Negotiations continued for six days. Finally at moment when the conflict showed signs to extend to public the Salonican troops entered Constantinople. Negotiators were Rearadmiral Arif Hikmet Pasha, Emanuel Karasu Efendi (Carasso), Esad Pasha Toptani, Aram Efendi and Colonel Galip Bey (Pasiner).

The Macedonian troops attacked the Taksim and Tashkishla barracks which were defended by who thought that they would receive no mercy. There was fierce street fighting in the European quarter where the guard houses were held by the First Army Corps. From the Tashkishla barracks a heavy fire was opened upon the advancing troops. The barracks had to be shelled and almost destroyed by the artillery on the heights above before the garrison after several hours fighting and heavy losses surrendered. Equally desperate was the defence of the Taxim barracks. The attack on which was led by Enver Bey. After a short battle they controlled the Palace on 27 April.[4]

Sultan Abdul Hamid deserted by most of his advisors. The parliament discussed the question as to whether he would be permitted to remain on the throne or be deposed or even be executed. Putting to death of the Sultan might be impolitic for such a step might rouse the fanaticism and plunge the Empire into civil war. On the other hand there were those who felt that after all that had happened it was impossible that the Parliament could ever again work in co-operation with him. [5]

On April 27 the Assembly held a meeting with closed doors under the presidency of Said Pasha. A fetva drawn up in the form of question and answer and signed by the Sheikh ul Islam was read to the assembled members. The following is the fetva

If an imam of the Moslems tampers with and burns the sacred books.
If he appropriates public money.
If after killing imprisoning and exiling his subjects unjustly he swears to amend his ways and then perjures himself.
If he causes civil war and bloodshed among his own people.
If it is shown that his country will gain peace by his removal and if it be considered by those who have power that this imam should abdicate or be deposed.
Is it lawful that one of these alternatives be adopted.
The answer is "Olur" (it is permissible).[6]

Then the Assembly unanimously voted that Abdul Hamid should be deposed.

31 March Incident
Members of Countercoup as transferred.


The Countercoup's failure brought the Committee of Union and Progress back from its inability to generate a government.

The incident led to a change of Grand Vizier, and Ahmed Tevfik Pasha assumed the position. Other consequences were restoration of constitution one more time (that is the third time; 1876, 1908 and 1909) with the deposition of Abdul Hamid II with his younger brother Mehmed V who accepted the constitutional changes. The exile of Abdul Hamid II. The Countercoup ended the Arab honeymoon due to the caliphate issues. After the 31 March Incident, the Committee of Union and Progress outlawed societies who empowered ethnic minorities interests from within Ottoman society, including the Society of Arab Ottoman Brotherhood, and prohibited the issuing of several journals and newspapers that featured radical Islamic rhetoric.

Under the multi-religious "balancing policies", the Committee of Union and Progress believed it could achieve a "Ottomanisation" (i.e. Ottoman nationalism rather than ethnic or religious nationalism) of all the subjects of the Empire. These measures were successful in stirring some nationalist sentiment among the non-Turkish populations, further cementing a national sensibility resistant to conservative Islam.


In memorial of the 74 soldiers killed in action during this event, the Monument of Liberty (Ottoman Turkish: Abide-i Hürriyet‎) was erected 1911 in Şişli district of Istanbul.

See also


  1. ^ Muammer Kaylan. The Kemalists: Islamic Revival and the Fate of Secular Turkey. Prometheus Books, Publishers. p. 74.  
  2. ^ Bardakci, Murat (16 April 2007). "Askerin siyasete yerleşmesi 31 Mart isyanıyla başladı". Sabah (in Turkish). Retrieved 28 December 2008. 
  3. ^ Edward Frederick Knight, The Awakening of Turkey: A History of the Turkish Revolution, page 342
  4. ^ Edward Frederick Knight, The Awakening of Turkey: A History of the Turkish Revolution, page 348
  5. ^ Edward Frederick Knight, The Awakening of Turkey: A History of the Turkish Revolution, page 350
  6. ^ Edward Frederick Knight, The Awakening of Turkey: A History of the Turkish Revolution, page 351

External links

  • Şeriatçı bir ayaklanma (A fundamentalist uprising) by Sina Akşin with particular emphasis on British involvement.
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