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Men of the Labour Battalions

Ottoman labour battalions (Turkish language: Amele Taburları, Armenian language: Աշխատանքային բատալիոն , Greek: Τάγματα Εργασίας, Tagmata Ergasias, but more often the transliterated Turkish name αμελέ ταμπουρού is used) was a form of unfree labour in the late Ottoman Empire. The term is associated with disarmament and murder of Ottoman Armenian soldiers during World War I,[1][2] of Pontic and Anatolian Greeks during the Turkish War of Independence (see: Greek genocide,[3] Central Army.)

Armenians in labour battalions[edit | edit source]

Armenians did not serve in the Ottoman Empire until 1908. Soon after the Young Turk Revolution, which declared that unfair treatments between Muslim and Christian members of the Empire would end; the Armenians, now treated as equal citizens, became subject to conscription like other members of the society. This meant that they had to serve in the military.

On February 25, 1915, the Ottoman War minister Enver Pasha sent an order to all military units that Armenians in the active Ottoman forces be demobilized and assigned to the Labour battalion. Enver ordered that all Armenians in the Ottoman forces, some as old as sixty,[citation needed] to be disarmed, demobilized and assigned to labour battalion units. The Ottoman Army had high rate of desertion, and the number of Armenian deserters appears to have been especially large. Enver claimed Armenian soldiers in the Ottoman Army joined Armenian guerrilla bands or went over to the Armenian volunteer units in the Russian Army.[citation needed]

Depictions[edit | edit source]

The Greek novelist Elias Venezis later described the situation in his work Number 31328 (Το Νούμερο 31328).

Leyla Neyzi has published a study of the diary of Yaşar Paker, a member of the Jewish community of early 20th century Ankara who was drafted to the Labour Battalions twice, first during the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) and then during World War II in which Turkey did not take part. Neyzi's paper on the basis of Paker's diary published by Jewish Social Studies presents an overall picture for the conditions in these battalions, which were composed entirely of non-Muslims.[4]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Foreign Office Memorandum by Mr. G.W. Rendel on Turkish Massacres and Persecutions of Minorities since the Armistice, March 20, 1922, Paragraph 35
  2. USA Congress, Concurrent Resolution, September 9, 1997
  3. Notes on the Genocides of Christian Populations of the Ottoman Empire
  4. Strong as Steel, Fragile as a Rose: A Turkish Jewish Witness to the Twentieth Century, Leyla Neyzi paper on the basis of Yaşar Paker's diary published in the Jewish Social Studies in Fall 2005

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