Enver, Ismail


Ismail Enver Pasha (1881-1922) was an instigator of the Armenian Genocide. A military officer, Enver was the principal proponent of Germanophile policies in the Young Turk government. Enver demonstrated organizational and leadership skills at an early age. He was one of the organizers of the 1908 Young Turk Revolution. In 1911 he organized the defense of Libya against Italy and in 1913, after leading the January 23 coup which installed the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) in power, he reversed the Ottoman defeat in the First Balkan War by recapturing Edirne (Adrianople) from the Bulgarians. By 1914 he was married into the Ottoman imperial family and was Minister of War. He steered the Ottoman state into war on the side of the Central Powers by entering into an alliance with Germany. While nominal command of the Ottoman armies was exercised by Turkish officers, planning, strategizing, and financing devolved to the large German military mission serving out of the War Ministry. In pursuit of his quest for a Pan-Turkic empire stretching to Central Asia, Enver personally led the first major campaign against Russia which resulted in a disastrous defeat at the border outpost of Sarikamish in the Armenian highlands.

Enver played a major role in the Armenian Genocide. He took the first steps to implement the CUP blueprint for genocide by ordering the Armenian recruits in the Ottoman forces to be disarmed and reassigned to labor battalions before their summary executions. While these instructions were explained on the basis of accusations of treasonous activity, the defeat of his army only provided the pretext for escalating a campaign of extermination whose instruments had already been forged and which now were unleashed against the civilian population also. Within the Ministry of War, Enver had at his disposal a secret outfit called the Special Organization (SO), Teshkilâti Mahsusa in Turkish. The SO was led by Behaeddin Shakir, a medical doctor, and its cohorts in the field were commanded by CUP confidants whose singular assignment was the execution of the Armenian population. These mobile killer units carried out the systematic massacres of the deported Armenians. Upon the collapse of the Russian front in 1918, the advance of the Ottoman armies into the Caucasus, under the command of Enver's brother, Nuri, provided further opportunity for the SO operatives to instigate atrocities against Armenians in Azerbaijan.

At the end of the war Enver took refuge in Germany. A post-war tribunal in Constantinople tried him in absentia and condemned him to death. Many officers of the Special Organization were arrested by the British occupation authorities after the Ottoman surrender. While some were eventually put on trial and found guilty of crimes, most eluded justice when Mustafa Kemal negotiated their release in exchange for British prisoners. As for Enver, in 1920 he traveled to Russia and offered his services to the new Soviet regime which sent him to quell rebellion among the Muslims of Central Asia, only to see him join the Basmaji revolt as soon as he arrived in Bukhara. He was killed in action by Soviet forces.

--Rouben Paul Adalian