The occupation of the Ottoman Bank (Bank-ı Osmanî-i Şahane) is regarded as the first recorded act of urban terrorism and was one of the most important elements that sparked the chain of events now known as the ‘Armenian Question’. Among all the Armenian attempts to catch attention the takeover of the bank was a true catalyst as it involved British, French and Ottoman capital. The Armenian revolutionaries aimed to create chaos in the Ottoman capital in a hope that the riots would be reported in the international press. In this way they could demand attention for the “Armenaian Question”. Furthermore, they expected the British and French armada to approach Constantinople for military intervention. The operation was masterminded by the Armenian Dashnak Party as they saw such an action as a chance to move ahead of the Armenian Hunchak Party which was responsible for almost all the other actions at that time.
Since the mid-1800s Germany and Czarist Russia were on the opposite sides of the balance of power in Europe. Meanwhile the Ottoman Empire was regarded as “the sick man of Europe”as it was in decline due to nationalistic movements. It lost almost all of its territories in Balkans, and Sultan Abdül Hamid II was taken with fear that nationalistic movements poisoned the Armenians on the east. As a matter of fact his fear seemed to be too late… The Armenian intellectuals and youth were already hoping for independence or autonomy. This was to be realized by the Armenian comittee which attended the Treaty of Berlin negotiations in 1878. Yet, they had to content themselves with the promise by the sultan that reforms would be carried out to improve the situation.
Neither the promise nor the May 1895 plan, the reform plan that was presented by European powers, and to which Sultan Abdül Hamid II agreed, were executed. Instead, he turned up the pressure on the Armenians. The Sultan strongly believed that if he had carried out the reforms, it would have resulted in independence. However, due to the delay of the reforms, the displeasure increased which resulted in the foundation of the revolutionist organizations. Frankly, the majority of Armenian peasants gave no support to such revolutionary movements in the beginning. However, Sultan Abdul Hamid II formed Kurdish Hamidiye troops on the east side of the empire and thus fuled the unrest instead of carrying out the reforms which were aimed at decreasing the displeasure. Kurdish persecution and a rise in taxes deflected the Armenians into revolutionarist movements which led to a violent periof of two years.
1894 the Sassoun uprising was the first stance aganist Sultan Abdul Hamid II and a year later Zeitun rebellion broke out of which two uprisings were brutally suppressed by Hamidiye troops. The following incident in the chain of events was the 1895 Bab-ı Ali Demonstration that was organized by Hunchak Party in Istanbul on 30 September 1895. The marching started from the Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate in Kumkapı towards Bab-I Ali, where the government quarters were located. Several of the protester were well armed, walking with the expectation of trouble, to make the day worth to remember. What they expected was that they found them as an organized mob which was supported by the security officers. However, the demonstration brought nothing to the Armenians because neither the Sultan carried out the reforms nor the great powers occupied the Ottoman capital as the Armenians had expected. It was proven that as long as the action didn’t touch those great powers, they wouldn’t respond. What they then decided was to take an extraordinary action and they turned their eyes to Ottoman Bank, the most prominent building in the city.
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