Lebanon Famine 1916

Discussions on the final era of the Ottoman Empire, from the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 until the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.
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Peter H
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Lebanon Famine 1916

Post by Peter H » 11 Mar 2007 12:45

This famine was caused by a locust plague?Some Lebanese accounts quote "a half million dead".Is this true?

Some other accounts blame the Allied blockade of the eastern Mediterranean.

In a letter to The Times on 15th September 1916 quoted by George Antonius in his book 'The Arab Awakening' an American woman resident of Beirut writes how she passed 'women and children lying by the roadside with closed eyes and ghastly, pale faces. It was a common thing to find people searching the garbage heaps for orange peel, old bones or other refuse, eating them greedily when found. Everywhere women could be seen seeking eatable weeds among the grass along the roads.' Another American resident in 1917 states: 'the scenes were indescribable, whole families writhing in agony on the bare floor of their miserable huts. Every piece of their household effects had been sold to buy bread, and in many cases the tiles of the roof had shared the same fate. It is conservatively estimated that not less than 120,000 persons have died of actual starvation during the last two years in Lebanon.

Tosun Saral
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Post by Tosun Saral » 12 Mar 2007 12:13

General of the Army Ali Fuad Erden "Birinci Dünya Savaşında Suriye Hatıraları" (Syrian Memories During WW1" p.156,257, 258

Ali Fuad Bey was the Chief of Staff of the 4th Army during war.

"Lebenon Suffered alot during Blocade. Lebanon is not a productive country. All concume stuff comes from other parts of the empire or aboard. Only mulberry and other fruits grow in Lebenon For that reason it is reach in silk production. The declaration of allied blockade to Liban coused great lost. It was very hard to send eating stuff to more then half a million population from Havran and Cebel-i Düruz during the war. But we sended them consumation within hard conditions. The only old fashioned Liban railway was ordered to carry goods to Liban. But it was not enough. There were no flour to cook bread. It was ordered to cook breat only 100 grams. The governor of Liban wanted that the Libaneese work in labour battalions to bring goods from Havran. But they refused to work They prefered to die in hungar but not working transportation battalions. many sufferd. They even ate shells of oranges.
The Spanish King Alphonso the 13th wanted to aid Beyrut and Liban by sending a ship full of wheet and barley. He wanted permission from Cemal pasha which he got the permission. Cemal Pasha also wanted to establish a commison under the control of red Cross and Representative of Papst in beyrut and 2 US citizens resident in Beyrut. The King wanted permission from the British which they refused claimeing that the goods will be handed to Turkish Army which was suffering of hungar.
The enemy press claimed that Cemal pasha let the poor christian of Liban die of Hunger. It was a great lie. It was great slander. Cemal Pasha done his best to subsistance the polulation of Liban and Beyrut. If he wanted to let the Christian
people of Liban die of Hungar there were no one alive after a 3 years long war.

During War many died in Liban and Beyrut of Hungar. Cemal Pasha is not responsible. It was the natural conditions of Liban. It was the blocade. One can never grow barley, wheet in Liban. Liban imports such goods from aboard.

The British blockaded also Hicaz shores. British encauraged the moslem people of Hicaz to revolt againts their Turkish brothers but never hesitated to subsistance them with very cheep goods. On the otherhand Britain never allowed every attempt to help Liban's Christian population"

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 13 Mar 2007 09:37

Thanks Tosun.

I'm wondering how the Allied naval blockade worked,but it must have cut local maritime traffic as well.Where previously grain came by ship,poor road communications then had to be used.


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Post by stevebecker » 13 Mar 2007 23:43


I am unsure of the arrangments under the Ottoman Empire but during WWII these supplies came threw Egypt and much merchant transport came along the coast as its done for four thousand years.

I have seen the U Boat logs from boats that operated along that coast in WWII and the types of sinkings they did for small frighter to all types of arab dowls.

With a large naval force the allied navies had in the area in WWI they must have resticted this traffic and since Turkiey could not supply the needs of all their people.

We had to also look at a same blockage against Germany during WWI, with so many of her man power away or dead and with the allied naval blockage in force, many German civilians died during the Great war from stavation or the children were malnarished, one the main reasons for Germanys defeat was not Military but due to her defeat at home by the blockage.


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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 14 Mar 2007 12:53

Thanks Steve.

I think you summed it up well.

The number of Turkish divisions involved in a static coastal defence role should also be mentioned.The threat of an Allied landing,even after the failed Gallipoli attempt,should also be noted.

41st Div- raised Syria 1915,1916/17 Alexandretta
43rd Div- raised Syria 1915,Thrace 1915,Beirut(coastal defence)1916/17,Katma(coastal defence) 1918
44th Div- raised Syria 1915,Thrace 1915,Osmaniye Gap(coastal defence)1916/18
47th Div- formed Thrace 1916,Smyrna(coastal defence)1917,disbanded late 1917
48th Div- formed Thrace 1915,Smyrna(coastal defence)1915
49th Div- formed Thrace 1916,Gallipoli garrison 1916-18
55th Div-formed 1917,Gallipoli garrison 1917/18
57th Div-Gallipoli garrison 1916-18,Smyrna(coastal defence),late 1918
58th Div-west Anatolia 1917,Smyrna(coastal defence),late 1918
59th Div-Gallipoli garrison 1916/17,disbanded late 1917.
60th Div-Gallipoli garrison 1918
61st Div-Gallipoli garrison 1918

This link also notes the importance of Smyrna,Turkey's largest port city:

1915, Turkey, off Smyrna - own mines. The Allies attempted to blockade Smyrna and close off the Gulf of Smyrna with minefields. During the operation, "Casabianca" blew up and sank on one of her own mines.

Alexandretta was also recognised as a fine harbour place.In the words of T.E.Lawrence:

http://telawrence.net/telawrencenet/let ... ogarth.htm
...there remains Alexandretta, which is the key of the whole place as you know. It's going to be the head of the Baghdad line, and therefore the natural outlet for N. Syria and N. Mesopotamia: it's the only easy road from Cilicia and Asia Minor into Asia etc. etc. Also it's a wonderful harbour...The only place from which a fleet can operate against Egypt is Alexandretta, because there is no English port from which one can blockade it. Smyrna and Constantinople are shut in by islands: whereas Alexandretta has only Cyprus in front of it, and the water round that is too deep for a large naval harbour to be built...

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