Sultan Abdul-Hamid II ruled in an autocratic fashion, fearful of the break-up of his empire. He employed a secret police force, and rebellious Kurds had been drafted as irregulars into the Hamidian Cavalry. These had been involved in the massacres of Armenians in the 1890s.
While Abdul-Hamid isolated himself with astrologers and favorites in his palace, the Yildiz Koshku, a nationalist movement started to grow amongst the intelligentsia and the military. Influenced by Western political ideals, these individuals have become known by the name they used in a revolution waged against Abdul-Hamid in 1908 - the Young Turks.
These individuals had emerged in the 1890s, but had operated in secret, out of fear of the spies of the palace secret police. Many of the Young Turks had joined the nationalist group the Committee of Union and Progress (Ittihad ve Terakki Jemiyeti or CUP). This had been formed in 1889 at the Royal Medical Academy at Constantinople by Abdullah Cevdet and four others. In February 1907, the Sultan's hated chief of secret police, Fehmi Pasha (Fehim Pasha) had been forced into exile at the request of Germany, after he had illegally impounded a Hamburg-bound ship.
As one of the Sultan's three cabinet members, the loss of Pasha weakened the autocracy of Abdul-Hamid. Pasha had manipulated the Sultan with fake bomb plots which were blamed on Armenians. Even after his exile, he was suspected of engineering a fatal bomb attack against a former Armenian ally, Andon Keutchoglu.
In July 1908, the Young Turks staged a revolution against Abdul-Hamid II. Two prominent CUP members led the uprisings amongst the military - Niazi Bey led a revolt at Resna in Macedonia, closely followed by Enver Bey in Salonica, Greece. They issued a proclamation that demanded Abdul-Hamid restore the constitution he had rejected in 1878. The Sultan agreed, and in December the Turkish parliament met. At some time after the July 1908 revolution, Fehmi Pasha had been torn pieces by a mob in Bursa, northwestern Turkey.
The Sultan (who was also Caliph) did not approve of a parliament making decisions, and with the help of the ulemas (senior clerics), he tried to mount a counter-revolution on April 13, 1909 (March 31 in the Gregorian calendar) in Constantinople. Forces loyal to the Sultan marched on Constantinople, but were defeated. The Sultan's counter-revolution was swiftly crushed, and Abdul-Hamid was forced to abdicate and go into exile in Salonica. His brother Reshad immediately succeeded him as Mehmed V. At least 250 counter-revolutionaries were tried and executed.
For Armenians, the 1908 Young Turk revolution promised them full citizenship and a role in the voting process, and many supported it. As explained by Yeghiazar Karapetian, a survivor of the 1915 genocide: "The Hurriyet (Liberty) offered freedom to all the political prisoners, after which the Armenians, Turks and Kurds would have equal rights. Everywhere cries of joy were heard. The law of Hurriyet put an end to the humiliation, beating, blasphemy, robbery, plunder and contempt of the Armenians. Anyone involved in a similar behavior would be subject to the severest punishment; he would even be liable to be sent to the gallows. The two n
Adrian Morgan is a British bas