Deposed Sultan’s Hatchet Man Is Murderer Of Turkish Prime Minister
New York Sun, 22nd June 1913
NEW YORK — Out of the turmoil of Turkish politics and plottings the sinister figure of Zia Bey has once more emerged.
Long a favorite with Sultan Abdul Hamid in his capacity of spy and skilled assassin, Zia went into eclipse with the dethroning of that monarch. But now, in the accounts of the assassination of the Turkish Prime Minister, Shefket Pasha, appear a familiar character.
It is stated that in the automobile that bore down upon the Prime Minister was a smooth faced man of dirk complexion, who stood up and fired upon the old soldier.
Only one man seems to have been thought of as the assassin by the police: Zia Bey. His house was immediately surrounded and after a desperate fight in which the doors were battered down, Zia, badly wounded, was taken out. With him were captured several young men connected with prominent families, as well as evidence of conspiracy that involved many others.
In killing as a conspirator, Zia Bey takes on a new role. Not that assassination is any novelty to him. According to his own admission, he has ruined the career and character of about 450 Turkish officers, officials and men of prominence, and has caused the “disappearance” by exile, bow stringing and drowning of some 170 others.
Zia Bey is a Tatar, a fact to which his enemies attribute all his evil qualities. When little more than a boy he attached himself to a caravan taking a company of slaves to be sold into the harems of Constantinople.
While passing through Kurd country the youth In some manner not explained became separated from the caravan, and fell into the hands of tho natives. He did not seem to be held a strict prisoner, for when he had secured Information that his quick instincts told him was valuable he seemed to have no difficulty in getting to the right place to market it to advantage.
His first coup came when he secured information of a plot to murder the Turkish Governor. He managed to get to the capital and to get the ear of the Governor. But that official was mistrustful of the young informer and refused to accept his story, though at the same time he kept him under close espionage.
Within three days the chiefs of the plot reached the city and were pointed out by the boy. Evidence was found that corroborated his story in every detail, and immediately he became a person of considerable importance.
As a reward for his services the Governor gave him a safe conduct to Constantinople, with such introductions and representations as led in a very short time to his becoming attached to the Sultan’s own of spies.
No man ever found employment so completely to his liking or so adapted to his talents as did Zia. The spy system of Abdul Hamid was a structure so extraordinary as to lead to the belief that its workings could only be developed and approved by a disordered mind.
The Sultan combined scepticism and credulity to an amazing degree. He trusted no one in a position of trust. He doubted everything that reached him through ordinary official channels and accepted with childlike naivety whatever tales, no matter how wild, were brought to him by the informers and blackmailers that were the inevitable outgrowth of his secret spy system.
A human life nothing to him. “It is believed by sane and careful observers”, says Sir William Ramsey, the English writer on oriental life, “that Abdul Hamid’s orders have been responsible for the death of half a million men”.
When Abdul ascended the throne, it was as regent for his brother Murad, and it was with the understanding that on Murad’s recovery to health Abdul would course give place to the real ruler.
This understanding was, it is said, drawn up in writing and the document was held by Midhat Pasha, then a powerful figure in politics and a friend and adviser to Abdul.
But Abdul no sooner took power than, surrounding himself with spies and soldiers, he threw his uncle into prison and announced the end of the regency. No one every knew what became of Murad, whether he recovered or died or was murdered. Abdul simply eliminated him from the situation. But there still other things to be reckoned with.
The formal agreement which Midhat held was first dealt with. A mysterious fire in the night which completely destroyed Midhat’s house and everything in it disposed of the document.
Midhat himself might have proved an embarrassment but for the zeal of the spies who cooked up a plot for a revolution, headed of course by Midhat, which convinced Abdul that his throne was in danger. Midhat was at once banished to Hadjez In Arabia.
Still Abdul’s fears were not satisfied and he sent one of his most trusted employees on a secret errand to Hadjez. The day of the agent’s arrival Midhat was found strangled to death and his body was hastily removed.
Soon after a small square box arrived at Constantinople addressed to the Sultan and marked “Fragile With Care — Ivory Teeth”. It was received personally by Abdul Hamid.
Twenty-five years later, when the cellars of the Yildiz were ransacked by the agents of the Young Turks, this box In its original wrappings was found. In it was the head of Midhat. Only by this assurance had the Sultan’s fears been allayed.
Into this atmosphere of cunning and intrigue Zia came as into his native element. His first commission from his new master took him into Asia Minor. Here he first attained prominence when he narrowly escaped capture while ransacking the baggage of an innocent and indignant Englishman.
The English authorities protested and Zia was promptly reprimanded and as promptly promoted. This reprimand with its corollary of promotion took him to the city of his heart’s desire, Constantinople, where he was put to work under direct orders from the Sultan.
How exact was Zia’s statement that he was responsible for tho death of 170 persons cannot be known, but certainly there is little reason to doubt his other assertion that he had ruined no less than 450.
His specialty in blackmail was the denouncing of merchants and small business men to the Sultan. He did not take the trouble to invent new stories for each one, but simply warned that the person involved, angered with the Government, was preparing to introduce a bomb into the Yildiz.
The Sultan invariably accepted the story, but it was too small an affair to bother to have an investigation, so the merchant simply “disappeared,” and his business, confiscated, was the reward of the informer.
Those persons who are familiar with the careers of both are not surprised that Zia’s hand appeared in the taking off of Shefket Pasha. He had long regarded the soldier as an enemy and had frequently tried to injure him.
Zia had been in Baghdad many times, and was familiar with the history of Shefket and his family. What was the occasion of the grudge he bore against the soldier is not known, but certainly he never missed an opportunity to make adverse reports against him, and only the General’s high achievements and standing saved him from constant suspicion.
Abdul Hamid always seemed to have great confidence in Shefket, but it is not known whether this was inspired by admiration for his skill as a soldier or fear of his influence over the army. Anyway, he never accepted an of Zia’s reports as to his defections, and more than once reprimanded the informer for them.
Zia Bey himself tells the story of his final interview with Abdul on the subject of Shefket. “Late one evening,” he said, “I received positive information that Shefket had joined the Young Turk revolutionists and would command their army. I at once filed the report with the secretary at the Yildiz. Soon after midnight I was summoned to the palace and taken to one of the secret rooms where the Sultan was waiting.
“In his hand was my report. My first impression was that he ‘looked red’, an expression that every one knew as foreboding serious trouble. Blood flowed when Abdul Hamid ‘looked red’. He questioned me with great severity on my report, and something in his manner warned me that this was about all the trial I was going to get. I do not mind saying that I was genuinely afraid.
“But at this moment a panel of the wall slid back and a secret agent came in and silently handed the Sultan a despatch. He read it, waved his hand at me, and said, ‘Go!’ Events had proved the truth of my report. The despatch stated that Shefket Pasha was at that moment marching on Constantinople at the head of the revolutionists.”