Ahmed Djemal Pasha was born on 6 May 1872 in Midilli. His father was a military pharmacist. He graduated from the Military Academy in 1893 in Istanbul. In 1898 he established contact with the “Committee of Union and Progress” (CUP), which was hostile to the Sultan. He held various military positions, becoming Governor of Baghdad, Commander of Istanbul then Minister of Public Works in the CUP Government in 1913.
He was appointed Minister of the Navy the following year. Djemal sided with Enver and Talat in favouring the German side during the First World War. The CUP thereby held all of the key positions in the Ottoman Empire thanks to the triumvirate of the Young Turks made up of these three men.
The massacre of the Armenians by the Turks during the First World War is considered to be the first genocide of the 20th century. It began on 24 April 1915 in Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, with the assassination of 600 renowned Armenians by order of the Government.
By the end of the summer of 1915, two thirds of the Turkish-Armenians, amounting to around 1.2 million people had perished under generally appalling conditions.
Turkish nationalists had seized power a few years earlier in Istanbul. After the entry of their country into the Great War, the Russians invaded Anatolia. The Turks, being forced to retreat were infuriated and multiplied the violent attacks against the Turkish-Armenians, who were guilty, in their eyes, of being favourably disposed towards the Christian invaders.
The town of Van rose up and proclaimed an autonomous Armenian government. The nationalists seized on this as a pretext to accomplish their aim of total elimination of the Armenians. The Interior Minister, Talat Pasha ordained the assassination of the Armenians in Istanbul followed by the Armenians in the army. Following on this, it was the turn of the various Armenian communities to the east of the country.
The following is the text of a telegram from the Interior Minister: “The Government has decided to destroy all of the Armenians living in Turkey. An end must be put to their existence, no matter what criminal measures be taken to do so. No account should be taken of age or gender. Scruples of conscience have no place here”.
In November 1918, Djemal Pasha fled to Germany on board the Lorelei, accompanied by Enver Pasha and Talat Pasha.