Podgorix Minaret (Balkans) on 1918
Colonel Bremond (1868-1948) is appointed, December 25, 1918, "to fill the functions of Chief Administrator in Armenia". His title is "Chief Administrative Control of Cilicia" a year later. This is mentioned in his military career record (SHD 3Yd696).
Colonel Bremond, aged 51 in 1919, brings in Cilicia his skill for jurisdiction organizer, but also his knowledge and his great respect for the Muslim world.
The life of Colonel Bremond is full of adventures. He could be described as a James Bond of Arabia ...
His military career began very early. When he was graduated from St. Cyr military school, in 1890, he served in the 1st regiment of Algerian riflemen in southern Algeria and Madagascar (1895), where he commanded the first detachment of riflemen. After studying at the War College (1899-1901), Edouard Bremond was posted to the staff of the Division of Constantine (1901-1904), where he prepared maneuvers and reconnaissance in the Aures.
Is it to better understand his soldiers that he obtained a diploma in Arabic in 1904?
Then he is an Officer of 2nd Regiment of riflemen (1904 to 1907), responsible for creating a position in Sidi Bou Djenane. He is police official Moroccan ports (1907-1908), then he is appointed deputy head of the French military mission to Morocco in 1909, director of the city of Rabat and its suburbs (1912-1913), head of the intelligence service of Henrys column (March-September 1913) to Beni Mtir and finally Commander in Kenitra (1913-1914).
During the Great War, he participated in the campaign against Germany. He was wounded in August 1914 to Lys La Fontaine, by a bullet crossing his chest without too much damage. He was promoted to colonel in the 64th Infantry Regiment. However, in 1916, the Minister of War needs him, his knowledge of Arabic and Muslim culture, for a mission to the Hejaz . There, he is the ally of Sharif of Mecca ... and Sir Lawrence! The pride of his life!
At the close of the Great War, France feels strong in his friendship with the Turks and his knowledge of the Muslim world, so France agrees with the delicate mission entrusted by the League of Nations to build peace in Cilicia. General Gouraud forms his team. He too was in Morocco at the beginning of the century, with the Resident General of France, Marshal Lyautey. He knows Colonel Bremond, his fellow school, and naturally chooses him to administer Cilicia.
Colonel Bremond sets to work. From 1919, he has in responsibility the reception of the Armenian families surviving to the deportations, whom the Allies send back en masse towards Cilicia. He devotes all his energy to revive the economy: he organizes exhibitions, oversees schools (Christian or Muslim orphanages), establishes agreements with chambers of commerce of Lyon or Marseille, mounts workshops in embroidery or weaving , looks for capital from banks ...
However, after the armistice of Mudros, the peace treaty is not signed, and the fate of Cilicia is pending: will it stay Turkish or will it be Armenian? Colonel Bremond is attentive to everything that is said and what is happening in the country. He is particularly sensitive to Armenians who so desperately need his help and protection. He sees the Kemalist movement to form and grow in the continuity of the Young Turk movement that he observed during his mission to the Hejaz. In his daily telegrams (CHAN 594 AP 4), he informs the General Gouraud. Soon General Gouraud notes that Colonel Bremond wants to impose his vision "of the ground" to set the policy of France. He overflows his role. He is perceived as incapable of "fair balance" between all communities, and adaptation to changes in policy decided in Paris. In the message sent by Colonel to High Commissioner, January 31, 1920, before the affair of Marash (CHAN 594 AP 4), he complains about the Vali (prefect appointed by the Sultan of Istanbul) of Adana:
Adana, January 31, 1920
General and My Dear Friend,
[...] And this public opinion should be well treated, because it is its support, its certainty that I watch for the public good, which inspires the current calm that stops, literally, fighting at our administration limits. The day when they will have no more confidence in my work or in my power, it will collapse here too.
It could soon collapse, under the Nationalist Action, that I asked to stop in August when it was possible and easy, action represented in Cilicia by the new Vali, German by language, by heart and by processes. His negative influence will bring us heavy embarrassment.
We cannot live here any longer on good terms with the staff bocho-Kemalist, as well we could not, in Morocco, confiding to the German Consuls, and govern by control on MOULAI Hafid and his crew: they are enemies and violent enemies, to conceal us that, it is to run to the ditch.
Colonel Bremond better expresses his thoughts in a letter to M.de Peretti della Rocca, Plenipotentiary Minister:
Adana, February 9, 1920,
Your letter of 1st January reached me today, 9th February.
I am infinitely grateful for your kind attention to send us your wishes for the new year. You're insured, I think, and Madame de Peretti, that the tribe Bremond has for you memory as affectionate as permanent. I regret even more that you do not have time to follow our work in the Levant. It is infinitely more interesting and has infinitely greater significance than the local work that we continue to Morocco.
Cilicia is indeed the point of contact between the Mediterranean Sea and the railway from London and Paris to Calcutta and Shanghai; it has in the point of view of the terrestrial or aerial communications an importance of the same order as the Suez Canal for the maritime communications.
Cilicia produced 180,000 balls of cotton in 1913 and in 1919 it was produced only 30,000 balls. We hope this year to reach 60 to 100,000 balls. But we lack coal and machinery to plow, workforce, improved seeds. 1920 will still be a year of waiting but in 1921 we hope to catch up and surpass 1913. The German surveys that we have found locally, assessed at one million balls the potential crop of well managed Cilicia. We grabbed the German cotton press of Adana.
But growing cotton will deliver its full development only with powerful financial institutions capable of organizing crop irrigation and harvest transport; large amounts of capital are absolutely necessary and so far there are not in Cilicia, and the cost of money often reaches 30%. The agricultural bank that I have improved but I could not reorganize as I should have wished for lack of staff, ready to 9% and this rate is found very moderate; this tells the need that we have of French capital. Here, it is possible to establish a domain of 30 to 40,000 hectares with most irrigated fields without great difficulty. [...]
As for the future fate of Cilicia, it is written. By force of circumstance 120,000 Armenians have been brought back. They are more than a quarter of the population, the quarter far more active and more homogeneous: in 15 years they will have easily doubled, and form the majority.
On the other hand, if the French occupation and the French management stopped here, the massacre would begin one hour after our departure.
Finally Cilicia is for us a hope of consolation from Egypt, by its value as well than by its location on a great world communication way.
There is no doubt that the Turks have put here in front of us a show of implacable enemies, and they continue to build on German traditions and make sneaky oppositions in the execution of the conditions of the armistice, traced on those that we see in Berlin.
We are talked about the friendship of the Turks for France: the truth is that the Turk is Boche, he remains Boche with enthusiasm, he hopes only on the recovery of Germany in order to rise himself, and we shall find him against us at the side of Germany in the next war.
All are working against us, so sneaky when they think we are strong and determined, so impudent or even insolent when they believe we are blinded by their protestations of false friendship.
Despite all my efforts, despite my firm intention to work with them, I could never find only one Turk who acted with us otherwise than enemy.
These truths are badly known in Paris, Istanbul or even Beirut; guidelines for reconciliation with Turkey continue to be ordered, and we do here continuous efforts and also unfortunate to follow them.
Constantinople has found to send us as Vali in Adana a man who speaks German, who was raised in Germany and has the same feelings for us as a German.
This tells you that life is not easy here every day, and it's not without some pride that we see Cilicia remain calm in the midst of general insurrection raised from Marash and Urfa to Aleppo, until she comes to us from Konia.
In summary in the present time, we can rely here only on Christians; although Armenians have national goals that put them frequently in conflict with us.
As for the Muslims, if we make Turkish politics, the Turks will unite them completely against us. If, at the opposite, we do Muslim politics, giving the Turks only the situation that is for them, according to their number and their importance on commercial, industrial or financial, we can rally the majority of them.
There are indeed in Cilicia Circassians, Kurds, Arabs. But there are very few Turks. If we made the state employees leave, it would be necessary to look to find a Turkish population.
In the point of view of the principle of nationalities Turks have nothing to do in Cilicia, where they are foreign oppressors unconnected with the people: the only thing in their favor is the use of their language, which was due to banning, for indigenous, of their own language, prohibition that was supported by violent means.
CHAN 594 AP /4
Indeed, the task is not easy, even if his leader, General Dufieux, supports him.
Thus, Colonel Bremond, a servant of the greatness of France, puts all his energy into the performance of his civilizing mission. As a man of action, he tries to convince his friends to get what he thinks good, more than respecting the discipline of the organization. He is familiar with General Gouraud, his old schoolmate, and writes to the Minister regardless of his hierarchy.
More importantly, his speech in the continuity of the colonial policy of France, is no longer valid. He writes: "But we lack coal and machinery to plow, workforce, improved seeds." Does he realize that the Minister receives similar requests from all areas under the French protectorate? Investments, machinery, are needed in the whole Empire, especially in France, where the Great War destroyed a whole region. Skilled workforce, bankers, teachers, doctors, lawyers are needed in North Africa, West Africa, Indochina, the Levant ... And if France is not able to send all these specialists whose training is so expensive, it must send troops to impose by force. But it is increasingly difficult to recruit soldiers in the colonies, to send them away from home to control other colonies.
Gradually, because of shortages of resources, Colonel Bremond loses confidence in his hierarchy, and in France, and he says what he thinks. An article very pessimistic about the situation of France in Cilicia appears on October 6th, 1920 in "Le Petit Marseillais".
Gradually, despite the energy he gives to accomplish his work of civilization, Colonel Bremond is dropped by his most influential friends.
After controversy and unwarranted suspicion on the quality of his management, on September 4th, 1920, Colonel Bremond is removed from his charge.
He stays until the end of his life a friend of the Armenians, especially those who came to live in France.