Hamid Bey Wears Shirt Tucked In When Seen by Star

Ernest Hemingway

Toronto Daily Star/October 9, 1922

Constantinople.-Bismarck said all men in the Balkans who tuck their shirts into their trousers are crooks. The shirts of the peasants, of course, hang outside. At· any rate, when I found Hamid Bey-next to Kemal, perhaps the most powerful man in the Angora government-in his Stam­boul office where he directs the Kemalist government in Europe, while drawing a large salary as administrator of the Imperial Ottoman Bank, a French-capitalized concern-his shirt was tucked in, for he was dressed in a gray business suit.
Hamid Bey’s office is at the top of a steep hill beyond an old seraglio and houses the Reel Crescent-equivalent to our Red Cross-of which Hamid Bey is one of the leaders and where attendants in Red Crescent khaki carry out the orders of the Angora government.

“Canada is anxious about the possibility of a massacre of Christians when Kern al enters Constantinople,” I said.

Hamid Bey, big and bulky, with gray mustaches, wing-collared and with a porcupine haircut, looked over his glasses and spoke French.

“What have the Christians to fear?” he asked. “They are armed and the Turks have been disarmed. There will be no massacre. It is the Greek Christians who are massacring the Turks now in Thrace. That’s why we must occupy Thrace to protect our people.”

That is the only guarantee of protection Constantinople Christians have, except the Allied police force, while toughs from the Crimea to Cairo are gathered in Constantinople hoping that the patriotic orgy of Kemal’s triumphant entry will bring a chance to start a fire in the tinder-dry, wooden tenements and begin killing and looting. The Allied police force is compact and efficient, but Constantinople is a great sprawling city of a million and a half, crowded with a desperate element.

The man who raises a thirst somewhere east of Suez is going to be unable to slake it in Constantinople once Kemal enters the city. A member of the Anatolian government tells me that Constantinople will be as dry as Asiatic Turkey, where alcohol is not allowed to be imported, manufactured or sold. Kemal has also forbidden card playing and backgammon and the cafes of Brusa are dark at eight o’clock.

This devotion to the laws of the prophet does not prevent Kemal himself and his staff from liking their liquor, as the American, who went to Smyrna to protect American tobacco, found when his eight bottles of cognac made him the most popular man in Asia Minor at Kemalist head­quarters.

Kemal’s edict will halt the great importation of American raw alcohol shipped to Constantinople in drums and marked “medicinal.” This is made into an absinthe-like drink and is sipped by the Turks as they sit in the coffee shops, puffing their bubble-bubble pipes.

(Source: Dateline: Toronto. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1985)

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