The Treaty of Sevres

The Treaty of Sèvres was signed with the Ottoman Empire after the end of World War One. The terms of the Treaty of Sèvres were harsh and many in the Ottoman Empire were left angered and embittered by their treatment.


The Treaty of Sèvres was signed on August 10th 1920 after more than fifteen months was spent on drawing it up. Great Britain, Italy and France signed it for the victorious Allies. Russia was excluded from the process and by 1920 America had withdrawn into a policy of isolation.


The Treaty of Sèvres territorially carved up the ‘Sick Man of Europe’.


Britain and France had already decided what would happen to the area generally referred to as the ‘Middle East’. Britain took effective possession and control of Palestine while France took over Syria, Lebanon and some land in southern Anatolia. East and West Anatolia were declared areas of French influence. This had already been decided some three years before the Treaty of Sèvres in the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1917. Britain also took over Iraq and was given very generous oil concessions there via the British-controlled Turkish Petroleum Company, later renamed the Iraq Petroleum Company.


The Kingdom of Hejaz was given formal international recognition as an independent kingdom. With Mecca and Medina as its most important cities, the Kingdom of Hejaz was 100,000 square miles in size with a total population of 750,000.


Armenia was recognised as a separate sovereign state.


Smyrna was put under effective control of Greece while technically remaining within the Ottoman Empire. The Treaty of Sèvres also gave the people of Smyrna the chance of a plebiscite on whether they wished to join Greece as opposed to remaining in the Ottoman Empire. This plebiscite would be overseen by the League of Nations. Greece was also given Thrace.


The Dodecanese Islands were formally handed over to Italy who was also given influence in the coastal region of Anatolia.


The Dardanelles Straits was made an international waterway with the Ottoman Empire having no control over it. Certain ports near to Constantinople were declared “free zones” as they were deemed to be of international importance.


The Treaty of Sèvres failed to deal with the issue of a Kurdistan. There was an initial agreement on the boundaries of a Kurdistan but nationalist Kurds rejected this as it failed to include a region called Van. The issue ended with some Kurds living in Turkey where they were deemed by the government there as being Turks and some in northwest Iraq where they were deemed to be Iraqis.


Like the other defeated Central Powers, the Ottoman Empire had military restrictions imposed on it. The Ottoman Army was limited to 50,000 men. An air force was forbidden and the navy was limited to thirteen boats – six schooners and seven torpedo boats. The Treaty of Sèvres also contained clauses that allowed the Allies to supervise these military terms.


The financial consequences of the Treaty of Sèvres equalled those of the Treaty of Versailles in terms of severity; however, the new Weimar Germany was allowed to run her own economy – though the terms of Versailles obviously impacted this. The Ottoman Empire had the control of its finances and economy taken away from her and handed over to the Allies. This included the control of the Ottoman Bank, control over imports and exports, control of the national budget, control over financial regulations, requests for loans and reform of the tax system. The Allies controlled even debt repayments. One of the terms of this was that only France, Italy and Great Britain could be debt bondholders. The Ottoman Empire was also forbidden from having any economic collaboration with Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria and all the economic assets of these four states were liquidated within the Ottoman Empire.


The Treaty of Sèvres also gave the Allies the right to reform the electoral system of the Ottoman Empire.


Those deemed guilty of engaging in “barbarous warfare” were required to be handed over to the Allies.


The Grand Vizier, Ahmed Pasha, of the Empire planned to ratify the Treaty of Sèvres but was faced with a rebellion by the Turkish nationalist leader Mustafa Kemal. Pasha’s defeat meant that Kemal refused to sign the Treaty of Sèvres, which he viewed as unacceptable with regards to its terms that directly impacted Turkey. Kemal would not countenance the Dardanelles Straits as being anything other than Turkish and saw no reason why ports in Turkey itself should be deemed “free zones”. Kemal believed that the leaders of the Ottoman Empire had taken the people of Turkey into World War One and that the Turkish people should not be punished for the actions of their former leaders. His stand meant that the victorious Allies and the newly created Turkey had to start treaty negotiations afresh.