A Fact Charlie Hebdo Neglected: The French Once Really Sent Tanks to the Territory


The cartoon by the humor magazine Charlie Hebdo, which mocked the devastation caused by the earthquake disaster in Turkey by saying, “There was no need to send tanks,” rightly drew widespread public outrage. However, there was a fact that the cartoonist did not know or seemed to have forgotten: The earthquake took place in the very lands where the French had sent tanks a hundred years ago, but failed to take them, such as Gaziantep, Kahramanmaraş and Urfa, cities that had resisted the French occupation. According to this cartoonist’s twisted logic, the places that they could not take even though they destroyed them with tanks and artillery at the time, would have been destroyed this time without the need to send tanks.


There is no doubt that this cartoonist is someone with certain obsessions or prejudices who wants Turkey to be harmed, destroyed and punished. If he tried to draw a parallel with the issue of sending tanks to Ukraine in order to make a topical issue, such a cartoon is at least an unqualified work; he has opened old books while trying to make satire. Making fun of the people whose houses were destroyed has deeply wounded his so-called “artist” personality.


Let us now take a look at the past, which this person may know but seems to be ignorant of. The Treaty of Sèvres, signed 103 years ago, left Mardin-Urfa-Antep-Ceyhan to Syria under the French mandate. Mersin-Adana-Maras-Diyarbakir-Diyarbakir-Silvan-Elazig-Arapkir-Sivas-Tokat became the French zone of influence.


The French army occupied the region, including Urfa, Maraş and Antep, with a force of 21,500 soldiers, 300 machine guns, heavy artillery, six airplanes and five tanks. Among the French troops entering Ayntab was an Armenian contingent of 500 men. While the people of Ayntab greeted the occupation with anger and indignation, the Armenians, who had lived with the people of Ayntab for centuries, welcomed the invaders with flowers. In November 1919, protests, armed resistance and clashes broke out in the city against the occupation. In the same period, uprisings against the occupation also took place in Maraş. Law of Defense organizations were established in the region. Mustafa Kemal from Ankara sent Kılıç Ali Pasha to the region to organize the resistance.


In the face of intense resistance, the French withdrew from Maraş on February 12, 1920 and from Urfa on April 11, 1920. On the other hand, with five tanks, 105, 155 guns, 65 mountain guns, they headed towards Ayntab with all their might.


The houses of Antep, which has an exceptional place in our history with its glorious resistance and was awarded the title of “Gazi” by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on February 8, 1921, were turned into ruins with these weapons for months. The people of Ayntab, who heroically resisted the occupation, suffered 6317 martyrs and argued that these attacks directly against the civilian population fell within the scope of the 1907 Hague War Crimes Convention. This photo of the city’s Suburcu Street, taken at the time, “resembles” Charlie Hebdo’s depiction of the earthquake.

(Source, Photographs from Gaziantep Defense, Şehit Kamil Municipality Cultural Publications, page 30)

The French agreed to withdraw from Ayntab with the Ankara Agreement of October 20, 1921. The withdrawal began on November 4, the victory and liberation took place on December 25, 1921. The French tanks left as they came, but the “tank” obsession in some minds has not been easily erased.


While the concept of “the West” is associated with enlightenment, reason and science, unfortunately, it has also been tainted with colonialism and racism, with many examples in history. While Western people are expected to know how to put themselves in the shoes of others, a cartoonist comes out and sees other peoples as second class people.


On its most painful day, the Turkish people were confronted with Charlie Hebdo’s attitude full of hatred and hatred. We can only hope that the rationality and enlightenment of the West will teach this cartoonist a lesson.

Tanks used by the French in the Battle of Ayntab, armed with 37mm guns and 8mm Hotchkiss machine guns (Same source, page 23)

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