|Joined: 09 Mar 2007
Location: Jbeil Byblos
| Khalil Ganem (Ghanem) Great men Lebanon (revue phoenicienne)
|Our Great Men from LA REVUE PHENICIENNE
KHALIL GANEM 1847-1903
Khalil Ganem, son of Ibrahim Ganem, was born in Beirut on 8th November, 1847. When he was eleven years old he went sent to the college of Aintoura in Lebanon, run by the Lazarist Fathers. From his early years he distinguished himself by his liking for French literature.
On leaving college, his precocious intelligence, his alert mind, and his serious character drew the attention of the celebrated Sheikh Nassif El Yazigi, who gave him lessons in Arabic, and of Ibrahim Bahout, with whom he studied Turkish. In particular he learnt English, and soon managed to write and express himself in this language with a prodigious facility.
In 1862 he was named Adviser at the Beirut Court of Commerce, at this time also entering into political life, The following year, Ibrahim Pasha appointed him to be his personal dragoman at the Mutassarifate (Governorate) of Beirut, and granted him the honorary grade of 2nd Class.
When in 1865 Rashed Pasha was appointed Governor of Syria, Khalil Ganem became dragoman of the villayet (province); he occupied this function with a dignity and a disinterestedness that his superiors could only admire. He was still in this position under Subhi Pasha and Assad Pasha. When the latter was recalled to Constantinople to be Grand Vizier (First Minister), he took Ganem with him to make him Dragoman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In 1875 he was promoted to be Master of Ceremonies at the Yildiz and Dragoman of the Sublime Porte. In 1877 the Syrians chose him to be their deputy in the Chamber of Constantinople.
In the meantime, Grand Vizier Midhat Pasha invited him to study the various forms of constitutional government along with Aghob Pasha and to draw up a regime that could be applied under Ottoman rule.
After long and serious study of the subject, Ganem did not hesitate to raise his voice during several sessions of the Chamber to give his opinion on the shortcomings of the Turkish form of government.
He then took the part of Midhat Pasha, whom the Court had just sent into exile, and energetically attacked Husni Fehmi Pasha, who defended the action of the Chamber over the matter of the unjust exiling of Midhat Pasha.
Abdel Hamid ordered the dissolution of the Chamber. Ganem was the first to protest, in a famous speech which he opened with the words: “The freedom of the court has been trussed up. The Sultan has recognized the Constitution and cannot now go back on his decision; in any case, the Sultan is under the Law and it is not the Law which is under him.”
Abdel Hamid was informed by his spies and immediately ordered Ganem’s arrest and the condemnation to death of several members of the Chamber, Ganem first and foremost among them.
Fortunately Ganem was informed in time and so was able to seek refuge in the French Embassy, from where he was put aboard a cargo ship leaving for Marseille. He reached Paris absolutely penniless, for unlike all his Turkish colleagues he had never wanted to profit financially from the posts he occupied.
In Paris Kalil Ganem founded an Arabic newspaper called Al-Bassir (The Observer) to uphold the cause of his Syrian compatriots.
The Turkish Government formally forbad its offices at home and abroad all access to the paper and in Ottoman territory threatened anyone with whom copies were found with the most dire punishment. Ganem found himself obliged to cease publication.
To earn a living, he had to contribute to the various newspapers of France. He composed a treatise on political economy in Arabic and another in two volumes on the Ottoman Sultans, while he created several newspapers which he distributed free, among them Young Turkey, Hilal and France Internationale, which he published successively in French. For a considerable time he was highly appreciated as one of the editors of the Débats in Le Figaro.
His rising reputation, his balanced views and his judicious opinions drew on him the attention of the best-known committees in Paris. Mr. Hanotaux, Ambassador of France in London, esteemed him highly and Khalil Ganem was often to be seen walking in the streets of Paris arm-in-arm with Gambetta, passionately discussing politics.
In 1893 he founded in Switzerland the paper Le Croissant (The Crescent), in which he attacked the despotic policy of the Sultan and of his entourage, and openly proclaimed Turkey’s need of a constitutional regime.
After he had waged a tireless campaign, several important Turkish personalities rallied to his cause and came to join him in Paris. At their head were Mahmoud Pasha Damad, brother of the Sultan, and Ahmad Riza Bey, former President of the Parliament and the Senate. There were also Adib Ishac, Sheikh Mohamed Abdo, Emir Megid Arslan, owner of the paper Kashf El-Nikab (The Mask Unveiled), and Selim Sarkis, owner of Moushir (The Counselor). Plenty of others emigrated to Paris, where they founded the Young Turk society, with Khalil Ganem at their head, so forming a political party of redoubtable importance for Turkey.
Abdel Hamid then tried to buy Ganem. By the intermediaray of his ambassador in Paris, he sent Ganem the Order of the First Grand Othman Cordon, with for his wife the Grand Cordon of the Shefekeh. These high decorations came with the sum of 15,000 Turkish pounds. Abdel Hamid urged him to accept them and to put an end to the violent attacks against the Ottoman regime. The Sultan further offered to appoint him in perpetuity Ambassador of the Sublime Porte in Paris.
Khalil Ganem refused the decorations, the gold and the offer of the Embassy, replying, “I will soil neither my own breast nor that of my wife with these decorations offered by bloodstained hands; nor will I accept gold wrung from the people and fruit of disgraceful corruption. Above all I have no wish to represent a red Sultan for whom I would blush before my compatriots and before the French.”
On reading this answer in the newspapers as well as several articles in which Khalil Ganem accused him of all sorts of crimes, including the massacre of the Armenians, Abdel Hamid brought a suit against Ganem in the courts of Paris, demanding justice against the one who dared to attack him. The French press made lengthy commentary on this affair and launched an energetic campaign in favor of Ganem. Several legal advocates including the greatest tenors of the French Bar, in particular Henry Rochefort, offered to defend him gratis. After lengthy debate, the French judicial system found no cause for reproach in the frankness, loyalty and patriotism of Khalil Ghanem.
In 1883 he had married a French woman by the name of Mlle. Marie Renaud, whom we have all known here in Beirut and who passed away recently during the war. From this marriage there was only one daughter, whom the parents lost when she was only eight years old.
Khalil Ganem remained in Paris until his death in 1903. The French Government was officially represented at the requiem of one whom it had several times decorated and whose great merit and ability it had rightly appreciated.
If he refused the Turkish decorations, he was however proud to wear the Cross of the Legion of Honor, to belong to the Society of Literary Personalities and Playwrights, and so on, and we all have a right to be proud of him who had shown the nations of the West that Lebanon can still give birth to men of greatness.
PHILIPPE DE TARRAZI - Translation from the French: K.J. Mortimer