HC Deb 22 July 1875 vol 225 cc1811-2

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, If, notwithstanding the statement of the British Ambassador at Constantinople early last year, That orders were already issued for the release of the persecuted Christian converts who were being treated as Moslem convicts, seized in the neighbourhood of Latakia and at Marash, the men had not at the date of last advices been restored to their families, but were either in exile, cut off from all means of self support, or serving as drudges in the Army without pay or clothing?


The form in which the right hon. Gentleman has put this Question makes it difficult to answer with that accuracy I should desire. I have looked through all the despatches of the British Ambassador at Constantinople of last year, and cannot find in them the statement which has been placed upon the Notice Paper in inverted commas, as if it were a quotation from a despatch— That orders were already issued for the release of the persecuted Christian converts who were being treated as Moslem convicts. Perhaps, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will refer me to the date of the despatch from which he has quoted, and I will make inquiries into the subject. I think, however, that the right hon. Gentleman has been misled, and has quoted from some other statement than the despatch of the Ambassador. The second part of the Question mixes up distinct cases which have engaged the attention of the Government, which have no similarity, and which have been dealt with at different times, different places, and upon different principles. With regard to the case of the Ansairiyeh conscripts, their discharge from the Army was originally promised on the representation of the British Embassy under the belief that they had been illegally taken for the Army, and were being subjected to persecution as Christians. Subsequently it was maintained by the Porte that these men were not illegally or improperly enrolled in the Army, and they have been placed in a regiment in which men of all religious denominations are serving. As regards the case at Marash, that was the case of a convert who was in danger in his native village from having become a Christian, and in consequence of that danger he was removed to Constantinople, and afterwards to Smyrna. The man was perfectly at liberty at Smyrna to go wherever he pleased, and his family was allowed to be with him; the only condition the authorities had made with regard to him being that he should not return to his native village of Marash, because they were afraid that his personal safety could not be secured in that place. Papers will be laid upon the Table upon the subject, in which all the particulars of both these cases will be found.