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Eşref Sencer Kuşçubaşı


Born in Istanbul in 1883, his father, Mustafa Nûri Bey, was an Ottoman officer (“kuşçubaşısı” or falconer. However, this honorary distinction would seem to be self-attributed (1)) during the time of Sultan Abdulaziz, predecessor of Murad V then 'Abdulhamid II. He will keep as a surname this title of kuşçubaşısı. His family is related to the Ubykh branch of the Circassians on the father's side, as well as Sultan Sencer on the mother's side. Eşref grew up in Beşiktaş, where he attended local schools before entering Kuleli Military High School. Due to his role in a fight between students, Eşref was expelled from the Military High School in Edirne (Adrianople), before returning to Istanbul and briefly attending the Military Academy in Harbiye.

Sultan Abdulaziz, predecessor of Murad V then of Abdulhamid II.

Exiled in 1905 in the Hejaz with his father by Abdulhamid II for having taken sides with the revolutionary movement of the “young Turks” and marked his opposition to Abdulhamid II during his last year at the military school. He remained locked up in ta'if for a year before escaping with the help of his brother Selim Sami Bey. He integrates among the Arab tribes of Najd and learns Arabic as well as local tribal customs.


Eşref Sencer Kuşçubaşı in traditional dress of Hejaz (now Saudi Arabia)


He quickly resurfaced attacking an imperial pilgrimage caravan heading for Mecca in order to finance  his fight. Other exiled Ottoman officers and civilians will aid him in this attack. Later, he kidnaps the son of the Ottoman governor of Medina in broad daylight in the public square. He would later claim that his actions were attempts to instigate riots in the name of "freedom" (a term often used among supporters of the Young Turks) against Caliph Abdulhamid II. However, from Istanbul's point of view, all of this was seen as  acts of banditry.

Ottoman Caliph Abdulhamid II. 1842 - 1909.

Despite everything, he will still be reintegrated into the army in 1906 where he will be assigned to Izmir in the gendarmerie forces. The forced acceptance of constitutionalism by Abdulhamid II in a period when the young Turks have enormous influence, will certainly have helped this reintegration as well as his total amnesty.

Before the 1908 revolution, Eşref carried out activities for İsmail Enver Pasha (1881–1922), first in the Balkans and later in Istanbul. His first real chance to make a name for himself came with the war in Libya in 1911. Enlisted as a volunteer, Eşref was in charge of the trade of a group of international Muslim dignitaries, well known throughout British-controlled Egypt. . Thus, he served with Mustafa Kemal (1881–1938) (Atatürk) and other historically significant officers. Redeployed because of the greater threat posed by the first of two Balkan Wars in 1912, Eşref was once again assigned to the defense of Istanbul. With the outbreak of the Second Balkan War, Enver Pasha commissioned Eşref to lead a reconnaissance force behind Bulgarian lines,  in view of the attempt to retake Edirne. He was then sent to Bulgarian territory with Süleyman Askerî (1884–1915) and Eşref's brother, Selim "Hacı" Sami (1887–1927), where he served as part of the leadership of a breakaway mini-state called the Government independent of Western Thrace; an entity that lasted less than two months before being negotiated and then attached by Istanbul in exchange for keeping Edirne.


Ismail Enver Pasha 1881-1922. Leader of the Young Turk Revolution, then Minister of War of the Ottoman Empire during World War I

The Great War:


The Ottoman Empire, dependent on the asymmetric tactics developed in Libya and the Balkans, enters the Great War unprepared .

As a key member of the Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa (spy organization), Eşref was involved in various campaigns, including Ottoman attempts to cross the Suez Canal. Enver pasha entrusted him with the mission of delivering gold and supplies to the Ottoman forces in Yemen,  cut off from the rest of the empire by the outbreak of the Hashemite revolt in Hijaz (Saudi Arabia); the British forces having succeeded in creating an internecine war between the Turks and the Arabs in the empire, with the help of Lawrence of Arabia.

In 1917, his unit was ambushed in Arabia. After fighting for more than five hours with a 40-man Special Organization unit against 20,000 troops of Faysal (later to become the king of Iraq) in Khaybar, he was captured and wounded. After a long interrogation, the British authorities who had recovered him from their Arab allies, sent him to a prison camp where he will be escorted by a warship and a submarine to Malta.

While in exile, he wrote a book describing his adventure in Arabia, his capture, and the details of his life in exile. There he stayed for the rest of the war before returning to Istanbul in early 1920.

le frere Selim Sâmi Bey.jpg

Eşref Sencer Kuşçubaşı stationed in Arabia against British Thomas Edward Lawrence

After being captured, he said to Lawrence of Arabia: "Lawrence, you think you have won, but nothing is over yet! I will inflict such misfortunes on your government that you cannot preserve it even if you try for 2 centuries." He will be released in accordance with the prisoner exchange agreement signed with the British.


British soldiers, Istanbul 1918. End of the First World War

End of the first war and beginning of the Greek invasion and the wars of independence.


Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, Enver Pasha the Minister of War and supporter of Eşref, now exiled in Germany, will be condemned in absentia by the new sultan under the control of the young Turks for having trained the empire in the war without legitimate cause, and to be responsible for the Armenian genocide. Back in Turkey, Eşref established contact with his fellow officers of the special organization "Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa", then concentrated on organizing the resistance movement that had formed in response to the British and French occupation of Istanbul and to the Greek invasion of Western Anatolia. In 1920, he fought the Greek invasion in Kuva-yi Seyyare with Çerkez Ethem (see Demerci Mehmet Efe), whom he himself actively supported. The achievements of Kuvâ-yi Milliye (Turkish militias) around Adapazarı have been attributed to him. Mustafa Kemal  plays an increasingly important role in coordinating these nationalist efforts from Ankara and appoints Eşref as regional commander for the area around Adapazarı and Bolu east of Istanbul.


Çerkez Ethem 1886 - 1948 Turkish militia leader during the invasion of Izmir

However, power-hungry, like many of his contemporaries engaged in an isolated Ankara power struggle, Eşref's attempts to impose his will on the local population and his Circassian rulers backfired, and Eşref was forced to to relinquish his command. Eşref's action will obviously be misguided in the eyes of Ankara and he will quickly be relegated to a less important role. Meanwhile, Ankara blocked the return of Enver Pasha, then exiled to Germany. In Anatolia, Kemal began to turn the tide against Greek forces.

When it was clear that Enver would not return, and that Ankara was suspicious of Eşref for his attempts to seize power, he followed the path of fellow Circassian Çerkes Ethem (1883–1949) away from Ankara's movement . In 1920, they passed to the Greek enemy, thus effecting a total break with Ankara; which will seal their fate with the Turkish Republic, soon  established, and of which it ensured their status  of "enemy of the nation". The last years of Eşref's life were lived in relative obscurity. After being involved in a sporadic and largely ineffective movement aimed at resisting Ankara, Eşref entered a long period of exile, first in Greece and then in Egypt in Alexandria. Although he was banished from the Turkish Republic in 1923, he was allowed to return after the Democratic Party came to power in the 1950 elections. He spent his last years with his family in Western Anatolia, working on his memoirs, and by visiting and corresponding with those of his former comrades-in-arms who were still living.


Eşref Sencer Kuşçubaşı on July 10, 1935


He died in 1964. The grave is in Aydın, Söke-Kuşadası Road, Yaylaköy, next to Caferli Granta Cemetery.

(1) Claim questioned (POLAT SAFI Eşref Kuşçubaşı Alternative Biyografisi ed kronik)

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