The Power of Rumours in the Making of History: The Case of the Adana Incident of 1909 in the Ottoman Empire
Keywords: Adana, Rumor and History, Ottoman Empire, Armenions
The Adana Incident of 1909 is one of the local events of the Armeno-Muslim relations during the final decades of the history of the Ottoman Empire. A good amount of works has been hitherto done by the historians of the Middle East about the communal conflict in Adana in April 1909. Historians have so far heavily focused on the political, economic and social dimensions and/or reasons of the conflict. In spite of the proliferation of writings, however, very few have touched upon the power of rumours in the escalation of violence between the two communities. Indeed, my work on the archival sources of the incident have produced enormous documentation which indicate that the rumours circulated around the city had played unquestionable role in building distrust between the peoples and led to the rise of numerous conspiracy theories. According to one rumour the Armenians were organizing themselves against the Muslims in order to separate from the Empire. Another rumour was that a group of Armenian rebels were about to attack Muslim villages around the city, which stirred up the fears of Muslims. There were also rumours circulating among the Muslim community that Armenians had dug up an underground tunnel in order to reach the weapons depot, which was to aid them in their quest for independence. One major rumour was that Armenians placed human faeces at the door of the Great Mosque. Indeed it was through such rumours that suspicions were piqued and people sought to acquire weapons as a means of protecting themselves. Thus when the killings began on April 14, 1909 in Adana, people attacked each other under the influence of the psychology built by such rumours. Therefore I am of the opinion that it is important to deal with rumour and its affinity to communal violence in history. In this paper an attempt will be made to analyse the role of rumours in the events that unfolded in Adana in April 1909.