Mustafa Kemal (center) at the Erzurum Conference.
August 7 1919, Erzurum–The day after Greek forces landed at Smyrna, Mustafa Kemal left Constantinople for Anatolia, hoping to organize a resistance to the Allied carving up of Turkey. In late July, he assembled a congress of representatives from the Ottoman Empire’s northwestern districts in Erzurum. Over the course of its meetings, until it dispersed on August 7, it passed many resolutions affirming complete Turkish independence:
- Turkey would not be carved up into Allied mandates or protectorates (the exact borders of Turkey, as opposed to the Ottoman Empire, were less clear, however).
- Military occupation of Turkey would be resisted.
- No special accommodation would be given to non-Turkish minorities, such as the Greeks or Armenians. The provinces represented at the conference once had substantial Armenian populations, and were considered for inclusion in an Allied mandate of Armenia. The conference itself was held in what had been an Armenian university before the genocide.
- A new government would be formed if the one in Constantinople proved incapable of carrying out these measures.
In September, there was a similar conference in Sivas, with attendees from more parts of Anatolia, that largely affirmed these decisions. Little resulted immediately, however. The Ottoman Empire was in no condition to resist the Allies militarily, and Kemal had been fired from the Army for his rabble-rousing in July. Nevertheless, the Erzurum and Sivas conferences positioned him well politically as the leader of the Turkish nationalist movement ahead of Ottoman elections scheduled for December.