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Rıza Tevfik (far left) with the three other signatories of the Treaty of Sevres; the grand vizier Damat Ferid Pasha, the Ottoman minister of education Bağdatlı Hadi Pasha and the ambassador Reşad Halis; in a photograph with several hidden messages on board an Allied warship taking them to the Paris Peace Conference.

Rıza Tevfik (Rıza Tevfik Bölükbaşı after the 1934 Law in Turkey on Family Names) was a Turkish philosopher, poet, politician and a community leader (for some members among the Bektashi community) of late 19th century and early 20th century. A polyglot and a multi-faceted personality, and despite that his involvement in politics was for the main part of a part-time nature, he is most remembered in Turkey for being one of the four signatories of the Treaty of Sevres, for which reason he was included in 1923 among the 150 persona non grata of Turkey, and he spent twenty years in exile until he could return to Turkey in 1943, after Atatürk's death.

He was born in 1869 in Mustafapaşa, today Svilengrad in Bulgaria. Placed in a Jewish school in İstanbul by his father, who was a prefect, he learned Spanish and French at an early age. He was remarked as a restless personality during his student years, first in the famed Galatasaray Lisesi, and then in the Imperial School of Medicine (Tıbbiye), and he was arrested and incarcerated several times, not falling short of inciting fellow inmates to revolt during his prison months. He could graduate at the age thirty and became a doctor. In 1907, he joined the Committee of Union and Progress, and was one of that party's deputies for Edirne in the re-established Ottoman Parliament of 1908. He split with the CUP in 1913, blaming them deeply for the Ottoman defeat in the Balkan Wars and the loss of the Balkans for Turkey, and also vehemently opposed Turkey's entry into the First World War. He even wrote a poem publicly presenting excuses to the former sultan Abdulhamid II, expressing a longing for his old-fashioned despotism in the face of the mounting totalitarianism of the CUP single-party regime in phase of being instaured.

He was named Minister of Education in several cabinets formed after the fall of the CUP and Turkey's defeat in the First World War. He was one of the four signatories of the stillborn Treaty of Sevres, being included in the delegation to the Paris Peace Conference by the grand vizier Damat Ferid Pasha, although he occupied no official position at the time of the negotiations, simply being a professor in the İstanbul University. Since he was one of the signatories of the abortive treaty, he was included in the 150 persona non grata of Turkey after the Turkish victory in the War of Independence, and he had to leave Turkey late 1922. He lived in the United States, Cyprus, Hejaz, Jordan and Lebanon during the following twenty years, until he could return to Turkey in the frame of a 1943 amnesty. In the meantime, he had had his collection of poetry published in Lefkoşa.

He resumed work as a university professor in İstanbul till his death on 31 December 1949. Aside from his poetry and his articles on philosophy, he is also notable for his translations into Turkish of Omar Khayyam. He also wrote his partial memoirs.




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