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New Regulations for Foreign Institutions and "Enemy Nationals"

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Remarks on the Sublime Porte's Note of  Dec. 1, 1914, Howard Bliss Collection, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

In September 1914, a new set of Ottoman Educational Regulations, addressed to all foreign educational insitutions on Ottoman soil, was issued. The Regulations stipulated the following: Only institutions which are in the possession of registered "firmans" prior to October 1914 will be recognized by the Ottoman Authorities; Restrictions on land purchase and land transfer enter into effect; Foreign institutions will be liable to taxes retroactively; Foreigners may establish schools only after they have gained an "Irade", or an official permission; Instruction in Turkish is obligatory in all educational curricula; Submission of textbooks to Officials for inspection and approval is required prior to usage in the classroom; Chapel attendance should be made optional to non-Protestant students; Ottoman Officials should be invited to attend examinations at all Colleges; List of all instructors at schools and Colleges should be submitted to competent authorities; Schools must be prepared to receive official Ottoman inspectors on a regular basis; Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy and Dentistry must have their programs officially approved by the Ottoman authorities; Schools not ready to conform to new regulations will be closed. However, very few of these new Educational Regulations were actually enforced on the Syrian Protestant College, on the grounds that:

a) these regulations would not apply to older educational institutions which had already been in operation prior to the War

b) that "Turkish good will" would prevail in this case.

Remarks on the Sublime Porte, Note of December 1, 1914, Howard Bliss Collection, AUB Archives


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Letter from  William Hollis, the American Consul in Syria, 1914, to Howard Bliss,  Howard BLiss Collection, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

An incident with a wireless device hosted at the jesuit Universite Saint Joseph strained the relations between the Saint Joseph University and the Ottoman authorities, on suspicion that the Jesuits were using the device to spy on the Ottomans for the benefit of the Allies (France); in the letter showcased here, the American Counsul advises President Bliss to dismantle the SPC wireless apparatus on the campus as soon as possible, "in order to give no grounds upon which the local authorities can make what perhaps would be an inconvenient incident". President Bliss and SPC complied immediately and took apart any visible parts of their wireless device in order to avoid any conflict with the Ottoman authorities.


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Portrait of Arthur R. Dray, Professor of Dental Surgery, ca.  1914, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

Several SPC Faculty members, happening to be citizens of "Enemy Nations", suffered the consequences of a newly enforced Ottoman regulation to remove citizens of "Enemy Nations" from Ottoman soil: on December 1, 1914, news were received by the SPC Administration that the Ottoman Government had issued an order to remove all English, French and Russian subjects from its territories, and that this applied to a number of SPC students as well as to three Faculty members, namely, Professors Graham, Webster, and Dray. It took all of the SPC administration, Dr. Bliss' and the American Consul's diplomatic skills to return the three Faculty members from their short  deportation to Damascus: after spending three days in Damascus (April 1915), all three returned to their posts, and carried on with their teaching and relief work assignments. This was a decision that benefited all, for as it turned out, all of the three Faculty members, (especially Dr. Dray, who went on to run several relief effort projects in Brummana), were significantly involved in the relief efforts extended by SPC and the Red Cross in the dark years to come.

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Portrait of Dr. Harris Graham, ca. 1900, Professor of Pathology and Practice of Medicine, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

Describing the agonizing uncertainty associated with the shifting policies and lack of certainty with respect to the enforcement of the new Regulations, especially with respect to the possible removal of "enemy aliens" and of the SPC Faculty members and students who fell under this category, Dr. Frederick Bliss wrote: "It is impossible to follow in detail the shifting policy pursued in regard to possible exemption of our doc­tors. Not till late at night, through  efforts in which Sister Anna (of the Hospital),  the Austrian and German consuls, Howard Bliss, etc., were involved, did the assurance come that the doctors could remain till the  next night  train.. ."

 Stephen Penrose, That They May Have Life : the Story of the American University of Beirut, 1866-1941, (Beirut: American University of Beirut, 1970),  p: 153






Charles Webster with wife Annie and daughter Marjorie, 1913.jpg

Charles Webster, M.D.  Anatomy, Eye and Ear diseases,  with wife Annie and daughter Marjorie, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

After some back and forth, the order to remove the three Faculty members was postponed until April, and eventually cancelled altogether. The three doctors eventually remained in their posts:  "This  a.m. the  Consul has received word that the doctors are to be exempted from deporta­tion. The three doctors were eventually exempted from this order until April, but the fear of losing them was a daily menace. Eventually, a visit from Ahmed Jemal Pasha, to the College helped smooth things over, and provided some relief."

Stephen Penrose, That They May Have Life : the Story of the American University of Beirut, 1866-1941, (Beirut: American University of Beirut, 1970),  p: 153