Countercoup (1909)

The Countercoup of 1909 was an attempt to dismantle the Second Constitutional Era of the Ottoman Empire and replace it with a monarchy under Sultan Abdul Hamid II. The Sultan's bid for a return to power gained traction when he promised to restore the Caliphate, eliminate secular policies, and restore the sharia-based legal system.

A military coup in June 1908, led by the so-called Young Turks, had stripped Sultan Abdul Hamid II of his power, reconstituting the parliament and constitution the Sultan had suspended three decades earlier. The Sultan, however, had maintained his symbolic position, and in March 1909 attempted to seize power once more by stirring populist sentiment throughout the Empire. Because the coup was an attempt to undermine the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, it became known as the Countercoup.

On April 13, 1909, Abdul Hamid II was finally deposed. His brother Mehmed V would ultimately take his place as Sultan, the position once more reduced to mere symbolic significance.


The Ottoman Empire's gradual disintegration, which included the loss of Bulgaria to complete independence within a year of the Young Turk Revolution, and its inability to form a government after the 1908 elections, stiffened opposition to the reformative regime. This opposition naturally coalesced around the more conservative Muslims within the Empire: a base to whom the Sultan had proven himself loyal.

The 1908 parliament lacked coherency, least of all on the nature and unity of the organization of the Ottoman Empire. While the Young Turk Revolution had promised organizational improvement, once instituted, the government at first proved itself rather disorganized and ineffectual, tempting a coup in April 1909.

Army units revolted, joined by masses of theological students and turbaned clerics shouting, "We want Sharia", and moving to restore the Sultan's absolute power. The Sultan in turn promised to bring about the rule of religion, were he to be returned to power. The Countercoup culminated in the 31 March Incident, and the exile of Abdul Hamid II.


The Countercoup's failure brought the Committee of Union and Progress back from disarray, from its inability to generate a government. The Countercoup ended the Arab-Turkish honeymoon due to the caliphate issues. After the 31 March Incident, the Committee of Union and Progress outlawed Arab societies who empowered Arab interests from within Ottoman society, including the Society of Arab Ottoman Brotherhood, and prohibited the issuing of several Arab journals and newspapers that featured radical Islamic rhetoric.

The policies of the Committee of Union and Progress aimed at controlling the conservatives were perceived as silencing the cause of independence and liberty by discriminating against religion. Under the multi-religious "balancing policies", the Committee of Union and Progress believed it could achieve a "Turkification" of all the Arab subjects of the Empire. These measures stirred nationalist sentiment and a desire for independence and freedom among the Arab population, further cementing a national sensibility resistant to a conservative Islam.

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