This is the story of the Ottoman soldier who remained loyal to his duty for 57 years at the Al-Aqsa mosque after the Ottoman military retreated from Jerusalem on 9th December 1917.
The late historian Ilhan Bardakci stumbled upon the Ottoman soldier on May 12th, 1972 and decided to write about this incredible meeting:
Al-Aqsa Mosque. Friday, May 21st, 1972. My late journalist friend Said Terzioğlu and I are wandering through the sacred sites with the help of our guide. It was at the top of the steps in the second courtyard of the sacred mosque where I saw him. He was nearly two meters tall. He had some aging clothes upon his aging body, but still standing bold and upright. I looked at his face and was scared. It was like someone had overturned some barren soil. He had many scars on his face.
“Who is this man?” I asked my guide. He shrugged his shoulders and replied “I don’t know… must be someone crazy. He has always been standing here, he never asks for anything from anyone.”
I don’t know why, but I approached him and said in Turkish “Selamu Aleykum baba (father).” His eyes opened brightly and in Turkish replied “Aleykum Selam oğul (son)!”
I was shocked. I grabbed and kissed his hands…”Who are you, father?” I asked. He explained…
“I am Corporal Hasan from the 20th corp, 36th Battalion, 8th Squadron heavy machine gun team which was deployed at the Al-Aqsa mosque the day we lost Quds…”
Ottoman soldiers stationed at Al Aqsa Mosque
The Ottoman government had left behind 401 years, 3 months, and 6 days of rule of Quds. It was Sunday December 9th, 1917 when they had to evacuate Palestine. The State was on the verge of collapse and only a squadron was left at the Al-Aqsa Mosque to protect it from looting before British soldiers took the the city.
Dear Lord… I looked once more; his head, like a minaret balcony upon his tense shoulders, a kissable flag. I reached for his hands once more and he began to utter:
“Can I ask a favour from you, my son? I have a trust which I have kept hidden for years, will you deliver this trust for me?”
“Certainly, what is it?” I said.
“When you return to the country, if you ever reach Tokat Sanjak, go and find my commander who deployed me here, Captain Musa. Kiss his hands for me and tell him… Corporal Hasan from Iğdır Province of the 11th Machine gun team still remains at the post you deployed him to.”
My heart was about to stop!
The army chief decided to call Ilhan Bardakci to help find this glorious soldier when he learned of this incident on Turkish government television. Bardakci would later write: Corporal Hasan was one of us… his fate was to be forgotten. That’s exactly what happened. We didn’t even look for him, let alone find him. He was unobtainable. He was like a glorious cypress tree reaching towards the sky. And we, even if we had raised our heads would be like the tiny grass reaching at his roots. We only know how to forget. Just like the others, we had forgotten, so too was that diamond which remained at his post… Corporal Hasan.
Courtesy of: Ottoman Imperial Archives