An Indian Muslim was the Anadolu Agency’s first employee in war-torn Anatolia.
During the turbulent days of Turkey’s Independence War following the Ottoman Empire defeat in World War I, an Indian Muslim who fled his country to lend a hand to the ailing Ottomans became the first journalist for the Anadolu Agency, the nascent Turkey’s first news outlet and their first foreign affairs officer.
Working beside the Anadolu Agency’s two founders, the famous novelist Halide Edip (Adivar) and renowned journalist Yunus Nadi (Abalioglu), Abdurrahman Peshawari wrote his news stories in a small office, typing stories of wartime atrocities, victories and losses and sending them out, with only one finger “flying” over a typewriter, according to Yunus Nadi’s memoirs.
Abdurrahman Peshawari was born in the city of Peshawar in the famed Khyber Valley, and was only 26 when he sold his clothes and books to pay for his sea journey, despite the wishes of his wealthy family, who urged him to continue his studies.
Peshawari sailed with 26 Indian Muslims in an Italian ship from Mumbai to Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, and during the long journey volunteer doctors in the group trained him in first aid. Peshawari was motivated by high Islamic ideals, fought with the Ottoman army and was injured three times while fighting at Gallipoli against the British Imperial navy, during which Ottoman troops managed to repel invading forces from the Dardanelles Strait.
He later joined with an Ottoman Red Crescent group, bringing financial aid from Indian Muslims to purchase medical equipment for the Ottoman armies fighting in the Balkans. Indian Muslim communities supported the Ottomans during the empire’s collapse and Peshawari was a notable member of this group, said Mucahit Arslan, a Turkish history researcher who uncovered the story of this “unknown hero” of Turkey’s Independence War.
The Caliphate Movement by Muslim communities in “British Raj” India began as early as 1912, while the Ottomans were fighting in the Balkans, and many Indian Muslims contributed, either financially or in person. Some wealthy Indians studying medicine in Europe established a field hospital during the battle of Gallipoli.
Peshawari joined the Ottoman army and saw active service in Beirut and Gallipoli during World War I.
After the war, despite his family urging him to return home, he chose to stay where the Turkish Republic was being established in Ankara in the midst of shattered and war-torn Anatolia, refusing his mother’s pleas to return by saying, “I cannot come back while the Muslim nation is under invasion.”
Peshawari served the nascent Turkish Republic, appointed by Ataturk as ambassador to Afghanistan until his story ended tragically when he was assassinated in Istanbul in 1925, apparently mistaken for a military commander.
This abrupt end to Peshawari’s career meant that he was denied the international fame which many other 20th century reporters found. Martha Gellhorn, George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway and Walter Cronkite are just some of the names who documented the most terrible conflicts of their time. However, in Turkey, Peshawari can truly be said to have been in a league of his own.