A Special Correspondent reports on the return to the original grave of a career diplomat of the Ottoman Empire 106 years after his untimely death.
Consul-General Mehmet Remzi Bey, a distinguished career diplomat of the Ottoman Empire was reburied on January 18, 2022 in the Enoch Sontonga Braamfontein Cemetery in Johannesburg in compliance with COVID-19 protocols.
Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey in South Africa, H E Ms Aysegul Kandaş, delivered a speech on the occasion of the janazah salaah. The grand-daughter of Mehmet Remzi Bey, Ms Mignon Gatcke and her spouse, members of the diplomatic community, Turkish officials and citizens, in addition to local Islamic scholars and the media, were present at the funeral service.
In her speech Ambassdor Kandas bid farewell to the late Ottoman diplomat in what is considered his real resting place.
The Turkish Ambassador said that after a lengthy and determined legal struggle, the court ordered the reburial of Mehmet Remzi Bey in his ‘original’ resting place.
Ismail Ayob, the attorney acting on behalf of the grand-daughters of the last Consul General of the Ottoman Empire, with the support of the Embassy of Turkey, set out the difficulties he encountered to obtain the reburial order.
He said that the Pretoria High Court ordered the Nizamiye Mosque in Midrand to allow the exhumation of the remains of Mehmet Remzi Bey to his reburial in his original resting place in Braamfontein cemetery.
Mehmet Remzi Bey was born on 30 December 1869 in İstanbul to a family of Ottoman aristocrats and upon completion of professional training he joined the Ottoman Foreign Service at the age of 23.
Mehmet Remzi Bey served with distinction at the Ottoman diplomatic missions in various countries including Bulgaria, Iran and Georgia. He was then appointed Consul General to South Africa in Johannesburg on 21 April 1914, shortly before the outbreak of World War I.
Upon the Ottoman Empire’s entry into the war, despite his diplomatic status he was summarily interned by the colonial government of Great Britain in South Africa. He suffered unprecedented difficulties during his detention. He suffered serious illness without treatment and was only released when it appeared that he would not survive. Consul General Mehmet Remzi Bey died a few weeks after his release from detention on 14 February 1916, at the young age of 46, due to a major brain hemorrhage and was buried at the Muslim section of the Braamfontein cemetery in Johannesburg.
Ambassador Kandaş emphasized that the Turkish state would always cherish his memory, his family and consider his legacy as a bond of friendship between Turkey and South Africa. She added that the Turkish government would build a tombstone on his grave and make sure his legacy lives on and Turkish and Muslim visitors would continue to pay respect to Mehmet Remzi Bey at the Muslim section of the Braamfontain cemetery. She also thanked the South African authorities for ensuring the supremacy of the rule of law in the years-long legal struggle.