Mr. Straus to Mr. Hay.
Constantinople, December 15, 1899.
Sir: I have the honor to submit for the decision of the Department an application for a passport, typical of a class of cases of like character. The circumstances are as follows:
Consul Ravndal, at Beirut, Syria, has been forwarding to this legation during the past year a number of applications for passports from naturalized American citizens of Turkish (Syrian) origin, but in each case the applications were made upon recently issued naturalization certificates unaccompanied by any previous passport. The circumstances appeared to me suspicious that so many Syrians, native-born Turkish subjects, well knowing the requirements of the Turkish regulations about passports, should leave the United States for a visit to Turkey without first obtaining an American passport. I wrote to the consul-general on December 6, 1898, asking for an explanation of this circumstance and calling his attention to the Department’s decision, a copy of which dispatch is inclosed, also the consul’s reply of February 17 last, to the effect that the applicants had entered Turkey on Turkish passports, they alleging that before leaving New York they were informed (by whom is not stated) that neither American passports nor naturalization certificates were recognized in Turkey, I inclose herewith the affidavit which accompanied the application for a passport of Abdou Sowma, a naturalized American citizen, received at this legation on the 5th instant, in which Sowma certifies that before leaving the United States in December, 1897, he was instructed to provide himself with a Turkish passport, such being absolutely necessary; that he purchased a Turkish passport, by means of which he entered the Turkish Empire; that immediately after his arrival he registered himself at the American consulate. I inclose herewith an affidavit to the same effect by one George Joseph, which also accompanied the application of Sowma.[Page 935]
The issuing of a Turkish passport is only granted on application and is predicated upon the applicant being a subject, the applicant presenting his certificate of birth (hamidieh) with the implied, if not the expressed, assumption that such applicant has always been and still is a loyal Ottoman subject.
The question is thereby presented, Have not such persons, by applying for and receiving an Ottoman passport regardless even of the form of such application, voluntarily abandoned their acquired American citizenship and their right to protection as such? In the event of the intervention of our diplomatic or consular agents for the protection of such persons naturalized in the United States, who having returned to Turkey, their country of origin, with Ottoman passports, or tezkerehs, our agents would be confronted with the statements of the applicants that they are Turkish subjects. So by their own acts it would seem they are estopped from claiming the protection of the United States.
The question has assumed considerable importance, as eleven similar applications have been received by this legation during the past year, and it will be seen from Consul Ravndal’s letter to the consul-general, of the 24th ultimo, a copy of which is inclosed, that there is a prospect of many more such cases recurring. Pending your decision upon the class of cases hereby submitted, I have declined to issue passports to the applicants in question.
I have, etc.,