Ali Sami was born in 1872. He enrolled in the Ottoman Naval College in 1890 and two years later graduated as an engineer sub-lieutenant. He then went on to become the Imperial photographer for Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Following the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, supporters of the Sultan were purged and in 1909 the Sultan was exiled to Thessaloniki. Ali Sami arrived in Thessaloniki, Greece in 1909 and published the newspaper Hak (Right, as in rightful) while in 1916 he published the French newspaper Le droit (The Law). He was nicknamed Bahriyeli (sailor).
During Greece's Asia Minor campaign he served in the Hellenic Army where he performed confidential staff duties and was the leader of an anti-Kemalist resistance group. He also published the anti-Kemalist newspaper Adalet (Justice). Following the Greco-Turkish war, he was made an enemy of Mustafa Kemal and the state of Turkey and placed on ‘The List of 150 Personae non Gratae of Turkey’. When he returned to Greece after the war, he published another newspaper and continued his love of photography. He opened a photography studio and at one stage moved to Mount Athos for two years (1925-1927) to photograph monasteries. As editor of Adelet, Ali Sami wrote:
We are in the twentieth century, Mustapha Kemal and his men are undefined criminals. You the so-called civilised France, behold the massacres of Samsoun! Your assistance to the Kemalists constitutes the greatest crime. You have been the cause of the disappearance of thousands of Greeks and Armenians beneath the feet of these criminals. You, Mr Poincaré, should be aware that the responsibility of hundreds and thousands of Greeks and Armenians in Pontus and Cilicia falls greatly upon France, whose alliance with Kemal has given rise to these atrocities. History will record in black letters this injustice committed by France. In the name of my fellow country-men, I protest against this wrong.
It’s believed he lived in Greece for the rest of his life.
The Mount Athos Photographic Archive, Ali Sami the philhellene photographer. Christos Kalemkeris Archive, pp13-17.
G. Baltazzi, The Turkish Atrocities in Asia Minor and in the Pontus. Speech given before the Greek National Assembly. May 31, 1922. p33.