Episode three covers the secret Sykes-Picot agreement between Britain and France and the way the two imperial powers carved up the former Ottoman Empire between them, regardless of the rights and demands of rights and nationalist movements across the Arab world.
Despite the Egyptian Revolution and the Iraq Uprising, Arab subservience to Ottoman rule was replaced by a series of mandates across the region in which Britain and France seized control of the areas they prized most – to satisfy their own ambitions, interests and ultimately to gain access to region’s valuable oil resources.
The war gave birth to the Turkish nationalist movement which led to the founding of the modern Turkish state; and to Zionism, aided greatly by the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The Treaty of Versaillles, however, was referred to by one German-Ottoman military leader not as a peace but as ‘a twenty year armistice’ – and so it proved …
One hundred years after the Ottomans joined the war, this three-part series tells the story from an Arab perspective. Episode two tells the story of the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the fall Sultan Abdul Hamid II, the rise of the young Turk government in his place – and the history of the Ottoman-Germany relationship which led to the Treaty of Alliance between them in August 1914.
According to the political philosophy of Ibn Khaldun, empires have lifespans like humans. They are born, grow, reach maturity, and then decline and die. Understanding the infancy of empires is crucial to understanding why an empire became powerful, and where it derives its strength from.
This article will look at the infancy of the Ottoman Empire. From a small Turkish state in Anatolia in the 1300s, the House of Osman ended up ruling a state that extended throughout Eastern Europe, Southwest Asia, and North Africa in the 1500s. The early period of the Ottoman State sowed the seeds for this great empire.
HISTORY: When asked to sell Palestine to the Zionist movement, Sultan/Caliph Abdülhamid II responded
“Even if you gave me as much gold as the entire world, let alone the 150 million English pounds in gold, I would not accept this at all. I have served the Islamic nation and the Ummah of Muhammad for more than thirty years, and never did I blacken the pages of the Muslims- my fathers and ancestors, the Ottoman sultans and caliphs. And so I will never accept what you ask of me.”
The land of Iraq is home to some of the most ancient and precious civilizations in history. In the Mesopotamian valley that encompasses the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, Babylonia, the world’s first empire was born. Writing was first developed along the banks of the rivers with tablets made of clay. Advanced government bureaucracies were first implemented here. It is truly one of the cradles of human civilization.
And when Islam was revealed in the deserts of Arabia south of Mesopotamia, the people of Iraq were some of the first to accept Islam outside of the Arabian Peninsula during the caliphate of Abu Bakr. As Islamic history went on, Iraq became one of the centers of the Muslim world, with Baghdad being established in the 8th century as the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. Politics, culture, science, and religion all flourished here in early Islamic history. After the Mongol invasion, however, Iraq’s importance declined, it eventually became a part of the Ottoman Empire from the early 1500s until the end of the empire in the First World War. After the war, it was organized into a British-controlled mandate, which sought to create an independent nation-state in this ancient land.
Which brings us to the question: what is Iraq? The British assumed they’d find a homogeneous people in this land that would easily coalesce into one united nation, but the reality has been much more complicated. When the British drew Iraq’s borders, the people within those false borders were of different ethnic groups, religious beliefs, and languages, yet they were all expected to adopt a new identity – Iraqi – and function as a modern nationalistic European nation. This article will address the origins of these problems of identity in 20th century Iraq.
The development of the modern nation states throughout the Arab world is a fascinating and heartbreaking process. 100 years ago, most Arabs were part of the Ottoman Empire/Caliphate, a large multi-ethnic state based in Istanbul. Today, a political map of the Arab world looks like a very complex jigsaw puzzle. A complex and intricate course of events in the 1910s brought about the end of the Ottomans and the rise of these new nations with borders running across the Middle East, diving Muslims from each other. While there are many different factors leading to this, the role that the British played in this was far greater than any other player in the region. Three separate agreements made conflicting promises that the British had to stand by. The result was a political mess that divided up a large part of the Muslim world.
Much like previous Muslim Empires, the Ottomans showed great toleration and acceptance of non-Muslim communities in their empire. This is based on existing Muslim laws regarding the status of non-Muslims. They are protected, given religious freedoms, and free from persecution according to the Shariah. One of the first precedents of this was the Treaty of Umar ibn al-Khattab, in which he guaranteed the Christians of Jerusalem total religious freedom and safety.
As the current dispute over control of the Crimean Peninsula between Russia and Ukraine intensifies, there’s a claim making the rounds online that, if true, could have major repercussions for the region today. Most versions of the story claim that after Russia annexed Crimea in 1783, it signed a treaty which promised that if Crimea ever declared independence, it would automatically be transferred to the Ottoman Empire.
On March 11, 2014, the Supreme Council of Crimea declared its independence from Ukraine in the aftermath of the Euromaidan protests and the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. That would mean that according to the 231 year old treaty’s provisions, the Crimean Peninsula would now legally belong to Turkey (the successor state to the Ottoman Empire). Many of the articles making this claim online have sensationalist headlines that declare that Crimea should now belong to Turkey or that Turkey now finds itself in the middle of the dispute between Ukraine and Russia. But is there any truth to this claim?
No war has had as big an impact on the modern Middle East as the First World War, which lasted from 1914-1918. The war signaled the end of the Ottoman Empire, a major world power since the fifteenth century, and the final victory of Western European imperialism. In the aftermath of the war, almost the entire Muslim world was occupied by foreign forces, something that had never happened before, not during the Crusades, the Mongol invasion, or the Spanish Reconquista. One of the most important (and most debated) aspects of WWI was the revolt of the Arabs against the Ottoman Empire. Was this revolt a manifestation of overwhelming Arab resistance to the Turkish Ottoman Empire, or just a small band of warriors who did not represent Arab sentiment at large?