I was watching this documentary, The Ottomans – Europe’s Muslim Emperors which traces over the complete history of Ottoman Empire from the day it was a minor principality which arose out of the shards of the Seljuk Turk Empire to a European Muslim kingdom which expanded into Islamic World to it’s end. A brief commentary over it’s demise and what was done to bring down the Empire and how the acts committed still reverberate is but a lesson one can never forget. It is but interesting to note that those few lines reminded me of a book Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary war which broached on the same topic, but focussing on Germany.
Let’s see how things transpired.
- Turkish sieges of Vienna were never religious – they were always territorial. But, the Christians viewed it as religious. This brought in an element of religion into the discussion. From then on, it was always a crusade against the infidel Muslims and succour of innocent Christians under their yoke.
- Annexation of lands was carried out in Africa, with France claiming Algeria, Britain, Egypt and Italy, Libya. How were the borders decided, can anyone say?
- The encouragement of nationalism in this multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious empire
- Russia grew at a rapid pace and once Crimea fell, it is but natural that it wants an opening into the Mediterranean from the Black Sea. To achieve it’s ends, it instigated a Pan Slavic nationalism which encouraged nationalistic rebellions in the Balkans. Other European countries joined the bandwagon and ensured that Turkey didn’t exist beyond Edirne. The consequence of this is that Ottoman Empire, for the first time in history became an Islamic Empire with an overwhelming Muslim population and slowly moved towards a Muslim fundamentalist kingdom. On a side note, this nationalism is what which caused the First World War and the flames of destruction were extinguished only by 2000(except for a respite of 40 years given by Tito) in the main Balkan country called Yugoslavia. It is worthy to note that the same strands of nationalism which were encouraged in Austria-Hungary during the First World War brought about the Second, an even deadlier and devastating one.
- Turkey took the side of Germany and Austria for whatever reasons in the First World War. To torment it, encouragement was given to anyone and everyone who raised a banner of revolt against the Throne. The sons of Grand Mufti of Mecca became the kings of newly carved out Iraq and Jordan, the Wahabis got Saudi. As and when discontent increased, the ruler was toppled and replaced with someone else forcing all of these Ottoman Arab children to survive as dictatorships.
- Russian encouragement of Armenian nationalism brought in reprisals from the imperial government culminating in a massacre bordering genocide. The seed for this was Armenian attack of Kurdish population in Van and the government reprisal in return. After all, in a war for it’s survival, how do you expect a government to tackle discontent? The massive wartime propaganda involving this harbours bad blood between Armenia and Turkey even today.
- Once the war was over, Greece was encouraged to annex as much land as it can in Turkey. The atrocities perpetrated ensured that people settled for five hundred years are uprooted amidst massacres with the burning of Izmir being the most brutal act. This makes Turkey and Greece not so friendly neighbours.
- From day one, the eyes of these European countries was over Turkey’s lands. Once the war was over, dismemberment was on charts and there was no basis as to how the areas were distributed or how the borders were drawn. The lines drawn over paper clubbed people who should not be clubbed as like in Iraq formed out of the Vilayets of Basra, Baghdad and Mosul – one Shia, one Sunni and one Kurdish. A mishmash of multiple races and religious sects ensured dominance of one over the other and a considerable discontent. ISIS is formed out of Sunni discontents who lost power to Shias after the fall of Saddam is but an example of this. By grabbing Mosul Vilayet for oil after the armistice has been signed, the British split the Kurdish population into two and used them to encourage secession movements in Turkey especially when Turkey started promoting Turk over Muslim.
- Palestine was handed over to the Jews creating another burning problem. This became a matter of prestige for the Muslims of the area and there were multiple waves of unnecessary bloodshed to dismantle Israel.
These things clearly point to the fact that had it not been for the greed of land and more money, the Middle East would have been a much better place to live. A governor is best suited to crush a rebellion, not a ruler. If it is a governor, he can be replaced without any bloodshed. But, a ruler means change of the complete ruling hierarchy. It is but obvious that the colonialism post dismemberment aimed at rulers who are on the side of the colonial powers, which, by default, places them at odds with the people. As of today, only the rulers of Jordan and Saudi(besides the smaller entities of UAE, Bahrain and Qatar) are the only ones who still hold power – all of them are toppled and toppled many times over. That is a proof of the quality of the selection France and Britain gave to Arab lands. This could have been avoided in an explosive area containing people of various races and religion/sects in an overwhelmingly Sunni Arab area.
Another line of thought picked was that in order to secure his power, Mustafa Kemal banned the post of Caliph. And just because Islam is devoid of a supreme authority, we see the chaos we are seeing today in the Muslim world. Now, if there is a Caliph and if he said ISIS is anti-Islamic, it is but obvious but ISIS would have been stopped in it’s tracks long back.