Tag Archives: Ottoman Empire

Ceremonies To Mark 100th Anniversary Of Armenian Massacre

A cleric kisses an icon during the canonization ceremony for the victims of the Armenian massacres in Echmiadzin, outside Yerevan, on April 23.

Commemorations ceremonies will be held across the world on April 24 to mark the massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 100 years ago.

Hundreds of thousands are expected to join a procession to a hilltop memorial in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, to lay flowers at the eternal flame at the center of a monument commemorating the victims.

The Russian and French presidents, Vladimir Putin and Francois Hollande, are expected to be among heads of state to travel to Armenia for the commemorations. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will lead the U.S. presidential delegation.

In Istanbul, a service expected to be attended by Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir is to be held at the Armenian Patriarchate.

Commemorations will take place in other cities with large Armenian diaspora communities such as Paris and Los Angeles.

The events will take place after more than a week of tense diplomatic storms between Turkey and the international community.

The slaughter and deportation of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I is considered by many historians and several nations, including Russia and France, as genocide.

Turkey objects, saying that Armenians died in much smaller numbers and because of civil strife rather than a planned Ottoman government effort to annihilate the Christian minority.

The Armenian Apostolic Church made saints the victims of the massacres and deportations during a ceremony outside the Echmiadzin Cathedral, near Yerevan, on April 23.

“Over a million Armenians were deported, killed, and tortured,” Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin II, said at the ceremony. “But in the face of this they stayed faithful to Christ. They were persecuted for their faith in Christ.”

At the end of the ceremony, bells tolled in Armenian churches around the world.

It was the first time in 400 years that the Armenian Apostolic Church has authorized any canonizations.

Later on April 23, German President Joachim Gauck described the massacre as genocide, a move likely to cause outrage in Turkey.

Speaking at a church service in Berlin, Gauck said, “The fate of the Armenians stands as exemplary in the history of mass exterminations, ethnic cleansing, deportations and yes, genocide, which marked the 20th Century in such a terrible way.”

Gauck, who holds a largely ceremonial role, added that Germans may share “partial guilt in the genocide of the Armenians” as an ally of Turkey in World War I, since German military advisors had been aware and were involved in the planning.

His comments came as the German parliament, the Bundestag, prepared to debate a motion on the 1915 massacres on April 24.

On April 22, Turkey recalled its ambassador to Austria after parties in parliament issued a joint declaration describing the massacres of Armenians as genocide.

On April 12, Pope Francis angered Turkey when quoting part of a statement from John Paul II and the Armenian patriarch in 2000, referring to the event as “the first genocide of the 20th century.”

In a statement on April 23, U.S. President Barack Obama described the massacre of ethnic Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 100 years ago as “terrible carnage,” but avoided the term genocide.

Addressing a meeting on April 23, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “The Armenian claims on the 1915 events, and especially the numbers put forward, are all baseless and groundless.”

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reiterated Turkey’s stance that the killings were not genocide, but said the country will “share the pain” of Armenians.

In an interview with CNN Turk television, broadcast on April 23, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian said “reconciliation between the two peoples will have to come about through Turkey recognizing the genocide.”

Turkey is hosting world leaders on April 24 to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Gallipoli between Allied troops and forces of the Ottoman Empire. The events will be attended by Britain’s Prince Charles and the prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand.

Sarkisian has accused Ankara of deliberately “trying to divert world attention” from the Yerevan commemorations.


Why the Middle East’s borders will never be the same again

46by – Scott Anderson

Scott Anderson is a veteran war correspondent who has reported from Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and many other strife-torn countries. A frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine, his work has also appeared in Vanity Fair and Esquire. His latest book is “Lawrence in Arabia.”

(CNN) — Many observers gazing upon the current bloodshed in the Middle East have wondered aloud if we are seeing the disintegration of the nation-state boundaries established in the region nearly a century ago. But the crises in Iraq and Syria have simply laid bare a phenomenon that has been under way for quite some time.

What’s more, this process is now almost certainly irreversible, and will lead to a radically different Middle Eastern map than we have known.

In the heady early days of the Arab Spring, many people imagined that the Arab world might finally be entering a period of greater democratization, one that would inevitably lead — so the thinking went — to greater social unity.

That didn’t happen. The “people’s revolution” in Egypt was subverted, and the fledgling democracy movement in Bahrain was crushed with Saudi military assistance. But more devastating than that is the ongoing fracturing of nations into their historical component parts.

The world may be focused on the rifts in Iraq between its Shiite, Sunni and Kurd communities — but the same “Balkanization” has already occurred in Libya, which is now effectively split into three de facto states. Almost surely next on the chopping block is Syria.

Syria’s savage civil war has divided the nation into a patchwork of government and rebel-held zones, and there is now talk within Bashar al-Assad‘s embattled regime of slicing off the Alawite-dominated western portions of Syria to create a more defendable mini-state.

READ MORE: Map of Iraq’s sectarian divide

Just how did we get here? To answer that, one would do well to look at a map of the region during the Ottoman Empire.

In order to keep the peace and hold together their fantastically diverse and far-flung realm, the Ottoman sultans devised a clever system known as the “millyet.” So long as they pledged ultimate allegiance to the sultan and paid their taxes, the empire’s various religious and ethnic communities were allowed to largely govern themselves.

It was hardly a trouble-free arrangement, but this system of autonomy was probably what enabled the weak Ottoman Empire, the proverbial “sick man of Europe,” to survive into the twentieth century.

That all ended in 1914, when the Ottomans joined forces with Germany and Austro-Hungary in World War I. To the rival empires of Great Britain and France, the Ottoman lands now became known as “the Great Loot,” the last great frontier for European control and economic exploitation.

Of course, Britain and France first had to win the war — and well into 1915, they displayed scant ability to do so. In desperation, the British forged a secret agreement with Emir Hussein, the ruler of the Hejaz region of western Arabia, to raise an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks. In return, Hussein and his rebels were promised independence for virtually the entire Arab world.

READ MORE: The terror group taking Iraq by storm

No sooner had Britain made the pact with Hussein, however, than it surreptitiously entered into negotiations with France. Under the terms of the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement, the future Arab independent nation was to be relegated to the wastelands of the Arabian Peninsula — oil hadn’t been discovered there yet — while Britain and France would take possession of most everything else. Continuing in this vein, Britain also penned the Balfour Declaration, encouraging Jewish emigration into the Palestine region of Syria, an initiative that would ultimately prove to be the catalyst for the creation of Israel.

This double-cross of the Arabs was not fully revealed until the postwar Paris Peace Conference, then put to paper in the 1920 San Remo Agreement. Despite the furious protestations of Arab nationalists, greater Syria was divided into four parts — Palestine, Trans-Jordan, Lebanon and modern-day Syria — with the British taking the first two, the French the latter.

Even more volatile, as events would soon prove, were British machinations in Iraq. In their first negotiations with Emir Hussein, the British had asked for “special administrative arrangements” in those southern regions of Mesopotamia where oil had been discovered. But by the war’s end, oil had also been discovered in the north and, with the promise of Arab independence long discarded, the British simply joined three of the Ottoman’s semi-autonomous regions together and called it a country.

Through their blithe hubris, British and French imperialists had built themselves a volcano and then sat atop it. For the next three decades, they managed to weather the periodic eruptions of Arab rage by propping up pliant local leaders or rushing in troops to quell the inevitable revolts.

But by the early 1950s, their sway in the region had collapsed along with their empires. Into the vacuum stepped a generation of ardently nationalist military dictatorships that would eventually stretch from Libya all the way to Iraq.

But how did this transmogrify into the chaos and dissolution we see in the region today? I think the answer lies in a subtler, more psychological, legacy of the “order” that was imposed by the European powers a century ago.

READ MORE: How Iraq crisis may redraw borders

Ever since that grand betrayal, the Arab world has tended to define itself more by what it is opposed to — colonialism, Zionism, Western political and cultural imperialism — than what it aspires to, and even if Arab leaders have capitalized on this culture of grievance to channel popular discontent away from their own misrule, it is a mindset that has become internalized.

In twenty-five years of covering conflict zones around the world, I’ve found that guerrillas or dissidents most everywhere can articulate what they are fighting for; in the Middle East, by contrast, it is almost always an articulation of what they are fighting against. One result, I believe, is that there’s little in the way of consensus going forward once the existing order of things — artificially-imposed or otherwise — has been swept aside.

Instead, a vacuum is created, and the “Arab street” fills it by turning to those allegiances that predated the object of their rage: their faith, their clans, their tribes. While the result is less devastating in a place with a strong national identity like Egypt — there, the lack of consensus simply means the “people’s revolution” can be gradually smothered — in an “artificial” nation like Iraq, a centrifugal force takes over that, once given full power, is almost impossible to reverse.

We are now at that point in Syria. Since none of its warring factions can be militarily defeated — and the various regional powers backing their respective proxies will see to that — the slaughter there will continue until the creation of de facto mini-nations.

In Iraq, Kurdistan is already independent in all but name, and has no reason to give it name lest its chief protector, Turkey, become alarmed. The only larger question is whether ISIS — the Sunni terror group that has taken Iraq by storm in recent weeks — will manage to consolidate its current hold in the center of the country and join it to the great swath of eastern Syria it controls. Perversely, there may soon come a time when both the Shiite-dominated regime in Baghdad and the Alawite-dominated one in Damascus both decide such a terror-state might be the best way to be rid of their Sunni enemies.

Surely the biggest surprise thus far has been the relative calm in Jordan, a nation cut from whole cloth by the European powers after World War I. Despite concerns that it too will fall into the abyss, Jordan might well be saved by the need for all its warring neighbors to have a “Switzerland” in the neighborhood.

What might explode next? Here, the old map of the Middle East actually offers some solace. We’re simply starting to run out of places that the European imperialists screwed up.

Questioning Erdoğan government’s motives is not treason


It seems that it is easier for the Turkish government to put the blame on an external source, such as the media, opposition parties or foreign governments, rather than answering legitimate questions and admitting failure on many Turkish foreign policy choices.

The media in Turkey as well as opposition parties have questioned the motives of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan‘s government following the shooting down of a Syrian military aircraft just a week before the local elections and the prime minister trumpeting that Turkey will not hesitate to retaliate in the event of an attack on the tomb of Süleyman Şah, a slice of Turkish territory in Syria, attracting unnecessary attention to an area that was probably unknown to many until recently, and what would appear to some as him encouraging an attack and to gain nationalist votes in the local elections.

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has gone as far as having Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu accuse the Turkish media outlets of treason and acting as if they are the spokespeople of the Syrian regime.

In the latest incident, two Syrian MiG-23 warplanes were recently warned four times when they began flying close to Turkish airspace, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) said in a statement on Monday, and one was shot down by Turkish F-16 fighter jets in line with Turkey’s rules of engagement. Prime Minister Erdoğan and other Turkish officials say that the warplane was violating Turkish airspace by about one-and-a-half kilometers at the Turkey-Syria border.

“The downing of a Syrian military aircraft, while perhaps explicable in terms of the so-called ‘rules of engagement’ declared by Turkey, is undoubtedly an exaggerated response to an alleged airspace violation,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Faruk Loğoğlu told Sunday’s Zaman.

Following the start of civil war in Syria, Turkey developed rules of engagement stating that Syrian military aircraft should not come within five kilometers of the Turkey-Syria border. The Syrian military aircraft was targeting certain terrorist areas in Kasab in Syria when it was shot down by the Turkish F-16 fighter jet, according to various press reports.

‘Aiding and abetting terrorism in Syria’

Loğoğlu also said that the move is “probably inconsistent with the principle of legitimate self-defense as enshrined in the UN Charter” and he added, “If the Syrians claim that the Syrian air force is fighting terrorists in the region, then the Turkish action, in effect, also means aiding and abetting terrorism in Syria.”

“The more disturbing problem in connection to this is that Erdoğan and Davutoğlu are daring to play dangerous games with Turkey’s national security and acting as if they seek an armed conflict with Syria,” said Loğoğlu. “This scenario, if actually a plan put in action, is aimed at diverting public attention away from the corruption and bribery allegations and is a cheap ploy to make a national hero out of Erdoğan,” he said.

The area surrounding the tomb of Süleyman Şah was relatively unknown to most Turks, until the Turkish government drew attention to it recently, saying that it is the only Turkish territory outside Turkey’s borders. Süleyman Şah, who drowned in the Euphrates River, is the grandfather of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire. The area in Syria where he is buried is considered Turkish territory under international agreements. Beginning in mid-March, President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu threatened anyone who targets this area with Turkish retaliation.

Erdoğan said, “Attacking the tomb of Süleyman Şah means attacking Turkey,” in a recent TV interview.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) threatened Turkey, according to recent press reports, and demanded in a YouTube video that Turkey lower its flag and withdraw its troops protecting the site within three days. The video was uploaded on March 20 but has since been removed by YouTube due to its threatening content.

The criticism of the Turkish government’s foreign policy choices does not just come from within Turkey. The editorial board of the influential US newspaper The Washington Post wrote on March 25 that the Turkish prime minister is acting desperately to hold onto his power.

“Erdoğan tried and failed to shut down Twitter in his country last week. Half a million tweets from Turks were recorded in the first 10 hours after the attempted ban, including one from President Abdullah Gül. On Sunday, the Turkish military had better luck in targeting two Syrian MiG-23 planes that Turkey said briefly penetrated its airspace: One that failed to heed warnings to turn around was shot down,” said the editorial.

The Turkish government also announced on Thursday that it will block access to YouTube, citing national security concerns, following a leaked audio recording that was posted on YouTube by a number of different usernames around noon on Thursday. The audio reveals an allegedly top secret conversation between Davutoğlu, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan and Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler.

Erdoğan confirmed the meeting at a public rally in Diyarbakır on Thursday, saying that the wiretapping of his foreign minister’s office is “immoral, cowardly, dishonest and mean.”

The conversation in the uploaded audio recording focuses on whether the Turkish military should enter Syria to protect the tomb of Süleyman Şah. The voice allegedly belonging to Davutoğlu can be heard saying that “the prime minister said this [the area where the tomb is located] must be evaluated as an opportunity at this juncture.”

When Fidan asked in the recording why they were pushing for an attack on the tomb of Süleyman Şah, Davutoğlu allegedly responded by saying that the pretext for an incursion must be acceptable to the international community.

The Turkish foreign minister also allegedly said, “Without a strong pretext, we cannot tell US Secretary of State [John] Kerry that we need to take severe measures.” Davutoğlu then apparently added that Kerry had asked him whether Turkey was determined to strike Syria.

According to the audio files, Fidan allegedly said, “If needed, I will dispatch four men to Syria. [Then] I could have them fire eight mortar shells at the Turkish side and create an excuse for war. We can also have them attack the tomb of Süleyman Şah as well.”

Sinirlioğlu was also seemingly recorded as saying that Turkey’s national security has turned into cheap material for domestic political consumption. Gen. Güler allegedly warned, “What we are going to do is a direct cause for war.”

Today’s Zaman

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