The Ottoman massacres following the invasion of the Levant 1515-1516
With the beginning of the Ottoman military invasion to the Levant, most cities were taken over and their social structure were destroyed through impoverishment, expulsion and changing it demographically by bringing new citizens, in addition to committing genocides and indiscriminate killing.
In 1515, within one week 40,000 people fell in Aleppo and 15,000 in Maarrat al-Nu’man, northern Syria. In Damascus as well in 1516, about 10,000 people fell within three days. In the same year, Ottomans invaded Idlib suburbs, Hama, Homs and Hasakah resulting in a complete transformation of the demographic structure where people were killed, starved to death or escaped to other cities. The Ottomans did not let professions’ and industries’ owners to flee as they then were deported to Turkey.
Turkish settlement in the Levant (the Demographic Change)
Statistics differ about the size of the Turkish settlement in the Levant, but one of them goes to the fact that the Ottoman authorities brought in 90,000 Turkish families (about 1 million people) and let them inhabit the Levant with the aim of changing the demographic structure and making the Turks a majority. Although some of them were deported to Turkey after the independence of the Levant, large numbers settled and still there in both Iraq and Syria.
Ottomans’ crimes during the invasion of Egypt 1517
The Ottoman crimes in Egypt were not much different from their predecessors in the Levant. They might had been even more severe because Egypt was the center of the Mamluks and their main headquarters. The Ottoman army in Cairo and in all the cities it entered had looted, destroyed and burnt and then released prisoners and criminals from prisons to use them for looting and criminality. The looting included all precious metals, textiles, animals and foodstuffs. The Mamluks, the Circassians, and anyone suspected to be one of them, as well as some Bedouin Arabs, were arrested and hanged after being tortured. The statistics of the dead vary, where resources estimated the death toll of 10,000 people within four days, some other resources believe that these victims were killed in just one day. The Ottoman violations also reached mosques, shrines and tombs, in addition to the violation of the Islamic duties by deliberately eating during the day of Ramadan and drinking alcohol in the streets, stripping passersby of their clothes; abusing, enslaving the people of Cairo and forcing them to work with the Ottoman army, which was repeated in many places occupied by the Ottomans. As they did in the Levant, the Ottomans took the industries’ owners and craftsmen to Turkey, since the Turks had no experience in industry.
Attacking Damascus 1521
following the uprising of the Damascus governor Janbirdi al-Ghazali in 1520, after the death of Salim I, Sultan Suleiman Al-Qanuni sent his armies to Damascus. According to historian and teacher at Harvard University Philip Hitti, what happened to Damascus was much worse of what Tamerlane did. One third of the city was annihilated completely. Senior local state officials were sacked and Turks were assigned instead of them.
Attacking Acre 1775
According to official reports, the Ottoman army looted Acre’s safes and transferred them to Topkapı Palace. The lootings included nearly forty million piasters, and many jewelry, one was estimated, an Egyptian dagger, for hundred thousand piasters.
Al-Jawazi massacre 1816
It was committed by the Ottoman forces against al-Jawazi tribe in the city of Benghazi in the province of Burqa eastern Libya. More than ten thousand people from one tribe were killed, in retaliation for the city uprising against the rule of Karamanli dynasty and their refusal to pay taxes.
Attacking Najd 1818
The Ottoman Sultan entrusted the forces of Muhammad Ali Pasha, the governor of Egypt, with the elimination of the first Saudi state, where, his son’s forces, Ibrahim Pasha advanced and took control of most of Najd for 9 months, during which he committed heinous crimes against the princes, scientists, community leaders and the public. Then he returned to Egypt destroying everything he encountered on his way back of castles and fortresses, looting livestock and properties and destroying the fields. He left behind one of his commanders, Hussein Bek, who killed more than 230 men and looted their money and belongings, and then imposed heavy taxes on those who remained, and destroyed their farms.
Prince Abdullah bin Saud was sent to Cairo and from there to Astana, along with his senior associates, handcuffed, where they were executed. The Russian Embassy in Astana described the incident as follows:
“Last week, the Wahhabis leader, his minister and his imam who were captured in Diriyah and recently brought to the capital were beheaded. To further glorify the victory, the Sultan ordered on this day the convening of the council in the old palace in the capital. The three prisoners were brought to the palace tied in heavy chains and surrounded by a crowd of spectators. After the ceremony, the Sultan ordered them to be executed. The leader was beheaded in front of the main gate of St. Sophia, the minister’s neck was cut in front of the entrance to the Serail while the third was beheaded in one of the main markets in the capital.”
The forces of Ibrahim Pasha have committed – by direct orders from the Ottoman Sultan – extensive violations in the cities and towns of Najd, from robbing and vandalism, cutting off the ears of the dead and sending them to Astana, as well as the torture of princes and jurists through several means such as tying them in the nozzles of the cannons and firing shells, and then throwing their bodies to dogs.
The massacre of Baghdad 1831
The Ottomans occupied Baghdad for the second time in 1831 after the rebellion of Daoud Pasha Mamluk. Led by the appointed governor, Ali Reza Pasha, Ottomans committed a massacre against all the remaining Mamluks in the city.
The massacres against the Shiites of Iraq 1842-1843
This massacre came in response to the uprising in the city of Karbala against the violations of the Ottoman forces. The city was surrounded by Naguib Pasha’s forces who bombarded it with artillery, cut its palms and looted its properties. Statistics vary in death toll from 4,000 men, women and children to 9-10 thousand, while some sources say the number is over 24,000.
The massacre of Badr Khan – 1847
It was the result of a struggle for influence within the Sultanate after the British penetration. It claimed the lives of more than 10 thousand in the region of Hakkari, which is now within the Turkish state.
The massacres of Lebanon 1841-1860
these Massacres were committed against the people of Hasbaya, Shouf, Metn and Zahle, because of the international conflict in the region, which claimed the lives of more than 82 thousand Lebanese.
The sectarian conflict in Lebanon and Damascus 1860
The policies of the Ottoman Empire have based on feeding the elements of community division based on religious and sectarian basis, where few separated incidents had led to the explosion of the situation. The Ottoman authorities, however, failed to intervene to prevent them, and that resulted of killing 12 to 25 thousand in the region, along with looting properties, burning houses and the collapse of the economy of that region, where losses were estimated at 4 million gold liras.
Policies and violations of The Committee of Union and Progress
This committee’s policies, which began to penetrate the Ottoman Empire since the late nineteenth century, constitute the real face of Turkish racism towards Arabs in particular and towards all the occupied nationalities in general. Perhaps Erdogan’s extreme attitude in defending the criminal Fakhri Pasha is an expression of his defence of the racist policies of the Committee of Union and Progress at that period, especially after seizing power in 1908.
In other words, Erdogan was defending the most extreme forms of the Ottoman Empire, namely the pan-Turanism one, which was directly hostile to the Arabs, and tried to impose the Turkish identity on the Levant and the Hijaz, linguistically and culturally, which was known as the policy of Turkification, which later included, during the rule of Ataturk, Adhan and the holy Quran, without being able to apply them. The Unionists faced the demands of the Syrians to recognize the Arabic language and to grant administrative decentralization, and to make military service within the states of the Levant under the supervision of officers from the people of this region, with more repression against the Arabs.
That means that Arabs in the Levant did not push to topple the Ottoman state until they exhausted all the peaceful solutions, including the above demands. And here we can trace what Erdogan meant by mentioning the betrayal accusation towards the Arabs in his statement, which is in fact, the betrayal of his Unionists’ “ancestors”, whom he was defending.
The Unionists had suppressed the Arab intellectuals, either by arrest, liquidation or displacement, which led to a series of uprisings and revolutions. For instance, Aleppo in 1895, As-Suwayda in 1896 and 1906 and Beirut in 1903. In 1909 a revolution erupted from Bosra al-Sham and reached all Houran, the Bekaa valley and Beirut, where the rebels besieged trains, convoys and small Ottoman military garrisons, but were severely suppressed by the Sultanate and killed more than 6,000 people. Uprising reached its climax during the reign of the Ottoman governor of Damascus, Jamal Pasha, whose crimes spread throughout the Levant since 1915, which precipitated the Arab revolution (Shami-Hijaz) against the Ottoman Sultanate.
“No one knows how many of the sons of the Arab nation have been hanged in Syria, but in any case, they are thousands, adding to them the Arab officers and soldiers who were executed in the army,” says As’ad Khalil Dagher in his book The Arab Revolution.
Genocide of al-Mawajedah Clan – 1910
One of the Ottoman crimes is that took place against the town of Iraq (al-Karak), one of the Jordanian towns, as a result of the uprising of its people against Ottoman injustice. The Ottoman forces took the children and women as human shields to force the cavalry to surrender, and then gather the cavalry of al- Mawajedah clan as well as every male member of the clan, including the children. Without any civil or military trial, they tied them up and killed them and then threw their bodies in a cave that is still standing till our time, without being allowed to be buried! While the Sheikh of al- Mawajedah and his escort were thrown from the top of the castle. The Ottomans used to tie two knights to each other and threw them, or tied their necks to a large stone and cast them from the top of the castle walls. About 85-100 people were killed in this massacre, and the horses, supplies in the town were looted and everything else was burnt.
Oppression and displacement of the people of Medina (Safarbarlik) – 1917
The content of the tweet that has angered Erdogan, trying to deny the crimes of his “grandfathers” as he called them. The Ottoman governor, Fakhri Pasha, annexed Medina to the authority of the Ottoman Empire and displaced its people, leaving only around 140 men and several women. Then he took away all the contents of the holy Prophet’s room, and destroyed the wall around the tomb to loot the jewellery and money of the gifts of Abbasid Caliphs and Muslim princes, as well as of his forces climbing over the green dome to steal the golden crescent.
The Ottoman soldiers robbed thousands of the valuables of the Prophet’s Chamber, including the Jewel of the Holy Planet, the Prophet’s cloak, the Uthman ibn Affan’s copy of Quran, the contents of Aref Hekmat’s and al-Mahmudiyah’s libraries of rare manuscripts, all of which are currently in Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace.
Sheikh Muhammad al-Tayyib al-Sasi wrote in al-Qiblah newspaper in 1917 about the abuse, of the soldiers during the rule of Fakhri Pasha, to the tribesmen and Bedouins who had been bringing rice, millet, maize and other things for the people in the city who were under siege. However, the Turanist’s Turks prevented them and looted whatever they bring and then either put them in prisons or killed them.
The Turks also established a railway into Medina, exactly near Bab al-Salam. the construction’s burden was the demolish of Al-Ainia Street and many markets and houses. The aim was to convert the Prophet’s Mosque into a military fortress and a weapons store without regard to its sanctity.
Fakhri Pasha’s actions led to the outbreak of famine among the remaining women and children, till the point they had to eat grasses, alfalfa and animal remains. Women of the city were also forced to work with the Turkish army in carrying dusts and remnants of the train route.
Fakhri Pasha’s forces have committed an ethnic cleansing – according to the contemporary description – or in what is known as the mass deportation (Safarbarlik) to the rest of the people of the city, by arresting them and forcing them to leave via the Hijaz train. This had led to the dissipation of people and Families in every city the train had to stop, including Families in Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, Syria and Turkey to Bulgaria, Albania and several other areas in the Balkans.
We must mention here that the crime of forced deportation (Safarbarlik) has been committed by the Ottomans in all areas they occupied (Whether in the Arab countries, the Balkans or eastern Anatolia), but in Medina, however, the situation was much worse because of the severe effect on the social fabric of the city.
This barbaric behavior, which is similar to that of the invaders, had showed that the religious legitimacy that the Sultanate has been disguise behind over the past centuries is no longer important when the Turks realized that their occupation was coming to an end.
The famine of Lebanon 1917
The Ottomans besieged and starved Lebanon in 1917, fearing of using it by the Allies against them. Which means that the Ottoman forces launched a pre-emptive war against the Lebanese people (Muslims and Christians), which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of the 400,000 inhabitants of the region. The French intelligence estimated the total casualties of around 110 thousand Lebanese in four regions only, while the German estimates suggested that the number was 200 thousand in Syria and Lebanon. The American Red Cross’ estimates, however, have exceeded 250,000. The blockade prevented the entry of foodstuffs (mainly wheat) from Syria to Mount Lebanon, and the confiscation of Lebanese wheat to feed the Ottoman army, and we must not forget that this was also accompanied by the forced deportations (Safarbarlik) as we mentioned above.
Assyrian genocide (Sayfo) (during and after World War I)
This refers to the Ottoman mass slaughter of the Assyrian, Syriac and Chaldeans population in the Levant, Iraq and south-eastern Turkey who were indigenous inhabitants of the region. This happened when the Ottoman forces, with the help of semi-regular armed groups, attacked and killed hundreds of thousands of them and displaced many others from their original areas of south-eastern Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq. Statistics on the victims vary between 250 to 500 thousand people, while some sources suggest that the number is more than 750 thousand, through several massacres between 1915 and 1923. Among them are the massacres of Deir ez-Zor, Diyarbakir and Tur Abdin, and throughout Northeast Syria. This had also accompanied by the destruction of many cities, burning lands and confiscating properties as well as displacing those who remained alive. This, along with the massacres against Armenians and Greeks (with a total of 2 million victims), reduced the proportion of Christians in the Ottoman Empire from 33% in 1915 to 0.1% at present.
The crime of Anal Impalement torture (the Stake)
The Impalement torture was extensively used by the Ottomans in Egypt and the Levant. They were the masters in making it as they conducted many studies on its use. The Ottoman state paid hefty rewards to the skilled executioner who could prolong the victim’s life with the spear inside him for as long as possible, that might reach to a one full day! This type of torture happens when a stake is pushed slowly all way through the anus to the top of the right shoulder without affecting the vital parts of the human body such as the heart and the lungs, which might lead to the death of the “offender.” However, if the offender died during the operation, the executioner shall be tried for gross negligence and may be subjected to the same punishment as a punishment for his neglection.
In the previous brief review of the most prominent crimes committed by the Ottoman forces in the Arab countries, the following notes can be mentioned:
– Violations and crimes were not limited to one group or one Arab region, all have suffered.
-The volume of violations and crimes witnessed a sharp rise at the beginning of the Ottoman occupation of the Arab countries, at its end and during the various Arab revolutions.
-The insistence of the Ottomans to adhere to the occupation of two main regions in the Arab countries: the Levant and the Hijaz; the first was their gateway to the entire Arab countries, and the second to give them religious “legitimacy”. Therefore, their crimes were more severe in these two regions towards any attempt for liberation.
-It is also important to note that the Ottoman Sultanate, with its criminal behaviour towards all nationalities, religions and sects, has given Islam a criminal dimension, which we are still trying to separate them from each other, and to give it back its civilized dimension on which Arab civilization was founded, with its vast religious and national diversity. As the Ottomans’ crimes against the peoples were contrary to all Islamic and humanitarian rules.
According to these principles, which cannot be all mentioned here, the following recommendations can be made:
– Arab history must be revised to get rid of all forgery, by assigning research institutions and Arab groups to this task.
– A special Arab institution must be created to monitor the crimes committed against the Arabs by the Ottomans and others.
– These crimes must be taken to the international organizations in concern, as other nations did.
– Putting legislation that protects Arab history from fraud and imposes penalties on those who propagate lies, as happened in all other nations.
– Commemorating the victims of the Ottomans’ crimes – and others – in the Arab cities.
– Demanding the Turkish authorities – current or subsequent – to recognize their crimes and apologize for them and provide appropriate compensation to countries or communities that suffered from the Ottoman occupation.
– Allocating public programs to raise the level of social awareness.
At the end of this study, we are entitled to turn to the grandson of the criminal Fakhri Pasha, Erdogan, who chose to cut off history and to start it at the time of his extinct grandfather, and ask him where his ancestors were when our ancestors from all the Arab tribes spread enlightenment in the dark Europe and consolidated Islam throughout Asia? How could his ancestors have settled in our country without the tolerance of Islam that our forefathers had established?
Therefore, we ask Erdogan: Who is the ignorant, traitor and criminal of the human civilization?
Al Mezmaah Studies & Research Centre
16 January 2018