World War One Through Arab Eyes
The Ottomans At the beginning of the 20th-century mankind encountered extremely dreadful World War, which was generally characterized by periods of bloody battles, innumerable casualties, unprecedented hostilities, destructions and humanitarian crisis.
Subsequent reorganization of the world order resulted in the collapse of huge empires, like German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman. Though most of the collision took place in Europe, the war severely affected people all over the world, Middle East nations as well. The reason for getting the Ottomans involved into the conflict, their role, and post-war destiny is a question of our consideration. As an enormous empire, the Ottomans dominion spread on areas from Mesopotamia and the Red Sea to North Africa and Balkan territories. Rapidly gaining strength the European countries started to undermine the Ottoman power, supporting nationalist independence movements within the empire.
Despite the diversity of population most of the Arabs remained loyal to the caliph sultan, but the armed revolt executed by the Young Turks forced emperor to abdicate. Liberal reforms, initiated by the Young Turks, presupposed modernization of the empire institutions. Instead, reforms caused weakening of the sultan power and resulted in disillusionment among the public. The loss of territories during the Balkan Wars triggered the decline of the empire. Hoping to consolidate and strengthen the state, the Ottoman leaders allied with Germany, which predetermined their place in the ongoing conflict. It is claimed that the Ottoman army and the Arabs suffered far more than any of the continental countries.
Trying to recruit more soldiers and build a strong army the Ottomans repressed all nationalist movements. Being unsuccessful in military campaigns and suffering defeat in major battles in 1915 (Suez Canal, Egypt), Ottoman leaders accused Arab nationalists of treason. It led to ethnic cleansing, death penalties, long-jail term sentences among the intelligentsia. The war also affected ordinary men in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. Corps and livestock were requisitioned for military needs causing famine and displacement of people. It had the disastrous effect, as entire settlements were wiped out and millions died of starvation. One more horror was presented by numerous diseases, like typhus, dysentery, fever, malaria, which caused very high casualty rate among civilians.
Simultaneously with temporary military achievements at Suez Canal, Gallipoli, in Mesopotamia and Palestine, Arab commanders committed catastrophic errors in Eastern Anatolia against the Russians. Poorly armed and equipped, tens of thousands of Ottoman soldiers perished. Commanders blamed the defeat on Armenians, who were claimed had sided with the Russians and were recognized by the Arabs as potential traitors and betrayers. As a result of what today is known as the “Armenian Genocide”, eight hundred Armenians died and more than a million were deported.
The disastrous consequences of World War
One gave rise to three nationalist’s movements, which disintegrated the Ottoman Empire and changed the map in the Middle East. Turkish movement led by Mustafa Atatürk gave birth to modern Turkey; Zionism with David Ben-Gurion at the head founded Israel; the …