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article imageReview: ‘The Ottomans’ Special

By Alexander Baron     Oct 22, 2013 in Politics
In the third and final episode of this series on the Ottoman Empire, Rageh Omaar charts its rapid decline and its relevance today.
The first episode introduced us to the Ottomans, and their accomplishments. This is not only the final episode, it is the most controversial, or rather it is the one that covers the most controversial issues, in particular the Armenian Question, which some call genocide while others do not, and the break up of the Empire after the Great War to reward those Arabs who had supported the Allied cause. This saw too the creation of many completely artificial states, including Iraq, which has existed in its modern form only since the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920. Then there was of course the not so little matter of Zionism, and the conflict between Greece and Turkey, which saw the Turks victorious, but led ironically to the end of the Empire that had spanned eight centuries and twenty-two generations.
The reforms of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in the new Turkey were no less controversial. While his championing of women's rights was to be welcomed, there was also the little matter of switching the Islamic calendar to the Western, the use of the Latin alphabet, and, well, best not to mention alcohol. Kemal also ordered a new Turkish translation of the Holy Qur'an in order to make it accessible to ordinary people.
Atatürk's reforms may have been both welcome and successful, but he brooked no opposition, and was not afraid to execute opponents. Then, the biggest issue for modern Turkey, the Kurds, who were violently opposed to their integration into a united Turkey that would strip them of their national and racial identity. By far the most controversial of Atatürk's reforms though was the abolition of the Caliphate, a reform that reverberated not simply within Turkey but throughout the Islamic world.
Today, Turkey remains an enigma, the country that more than any other has been held up as the modern face of Islam, where religion and secular democracy meet. Obviously not everyone sees things this way, but you can't please everyone all the time. It may be another hundred years before the world can judge properly; that is not something that need concern anyone alive today, but just in case you hadn't noticed, our leaders have their hands full trying to sort out the mess that is Syria, and all the other problems that are the result in part of the fall of a once mighty empire that lasted six hundred years, and that for better or worse is no more.
Captain Blood
More about Ottoman empire, Islam, Rageh omaar, mustafa kemal ataturk, Armenian genocide
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