Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 9th, 2013

Story of Turkish dictator Mustapha Kemal “Ataturk”: As in Kenize Mourad book (Part 1)

The young general, Mustapha Kemal, was the hero of Turkey during WWI. He was the only military leader who successfully confronted two foreign armies:

1. Against the counsel of his superiors, Kemal defied the British troops and prevented them from occupying the Capital Istanbul. The British were getting ready to push forward from the Dardanelles and Kemal’s under equipped and outnumbered army stopped the British in Gallipoli.

2. Kemal recaptured the two cities of Bitlis and Mouch from the Czarist Russian armies (where genocides against Armenians were taking place by the Turkish troops).

Mustapha Kemal was nicknamed by the members of the royal women “Golden Rose” because of his blond hair.

Kemal was Albanian by origin and born in Salonika. His father was a low level custom employee in the Ottoman Empire.

Mustapha was considered handsome and arrogant. He enjoyed light skin, high cheek bones, blue eyes, and blond hair…

Sultan Vahiddedine liked to ask his judgement on the spirit of the army and listen to his non conformist opinions: the then young colonel was his aid de camp while visiting the Kaiser of Germany in 1917.

He had asked the hand of the Sultan’s favorite daughter Sabiha Sultan, and was eventually turned down while resuming the fight in Anatolia.

On March 16, 1920, the allied forces occupied Istanbul under the command of the British general Sir Charles Harington, nicknamed Gen. Tim.

The Turkish soldiers and officers left the capital and joined the resistance army in Anatolia under the command of Mustapha Kemal.

The occupying forces placed warning signs of “Death to anyone who hides a rebel” and the military police was after the woman author  and orator Halide Edib.

Former ministers and high officials were exiled to Malta.

While Kemal was organizing the resistance in Anatolia, Sabiha Sultana was wed to the Ottoman prince Omer Farouk.  Omer was from the branch in the royal family that was deposed by a military coup by the Young Turks officers.  He served as an imperial guard to the Prussian emperor and fought on the western front.

As Omer returned to Istanbul, he was attached as “aide de camp” to the Sultan and met with Sabiha and they fell crazily in love. The wedding put an end to the rivalry between the Abdul Mejid and Abu Aziz royal families.

The British pressured the Sultan to declare Kemal a traitor and to dispatch a Caliphate army to squelch the resisting Turkish army in Anatolia.  The caliphate army has initial successes but was defeated by Kemal’s army.

Mustapha was getting ready to try an attempt to reoccupy Istanbul, but the Greek army launched 8 divisions and Kemal’s army had to retreat.

In January 1920, Ismet Pasha blocked the advances of the Greek armies.

The Turkish peasants were very suspicious of Atatuk: They could not believe that Kemal was resisting to preserve the Caliphate and refused to cooperate.

Ataturk tried to lure the hereditary prince Abdul Medjid to ally with him. The prince wavered long enough for the British to get wind of the project and confined the prince to house arrest.

Prince Omer Farouk, the nationalist “Thunder”, managed to land in Anatolia, but Ataturk thanked him in a letter dispatched from Ankara and sent him packing to Istanbul.

The peace treaty signed in Versailles allocated the eastern part of Turkey to the new State of Armenia, part of the western region to Greece, particularly the city of Izmir, the southern regions of mostly Kurds were placed under French mandated power, and Istanbul was placed under international mandate.

Eventually, Mustapha Kemal counter attacked and regained all the Turkish territories that the peace treaty signed in Versailles dismembered Turkey of.

As  “Ataturk” (father of the Turks) snatched power by driving the Greek troops out of Turkey and all the foreign occupying armies vacated Turkey, the new dictator set about to enforce a secular State on the Turkish people:

1. He abolished the Caliphate and forced secular institutions

2.  Forbade women to veil their faces in public institutions

3. Forced the Latin characters to substitute the Arabic alphabet

4. Pressured France to cede the Syrian province of Iskandaroun to Turkey, which was renamed Hatai. France failed to keep its responsibility as a mandated power over Syria to retain the territory intact from foreign powers.

5. Ataturk burned the Christian houses and enterprises in Iskandarone and forced the Christian Syrian, Lebanese and Armenian to transfer to Syria and Lebanon.

6. This dictator moved the capital of Turkey to Ankara. In this quaint village, Ataturk built the government ministries and institutions and transferred the public employees to Ankara.

Note 1: Part of Ataturk biography was taken from Kenize Mourad book “From the Departed Princess“. Mourad published several books on her origin and was a specialist grand reporter in Middle-East affairs and India subcontinent for over 12 years.

Note 2: The French and Italian troops in Istanbul tacitly aided the resistance forces to steal weapons from the warehouses and cooperated in smuggling arms and ammunition to Ataturk army. Why?

France was upset that England got effective mandated power over Turkey, rich oil Iraq, Egypt, and Palestine. France was allocated just mandated power over Syria, completely surrounded by British power.

Italy was expecting to get the city of Izmir and its province, but England turned this city over to the Greek troops.

Binary Beirut in the eyes of western media: Fashion or war?

Binary Beirut: Perpetually partying or at war

Either Lebanon is a terrorist-infested, war-ridden hell,  or the Paris of the East.

For example, in a sentence that expresses the article’s main idea, this western journalist sets up  a binary: “Beirut traditionally has been described as the Middle East’s most  fashionable city – but in recent decades the country has been better known for  conflict than couture, especially today with the civil war in Syria.”

 Shirine Saad published in The National this October 5,  2013 “Through western eyes, Beirut is perpetually partying or at war

Last week, the day after Lebanese president Michel Suleiman met Barack Obama  at the United Nations to discuss the Syrian conflict, The New York Times thought  it timely to publish an article titled In Beirut, Where Fashion Lives  Dangerously.

The article discussed the apparently innocuous question of the survival of  couture in a conflict-ridden country. It framed Beirut’s couturiers in the  context of a paradigm that most Western readers expect when reading about  Lebanon: the war.

The journalist began by describing an explosion, then quoting a young  couturier: “‘It sounded like a bomb,’ said [Krikor] Jabotian, who grew up in the  city during the civil war that raged in Lebanon from 1975 to 1990 and started  his label there five years ago. ‘But we just kept working. That’s just how we  work in Beirut: expect the unexpected.’”

There was more of this familiar contrast throughout the rest of the article.  On one hand, terror and explosions. On the other, dreamy gowns, clouds of  chiffon, pearls and satin – and a culture of resilience in the face of  inevitable disaster.

On one hand, terrifying chaos, monstrous carnage, a doomed destiny of  violence. On the other, French couture; luxury, escapism and sophistication.

Conflict or couture?

This article falls into a tradition of western  coverage of Lebanon that reduces the country to a clash between barbarism and  western-style liberalism, attempting to create a causal link between the two and  ultimately failing to grasp the deep history and many layers of complexity in  contemporary Lebanon.

Beirut is a labyrinthine web of religions, cultures, political parties and  socio-economic strata, all of which are the result of centuries of various  domination, geopolitical struggles and socioeconomic crises.

Anyone attempting  to write about Beirutis’ reality today must understand and explain this context.

By setting up this simplistic binary opposition, the journalist defines the  Lebanese as the other – which cannot be contained or understood outside  pre-established categories.

Beirut, in this Western construct, is foreign and  exotic. It is the most sophisticated city in the Middle East – and yet it is  ravaged by war. Behind these contrasts are a way of viewing Lebanon that is fundamentally Orientalist, fundamentally “othering”.

Beirut cannot merely be a  city, in the way of Paris or New York are cities, collections of living,  breathing people. Instead, it has to permanently be a “symbol” of something, a  reflection of a greater struggle.

The language of the article – which is  symptomatic of a wider narrative – suggests that Beirut is always torn between  these two longings, this oriental barbarism and the western sophistication.

The  idea that Beirut could merely exist on its own terms, that it could be a city in  and of itself and not permanently striving to be something else, is alien to the  West.

In the midst of a week of crucial and rare diplomatic dialogue, such articles must be read in the context of the ideological struggle between the West and the  Middle East.

There are serious political issues in Lebanon and they provide the context for why the country is riven by conflict.

But in the New York Times article,  they are ignored. Rather than place the resilience of fashion in the context of  the city and the country, the piece presents Beirut as if it is permanently at  war.

But war is not a permanent part of the Lebanese national psyche; it is an  alien event that came to Lebanon.

And the roots of it go far back into history.

Page 2 of 2

Historically, the tiny land of Lebanon has been manipulated and fought over  by world powers seeking access to the East.

When the French and English sliced up the Levant as part of their plans for regional hegemony, France made sure to  draw the borders between Syria and Greater Lebanon to create a Christian majority on the coast and mountains, which they then courted, creating an elite  that ruled the country and aggravating sectarian tensions.

For years, Lebanon was known as the Paris of the East, the Saint Tropez of the  East, the Switzerland of the East, a country where you could ski and swim in the  same day – with sexy, couture-clad women shaking champagne bottles and  belly-dancing belts in your face. It was an exotic yet friendly East, far from  the untamed orient of the movies and novels. It was Christian. It was  western.

Then the civil war started and images of a tanned Jean Paul Belmondo lounging  at a pool were suddenly replaced by scenes of slaughter, grenades, bombs and  bloodshed.

For 20 years news networks and papers filled their pages with  analyses of the civil conflict, which seemed to everyone – including Lebanese,  who still call the war “the events” as if to erase its monstrous scar – gruesome  and unfathomable.

The Lebanon that we were proud of, an ancient and tolerant land of history  and culture, a complex web of religions, languages and sensibilities, morphed into a never-ending, grueling news report. Lebanon died.

And then, as the cliché says, the phoenix rose from its ashes and the city restored its bullet-scarred façades, blasting skeletons of the city and  replacing them with hotels, restaurants, bars, cabarets, luxury boutiques, valet  parking, high towers, all eager to restore Beirut’s place as a choice  tourist destination.

The media began to promote the city again, reassuring weary readers with sexy clichés.

Once again, Beirut was the Paris of the East! The city of all sins! Of  partying with sexy girls on rooftop bars!

Only, this time the clichés were even  more alluring. What’s more thrilling than a war-torn city partying away to bury  the horrors of human atrocity? Tourists flocked in, lured by the mix of danger  and Mediterranean hedonism.

They called it living on the edge.

But Lebanon fell into the darkness again when, at a time of revolutions and  calls for change in the region, the Syrian regime abruptly shut down its voices of dissent, drowning the country into a tragic – and seemingly endless –  war.

And, among images of gas-massacred children and despairing refugees, as  frustratingly ineffective world powers convened to discuss solutions, The New  York Times thought it pertinent to ask: “So what is the point of fashion in  Beirut now?

Surely the newspaper could – and should – have asked many other questions.

But perhaps the worst sin is that of omission: the exclusion of the complex,  subtle and nuanced reality of Lebanon today. We are fed up with being reduced to  stale clichés.

A journalist I know once said that the world’s perception of the Middle East  is dictated by TV news. I would say that it is the media in general that shows  what it claims is the reality, and that reality is dictated by norms, by ideas  about what a place such as Beirut represents and how it can be reported.

Western, and especially American, media treats Lebanon in a way it would  never report on another western country, constantly surprised to find Beirutis  doing what millions of Lebanese, Arabs and people around the world do: dance,  fall in love, create art, make a living.

What truly matters is that Beirut has  always been one of the region’s thriving centres, a great model of plurality,  openness, tolerance and relative democracy. A city of ideas and change. This is  the Beirut we need to fight for, both from the inside and from afar.

Shirine Saad is a Brooklyn-based writer on culture and lifestyle. She is the  author of Boho Beirut: a Guide to the Middle East’s Most Sophisticated City and  is working on her next book Boho Brooklyn

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