Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 6th, 2013

Story of an Absolute Dictator: Turkey’s Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Part 2.

You may read Part 1:

On June 13, 1921, The Greek King Constantine arrived to Izmir with an army of fresh 85,000 strong, and on August 13, the Greek army launched an offensive toward Ankara where Mustafa Kemal had his headquarter.

There was panic in Ankara and Kemal got himself the rank of “Generalissimo” or Field-marshal, a rank reserved for the Sultan. Kemal decided that the last natural defensive line, 100 km from Ankara, would be River Sakarya.

During 22 days and nights the battle raged, and on Sept. 11, the Greek army retreated.

For an entire year, the military lines were stable and quiet. Finally, on August 26, 1922, Kemal launched his counter-offensive and recaptured the cities of Aydin, Manisa, Usak…

By September 9, the troops of Kemal entered Izmir. On Oct. 11, the Greek navy repatriated its troops.

The French ambassador Franklin Bouillon announced the retreat of the French mandated power from the region of Cilicia.

Shortly after, Kemal abolished the Sultan political system and replaced it with a Republic. He forced the hands of opposition in the Parliament in majority to vote against the Sultanat.

The Ottoman monarch, his extended family members and his retinue found their civil list of stipends drastically reduced.

The institution of Caliph of the Commander of the Moslem believers was not cancelled, not yet.

Caliph Abdul Majid, around 55 of age, was gaining popularity from all the strata of society.

In the meantime, Kemal was losing support.

1. He had divorced his wife Latifa Hanoun

2. His cousin Fikryeh was licked out when she payed him visit, and she was found dead from a pistol shot in a ditch the next day

3. He erected a large statue of himself in Ankara, a decision that no Sultan ever contemplated for fear of contradicting the religious connotation of idolatry

4. Kemal toured the night bars daily and was a drunk addict…

Caliph Abdel Majid asked to increase the stipend commensurate to the Caliph position. Kemal replied”

“A Caliph must lead a modest life, and this religious position is but a historic relics that its existence is no longer justified…”

Many dailies maintained that the Caliphat was a treasure to Turkey toward the millions of Moslem around the world. By diminishing the stature of the Caliph, the 10 million Turks would be viewed by the European countries as a small State.

It happened that the Agha Khan of the Ismaeli community around the world, and residing in London,  published a letter in 3 Istambul dailies reading:

“The position of the Commander of Believers must be insured the esteem and the confidence of the Islamic nations…”  That was like pouring oil on the fire.

Kemal cried treason instigated by foreign powers. He voted on “Treason Law” that stipulated that whoever manifests against the Republic will be hanged.

Two months later, Kemal paid a visit to Izmir to supervise a big military maneuver, and discussed for days with his military chiefs. The military agreed to rally Kemal against the position of Caliph.

On Feb. 27, the Kemalist movement demanded the abolition of the Caliphat.

On March 3, after a week of mass protests, the Great Assembly in Ankara voted by “raised hands” to send into exile the Caliph and all the family princes and princesses, never to return. He allocated 1,000 gold coin to every family member, a sum that barely covered a few months in exile. The Ottoman monarchy was given 3 days to leave Turkey, for no return.

The Caliph opted to be transferred to Switzerland. Other members settled in Beirut (Lebanon) on the ground that cosmopolitan Beirut is very close to Turkey, and they will be returning very shortly…

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 Moslems in India were the most vocal and marched against the British mandated power for backing the elimination of the institution of Caliph. Gandhi backed and rallied the Moslem demands to have a Caliph.

Writing a Revolution: Ahmed Fouad Negm, the voice of Egypt’s Revolution

He has been dubbed the voice of Egypt’s revolution, but can the late 83-year-old find his place in a revolution of the young?

When the Egyptian revolution erupted in 2011, it was the words of Negm’s famous poems, like The Brave Man is Brave, that were chanted in Tahrir Square.

Just as people look to him for leadership, Negm finds himself unable to write.

In this rare, intimate portrait, we witness  Negm seeking his place in this revolution of the young, and searching for the inspiration to write again.

Director May Abdalla, Filmmaker’s view: The politically incorrect poet

“What do you mean you’re not in love? A crazy woman like you will make a man very happy! I’ve loved crazy women my whole life and they have kept me young,” says Ahmed Fouad Negm.

About the series: Poets of Protest reflects the poet’s view of the change sweeping the Middle East through its intimate profiles of six contemporary writers as they struggle to lead, to interpret and to inspire.Poetry lives and breathes in the Middle East as in few other places.In a region long dominated by authoritarian regimes, poetry is the medium for expressing people’s hopes, dreams and frustrations.Poets became historians, journalists, entertainers – and even revolutionaries.

The wiry 83-year-old poet has shot verbal daggers at every Egyptian president he has lived under – resulting in spending 18 years of his life in prison.

The poet famous for his carefree lifestyle and quick wit, sits in his cluttered living room and peers over his thin-rimmed glasses at me with a twinkle that belies his age. “I still write like I’m 25, eat like I’m 25, and please a woman like I’m 25,” he says.

Ahmed Fouad Negm is a living legend in the Arab world and famous for not holding his tongue.

One of 17 children, Negm was raised in an orphanage and sent to prison as a young man for forging papers. During his 3-year sentence he began to write poems in the street slang of everyday Egyptians, merging inside working class jokes with the harsh reality of oppression.

Prisoners began to smuggle tape recorders into his cell to bootleg his new writings and his prison guards, themselves struggling to get by, would help pass on his poems.

Negm became a working class hero and his writings became more openly political. When he was given an 11-year sentence under President Anwar Sadat for a poem that mocked his television addresses, he achieved underground fame across the Middle East.

Over three decades later, in Tahrir Square, the same poems came to life – chanted now against Hosni Mubarak and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. During tense nights in the Square, protesters would chant his poem The brave men are brave: The brave men are brave The cowards are cowardly Come with the brave Together to the Square I had met Negm in the tiny backroom of a radical publishing house in downtown Cairo.

A dozen poets and writers spanning three generations were seated between pillars of books reaching the ceiling. Wedged in at a computer table, Negm, in his smoker’s rasp, was holding court.

Between the Shakespearian-style word play and classical Arabic verse, the subject was the new religious rulers of Egypt.

“Let me tell you. I met a lot of Muslim Brothers in prison. Sometimes I would offer to lead them in prayer. When their heads were still on the ground I would walk off and leave them for hours trying to work out: Is this permissible? Is this not? How do you imagine they can run a country as rich as Egypt? The poor of Egypt are geniuses, don’t underestimate them.”

Egypt’s tide towards religiosity has clearly affected Negm’s reputation. His openness about hashish and girlfriends and his love of a good curse word mean that many Egyptians have dismissed him as beyond the pale.

His daughter, Nawara Negm, has been one of the revolution’s leaders since its inception. She inherited her father’s sharp tongue and politics – singing his Guevara is Dead anthem at her step-sister’s wedding. But earlier in the year, she was assaulted by a mob who shouted “daughter of the druggie” as they beat her.

It was of little surprise that whilst filming, Negm received the news that he was being sued for blasphemy after he used a rude word on live television which invoked religion. His wife was terrified, but Negm slid comfortably into his old fighting position:

“I am not scared, they are trying to frighten us into shutting up. But how can I be frightened? I have already spent more time in jail than you have even been alive!”

There was even the small sense that a court case, especially one that was being referred to the higher courts, was the assurance Negm needed to know that he was still as relevant as ever in the midst of a revolution branded in Egypt as ‘The Youth Revolution’.

This episode of Artscape: Poets of Protest can be seen from Friday, August 31, at the following times GMT: Friday: 1930; Saturday: 1430; Sunday: 0430; Monday: 0830. Click here for more Artscape: Poets of Protest.





December 2013

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