Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Cursed Cities: Karss

Turkey and Iran: Same and Different (April 25, 2009)

 

Brief history:  Throughout antiquity till our modern days three main empires dominated the landscape of the Middle East. Turkey, Iran, and Egypt were vast empires and advanced urbanely and economically before the advent of Islam. Turkey and Iran managed to enjoy a semi-continuous existence of empires but Egypt had large vacuums of many centuries in between empires since the Pharaohs. Egypt enjoyed special status during the Greek, Roman, Arab, and Ottoman empires and was a world apart as wheat basket and advanced civilization. Turkey and Iran could benefit from stable “national” entities but Egypt experienced foreign leaders as kings or sultans and relied on foreign officers to lead its armies, the latest dynasty was from Albania with Muhammad Ali. 

The three empires are currently mostly Moslems and they were in general lenient with the minority religious sects.  The three empires have vast lands, rich in water, and have currently about the same number of population of about 70 millions and increasing at high rates. The Iranian empires relied on the Afghanistanis and the central Asian tribes for their armies.  As the frequent Mogul raids descended on Persia its armies went on the defensive. The Turkish and Ottoman empires relied on the Caucasus tribes from current Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia States, and also from Albania and Romania.  As Russia started to expand southward and occupied many of these regions then Turkey curtailed most of its vast military campaigns and went on the defensive.  The Caucasus triangle of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia is still a hot spot for domination among Russia, Turkey, and to a lesser extent Iran, especially with the oil and gas pipelines that pass through them.  My post “Cursed Cities: Karss” would shed detailed historical accounts on that tragic triangle.

 

Modern Status:

 

In around 1920’s two military dictators ruled over Iran and Turkey.  Rida “shah” in Iran and “Ataturk” in Turkey were attempting to modernize their infrastructure and civil administrations by emulating the European examples.  Ataturk went as far as changing the Turkish alphabet to Latin.  Both dictators confronted the religious clerics for establishing secular States with unequal long term successes.  Iran has reverted to religious oligarchy after Khomeini came to power.

While Iran was historically more clement with its minorities it appears that Turkey is practically taking steps to outpacing Iran in that advantage; for example, Turkey is translating the Koran into the ethnic languages such as Kurdish.  Women in Turkey are prominent in businesses such as Goler Sabanji; 9% of women are represented in the Parliament.  In Iran, Shireen Abadi is Nobel laureate for defending women’s rights; Iranian women represent only 3% in the Parliament though they represent 65% in universities.

In the 70’s Iran was flush with oil revenue while Turkey was struggling to establish an industrial infrastructure. It appears that in the long term oil is definitely a curse for emerging nations because wealth is not invested on the human potentials and stable modern political structure.

In 2008, foreign investment in Turkey was 14 billions dollars and increasing while it amounted to just one billion in Iran.  Turkey has expanded its representation in Africa by opening 12 new Embassies and 20 new consulates. Nisreen Ozaimy is from Iran by origin and fled to Turkey; when her family lived in Turkey it was impressed by the confidence that the Turks valued their various ethnic nationalities and they implicit feeling that Turkey is in fact a bridge between East and West.  The Turks managed to blend harmoniously the secular and religious inclinations.

Turkey and Iran: Same and Different (April 25, 2009)

 

Brief history

hroughout antiquity till our modern days, three main empires dominated the landscape of the Middle East. Turkey, Iran, and Egypt were vast empires and advanced urbanely and economically before the advent of Islam.

Turkey and Iran managed to enjoy a semi-continuous existence of empires but Egypt had large vacuums of many centuries in between empires since the Pharaohs.

Egypt enjoyed special status during the Greek, Roman, Arab, and Ottoman empires and was a world apart as wheat basket and advanced civilization. Turkey and Iran could benefit from stable “national” entities but Egypt experienced foreign leaders as kings or sultans and relied on foreign officers to lead its armies, the latest dynasty was from Albania with Muhammad Ali

The three empires are currently mostly Moslems and they were in general lenient with the minority religious sects. 

The three empires have vast lands, rich in water, and have currently about the same number of population of around 70 millions and increasing at high rates, especially Egypt (90 million).

The Iranian empires relied on the Afghanistanis and the central Asian tribes for their armies.  As the frequent Mogul raids descended on Persia its armies went on the defensive.

The Turkish and Ottoman empires relied on the Caucasus tribes from current Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia States, and also from Albania and Romania.  As Russia started to expand southward and occupied many of these regions then Turkey curtailed most of its vast military campaigns and went on the defensive. 

The Caucasus triangle of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia is still a hot spot for domination among Russia, Turkey, and to a lesser extent Iran, especially with the oil and gas pipelines that pass through them.  My post “Cursed Cities: Kars” would shed detailed historical accounts on that tragic triangle.

 

Modern Status

In around 1920’s two military dictators ruled over Iran and Turkey

Rida “shah” in Iran and “Ataturk” in Turkey were attempting to modernize their infrastructure and civil administrations by emulating the European examples.  Ataturk went as far as changing the Turkish alphabet to Latin and abolishing the Caliphate in Islam. 

Both dictators confronted the religious clerics for establishing secular States with unequal long term successes.  Iran has reverted to religious oligarchy after Khomeini came to power.

While Iran was historically more clement with its minorities it appears that Turkey is practically taking steps to outpacing Iran in that advantage. For example, Turkey is translating the Koran into the ethnic languages such as Kurdish. 

Women in Turkey are prominent in businesses such as Goler Sabanji; 9% of women are represented in the Parliament.  In Iran, Shireen Abadi is Nobel laureate for defending women’s rights; Iranian women represent only 3% in the Parliament though they represent 65% in universities.

In the 70’s Iran was flush with oil revenue while Turkey was struggling to establish an industrial infrastructure. It appears that in the long term oil is definitely a curse for emerging nations because wealth is not invested on the human potentials and stable modern political structure.

In 2008, foreign investment in Turkey was 14 billions dollars and increasing while it amounted to just one billion in Iran.  Turkey has expanded its representation in Africa by opening 12 new Embassies and 20 new consulates.

Nisreen Ozaimy is from Iran by origin and fled to Turkey; when her family lived in Turkey it was impressed by the confidence that the Turks valued their various ethnic nationalities and they implicit feeling that Turkey is in fact a bridge between East and West.  The Turks managed to blend harmoniously the secular and religious inclinations.

The current crisis in the middle-east is changing the landscape: Turkey has alienated most of the Arab world by getting involved and engaged in “Arab” spring upheavals, siding with the Moslem Brotherhood movements, while Iran is heading the resistance front against extremist islam.

Cursed Cities: Karss (April 14, 2009)

 

There are geographical locations and regions that are cursed historically

This essay is not about cities that experienced frequent disasters by natural calamities. For example, we have cities that had vanished because built near active volcanoes such as Pompeii in Italy, others because of being located on seismic faults such as Beirut and lately the Abruzzi region in Italy, and others succumbing to tidal waves and hurricanes such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, the USA Gulf regions, and Rangoon… and where people perish by the hundred of thousands every year and keep rebuilding in the same devastated areas. 

This article is about cities located on major trade routes and suffered recurring genocides because of human greed for domination and power.  I will focus on the city of Karss in Turkey on the eastern side of the Anatolia Plateau (Anadol). 

Karss is built by the river Karss and a must cross location on the route from Georgia, Tabriz (Iran), the Caucasus and Tiflis. I urge my readers to recollect other cursed cities through history.

Eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus form one homogeneous geographic area in economy, culture, and social communication and trades. The Armenians on both sides preferred to pay allegiance to Christian Russia and wished that Russia would grant them administrative autonomy in the Caucasus. The Moslems on both sides paid allegiance to the Moslem Ottoman Empire.

The triangle of the current States of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan were the scenes of major battle fields and invasions through history and is still a hot area till now.

The Nobel Literature Prize winner Orhan Pamuk published “Snow” that described the calamities suffered by the inhabitants of the Karss region.  The Armenian people lived in that region for a thousand years and then many waves of immigrants and refugees from persecutions flocked to it.  The Karss region hosted people from the Empires of Persia, Byzantium and then Moguls, Georgians, Kurds, and Cherkessk. In the 17th century, the Karss region was predominantly of Moslems and then Armenians were second in numbers.

The Russian Empire vied for this region since the 18th century. In 1827, Russia entered Karss and chased out over 27,000 Moslems and transferred 45,000 Armenians to this city from Iran and the Anatolian Plateau. The city of Yerevan (Capital of the current State of Armenia) that was mostly of Iranians was transformed demographically in 1827.  In every Russian invasion to the Karss region, the Russian troops could rely on the Armenian population for auxiliary regiments, logistics, and intelligence services. As the Russian troops vacated the region in 1829, over 90,000 Armenians fled with the Russians fearing well deserved persecutions.

During the Crimea War, that confronted Russia against the combined alliance of Britain, France, and the Ottoman, the Russians put siege on Karss in 1855 for many months and all the Ottoman army within the city was massacred.  The Paris treaty of 1855 forced the Russians to vacate the Karss region. The Ottoman troops retaliated heavily on the Armenians.

In 1859, the Cherkessk, lead by their leader Shamel, revolted against the Russians and were defeated; many Christian Russian Orthodox were transferred to Karss to replace the Moslem Cherkessk.  The same eviction process befell three quarter of the Moslems of Abkhazia in 1867.  Thus, in less than 30 years, the Russian Empire changed the demographics of the Caucasus from mostly Moslems to mostly Christians. Over 1, 200,000 Moslems were forced to transfer to other regions; 800,000 of the Moslems settled in the Ottoman Empire. 

In 1877, the Russians amassed troops on the border with Karss; Sultan Abdel Hamid pre-empted the invasion by massacring the Armenians on ground that they will inevitably aid the Russians. After 93 days of war, the Russians entered Karss and a pogrom on the Moslems proceeded for many days. The treaty of San Estephanos relinquished the region to the Russian Empire. The Russians built a new city south of the city of Karess where the Emperor Alexander III met with his concubines and hunted. In the next 43 years, the Armenians harassed the Moslems of this region and thousand had to flee. In retaliation, Sultan Abdel Hamid formed in 1891 a special regiment of Kurdish cavalry with the purpose of harassing the Armenians of the Karss region and the pogrom around Lake Van raised an outcry in Europe.

During the First World War, the Armenians again aided the Russians and formed semi-regular armies to fight the Ottoman Empire.  Consequently, in 1915, the Ottoman Empire launched the genocide plan against the Armenians and thousands died of famine during the long march out of Turkey; the Armenians settled in Constantinople (Istanbul) and Adana shared in the mass persecution; only the Armenians in the Caucasus, within Russia, were spared.  The British occupied the Karss region in 1919 and gave some authority to the Armenians who gathered arms from the Moslems and gave them to the Armenians and another round of harassment and massacres took place.

The Turkish General Mustafa Kemal re-occupied the Karss region in 1920 after defeating the Armenian army: the Bolsheviks were then allied to the new Turkish Republic. The Russians transferred the Armenians from the region of Patum to Yerevan.

In 1927, all the properties of the Armenians in Karss were confiscated. The Armenians were robbed of a homeland because Turkey ceased Cyprus to Britain in exchange of guaranteeing the Karss region to Turkey.  Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) also negotiated a political deal with France to relinquish the Syrian region of Alexandrite to Turkey, setting the premises for future regional feuds.

Nowadays, there are no Armenians in Karss; the imposing buildings of Tsarist Russia are government Administrative offices; a vast villa of 40 rooms is transformed into hospital, and a Jewish museum. An entire century of struggles, massacres, harassment, genocides, and useless hate to their neighbors in order to gain self-autonomy rewarded the Armenians nothing. 

They had to wait for the break down of the Soviet Union to enjoy the Armenian State that is totally dependent in its economy on the neighboring States.  Kosovo, Kashmir, Jerusalem, Gaza, and Palestine are current examples of lost opportunities for stability and peace.

Crazy History: Dress it any which way you desire, (April 16, 2009)

 

            Find me any hot spot in this Globe, among any belligerent populations, then scratch a little the surface and you will discover that the main grievance of the feuding parties is a crazy history of telltale, and dressed up with myths that remount to thousands of years with no sound foundations.  What the belligerents need is a plausible re-writing of history that satisfies their chimerical dreams of the brave ancestors who fought for just causes. 

It stands to reason to re-invent history since implicitly, the weakest parties strongly believe that history was written by the vanquisher. 

That should be a fun job for any astute diplomat with juicy imagination to assemble a gory and chivaleresque fiction story that would drive all the parties nodding in gleeful agreement. In no time the arms would be dropped and hugging ceremonies would make the tour in the troubled locations because no level-headed people would rather have war instead of stability and comfort. 

You will always hear that external forces had interests in fueling internal discords on the basis of “divide to govern”; a notion that stands to reason since that is how fictitious power rules, on fiction stories and calumnies.  The trouble is, as external forces desist and leave the scene, the feuds tend to rejuvenate and rekindle with vigorous hotter bloods and far shriveled brains.

You may refer to my post “Cursed Cities: Kars” and you will figure out how nationalists have this tendency to forget the biggest chunk of the history of their region in order to focus on a tiny portion that satisfy their sick ego and their immediate ideology.

One dangerous case is spreading havoc in the Middle East and Lebanon.  The culprit is religious messages being high-jacked and distorted for political ends.  This recurring phenomenon is not restricted among different religions, but mostly among the schisms within a religion. 

For example, you have centuries’ old struggles among Moslem sects such as Sunni and Shia.  The telltalers would recount secret meetings to selecting Caliphates such as when the Prophet Muhammad died without arranging his house, though he knew of his coming death because his ailment lasted ten days.  The whisperers would like you to believe that an unorthodox meeting in (Al Sakifat) took place that elected Abu Bakr for Calif while Ali was busy arranging for the burial of the Prophet.

The story would resume of how Caliphate Muawiyat promised Al Hassan (the eldest son of Ali) to succeed him and then poisoned him.  How Al Hussein, the second son of Ali, marched from Mecca in order to reclaim the promise as Yazeed, the son of Muawiya, ascended to the Caliphate. As if the promise of Muawiya was the main contentious point, as if Muawiya went to so much trouble instituting a dynasty in order to relinquish it on a promise.

Then, how Al Hussein was betrayed by the citizens of Kufa and lost the battle of Karbala and was humiliated for ten days before being executed. And how the people in Kufa regretted their decision of not aiding Hussein and mourned Hussein the next year by performing mass flagellation (Ashoura) in repentance.

The story continue on how political Shias, after the Iranian Ayatollahs came to power, has transformed “Ashoura” into vindication ceremonies against the Sunni.

This is one long story, spreading for over 14 centuries of sect warfare that boils down to dominance of one clan over another, within the larger tribe of Kureich.  That is the sort of politics that earned it the worst negative of connotations.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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