Event A: The Decline of the Ottoman Empire

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1 Event A: The Decline of the Ottoman Empire Beginning in the late 13 th century, the Ottoman sultan, or ruler, governed a diverse empire that covered much of the modern Middle East, including Southeastern Europe, most of North Africa, and some of the Arabian peninsula. The sultan considered himself to be the ruler of Islam, and the majority of people in the Ottoman Empire were Muslims. Yet, the empire contained many different religions, ethnic groups, and languages. Ottoman rulers governed this diverse population indirectly through the millet (religious group/community) system, which classified subjects as either Muslims or members of one of three millets Jewish, Orthodox Christian, or Armenian-Eastern Rite Christian. The millet system allowed religious groups to govern themselves according to their own customs as long as they paid their taxes and supported the sultan. Each millet was governed by a religious leader, who lived in the capital city of Istanbul and was closely controlled by the sultan s advisors. The millet system of indirect rule allowed diverse communities to live peacefully in the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years. Starting the 1600s, the power and size of the Ottoman Empire began to decrease as European countries seeking power in the region won wars and took economic control of the areas they conquered. Between 1789 and 1878, a series of sultans adopted political (government) and social ideas from Western Europe. The sultans were trying to make up for the loss of Ottoman dominance over their empire. These decisions were not effective and caused problems throughout the empire. Conflict between the western-influenced reforms (changes) and strong Ottoman traditions caused growing tension within the empire. In 1878, a new sultan rejected the reforms made by previous leaders and returned to traditional forms of Ottoman rule. However, this did not ease the tensions. In 1908, the conflict continued when a group of western-influenced revolutionaries (rebels) called the Young Turks overthrew the sultan and returned to the European-style of government.

2 Event B: The World War I Peace Settlement In the early 1900s, the empire had decreased in size, but it was still large. It grew more difficult to govern such a large territory. European countries were growing stronger as the empire was becoming weaker and unable to hold on to its territory. The weakening Ottoman Empire allied with Germany during the World War I. Since their side lost the war, the Ottoman Empire fell. After the war, the Ottoman territory in the Middle East was taken over by Britain and France. During the war, Britain and France signed a secret treaty called the Sykes-Picot Agreement. In this treaty, the two countries agreed to divide the land of the empire into mandates, which are similar to colonies. In the agreement, Europeans stated that the former Ottoman lands were inhabited by people not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world. British and French powers claimed that the people of the former Ottoman Empire were incapable (not able) of governing themselves. The European rulers planned to assist them until such a time as they were able to stand alone. Britain and France created the mandates against the wishes of Arab leaders. The rulers hand-picked the leaders to be in charge of each mandate. The organization of the European mandates did not reflect the Ottoman traditions, such as the millet system. Instead, the mandates were set up with western-styles of government and economic policies that protected the European interests in the area. In fact, the Allies chose the rulers for Syria, Transjordan (present-day Jordan), Iraq, and part of the Arabian Peninsula from one family the powerful Husayn family. They believed that the leaders from this family would support their economic interests in the Middle East. Britain took control of the coastal regions of the Arabian Peninsula, Palestine, Transjordan, and Iraq. The British also signed a treaty with Kuwait, in which they promised to protect the small country. Kuwait became a British protectorate. France took control of Lebanon and Syria. Only Turkey, the base of the Ottoman Empire, remained independent by winning a war of independence. The majority of Arabs living in the European mandates resented (disliked/hated) the intervention of Europeans. Arabs who had fought against the Ottoman Empire felt they had been cheated by the Europeans. They believed the Allies promised to grant them the right to create an independent united Arab state. Under the Ottoman rule, Arabs and other ethnic groups had never thought of themselves as divided into different regional groups. Instead, they had associated themselves with the empire and their millet (religious community). Even after the war, most still were loyal to the local rulers associated with the Ottoman Empire. Citizens appreciated the indirect form of government they experienced in the empire. They were bitter that new foreign rulers, new regional borders, and European laws were forced upon them.

3 Event C: The Rise of Arab Nationalism Some Arab leaders responded to European colonialism by calling for unity and independence for all Arab people. This idea led many Arabs to think of themselves not as subjects of an empire, but as a distinct nation united by a shared language and history. The leading supporter of this point of view was Sati-al-Husri, an educator who lived in Iraq. He believed that the Arabic language united all Arabs, whether they were Christian or Muslim. In addition, he felt that an Arab should feel a sense of nationalism (loyalty, support) towards his or her fellow Arabs and not to a country created by the European powers. Other Arab leaders felt that the only response to European colonialism was a return to rule according to Islamic law and customs. In 1924, the caliph (leader of Islam) was removed from leadership. To many Muslims, this signified the end of an Islamic state that could defend the Islamic way of life in the Middle East. Muslims felt that European colonists and the Middle Eastern rulers who worked with them were corrupting the morality and values of the Middle East by weakening Islamic leadership and traditions. They believed the only way to insure that Muslims could live by their own customs and values was to force out the Europeans and choose leaders who would respect and protect the laws and customs of Islam. Arab nationalists (supporters) in countries all across the Middle East began to boycott, protest, and campaign against the European colonial powers. Still, other Arabs realized that they did not have the ability to fight against the European powers. They resigned (accepted) themselves to working within the system created by Britain and France. They hoped that if they could govern in partnership with the Europeans, then they would be able to rule themselves according to Middle Eastern customs.

4 Event D: The Partition of Palestine Since the first century CE, when the Romans drove the Jews from Palestine and into exile throughout Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia, Jews had dreamed of returning to Palestine. In the late 1800s, Jewish communities in Eastern Europe were subjected to violent attacks. It was around this time that the idea of Zionism was formed. Zionism was a movement to set up a homeland for the world s Jews in Palestine. Jewish nationalism began to focus on creating a Jewish state in Palestine. In Britain, Zionist leaders appealed to the British officials who controlled the Palestinian mandate (colony) to allow them to immigrate (move back/settle) to Palestine. In 1917, British officials produced the Balfour Declaration, which proclaimed Britain s support for the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine. Zionists interpreted the declaration to mean that Britain supported unlimited Jewish immigration into Palestine and eventually the creation of an independent Jewish state. Palestinian Arabs completely opposed the Balfour Declaration as a violation of their rights. Palestinians felt that the British had given away their ancestral homeland without even consulting them. In 1917, Palestinians made up over 85% of the population of Palestine. Jews immigrated into Palestine and bought land for farming. Palestinian peasants who were evicted (or driven out) from these farms were forced to move into the cities. There they formed a mass of unemployed Arabs who were angry at the Jewish settlers and the British government. In 1936, an armed revolt between Jewish immigrants and Palestinian Arabs broke out. The British army crushed the revolt in 1939 after much violence and death. British leaders decided they could not bring the two groups in Palestine together, so in 1937 they decided to partition (divide) Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. Jews tentatively agreed, while the Arabs completely opposed the plan. At this time, Arabs made up 71% of the population. Violence increased again, and the British decided to abandon the plan. After World War II, the British declared they could no longer control the violence in Palestine. The Palestinian mandate was turned over to the United Nations, who developed another plan in 1947.

5 Event E: The Partition of Syria During World War I, Prince Faisal s Arab army helped Allies defeat the Ottoman Empire. When the war ended, Prince Faisal s army occupied the capital of Syria. At this time, Syria was a center of Arab nationalism. In 1920, the Syrian congress declared Syria an independent state with Prince Faisal as the king. However, based on the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Syria was a French mandate (colony). Five months after Faisal took power, the French army invaded Syria and defeated Faisal s army. Prince Faisal was forced to flee to Europe. After Faisal fled, the French tried to weaken Arab nationalists in Syria by dividing the mandate into four provinces. By doing this, ethnic groups were split up and major cities were isolated. Although the French army succeeded in crushing anti-french groups, the harsh French rule actually inspired Syrians to form nationalist parties that worked to gain independence. Arabs throughout the Middle East were outraged by the actions of the French and believed that Arabs had the right to choose their own form of government. Arabs throughout the Middle East supported the Syrian efforts to gain independence from France. The French felt they could no longer control Arab nationalism and left Syria in 1946.

6 Event F: The Formation of Iraq and Kuwait After World War I, Britain wanted to create a country strong enough to balance Iran s power in the Middle East. Britain decided to combine the diverse (varied or different) Ottoman provinces of Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra into the mandate (colony) called Iraq. Arab Shi a Muslims living in the south made up slightly over 50 percent of the population of Iraq. Sunni Muslims Arabs in the center made up the second largest group. Non-Arab ethnic groups that lived in the north were Kurdish Muslims and Assyrian Christians. Under the Ottoman Empire, the local rulers and millet (religious communities) leaders had peacefully governed these different ethnic groups. But, the British placed all the groups together in the new mandate without any concern for religious or cultural differences. The British rulers hoped to avoid problems like the French had in their mandates, so Britain decided to allow Iraq some say in the government. Instead of ruling Iraq directly, the British chose Prince Faisal to be king of Iraq. Prince Faisal s Arab army had helped the Allies defeat the Ottoman Empire during World War I. British powers thought that Iraqis would support the Faisal s leadership, and that he would protect the British interests in the region. Faisal s government met Britain s approval, and Iraq gained independence in Faisal died in 1933, and Sunni Muslim Arabs in the army took control of the government, so one ethnicreligious group came to dominate this diverse country. Just south of Iraq, the tiny country of Kuwait developed with a different history. In the 17 th century, Arabs had established a fishing, trading, and pearldiving community at the port of al-kuwait. The Ottoman Empire claimed control of this region, which they included in the district of Basra. They allowed one family to govern Kuwait without interference. In the 18 th century, the British became interested in the Persian Gulf because of its important trade route between Europe and India. They signed a treaty of protection with the al-sabah family in Britain governed the area as a protectorate (a state that is controlled and protected by another) until Kuwait became independent from Britain in In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait claiming that it was historically part of the Basra district and belonged to Iraq. The invasion developed into the Gulf War. The US and Great Britain were members of the coalition (alliance) that defeated Iraq.

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