The Ottoman Empire’s Policies against Secessionist Minorities during the period of 1820-1918

The Ottoman Empire controlled the territories occupied by different nationalities, and this situation was the result of the historic process. However, the problem was in the fact the authorities of the Ottoman Empire did not provide the ethnic minorities with any political or social rights accentuating the highest status of the Turks over the other nationalities and discriminating minorities.

The situation of a constant tension between the Turks and the representatives of the other ethnicities who lived in the Ottoman Empire was complicated by the religious question, secessionist ideas of the minorities and a lot of bloody conflicts which were triggered with the ethnic uprisings.

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Although the Ottoman Empire was the multinational state and this situation was affected by the historic processes, the Turks followed the policy of exterminating any non-Turkish elements in the Empire and provided violent repression policies against the representatives of Greek-Balkan people, Armenians, and Assyrians who were Christians and against definite Muslim populations in order to ‘clean’ the territories from the minorities who rejected the principles of the discriminating strategy.

The authorities of the Ottoman Empire provided their repression policies during the whole century. To annihilate all the non-Turkish population, including Kurds and Arabs, and maintain the power of the Turks, the authorities developed a strict repression policy based on discriminations, massacres, and deportations (Goldschmidt, 2001). The discriminative measures depended on a lot of legal restrictions for the non-Muslims.

The Christians did not have the right to participate in the political life of the state, keep any arms, and their taxes were higher in comparison with the taxes determined for the Muslims. Any fact of the minorities’ opposition against the discriminative policy was discussed as the trigger for developing numerous massacres.

The bloodiest massacres were against Maronites in 1860, against the Armenians during 1894-1896 and in 1915, and against the Assyrians after World War I. The cause for these mass murders was to decrease the opposition and frighten the representatives of the other nationalities and religions (Quataert, 2005).

The specifics of the repression policies can be discussed with references to the problems of the Assyrians at the territories of the Ottoman Empire. To reduce the possibility of Christian rebellions during World War I, the authorities developed the strategy of the violent deportation of the Assyrians in the region of Mesopotamia.

The first step was to kill the male population who could develop rebellions. The next step was to repress and arrest the representatives of the social and cultural elite in order to reduce the opposition of the other minorities’ representatives.

The last stage was the deportation of the Assyrians. As a result, women, old people, and ill persons were finally deported. These people had to walk several weeks, and many of them died. The other deported persons were challenged by the issues of starvation and poverty in new territories. These stages of the repression policies were used for discriminating all the representatives of the ethnic or religious minorities in the Ottoman Empire (Quataert, 2005).

Trying to preserve the Empire’s powerfulness and avoid its decline, the authorities of the Ottoman Empire were inclined to prevent any oppositions and rebellions of the minorities with the help of the further discrimination, massacres, and deportations. The efforts to ‘clean’ the Empire from the religious and ethnic minorities or non-Turkish elements resulted in developing repression policies and Genocide.

References

Goldschmidt, A. (2001). A concise history of the Middle East. USA: Westview Press.

Quataert, D. (2005). The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922. USA: Cambridge University Press.

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