The Ottoman Empire 1290-1920 continued

Islam     Session Seventeen

Item #4, bullet #4 of outline:  The Ottoman Empire 1290-1920 continued

For historical impact and sheer savagery on a grand scale, two atrocious acts of the Ottomans stand out:  The destruction of Constantinople and the Armenian genocide.

As you recall from session #3, the Roman Empire divided itself in 285 AD into East and West segments.  In 330 AD Constantine transferred the capital of the Eastern segment to Byzantium (present day Istanbul) which straddles the Bosphorus Strait.  By tradition, the Bosphorus Strait separates modern day Turkey into its European and Asian sections. This Eastern segment of the Roman Empire came to be known as the Byzantine Empire and  its capital of Byzantium was renamed, Constantinople.  By the middle of the fifteenth century, the Byzantine Empire had diminished greatly from the zenith of its territorial holding and its political power.

In May of 1453, the city and empire fell to the Muslim Turks.  Gregory Davis in his book, “Religion of Peace”, gives this account of the conquest of Constantinople:

  • “Several thousand of the survivors had taken refuge in the cathedral: . . . They locked the huge doors, prayed, and waited.  (Caliph) Mahomet (commander of the Muslim force) had given the troops free quarter.  They raped, of course, the nuns being the first victims, and slaughtered.  At least four thousand were killed before Mahomet stopped the massacre at noon. . . .Mahomet asked that the body of the dead emperor be brought to him. . . . The sultan ordered his head to be cut off and placed between the horse’s legs under the equestrian bronze statue of the emperor Justinian.  The head was later embalmed and sent around the chief cities of the Ottoman Empire for the delectation of the citizens.

Next, Mahomet ordered the Grand Duke Notaras, . . . asked him for names and addresses of all the leading nobles, officials, and citizens, which Notaras gave him.  He had them all arrested and decapitated. (#2, P. 78)

In his book, “Sword of the Prophet”, Serge Trifkovic gives this description of the conquest of Constantinople:

  • “Once the emperor and his badly outnumbered soldiers were slain on the walls of Constantinople, bands of Turks went on a rampage. Pillaging and killing went on for three days.  Thousands of civilians were enslaved, soldiers fought over boys and young women.  The blood ran in rivers down the steep steps from the heights of Petra toward the Golden Horn.  All of the treasures of the Imperial Palace were carried off. . . . When the Turks burst into the Hagia Sophia,

The worshipers were trapped.  A few of the ancient and infirm were killed on the spot; but most of them were tied or chained together.  Many of the lovelier maidens and youths and many of the richer-clad nobles were almost torn to death as their captors quarreled over them.  The priest went on chanting at the alter till they too were taken . . . . The inhabitants were carried off along with their possessions.  Anyone who collapsed from frailty was slaughtered, together with a number of infants who were held to be of no value . . . . (Byzantium) was now half in ruins, emptied and deserted and blackened as though by fire, and strangely silent.  Wherever the soldiers had been there was desolation.  Churches had been desecrated and stripped; houses were no longer habitable and shops and stores battered and bare.  The Sultan himself as he rode through the streets had been moved to tears.”  (#18, PP. 116-117)

The Armenian population had for centuries lived in the extreme eastern area of present day Turkey, in the region of the Caucasus Mountains, south of Georgia.  The Armenians were almost entirely Christian.  In the 1890’s and continuing into the first  two decades of the 20th century the government of Turkey systematically tried to eliminate the Armenians who lived within the boundaries of Turkey.  These actions have come to be known as the Armenian Genocide.  Some facts:

  • “Regular slaughters of Armenians in Bayazid (1877), Alashgurd (1879, Sassun (1894), Constantinople (1896), Adana (1909) and Armenia itself (1895-1896) claimed a total of 200,000, but they were only rehearsals for the horrors of 1915.” (#18, P. 122)
  • Kupelian’s maternal grandmother tells the story of a massacre by Muslim Turks (Ottomans) in 1909 on the occasion of a pastor’s conference in the city of Adana attended by her father (a Protestant minister):

“Some of the Turkish officers came to the conference room and told all these ministers – there were 70 of them, ministers, layman and a few wives:  ‘If you embrace the Islamic religion you will all be saved.  If you don’t, you will all be killed.’ . . .  And then, Anna recalled, they were all killed.” (Whistleblower 24 4 April, 2015:  6)

Some commentaries on the 1915 slaughter of 1.5 million Armenian Christians:

  • Leslie Davis, American consul in Harput described his experience: “The garden was large, with high walls and mulberry trees that provided good cover for the refugees.  . . . And each night everyone at the consulate could hear the Turks in the square in front of the building holding prayer meetings. ‘We could all hear them piously calling upon Allah to bless them in their efforts to kill the hated Christians,’ Davis recorded.  ‘Night after night this same chant went up to  heaven and day after day these Turks carried on their bloody work.’ “  (#2, P. 97)
  • This dialogue between an Armenian priest and a Muslim Turkish captain: “When the Armenian priest continued by asking him how he would ‘atone for his sins’ in the ‘other world,’ the captain answered:  ‘I have already atoned for them as I’ve always done after such killings. . . . I spread out my prayer rug and pray, giving glory to Allah and the Prophet who made me worthy of personally participating in the holy jihad in these days of my old age.”  . . . 

“The captain told the priest that his district governor, Mehmed Kemal, had ‘made a vow on the honor of the prophet:  I shall not leave a single Armenian alive in the sanjak (district) of Yozgat’ (Balakian 338).  Kemal was good to his word:  sixty thousand men, women, children, and infants were massacred, some 90 percent of the population, in his province alone.’”

David Kupelian has written a lengthy article in the April, 2015 edition of “Whistleblower magazine on the 1915 Armenian genocide.  His grandmother lived in Armenia at that time, witnessed the slaughter and survived to tell her story.  Here are some excerpts from the article. (Whistleblower 24 4 April, 2015:  4-11)

  • Kupelian’s Grandmother speaking: “They were very hospitable and would invite you in.  But, if a distant signal was given – it sounded something like a trumpet – then they would instantly change, and would attempt to harm you.  Yet if the signal sounded again, they would immediately switch back to normal.”

“Even if they had injured you after the first signal, as soon as the second signal sounded, they would bind up the very wounds, they had inflicted on you.”

  • A New York Times story of September 25, 1915 quoted Dr. M. Simbad, head of a U.S.-based Armenian organization: The doctor said that greed, religion, and politics all combined to induce the Turks to massacre the Armenians.  The Government was always behind every massacre, and the people were acting under orders.

“When the bugle blows in the morning,” he said, “Turks rush fiercely to the work of killing the Christians and plundering them of their wealth.  When it stops in the evening, or in two or three days, the shooting and stabbing stop just as suddenly then as it began.  The people obey their orders like soldiers.”

  • Scottish historian Lord Kinross in Andrew Bostom’s book, “The Legacy of Jihad,” describes the general pattern of the massacres and the specifics of the massacre of Urfa:

“Each operation, between bugle calls, followed a similar pattern.  First the Turkish troops came into a town for the purpose of massacre; then came the Kurdish irregulars and tribesmen for the purpose of plunder.  Finally came the holocaust, by fire and destruction, which spread . . . throughout the lands and villages of the surrounding province.  . . .

Cruelest and most ruinous of all were the massacres of Urfa, where the Armenian Christians numbered a third of the total population. . . .  some three thousand refugees poured into the cathedral, hoping for sanctuary.  But the next morning – a Sunday – a fanatic mob swarmed into the church in an orgy of slaughter, rifling its shrines with cries of ‘Call upon Christ to prove Himself a greater prophet than Mohammed.’  Then they amassed a large pile of straw matting, which they spread over the litter of corpses and set alight with thirty cans of petroleum.  The woodwork of the gallery where a crowd of women and children crouched, wailing with terror, caught fire, and all perished in the flames.

Punctiliously three-thirty in the afternoon the bugle blew one more, and the Moslem officials proceeded around the Armenian quarter to proclaim that the massacres were over . . . the total casualties in the town, including those slaughtered in the cathedral, amounted to eight thousand dead.”

This “Pavlovian conditioning”was attested to by other survivors of the genocide.

In addition to the separate barbaric acts in many cities and villages, tens of thousands of Armenians were marched into the Syrian desert without food or water and left to perish.  To this day, the government of Turkey will not admit that this wholesale killing, this genocide, even occurred.

We shall continue next session with, “Islam since World War I”.