Iraq: Summary of history and geography or Kut-ul Amara - AKIF EMRE

Iraq: Summary of history and geography or Kut-ul Amara

It is not a coincidence that we are forced to keep away from what is native in exchange for every alliance we have entered with the West in our recent political history. The Kut-ul Amara Victory, which we have been able to remember again on the occasion of its 100th anniversary, is an example of this. This victory, celebrated with the armed forces as one of our rare victories in World War I stopped being – or could no longer be – celebrated during the NATO membership period. The reason is perfectly clear: Remembering a victory won against one of the important members of the Western alliance which we joined could disturb the British, who were now allies. Of course, whether the British and French changed the success they won against the Ottoman Empire and discourse in the same circumstance so as not to make the Turks uncomfortable is a different question. Similarly, the 500th anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul was also a dull commemoration rather than a magnificent celebration.

The matter of how the change of concept in international relations in the 1950s appeared in similar circumstances in the following years is also important. For instance, the thousands of articles of written texts along with the unwritten political impositions after the EU partnership process started, and in what form they appeared, should be important. Not only at the ceremonial level, but also in how the Copenhagen criteria, which was included in our social and cultural codes in the name of universal values, entered our lives and shaped our values and measures is obvious.

The Kut-ul Amara Victory is a significant event whose memory should be cherished. However, it was not enough to change the course of World War I. It has drawn a horizon that defines everything, the falsification of history, which tells the children of this country of nothing other than loss and defeat against the West, with only the Turkish-Greek war. Yet, even though the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I, it was an empire that fought against world states. Its rivals were the era's world powers, namely the French, British and Russians.

The remembrance of the Kut-ul Amara wars being just as important as Çanakkale is not limited to its military success only. The Ottoman Empire's political projects, the structure shaped in Iraq in terms of its social structure have also affected the present. In this aspect, with its social structure, Iraq is considered a summary not only of the Middle East but also of the recent history.

Ottoman policies for Iraq produced results that had significant effects on the subsequent Middle East design.

Developments in Iraq had a determinative function on the formation of pan-Islamism policies becoming state policy during the Abdülhamid era. The strong Shiite population and hierarchical structure in Iraq gaining influence among the Sunni population is one of the striking important issues of the Abdülhamid era. The worsening of the economic state, solidarity betweenSunni and Shiite Muslims as well as the increased inclination toward Shiism for socioeconomic guarantee were concerns for Istanbul. While the empire was seeking solutions against this, it expedited its Islamism policies in terms of Islamic union to protect the caliphate's power and integrity in the region. Hence, it aimed to ensure a Shiite-Sunni alliance and protect the empire's integrity.

The most significant results of these policies were received during World War I. Hence, the jihad ruling announced by Shaykh al-Islam Hayri Efendi had a great impact among the Shiite scholars and Arab Shiite volunteers fought alongside the Ottoman army against the British. The British plan to invade the Persian Gulf's Al-Faw Peninsula and advance into Iraq was faced with major resistance. Even though the Ottomans' resistance against the British with the support of the Shiites broke after a while and Baghdad fell in the following period, the “jihad ruling” continued to have a certain impact.

The reflection of pan-Islamism policies on Shiite-Sunni relations in Iraq during World War I or state policies in the context of the Shiites' relations with the Sunni caliphate affected current political and social structuring.

Abdülhamid's concern about the Sunni population's Shiite tendencies, which he considered disturbing for the future of the caliphate and the empire, resulted in his Islamic union policies aimed at the region in World War I.

However, the attitude of sides during World War I toward the colonialist British also immediately affected the formation of political balance in the region after Ottoman Empire. The Shiite scholars and Shiites who resisted against the British were punished politically. It is evident that this resistance had a major effect in the support of the Sunni minority as the political balances in Iraq were forming. Also, the weakness policy applied everywhere through minorities was applied in every sense in Iraq by the British. It could be said that this equation which continued until the US invasion ensured that the minority governing power, that was weak in every sense, was supported to keep them dependent.

The Kurds who chose not to resist against the US's invasion in the north, but rather cooperate against Saddam Hussein, were awarded with autonomy. This time the Shiites in southern and central Iraq, with the influence of Iran, cooperated instead of resisting. As a result, central administration became predominantly Shiite. Saddam's playing to the Sunni base despite his secular socialist ideology pushed the Sunnis into Daesh's lap.

Another reminder: We need to read not to learn about our history, but to discover our future. The Kut-ul Amara Victory should be re-read not on its own, but taking into account the conditions of geography and history.


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