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Volume :8 Issue : 30 1982      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

THE IMPORTANCE OF TURKISH DOCUMENTS IN STUDYING THE MODERN HISTORY OF THE GULF AND THE ARABIAN PENINSULA

Auther : By: Dr. Najat Abdel-Qader

Historical facts could be derived and compiled from varied sources such as scripts documents archaeological relics, contemporary writings, narrations,………etc. Historical documents, however, are considered by far to be the most important source to serious student of contemporary and modern history. Documental research is an arduous task that entails thorough investigations and comparisons. Documents should be carefully studied and analyzed to enable the researcher to extract information and facts. In this paper, a collection of Turkish documents dating back to the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the present century will be analyzed to shed more light on some aspects of the history of the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula during that period. It is noteworthy however that the Turkish documents, have not been, so far given sufficient care by Arab historians that would have enabled them to probe into the history. Especially this period is characterized by the return of Turkish rule to some areas of the Gulf region following the expedition of Medhat pasha the ruler of Baghdad (1869-72). The same period, in addition, witnessed a growing international rivalry and conflicts over the region.

 

It is hoped that this paper may represent a call upon Arab researches to refer to the authentic Turkish documents as principal sources for modern historical investigations, without, necessarily overlooking other indispensable sources. Several difficulties may be encountered however, and it should be noted from the outset that it is not intended in this paper to deal with the Turkish Archives, but to stress on historical events in the region as derived from Turkish documents. Amongst the encountered difficulties in treating Turkish documents: the absence of reference to source, sender or destination, the difference in documental dating and the need to acquire the Turkish (Osmanli) language.

 

The examined Turkish documents belonging to the aforementioned period fall in two categories: the Bas Bakanlik….….. (Prince Ministerial Archives), and the Disisleri Bakanligi…….… (Ministry of Foreign Affairs Archives). Both were classified and translated with pertinent and complimentary remarks relevant to four subjects namely: administration, military and police, international conflicts, grants and gifts.

The Sultan was usually consulted and referred to in all matters of the state. Sultan Abdul-Hamid (1816-1909) even exceeded this rule by concentrating all power and authority in his hands. Not only did he pay attention to important matters, but also dwelled in the smallest of details. The Empire was divided into States of “Vilayas” administratively subordinate to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The “Vali” held the military title of “Musheer”, thus, combining both military and administrative suthority, until, Sultan Abdul-Hamid II separated them. Each “Vilaya” was divided into provinces called “Sangaks” directed by “Mutasarrefs” and “Kazas” headed by “Kaimakams” all of whom were subordinate to the “Vali”. In the administrative hierarchy, the “Kasas” were divided into districts.

 

The tackled documents have also revealed a number salient features. Document Number 1, for instance, dealt with the subject of candidature to the post of Mutasarref of Najd. Document Number 8 dealt with the subject of grants and gifts. The subject of appointing a companion to the Amir of Mecca was dealt in with a document No. 9, whereas, the important subject of the contest between the Amir of Mecca, Sherif Ali Bin Abdullah Bin Oun and Fouad Pasha the Vali of Hijaz was treated in document No. 10. A number of documents pertaining to Turko-Kuwaiti relations in the opening decade of this century were also mentioned.

 

International rivalry over the domination of the Gulf region was also depicted from a number of documents. British naval superiority gave impetus to her predominance over the Gulf region at the close of the 19th century, through unequal treaties with local rulers. The Turkish Empire, however, could not cope with international ambitions particularly after treaties of friendship were signed between Britain on one hand, and both France and Russia on the other.

 

Some of the documents included in the appendices (e.g. document No. 18) refer to the question of quarantine, which represented one of the aspects of international conflict in the Gulf region at about the end of the 19th century. The Ottoman Empire apparently, tried to utilize this situation to strengthen its control over the strategic straits of the Gulf. Documents No. 19 & 20 defined the Turkish outlooks as regards the territorial boundaries between Qatar and Bahrain.

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