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devshirme - Anestos Canelides

devshirme - Anestos Canelides

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Published by prowling
Originally published at Gates of Vienna
Originally published at Gates of Vienna

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Published by: prowling on Oct 25, 2010
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 Below is the latest of an occasional series of essays by Anestos Canelides. The current piececoncerns the barbaric Turkish institution of 
 , which was practiced for centuries by theOttomans against the conquered people of the Balkans.
Devshirme: A Muslim Scourge on Christiansby Anestos Canelides
 We as a people, whether in Greece or the USA, should not forget our history, especially when itcomes to Islam.About year ago, in the name of political correctness Greek textbooks referred to the Ottomanoccupation of the Greeks as the “Ottoman administration”. The reference was quickly retracted after a loud uproar from many Greeks, because the Ottoman interlude was much more than anadministration, and the occupation brought upon the Christian Greeks centuries of cruel oppression.One institution of such oppression practiced by the Turks was called
, or the practice of recruiting the best and brightest children, usually males, from Christian families, and forcing themto convert to Islam. These children were trained in the Sultan’s civil service, or they become part of an elite fighting force known as the Janissaries. From very inception of this institution the Christian population grievously resented the abduction of their children.The great historian Leopold Von Ranke wrote that the first heroic song by Christos Melionis rangout throughout the mountains in Greece only after the traumatic practice of Devshirme was ended,and it was only long after it was over that it brought about revolt throughout the Balkans.
The Sultan inducted into his service children who had fallen into his hands either by purchase, or byoutright abduction by recruiters from their families. Author Andre Gerolymatos writes about the barbaric practice of Devshirme in
The Balkan Wars
:The cruel practice in what today can be called brain cleansing of the Christian population of the Ottoman Empire is perhaps the most inhuman Turkish legacy. Theadvantage gained by those chosen for conversion and a better life in Constantinople
cannot militate against the odium of taking children away from their parents.
The Ottomans would send agents into villages to exact this tribute, thus depriving these villages of their strongest and most intelligent children, and making the Devshirme agents the most hatedmanifestation of Turkish rule. “The memory of these men continues to stigmatize the Turks in theBalkans.”
It is easy to understand the traumatic tone in surviving Greek literature from that period. For the parents this was a heartbreaking loss, and the complete transformation of their children, who wereforced to turn away from their Christian faith, was devastating. The Tubingen manuscript written byAndre Argyros and John Tholoites in the 16th century vividly reveals the trauma that the parentswent through.You understand my lords and Christian gentlemen, what sorrow the Greeks bear, thefathers and mothers who are separated from their children at the prime of life. Think yeof the heart-rending sorrow! How many mothers scratch their out their cheeks! Howmany father beat their breasts with stones! What grief these Christians experience onaccount of their children who are separated from them while alive and how manymothers say, “It would be better to see them dead and buried in our church, rather thanto take them alive in order to become Turks and abjure our faith. Better that you haddied.
The sad fact is that while many Janissaries were Greek, their conversion and adherence to Islamforever severed them from any Hellenic consciousness or connection with Greek society.
TheChristian population throughout the Balkans, resented the recruitment of the children and it wasoften carried out by force. Those who would not submit and surrender the most healthiest, the mosthandsome, and the most intelligent children faced stiff penalties. Parents who refused wereimmediately put to death by hanging.Since there was no way to escape this recruitment, some Christians fled their villages to certaincities which enjoyed exemption from this tax. They also fled to Venetian-held territories to seek asafe haven, and this resulted in the depopulation of the countryside. Families often sent their children to hide in the mountains or in the homes of Turkish officials friendly to Greeks. Somechildren ran away on their own initiative, but when they found out their parents had been arrestedand were being tortured, they quickly returned and surrendered themselves to the authorities.In some cases Greek parents would exchange their children for Turkish children. Since onlyChristian children could be recruited, this gave Turkish families the hope that their child wouldattain a successful career as either a Janissary or in civil service.
A few Christian families also sawthis as an opportunity for their children, but vast majority resisted the theft of their offspring.
Why Devshirme?
Greeks and other people of the Balkans usually resisted the conquest of their lands, and thereforefaced the fate of the conquered, which was determined according to the principles of the Qur’an.This meant they were either killed, compelled to convert to Islam or required to pay the so-called protection tax. If they paid the protection tax (also called the
), they could keep their faith butwere relegated to the status of a second-class citizens. If the population willfully surrendered theywere granted selected privileges.
“The fact that the Ottomans, in the case of voluntary surrender,conceded certain privileges, one of which was exemption from this heavy burden, indicates that itsmeasure was understood as a penalization for the resistance of the population and the devshirme

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