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Tikri, M., World War One Through Arab Eyes: The Ottomans, Al Jazeera,



What is nationalism, and how, according to the film, did it
contribute to the fall of the Ottoman Empire?

Nationalism is a very significant movement that contributed to the fall of the Ottoman
Empire. Actually, historically speaking, when the Ottoman Empire started to lose its power
and territories in the world; European powers started to elaborate on strategies in order to
exploit the falling empire to their own profits. (Tikri, 2014)As stated by Albert Hourani,
nations all over the word must become modern, meaning they should have a political and
social life similar to those of the countries of Western Europe. (Hourani, p.344) Henceforth,
one of the main strategies of these European powers was to strongly support nationalist
movements within the Ottoman Empire through the religion of Christianity. In other words,
they used Christianity to mobilize the nationalists during that period of time.
Nationalism for the European, was seen as the independence from the Ottoman Empire
and will be directed by the people of the empire. (Makdisi, 2002) Nevertheless, the sultan in
Istanbul was perceived as the caliph of Islam and the leader of the Muslims, and a huge
number of the Arabs all over his empire did respect him. Nevertheless, the strategy to weaken
the sultan and the empire resulted into a failure for a certain period of time. (Tikri, 2014)
In fact, the European colonials also always perceived the Ottoman Empire as being
very backward and despotic. The British power started searching for a solution to challenge
the bond that existed between the Arab Muslims and the sultan. The British decided to
approach Hossein Ben Ali in order to challenge the caliph in Istanbul, which will according to
them will weaken that eventual bond that existed and make them rich their requirements and
priorities. As a result, itdefinitelyled to the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
Second, as shown in the film, in 1908, there is a rise of new leaders who are known as
the Young Turk. Once they reached a certain degree of supremacy, they removed the sultan
Abdul Hamid from power. In addition to that, we should keep in mind that their main goal
was based on a striking project. The project was principally founded on holding the empire
together against new nationalists uprising within the empire.(Tikri, 2014)However, this
project did not last a long period of time, mainly because of the arrival of several events that
shacked the stability of the Empire such as the beginning of World War I.


One of the turning points in the politics of the Ottoman Empire is the Balkans War.
The war, actually, allowed the rise of nationalists. These newly nationalist movements that
started springing over the country also led to the fall of the empire. In fact, the defeat of the
Ottomans during the struggle against the Balkans had resulted in various changes within the
Turkish nationalist movement. Furthermore, this defeat was also the beginning of the
establishment of dictatorship systems within the Empire. It also brought Germany as a strong
natural ally to the Empire. This alliance was, according to the Turk, a striking way that would
eventually help them consolidate their empire. An important figure of the Empire,
AnouarPacha, who had strong admiration and respect for the Prussian, discussed and
strengthen the relationship and treaties with Germany. (Tikri, 2014)
However, in August 1840, there is a formal entry to the war in Europe. Acall for holy
war among Arabs was established in Istanbul. Although Arab troupes were forced to fight in
both sides. The Germans took advantage of the alliance that was in place with the Ottomans
and started lunching campaigns in order to mobilize the Arabs with the Germans.Sharif
Hussein, a well known Arab leader, did ask the Ottoman prime minister to withdraw from the
war after the wars declaration as it can lead to a huge disaster for the Arabs and the empire.
This resulted in a total fiasco for the Arabs at the end of World War I. The Ottomans
were unfortunately very impacted. For instance, as mentioned in the film, they killed Arabs
intelligence. In fact more than one hundred thousand died during the war.(Tikri, 2014)
The French and the British took control over several parts of the empire. Moreover, the
Ottoman Empire became divided into several parts between European powers. On the other
hand, famine, poverty and suffering was spread all over the Empire. In actual fact, the period
of famine still remain in the memory of the population. People used to sell their goods (gold
and lands) in exchange of a small amount of food. Diseases and their incapability to treat it
also had a huge impact on the population. For instance, various diseases, such as malaria and
typhus, came from Indian colonial soldiers and were propagated over the population.
The real Arab intelligence was destroyed and several of Arab nationalists were killed.
We should also keep in mind that the War affected mostly the Arab community as25% of the
Arabs died. (Tikri, 2014) As a result, after the Balkan Wars, the Ottoman Empire was ruined
and did not exist anymore.


To conclude, nationalism can be defined as the tough desire of group people to become
independent and create their own nation. However, while elaborating on the definition of
nationalism, we should also tackle the notion of European nationalism, which is defined as
breaking free of the Ottoman Empire, and gain an independence that will be completed
directed by the people of the Empire.
The rise of nationalism did strongly contribute to the fall of the Ottoman Empire, as it
weaken the empire and created new perspectives that different ethnics started to follow. In
other words, there was no concrete unification in the empire.However, nationalism can also be
seen positive movement, in fact as mentioned by Hourani, nationalism gave an impetus to
the movement for the emancipation of women. (Hourani, p.344) It also allow and develop a
new kind of courage that encourages and creates feminist movement such as Huda Sharawi
who played an important role regarding the movement of feminism. (Hourani, p.345)


Hourani, A. (1991). A history of the Arab peoples. London: Faber and Faber.

Makdisi, U. (2002). After 1860: Debating Religion, Reform, and Nationalism in the Ottoman
Empire. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 34(4), 601-617.

Tikri, M., World War One Through Arab Eyes: The Ottomans, Al Jazeera, 2014. Retrieved