Tag Archives: Ottomans

Lebanon’s dark days of hunger: The Great Famine of 1915-18 (By Rym Ghazal)

16 Apr

Lebanon’s dark days of hunger: The Great Famine of 1915-18

The harrowing images from Mount Lebanon as death stalked the streets in 1915. Courtesy Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

The harrowing images from Mount Lebanon as death stalked the streets in 1915. Courtesy Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

“My people and your people, my Syrian

Brother, are dead … What can be

Done for those who are dying? Our

Lamentations will not satisfy their

Hunger, and our tears will not quench

Their thirst; what can we do to save

Them between the iron paws of

Hunger?”

– From Dead Are My People by Gibran Khalil Gibran (1883-1931)

Almost 100 years ago this month, as the First World War raged across Europe and beyond, a dark chapter unfolded in what was then known as Greater Syria.

The first culprit: the relentless locust. Following a bad harvest caused by a drought, in April 1915 dark clouds heralded the arrival of swarms of locusts, descending to feed on plants, whether green or dry.

For over three months, the tiny but insatiable creatures devoured whatever had been left behind by the Ottoman authorities, who had prioritised food and grain reserves to feed their soldiers as part of the imperial war effort.

This marked the beginning of a period that is now often just a footnote in the history books: the Great Famine of 1915-18, which left an estimated 500,000 people dead. With a lack of accurate data, estimates range from 100,000 to 200,000 deaths in Mount Lebanon alone.

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Game of Words: thoughts on the usage of the term “Middle East” (By Varak Ketsemanian)

8 Jan

Game of Words: thoughts on the usage of the term “Middle East”

Penned by Peter Beaumont, Gerald H. Blake, J. Malcolm Wagstaff, the work The Middle East: A Geographical Study states that the term “Middle East” may have originated in the 1850‘s in the British India Office. Nevertheless, even after the “end” of European colonialism of the area designated as the Middle East, the term remains ubiquitous in every aspect of our modern society. Although the term makes sense in the mind of the user, yet such a locution has been highly criticized as emanating from a Eurocentric conception of world geography and history. Thus, the term is seen as a relic of the colonial era, when categorizing the races, religion and people of this region within one particular rubric was characterized knowledge production that tended to justify the rule of the colonizing powers. Nevertheless, I argue that although a problem may reside due to a lack better term, the locution itself is not misleading as long as the user articulates it from a clearly defined pool of knowledge that acknowledges the particulars and diversity of the area. In other words, despite the human mind’s habit of constantly associating things with one another, hence ossifying certain categories of knowledge that are more easily grasped by it, it can be argued that as long as the “Middle East” is used in a way that clearly expresses the context of its usage, the term is not misleading at all. In this sense, the establishment of nation-states and clear-cut boundaries after the collapse of the European colonial rule (1950’s and 1960’s)  has the propensity to spur this  paradigm shift much required for a better understanding of the region.

Current borders of Middle East

Current borders of Middle East

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