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Subject: The Balkan Massacres of the 1870s

Peaceful Islam Kills
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Date Posted: 19:31:37 08/11/04 Wed

The Balkan Massacres of the 1870s
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the rural Christian peasantry still lived under a system of serfdom, and faced heavy taxes from the Khilafah that were not endured by the Muslims. The Balkans suffered poor harvests in 1874, threatening starvation, yet the Ottoman State, far from assisting the populace, still demanded the usual taxes again, influenced by Islamic law. [26] The pressure-cooker finally blew-up in 1875, when the Christians of Bosnia-Herzegovina revolted against the Khilafah. The uprising spread to Serbia and Montenegro, which had been autonomous since 1829 whilst remaining under Ottoman suzerainty. Soon the revolt spread to Bulgaria, which had no rights of self-government under the Khilafah, because of the large Turkish and Muslim communities in the country and its proximity to the imperial capital.

'The new Sultan, Abdul Hamid II (known appropriately in history as the "red Sultan") gave no quarter to the insurgents.' [27] The Khalifah's policy was genocidal: 'whole villages were razed to the ground, and the inhabitants murdered. Bulgarian prisoners were shot after being subjected to the most barbarous tortures.' [28] Between April and August 1876 thousands of Bulgarian Christians were horrifically massacred by Khilafah forces - 12,000 men, women and children were butchered in May alone. [29] The Great Powers responded by sending the Khilafah the Andrassy note, so-named after the Hungarian minister, proposing reforms in Ottoman administration, which the Sultan pretended to accept. The Balkan Christians, however, after their experiences, refused to take seriously Ottoman promises in the absence of firm Western guarantees.

The Great Powers, with the crucial exception of Britain, at that point sent the Berlin Memorandum to the Ottoman Empire, threatening to assist the Balkan revolts if the proposed reforms were not implemented within two months. However, in the absence of British involvement, the Ottomans felt confident enough to ignore the advice. Russia began preparations for an assault on the Ottoman Khilafah, but this was prevented by an international conference at Constantinople where Abdul Hamid II submitted to constitutional reforms, proposed by his minister Midhat Pasha, a man of liberal views, which involved better treatment of Christians. However, virtually as soon as the conference finished, Midhat Pasha was removed and killed soon after. The new constitution was also withdrawn, along with the guarantees to the Christians. [30] This demonstrated that the persecution of Christians was bound to continue as long as the Khilafah continued to exist.

Eventually, Ottoman prevarication and treachery led to a Russo-Romanian attack, and ultimately intervention by Britain, leading finally to the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 which recognised the total independence of Serbia, Romania, and Montenegro, whilst the Austria occupied Bosnia and the Sandjak of Novibazar. Bulgaria received home rule, with eastern Rumelia, bordering eastern Thrace, always to have a Christian Governor. [31] The war had cost the Khilafah much of its European territory, a point of rejoicing for the Balkan Christians. It must be confessed, however, that the now-independent Balkan states after 1878 were often as bigoted and cruel to their Muslim communities as had been the Khilafah to the Christians, and consequently, many Muslims, frequently persecuted, migrated to the Ottoman Empire.

A more crucial loss for the Ottoman Khilafah was British support. News of the Bulgarian massacres was greeted with popular outrage. The Prime Minister, Disraeli, afraid of Russian expansionist plans, dismissed tales of the massacres as mere propaganda - 'coffee-house gossip'. His opposite number, Gladstone, leader of the Opposition, wrote a famous pamphlet entitled The Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East, which enjoyed large sales. For a time, the Ottoman Khilafah was held in as great disdain as Nazi Germany today. The situation was not aided by the actions of the Sultan-Khalifah Abdul Hamid breaking his promises of better treatment of the Christians that he made ate the Berlin Congress

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