The 'Alawis of Syria from World War I to the Turkish War of Liberation

27.05.2024 | Public Research Seminar | OI Beirut | vor Ort + online

The history of Syria’s ‘Alawi community has become a key topic of Ottomanist research in recent years, due in no small part to the sectarianism fueled by the civil war. Much of this research has drawn on the Ottoman archives in Istanbul to concentrate on the community’s changing relationship with the imperial state in the nineteenth century, and in particular on its inclusion in the tashih-i akaid (“rectification of belief”) initiative under sultan Abdülhamid in the 1890’s. This paper will revisit the long-term history of the 'Alawi community from the 10th to the 20th century and concentrate in particular on later Ottoman policy towards the ‘Alawis as one of social integration rather than religious discrimination. It wil try to shed new light on the community’s situation during and immediately after World War One by drawing on Arabic chronicles, local accounts from Cilicia, French diplomatic reports as well as papers from the ATASE (military) archives in Ankara, and show that the ‘Alawis were willing to forego their ties with the Arab nationalist movement and instead seek the support and leadership of the Kemalist movement during the Turkish War of Liberation (Kurtuluş Savaşı) in an attempt to maintain a maximum of autonomy in both northwestern Syria and southern Turkey after the dislocation of the Ottoman Empire.


Stefan Winter (PhD Chicago, 2002) is professor of history at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and Koç University in Istanbul. His research revolves around local Ottoman administration in northern and western Syria and on Ottoman relations with Arab and Kurdish tribal populations in particular. He is the author of The Shiites of Lebanon under Ottoman Rule, 1516-1788 (Cambridge University Press, 2010), A History of the ‘Alawis: From Medieval Aleppo to the Turkish Republic (Princeton University Press, 2016) and Rural Society in Western Syria in the Early Modern Period (Isis Press, Istanbul, 2022), and the co-editor, with Zainab HajHasan, of Syrian-Kurdish Intersections in the Ottoman Period (University of Toronto Press, 2024). His current research project is an investigation of the Ottoman "desert emirate" (çöl beyilik) of northern Syria and Iraq in the 16th to 19th century. He lives with his family between Montréal and Istanbul.


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