The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

The mass murder of Armenians at the end of the Ottoman empire is fairly well-known, and I'm surprised that an Oxbridge graduate such as de Bellaigue was unaware of it. By his own admission, he only realised it after a work of his, influenced by the Turkish academe, was savaged by an American professor. To salvage his dignity and also filled with curiosity, he decided to spend time in Eastern Turkey where some of the most brutal acts of ethnic cleansing had occurred. The book under review, Rebel Land: Among Turkey's Forgotten Peoples, is the result of his investigation and travel through that region, where he met not only the (converted to Islam) descendants of the Armenians, but also Kurds, Alevis, and Turks.

There appears to be some amount of diminution there of ethnic identity. Most people identify themselves initially as Turks, speak fluent Turkish, and are wary of de Bellaigue. The fault-lines are not only ethnic, however, or even inter-religion. The Kurds themselves are divided by sect - Shiite or Sunni - and they despise each other only slightly less than they hate the heretic Alevis. Meanwhile, the Armenians in 1915 were slaughtered not just by the Turks, but by many of their coreligionists in the region, including the Kurds.

So closely are the subsequent fates of these minorities, though, that all of them make claims to victimhood. de Bellaigue segues from the Armenians to the Kurds. He discusses their long-standing fight for independence via means both political and terrorist. He then moves on to the most despised group of all, the Alevis, and their struggle for identity.

The problem with all these groups, besides the mutual suspicion, is also the innate corruption and megalomania of their own political elite. When they are not fighting the Turks, they are destroying each other. de Bellaigue has written a well-researched (and poetic, even) study of the tensions and psychological pressures these folks live under. Recommended.


a ppcc representative said...

Just Kindled this sucker and it is GLOOOOORIOUS.

Fëanor said...

Ah, a Kindler, eh? I'm still a traditionalist. So, how far have you got with the book? Planning a review as well, I hope?

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