World War One Through Arab Eyes – Episode three: The New Middle East
World War One was four years of bitter conflict from 1914 to 1918. Called ‘The Great War’ and the ‘war to end all wars’, it is often remembered for its grim and relentless trench warfare – with Europe seen as the main theatre of war.
But this was a battle fought on many fronts. There is a story other than the mainstream European narrative. It is not told as often but was of huge importance during the war and of lasting significance afterwards. It is the story of the Arab troops who were forced to fight on both sides but whose contribution is often forgotten.
They fought as conscripts for the European colonial powers occupying Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia – and for the Ottomans on the side of Germany and the Central Powers. The post-war settlement would also shape the Middle East for the next hundred years.
In this three-part series, Tunisian writer and broadcaster Malek Triki explores the events surrounding World War One and its legacy from an Arab perspective.
Episode three covers the secret Sykes-Picot agreement between Britain and France and the way the two imperial powers carved up the former Ottoman Empire between them, regardless of the rights and demands of rights and nationalist movements across the Arab world.
Despite the Egyptian Revolution and the Iraq Uprising, Arab subservience to Ottoman rule was replaced by a series of mandates across the region in which Britain and France seized control of the areas they prized most – to satisfy their own ambitions, interests and ultimately to gain access to region’s valuable oil resources.
The war gave birth to the Turkish nationalist movement which led to the founding of the modern Turkish state; and to Zionism, aided greatly by the Balfour Declaration of 1917.
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