Book by Saudi author unravels Ottoman atrocities in Madinah 

Madinah, Saudi Arabia, circa 1915 when it was part of the Ottoman Empire. From Heroes of Modern Adventure, published 1927. (Getty Images/Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group)
Madinah, Saudi Arabia, circa 1915 when it was part of the Ottoman Empire. From Heroes of Modern Adventure, published 1927. (Getty Images/Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group)
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Updated 25 March 2021

Book by Saudi author unravels Ottoman atrocities in Madinah 

Madinah, Saudi Arabia, circa 1915 when it was part of the Ottoman Empire. From Heroes of Modern Adventure, published 1927. (Getty Images/Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group)
  • "Seferberlik" sheds light on forgotten pillage of the city by Ottoman Turks and the looting of its holy relics 
  • Saudi historian Muhammad Al-Saeed says modern Turkey is attempting to whitewash its cruel imperial past 

JEDDAH: Although the rot had long set in, it was the onset of the First World War in 1914 that truly exposed the Ottoman Empire’s weakness, backwardness and inability to control its distant extremities. 

When historians use the term “Seferberlik” — the Ottoman word for “mobilization” — it is often assumed they are discussing the ethnic cleansing of the Armenians of Anatolia in 1915, when millions were slaughtered or sent into exile. 

But Seferberlik is also used to refer to another lesser known episode of mass displacement that occurred around the same time in what is today Saudi Arabia. 

“Seferberlik: A century on from the Ottoman crime in Madinah” — by Saudi author Mohammad Al-Saeed — tells the story of the deportation of the holy city’s population by Ottoman General Fakhri Pasha. 




Saudi author Mohammad Al-Saeed. (Supplied)

History books tell of Fakhri Pasha’s “heroic defense” of the city in the 1918 Siege of Madinah, fending off repeated attacks by the British-backed Arab fighters of Hussein bin Ali, the Sharif of Makkah. 

What the books often gloss over are the happenings of 1915, prior to the siege, when Fakhri Pasha forced Madinah’s population into trains and drove them north into present-day Syria, Turkey, the Balkans and the Caucasus. 

Moreover, the version of events told in Turkey today tends to omit the Ottomans’ removal of the valuables of Prophet Muhammad’s sacred chamber, the demolition of buildings to make way for defenses and supply lines and the man-made famine’s cruel toll on Madinah’s remaining civilian population. 

“The Seferberlik crime was an attempt to transform Madinah into a military outpost,” Al-Saeed told Arab News. “The Turks tried to separate the city from its Arab surroundings and annex it to the Ottoman Empire to justify ruling what remained of the Arab world.” 




The army of Faisal I of Iraq coming into Yenbo (aka Yanbu), in the present-day Al Madinah province of western Saudi Arabia, during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule, December 1916. (Pierre Perrin/Sygma via Getty Images)

Against the wishes of the Ottoman Caliph Sultan Mehmed V, the Young Turks who dominated the empire’s affairs at that time had sided with Germany and the Central Powers. Their brand of Turkish ethno-nationalism spelled disaster for the empire’s other ethnic groups. 

The highly strategic Hijaz railway, which linked Damascus and Madinah, was vital to the Ottoman war effort, which made it a frequent target of the Arab rebels and their British ally, T.E. Lawrence. 

So important was this rail link for the movement of troops and munitions that Ottoman forces were prepared to displace Madinah’s civilian population and garrison its holiest sites, no matter the harm and disrespect their actions caused to the resting place of Prophet Muhammad. 

“General Fakhri Pasha came to prove the power of the Ottoman Empire over Madinah, no matter what the cost,” Al-Saeed said. “He took the Prophet’s Mosque and its sanctity and turned it into a weapons depot and a camp for soldiers. 

“He also transformed the city’s minarets into artillery positions, unconcerned about affecting the Prophet’s Mosque, the dome and the Prophet’s Tomb. 

“Furthermore, he confiscated the inhabitants’ possessions, their date farms and their crops, and turned them over to the military effort and to his soldiers, estimated to be around 70,000 mercenaries. They desecrated Madinah by drinking alcohol in the streets.” 




The Hijaz Railway was strategically vital to the Ottoman war effort. (Supplied)

In the second phase of Fakhri Pasha’s campaign, “he destroyed homes and extended the railway to inside the Prophet’s Mosque, disrespecting the sanctity of the mosque in another crime, for the purpose of facilitating the transport of valuables and items in the Prophet’s Chamber — the possessions of Prophet Muhammad and his wives — away from the eyes of citizens and out of fear of them, and in preparation for smuggling them to Constantinople,” Al-Saeed said. 

“The stolen treasures arrived in Constantinople, the Ottoman Empire’s capital, and have been on display for many years at the Topkapi Museum (in present-day Istanbul).” 

The holy relics include old copies of the Quran; jewelry and golden candlesticks; and swords. Besides the 390 artefacts, visitors to the museum can see the following possessions of Prophet Muhammad: the Blessed Mantle, the Holy Banner, his sword and bow, a jar, a piece of his tooth and a hair from his beard. 

Sources suggest Fakhri Pasha even attempted to have the body of Prophet Muhammad exhumed and shipped to Constantinople. An Egyptian engineer who was summoned to Madinah to modify the minarets of the Prophet’s Mosque to support the weight of Ottoman artillery claimed he was ordered to open the tomb, but he refused. 

“Fakhri Pasha asked for his help to exhume the body of the prophet and move it to Constantinople, according to the historical documents written by the French representative in Cairo and sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Al-Saeed said. 




The Hijaz Railway was strategically vital to the Ottoman war effort. (Supplied)

“The French representative vouched for the account of the Egyptian engineer, who fled the city and did not carry out the crime, thus confirming that the grave in question did indeed house the prophet’s body and the goal was to move the body to Constantinople.” 

“In the last phase, the citizens of Madinah were forcibly displaced and soldiers were settled there instead,” Al-Saeed said. 

Possibly up to 40,000 civilians were deported, with parents separated both from each other and from their children.

“They kidnapped people from the streets and did not deport them as families. They deported them as individuals and sent them to other areas under Ottoman rule. 

“According to historical sources, the Seferberlik atrocities resulted in only a few hundred citizens remaining in the city. Fakhri Pasha ordered the monopolization of food, which was scarce in the first place, especially dates, which were given to the Ottoman soldiers. 

“Madinah reached the point of famine, forcing its citizens and orphaned children to eat cats, dogs and what remained on the farms and in the streets.” 




“Seferberlik: A century on from the Ottoman crime in Madinah” — by Saudi author Mohammad Al-Saeed.

Al-Saeed says he chose to write about the Ottoman Empire’s actions in Madinah a century on because he believes modern Turkey is trying to whitewash its imperial past. 

He plans to translate his book into several languages to raise awareness of this little-known chapter of Ottoman history. 

“I wrote an article in 2015 about the passage of 100 years since this crime and provided details that few people knew about,” Al-Saeed said. 

“Reactions to the article varied between people shocked at the information and those who could not believe it, given the Turkish publicity ahead of its publication which attempted to whitewash the Ottoman Empire’s ugliness and its heinous crimes against Arabs. The public was oblivious to the Ottoman crimes. 

“Following the article, the idea of documenting the event was established, so that history would not forget it like other events in Arab history, particularly since the few historical sources that documented Seferberlik are in the Ottoman, English and French archives. 

“Moreover, the sources of information are very limited and the grandchildren of those who were in Madinah at the time do not have many documents. A lot of the city’s inhabitants were displaced. Many of them did not return.” 


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives phone call from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives phone call from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa
Updated 18 May 2021

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives phone call from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives phone call from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa
  • King Hamad congratulated King Salman on the re-opening of the King Fahd Causeway
  • King Salman thanked Bahrain’s ruler for his efforts to further strengthen the relations between both Kingdoms

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman discussed in a phone call with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa issues of common interest and relations between both Kingdoms, state news agency SPA reported.
King Hamad further congratulated King Salman on the re-opening of the King Fahd Causeway, following the coronavirus lockdown, Bahrain’s news agency BNA reported.
Only those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or those who have recovered from the disease are allowed to leave the Kingdom.
Meanwhile King Salman thanked Bahrain’s ruler for his efforts to further strengthen the relations between both Kingdoms.


Saudi passengers flock to airports as foreign travel resumes

Saudi passengers flock to airports as foreign travel resumes
About 385 international flights took off from nine Saudi airports on Monday, including 225 departures from Riyadh, 75 from Jeddah, 66 from Dammam, and 19 from the other airports. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 18 May 2021

Saudi passengers flock to airports as foreign travel resumes

Saudi passengers flock to airports as foreign travel resumes
  • About 385 flights to international destinations took off from nine airports in the Kingdom on Monday

JEDDAH: The terminals at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah were once again bustling with passengers on Monday, as international travel resumed more than a year after it was suspended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Arrivals and departures resumed at the Kingdom’s air, land and sea ports at 1 a.m., with Saudi citizens who have been vaccinated, or have recovered from the virus within the past six months, free to travel.
As passengers flocked to the airport from early Monday morning, the flow of traffic was well-organized and smooth. Entry to terminals was restricted to people with valid tickets and helpers accompanying disabled travelers.
As part of the latest rules implemented by authorities, Saudis younger than 18 must also provide proof that they have a health insurance policy, approved by the Saudi Central Bank, that will cover the cost of treatment for COVID-19 in other countries.
Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Civil Aviation also issued updated travel guidelines, including requirements for the use of the country’s Tawakkalna COVID-19 tracking app. The conditions apply to all travelers, regardless of whether their trip is for leisure, study, work or to receive medical treatment.
About 385 international flights took off from nine Saudi airports on Monday, including 225 departures from Riyadh, 75 from Jeddah, 66 from Dammam, and 19 from the other airports. In addition, about 300 vehicles crossed land borders into Qatar during the morning.
The Kingdom’s national carrier, Saudia, resumed flights to 43 destinations in 30 countries. It said it will operate 178 scheduled flights each week from Jeddah and 153 from Riyadh.

As part of the latest rules implemented by authorities, Saudis younger than 18 must also provide proof that they have a health insurance policy.

Ibrahim Al-Omar, the airline’s director general, said that Saudia has implemented more than 50 precautionary measures throughout all stages of the flight process, and has been ranked among the Top-10 safest airlines in the world by the Airline Passenger Experience Association. He added that since the pandemic began, the airline has operated more than 100,000 flights, transporting more than 10 million passengers.
The destination of the first international flight to depart from Riyadh on Monday was Hyderabad in India, while the first flight of the day from Jeddah was bound for Dhaka in Bangladesh. The first international flight to land in Riyadh on Monday was from Cairo, and the first arrival in Jeddah was from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

INNUMBERS

More than 18,000 people traveled from King Abdulaziz Airport on Monday.

More than 47 flights operated from the Kingdom within 6.

Despite the resumption of international flights, the Saudi Interior Ministry said that a ban remains on direct or indirect travel to 13 countries without prior permission to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The countries this applies to are: Libya, Yemen, Armenia, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Belarus, India, Lebanon, Turkey, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Venezuela.
In addition, the ministry said travelers heading to Bahrain must have received two doses of a vaccine, and children under the age of 18 are not eligible to travel there. Diplomats and individuals accompanying them, air navigation and ship crews, workers in companies that are part of the health supply chain, and truck drivers are exempt from these rules. People who arrived at the King Fahd Causeway, on the border with Bahrain, but did not meet the requirements were turned away on Monday.
Travelers returning to the Kingdom after visiting a foreign country will be required to quarantine at home for seven days. However foreign visitors, including members of diplomatic missions arriving by air from most countries, will no longer need to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Those who are not vaccinated must provide proof of a negative PCR test, issued by an approved laboratory within 72 hours of flying to the Kingdom, otherwise they will not be allowed to board the plane.
With the exception of Saudi citizens, resident expats and GCC citizens, all people arriving in Saudi Arabia must have medical insurance that will cover the costs of COVID-19 treatment in outpatient clinics, emergency rooms and hospitals.
On Jan. 29, Saudi authorities postponed the reopening of air, sea and land ports and extended the travel ban from Mar. 31 to May 17. Further information about international travel, including the rules and requirements, is available at www.saudia.com.


Covid rule violators warned as cases decline in Saudi Arabia

Covid rule violators warned as cases decline in Saudi Arabia
Hundreds of individuals were fined for breaking social gathering protocols in different part of Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 18 May 2021

Covid rule violators warned as cases decline in Saudi Arabia

Covid rule violators warned as cases decline in Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi Arabia has administered more than 11.7 million COVID-19 vaccines so far at a rate of 33.5 doses per hundred

JEDDAH: More than 250 people have been fined for breaking social distancing rules in 24 hours, including 72 women attending a wedding where both guests and the host were fined.
For the fourth day in a row, the number of people infected with the coronavirus in Saudi Arabia remained below 1,000 with a significant rise in recoveries.
There were 886 new cases recorded in the Kingdom on Monday – a total of 433,980 people have been infected with the disease in Saudi Arabia since the start of the pandemic.
Meanwhile a further 1,127 people have recovered, taking the total number of recoveries to 418,914, meaning the Kingdom’s recovery rate has increased to 96.5 percent, marking a significant decline in the epidemiological curve.
There were 7,892 active cases, 1,377 of them critical, an increase of just one patient in the past 24 hours.

FASTFACTS

• A total of 886 new cases were recorded in the Kingdom on Monday.

• The highest number of cases was recorded in the Riyadh region.

• More than 250 individuals fined for violating health protocols.

The regions with the highest number of infections were Riyadh with 281 cases and Makkah with 250. Twelve new COVID-19 related deaths were reported, raising the death toll to 7,174.
Saudi Arabia has administered more than 11.7 million COVID-19 vaccines so far at a rate of 33.5 doses per hundred. Of the Kingdom’s 34.8 million people, 33.6 percent have now been vaccinated with at least one jab.
On Monday, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs closed nine mosques temporarily in six regions, after cases of COVID-19 were detected among worshipers.
The ministry stated that the total number of mosques that had been closed now amounted to 1,210, with 1,188 subsequently reopened after the completion of disinfection.


GCC national ID not valid for travel

GCC national ID not valid for travel
Travelers must verify the conditions of the destination country and ensure they are met. (SPA)
Updated 18 May 2021

GCC national ID not valid for travel

GCC national ID not valid for travel
  • King Fahd Causeway Passports raises operational capacity

RIYADH: Using a national ID as a document for traveling to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries remains suspended, a spokesman for the Eastern Province Passports said.

Citizens wishing to travel must verify the conditions of the destination country and ensure they are met, Mualla Al-Otaibi added.
In February last year, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to suspend GCC citizens’ use of national identity cards for travel to and from the Kingdom, coinciding with the onset of precautionary measures to combat COVID-19.
Al-Otaibi said the border points of the Eastern Region Passports had resumed work after the lifting of travel suspensions through all air, land and sea ports on May 17.
“Preventive maintenance work was carried out for all border backup devices and systems,” said Al-Otaibi.
A further 10 lanes have been installed in the departure area, bringing the total number of lanes to 27, with 36 lanes in the arrival area.
King Fahd Causeway Passports increased its operational capacity by 30 percent to facilitate passenger travel.
The spokesman said that meetings and workshops were held with port authorities to ensure speedy and smooth travel, while applying all precautions.

Dhaifallah Al-Otaibi

The movement of passengers leaving for Bahrain had decreased sharply since Monday morning, he said. The director general of Saudi Customs at the King Fahd Causeway, Dhaifallah Al-Otaibi, told Arab News they were ready to receive arrivals and departures through the causeway, and to provide customs services to travelers of all categories.
Customs at the causeway linking Saudi Arabia and Bahrain strived to enhance customs procedures, he added.

We are ready to receive arrivals and departures through the causeway.

Dhaifallah Al-Otaibi, DG Saudi Customs

He confirmed the continued cooperation and coordination between all parties operating at the border crossing, and that port authorities were all working as one business system to provide the best services.
“Customs (the land link between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain) continues to take precautionary measures, (which are) more intense with the start of travel between the two countries to ensure the maximum levels of safety recommended to protect travelers and arrivals, in addition to protecting the employees of the port,” he added.
Customs at the King Fahd Causeway continued working on freight traffic since the suspension of personal travel between the two countries last year, he said.
Causeway customs statistics said that procedures for about 272,000 trucks entering and leaving the Kingdom had been completed between March 2020 until the end of April 2021, while about 325,000 vehicles had crossed the causeway in both directions since the beginning of this year.


Saudi Arabia ranks 5th in use of ‘digital government’

Saudi Arabia ranks 5th in use of ‘digital government’
A Saudi Interior Ministry employee stands in front of a screen displaying the Absher mobile app logo at the ministry in Riyadh on February 19, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 18 May 2021

Saudi Arabia ranks 5th in use of ‘digital government’

Saudi Arabia ranks 5th in use of ‘digital government’
  • According to the report, high-performing digital governments are focusing on their digital strategy, which is deeply embedded in the government agenda

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia ranked fifth in the use of “digital government” according to a new study by Accenture.
Countries that scored high in the study have made a sustained investment in digital government.
According to the report, high-performing digital governments are focusing on their digital strategy, which is deeply embedded in the government agenda. Accenture surveyed 5,000 people across the countries in the study. It found that the majority of respondents would like their governments to provide more online services and would like to use social media to engage with government.