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.” 


Afghan Taliban on the agenda as India, Saudi foreign ministers hold talks

Afghan Taliban on the agenda as India, Saudi foreign ministers hold talks
Updated 57 min 23 sec ago

Afghan Taliban on the agenda as India, Saudi foreign ministers hold talks

Afghan Taliban on the agenda as India, Saudi foreign ministers hold talks
  • Expert says Prince Faisal’s visit “very significant” amid political changes in the region
  • New Delhi urges Riyadh to resume flights as two officials discuss COVID-19 challenges, trade and bilateral ties

NEW DELHI: India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar held talks with his Saudi counterpart on Sunday that included measures to bolster bilateral and trade ties, cope with COVID-19 challenges, and a “very useful” exchange on political developments in Afghanistan.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah Al-Saud arrived in New Delhi for a two-day visit on Saturday and is expected to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

It marks the first high-level ministerial visit by a Saudi official to India since the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent travel curbs early last year.

“(It) was a cordial and productive meeting with (the) Saudi foreign minister,” Jaishankar said in a Twitter post on Sunday after the meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.

Prince Faisal’s visit comes amid the recent political changes in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s return to power last month, marking the first official interaction between the two allies.

“Very useful exchange of views on Afghanistan, the Gulf and the Indo-Pacific,” Jaishankar said.

Saudi FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan and India’s FM Subrahmanyam Jaishankar meet in New Delhi. (@DrSJaishankar)

No further details were available, but experts termed the timing of the meeting and Prince Faisal’s visit as “a very significant one.”

As the Taliban surrounded the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Aug. 15, President Ashraf Ghani, with whom New Delhi had cultivated a close relationship, fled Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, the Taliban announced an interim government, weeks after taking over Afghanistan in a stunning military sweep, as US-led foreign forces withdrew after 20 years — ending the country’s longest conflict.

“Saudi Arabia and India have shared concerns as to whether Afghanistan will become the sanctuary for extremists because then it would become extremely dangerous for the neighborhood as a whole,” Talmiz Ahmad, former Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

“It’s natural that both the close partners would discuss Afghanistan. It reflects very close relations that India and Saudi Arabia have established with each other.”

Ahmad cited the “strategic partnership” formed after signing the Riyadh Declaration of 2010 and taken forward “very vigorously” by Prime Minister Modi as the first step toward bringing the two countries closer.

“We now have a strategic council at the apex level. Therefore, the relationship that began with cooperation on counter-terrorism has now become a very strong and deep strategic partnership,” he said.

The two officials also reviewed progress in implementing the Strategic Partnership Council Agreement, signed during PM Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in October 2019, and bilateral cooperation at multilateral forums such as the UN, the G20 and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Jaishankar congratulated Prince Faisal for Saudi Arabia’s successful presidency of the G20 last year, at the pandemic’s peak, a statement by India’s Foreign Ministry said.

“Both sides discussed further steps to strengthen their partnership in trade, investment, energy, defense, security, culture, consular issues, health care and human resources,” it added.

The foreign ministers also agreed to “work closely” to deal with pandemic-related challenges, with Jaishankar thanking Saudi “for the support provided to the Indian community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” urging the Kingdom to relax travel restrictions for visitors from India further.

In July, Riyadh imposed a travel ban on 13 countries, including India, to curb the spread of the coronavirus and its new variants, but removed the UAE, Argentina and South Africa from the list and re-allowed citizens to travel to the three countries starting Sept. 8.

According to Indian foreign ministry data, more than 2 million Indians are living and working in the Kingdom, employed in various sectors of the Gulf state. However, the COVID-19 pandemic rendered thousands jobless, with a majority unable to return to work due to travel curbs.

Jaishankar urged an early resumption of direct flights to Saudi Arabia while both nations “agreed to work closely on all COVID-19 related challenges.”

In April and May, Saudi supplied more than 140 tons of medical oxygen to Indian to help the South Asian nation tide over a health crisis amid a deadly second wave of the coronavirus that claimed the lives of more than 400,000 in a country of 1.36 billion people.


KSrelief chief meets UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen in Riyadh

KSrelief chief meets UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen in Riyadh
Updated 19 September 2021

KSrelief chief meets UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen in Riyadh

KSrelief chief meets UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen in Riyadh

RIYADH: The head of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center met the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen in Riyadh on Sunday.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah and David Gressly discussed the humanitarian situation in Yemen and relief efforts made to alleviate the suffering of people in the war-torn country.

Gressly expressed his pride in the strategic partnership with KSrelief and his appreciation for the important and prominent role of the center in Yemen.

He also praised the professional manner in which the center operates to provide aid and implement various humanitarian and relief programs and projects in countries that require them.


Saudi Arabia announces 5 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 5 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 19 September 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 5 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 5 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 535,531
  • A total of 8,661 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced five deaths from COVID-19 and 70 new infections on Sunday.

Of the new cases, 21 were recorded in Riyadh, 19 in Makkah, seven in the Eastern Province, six in Madinah, three in Asir, three in Najran, two in Jazan, one in Tabuk,  one in Al-Jouf, one in Hail, and one in Al-Baha.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 535,531 after 81 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,661 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 40.6 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Coronavirus booster dose ‘unnecessary,’ say Saudi experts

More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 19 September 2021

Coronavirus booster dose ‘unnecessary,’ say Saudi experts

More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
  • New recoveries reported amounted to 77, raising the total number to 535,450

JEDDAH: A third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is unnecessary, according to Saudi health experts.

“If the two doses of the vaccine prevent severe illness/staying in hospital/death, it does not make sense for the general population to receive a third dose,” said deputy health minister for preventive health, Dr. Abdullah Assiri.

Assiri, who is also an infectious diseases consultant, added: “At this stage of excellent vaccination coverage, we need to reconsider the rationale and method of laboratory testing for COVID-19, and judge the pandemic only from the perspective of the burden of disease on society.”

The comments came after news of proposed booster shots of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for the general public, and third jabs for people aged 65 and older and other vulnerable groups.


Meanwhile, infectious disease expert, Ahmed Al-Hakawi, said that accelerating demand for approval of a third (booster) dose for everyone was not supported by a study he cited.

FASTFACT

546k

The total number of coronavirus cases in KSA reached 546,479.

Titled “Safety and Efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine through 6 Months,” the study, published on Sept. 15, was conducted on more than 45,000 participants in 152 sites in six countries.

The study concluded that “through 6 months of follow-up and despite a gradual decline in vaccine efficacy, BNT162b2 had a favorable safety profile and was highly efficacious in preventing COVID-19.”

“The vaccine still provides protection against severe disease even six months after the second dose,” said Al-Hakawi, who is also a hospital epidemiologist in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia recorded 68 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 546,479, the Ministry of Health said.

Of Saturday’s cases, 20 were in Makkah, 17 in the Riyadh region and seven in the Eastern Province. Hail and Najran were the regions with the lowest case count, posting just one each.

New recoveries reported amounted to 77, raising the total number to 535,450.

With the high recovery rate, the number of active cases has declined to 2,373, of which 361 are in critical care.

Five people have died in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of deaths to 8,656.

More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom at the rate of 201,505 a day.

At this rate, Saudi Arabia could have 70 percent of its population fully vaccinated by Oct. 31.

The Ministry of Health said that 587 centers across all regions of the Kingdom processed the inoculations. Those who have not yet received a vaccine were urged to get one.

The ministry renewed its call for citizens and residents to adhere to precautionary measures and to register with the Sehhaty app to receive vaccines.

Meanwhile, testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have helped millions of people since the pandemic outbreak.

Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual.

Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.

Appointments for both services can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.


Saudi chef to kings reveals latest recipes for culinary success

As well as developing Arab recipes for Saudi dairy products, Tawfiq Qadri has cooked up more than 3,000 different hot, cold, and pastry meals. (Supplied)
As well as developing Arab recipes for Saudi dairy products, Tawfiq Qadri has cooked up more than 3,000 different hot, cold, and pastry meals. (Supplied)
Updated 19 September 2021

Saudi chef to kings reveals latest recipes for culinary success

As well as developing Arab recipes for Saudi dairy products, Tawfiq Qadri has cooked up more than 3,000 different hot, cold, and pastry meals. (Supplied)
  • 58-year-old Tawfiq Qadri still oozes the same enthusiasm for food preparation as he did as child

MAKKAH: A top Saudi cook hailed as the chef to kings is set to pass on more of his culinary skills and recipes with the release of a new book.

Tawfiq Qadri, who has worked in palace kitchens for a succession of monarchs, is due to finish his third cookbook, “On the Table of the Caliph.”
And the 58-year-old still oozes the same enthusiasm for food preparation as he did as child.
“It all started when I was seven years old. I was fascinated with the sight of my mother in the kitchen, and I used to help in cutting carrots and cucumbers and cleaning rice. I was the only one of 16 brothers and sisters to help her at our home in Madinah,” he told Arab News.
“I joined the scouts during intermediate and high school and was the chef of my classmates at the time. I became famous for cooking the popular Hijazi dishes, which the scouts enjoyed despite my lack of experience.”
After moving to Italy to train as a chef, Qadri’s career took off as he later made a name for himself catering for royals, presidents, and celebrities.
But his rise to fame in the cuisine arts did not get off to a smooth start.
After graduating from high school in Madinah, he got a job at the Saudi Central Bank, an experience which left a bad taste in his mouth. Working in a small office, Qadri felt trapped in an environment he said killed his creative passion to cook.

At the age of 19, just six months into his job, he quit the bank without telling his family and went to stay at his uncle’s hotel. With the help of his relative, and with his parents’ blessing, Qadri enrolled in a bachelor’s degree course at an Italian institute in Sicily, spending two-and-a-half years there as the only Arab student.

BACKGROUND

• After graduating from high school in Madinah, he got a job at the Saudi Central Bank, an experience which left a bad taste in his mouth. Working in a small office, Qadri felt trapped in an environment he said killed his creative passion to cook.

• At the age of 19, just six months into his job, he quit the bank without telling his family and went to stay at his uncle’s hotel. With the help of his relative, and with his parents’ blessing, Qadri enrolled in a bachelor’s degree course at an Italian institute in Sicily, spending two-and-a-half years there as the only Arab student. He also gained a master’s degree and Ph.D. in the US based on his thesis on managing kitchens and tourist facilities.

On returning home, in 1981 he took up employment with the Royal Saudi Navy, based in Riyadh. There, he was head chef and supervisor of the navy officers’ club and would often fly to Toulon in France to join a ship that regularly sailed to Saudi Arabia, working on board as a chef. After four years in the navy, during which time he rose to the rank of sergeant, he moved into military supply management, eventually heading the operation, and organizing budgets for the whole of the Kingdom.
When the Gulf crisis started in 1990, he was commissioned to join the Ministry of Defense and became the chef of the Allied Forces, earning the rank of chief sergeant.
After taking early retirement from the navy, Qadri spent six years with Saudia airline’s catering division, developing a range of dishes, before advising international hotels on food provision and judging in many culinary competitions throughout the Arab world.
While working with Saudia airline, Qadri was featured in a Saudi newspaper article under the headline, “Passengers Love him Before Seeing Him.” On the back of the publicity, he was given responsibility for Hijazi cooking at the palace of the late King Fahd and went on to work for the late King Abdullah, and now King Salman, notably preparing the kitchen during the visit of former US President Barack Obama.
He also gained a master’s degree and Ph.D. in the US based on his thesis on managing kitchens and tourist facilities. As well as developing Arab recipes for Saudi dairy products, Qadri has cooked up more than 3,000 different hot, cold, and pastry meals, and created 42 new recipes. He is also the author of books “Saudi and the Star of the Table,” and “Guide of the Quick Cooking,” with “On the Table of the Caliph” due to be completed soon.