“Iraq in Ottoman Documents” joint seminar with Bait al-Hikmah (Iraq) held at IRCICA

6 June 2012

A seminar on "Iraq in Ottoman Documents" brought together scholars from Iraq and Turkey an entire day on 6 June. The seminar was organized jointly with Bait al-Hikmah, Iraq. It was opened in the presence of Prof. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, OIC Secretary General; Mr. Erşat Hürmüzlü, Chief Advisor to the President of Turkey; Prof. Shimran al-Ijly, Chairman of the Bait al-Hikmah Board of Trustees; Ambassador Ahmed al-Kamaly, Consul General of Iraq in Istanbul, Ambassador Asim Mukhtar İbrahim, Consul General of The Sudan in Istanbul, and Mr. Mohamed Affan al-Hamdani, Cultural Counselor at the Embassy of Iraq in Ankara. An exhibition titled "Bagdad in Ottoman documents" accompanied the seminar, displaying the reproductions of official documents on social and cultural aspects of the city of Bagdad at different times during the Ottoman rule.

In his welcoming address, Dr. Halit Eren underlined the indispensible role of the Ottoman official documents as references in the study of the history of Iraq in recent centuries. He then outlined the activities conducted by IRCICA in relation with the Ottoman archives: those in the context of its research projects and those aimed at making known these documents and facilitating researchers' access to them through catalogues, translations, among others. Concerning the seminar, he said it represented an important step forward in scholarly cooperation between IRCICA and Iraqi institutions and expressed his pleasure to see these institutions' revived active participation in Islamic cultural and scholarly cooperation.

Prof. Shimran al-Ijly, Chairman of the Bait al-Hikmah Board of Trustees, gave information on the history of development of his institution and the activities it carries out in order to foster the scholarly, scientific and cultural environment in Iraq and its region. He said Bait al-Hikmah attaches great importance to cooperation with OIC member countries' cultural institutions.

Mr. Mohamed Affan al-Hamdani, Iraqi Cultural Counselor, addressed the audience underlining the need to benefit from the information contained in the numerous Ottoman documents, which reflect the common heritage of Arabs and Turks and are evidence to their shared history. He called for efforts to verify or to correct peoples' acquired conceptions and convictions on the basis of the facts that abound in the contents of these documents.

Mr. Erşat Hürmüzlü, Chief Advisor to the President of Turkey, praised the role assumed by Bait al-Hikmah in promoting scholarship. He expressed the wish that discrepancies between ideas and conceptions on one hand and the common culture of the peoples who were hitherto part of the Ottoman State on the other be eliminated. He called for further development of international relations in the fields of culture, history studies and the requirements of the present time.

Prof. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, Secretary General of the OIC, gave a scholarly address in which he stressed that reference to the Ottoman documents is a sine qua non in the study of the history of the states founded after dissolution of the Ottoman State. He emphasized the role of IRCICA in reinforcing the links among scholars and researchers of the Muslim world and producing reference books. Prof. İhsanoğlu proposed that a certain number of graduates of history and other social sciences from Iraq to Turkey in order to study the history of their country on the basis of the Ottoman archives. He also proposed that a comprehensive reference book on the history of Iraq during the Ottoman period be prepared by Iraqi scholar and researchers.

The working sessions of the seminar heard scholars from Iraq and Turkey deliver comprehensive papers. In the first session, chaired by Dr. Halit Eren, the following papers were presented: "Historical geography of Arab provinces during Ottoman rule" (Prof. Dr. Mahmoud Ali Daoud, Department of Juridical Studies, Bait al-Hikmah); "The importance of the Ottoman Archives for research on the history of Iraq" (Dr. Önder Bayır, Head of the Department of Ottoman Archives, Turkish Prime Ministry's State Archives); "The social and economic situation of Iraq according to al-Zawra newspaper (1869-1917)" (Mr. Mohamed Jaber al-Jamal, Department of History Studies, Bait al-Hikmah). As to the second session, it was chaired by Prof. Shimran al-Ijly, and heard papers titled: "Baghdad in the documents of the late Ottoman period" (Dr. Ebubekir Ceylan, Fatih University, Istanbul); "The history of Iraq in the light of Ottoman documents: present state, views and suggestions" (Dr. Jamil Moussa al-Najar, Al-Mustansiriya University, Baghdad), and "The importance of the documents of the Ministry of Education from the viewpoint of the history of education in Iraq" (Prof. Dr. Fazıl Bayat, IRCICA).

The seminar, coordinated by Prof. Fazıl Bayat, is part of a series of research and publication projects and meetings organized by IRCICA on the subject of the history of Arab countries during the Ottoman period, i.e. from the beginning of the 14th century until the early 20th. In the context of this work, the pertinent documents collected mainly from the Ottoman official documents contained in the Department of Ottoman Archives, Turkish Prime Ministry's State Archives but also from other Ottoman documentary collections such as those of Topkapı Palace Museum, are translated into Arabic and published in a series of systematically arranged volumes titled "The Arab provinces in Ottoman documents". Two volumes, containing documents from 16th -century Muhimme registers and from other collections respectively, were published in 2011. These publications are highly useful for researchers of the history of Arab countries whose main working language is Arabic. The documents are related to varied subjects ranging from the Ottoman administrative, financial, etc. policies applied in Arab lands, waqfs, and regulation of the pilgrimage to uprisings, complaints by the people to the state, security measures protecting foreign tradesmen, among many others. In the context of the same project, seminars such as the above one are convened or presentations are made to larger meetings with regard to other Arab countries as well. An example is the forthcoming congresses on "Sudan during the Ottoman Era" to be organized jointly with the National Record Office of The Sudan on 26-28 September 2012 in Khartoum, and "Oman during the Ottoman Era" which will be organized jointly with the National Records and Archives Authority of the Sultanate of Oman, on 6-7 October 2012 in Istanbul.