Check out the new podcast by Nur Sobers-Khan on the Ottoman History Podcast Site. Here is a description of the podcast:

The legal and social environments surrounding slavery and manumission during the early modern period varied from place to place and profession to profession. In this episode, Nur Sobers-Khan presents her exciting research on the lives of a particular population of slaves in Ottoman Galata during the late eighteenth century, how they were classified and documented under Ottoman law, and the terms by which they were able to achieve their freedom.

There are many beautiful cities in the world, but Istanbul is near the top. Check out this online album of photographs.

A gallery of 40 photographs of Istanbul during the late Ottoman period is available online at http://ilmfeed.com/40-photos-of-ottoman-istanbul-from-the-1900s/. Here is a small sample.

by Ibrahim Kalin, Daily Sabah, October 26, 2014

So it looks like Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, is not as strategic as Kobani. Nor is Aleppo while the Bashar Assad regime kills hundreds of civilians there. It is not only Mosul or Aleppo though that are forsaken in this supposedly smart strategy. About one third of Iraq and Syria are under Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) control and have been given up in the rush to liberate the now legendary town of Kobani – a town whose name until a few weeks ago no one had even heard of but has suddenly become the frontline in the fight against ISIS.

In the meantime, Aleppo in Syria, a city of more than 3 million, is about to fall to the Assad regime. While the world’s attention has been focused on Kobani, Mr. Assad is virtually carrying out a massacre with barrel bombs and artillery in Aleppo, Homs and other cities. Will arms be airdropped to Aleppo as well? And if not, why? One cannot help but ask: how is it that Kobani has suddenly gained such “strategic significance” with global attention when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said just two weeks ago that preventing Kobani from falling to ISIS is not a strategic priority for the U.S.? How has Kobani become the center stage in the fight against ISIS while the fact that one third of Iraq and Syria is under ISIS control is not even being discussed? (more…)

Istanbul, where minarets share space with commercial signs

Having spent a short eid vacation in Istanbul, I had the opportunity to walk around the Sultan Ahmet and Eminönü areas. The main streets near the Sultan Ahmet mosque and Topkapi were full to overflowing with tourists from just about everywhere. The lines to enter the major sites stretched for hour-long waits, so I decided it was more prudent to simply walk the back streets with no particular goal in mind. On the way to the Spice Suq, where many of the shops remained open to satisfy the crowds of tourists and merchants’ pockets, I saw the iconic duality of modern Turkey in full force. On one building is a commanding mural of Ataturk, but across the street rises a conservative Islamic center. Down the road from an Ottoman religious shrine there will be a Starbucks or Burger King. Outside a fashion store is a giant image of a vivacious woman in Victoria’s Secret-like underwear, as a woman in niqab walks by. East and West, Ottoman vs. Republic, liberal and conservative: contemporary Turkey is where academically unfashionable binaries rule the streets, if not the hearts and minds of many Turks.

Of course this is the touristic center of Istanbul, complete with the tram stop that always seems to have a crowd outside. There must be a hundred or more small hotels and just as many restaurants and cafes. Kebab (or Kebap, if you prefer) is cuisine’s sultan here today. We stayed in the delightful and relatively inexpensive World Heritage Hotel, where the hospitality and ambiance are superb, and only a short walk from the Sultan Ahmet mosque, whose majestic minarets we could see from our breakfast table. Of the many restaurants nearby, my favorite was Amedros, which offers a wide range of dishes beyond the ubiquitous kebab fare. For authentic Ottoman cuisine, be sure to visit Asitane, which is near the Kariye Camii and Chora Church Museum. Of course, the joy of being in Istanbul is the constant discovery of something you will enjoy. If you have never walked these streets and alleys, you are missing a jewel outside the museums, splendid as they are.

Turkey – “The sick man of Europe”, by John Leech, Punch, September 17, 1853

For a fascinating collection of cartoons, many from Punch, since 1853, check out the website “A Cartoon History of the Middle East,” compiled by Peter Casillas.

I recently across a copy of The Christian Herald from December 1, 1915 and the lead article by John Maynard Owen Williams is on a recent trip he took to Syria and Iraq. The images are from a century ago and I attach a few excerpts from the article. For the first part, click here.

to be continued

Turkish women defy deputy PM with laughter

Bülent Arinç said women should not laugh in public, prompting backlash and highlighting state of women’s rights in Turkey

by Constanze Letsch in Istanbul, The Guardian, Wednesday, July, 30 2014

Twitter in Turkey broke into a collective grin on Wednesday as hundreds of women posted pictures of themselves laughing.

They weren’t just happy. They were smiling in defiance of the deputy prime minister, Bülent Arinç, who in a speech to mark Eid al-Fitr on Monday said women should not laugh in public.

“Chastity is so important. It’s not just a word, it’s an ornament [for women],” Arinç told a crowd celebrating the end of Ramadan in the city of Bursa in an address that decried “moral corruption” in Turkey. “A woman should be chaste. She should know the difference between public and private. She should not laugh in public.”

On Wednesday thousands of women posted pictures of themselves laughing out loud, with the hashtags #direnkahkaha (resist laughter) and #direnkadin (resist woman) trending on Twitter.

Turkish men also took to social media to express their solidarity. “The men of a country in which women are not allowed to laugh are cowards”, tweeted one user. (more…)

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