Reflections of the Italo-Turkish War (1911-1912) in Urdu PoetryArzu Çiftsüren
The Italo-Turkish War (1911-1912) was an important war in the last period of the Ottoman Empire’s history. As a result of this war, the Ottoman Empire lost its last piece of land in North Africa, Italian colonialism started in North Africa, the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean changed, and Italy became a powerful state. In the meantime, all Muslims were linked to the Ottoman Empire due to the Caliph being the chief spiritual authority of Islam. All Muslim states also sent financial and moral support to the Ottoman Empire, with the greatest support being given by the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. They supported Turks in various ways such as sending the aid they collected to the Ottoman Empire, coming to Ottoman lands as medical delegations and establishing field hospitals, and shaping public opinion by writing articles in newspapers about the situation of the Turks. All these have been reflected in the Urdu literature, and many works were written both in verse and prose about the Italo-Turkish war. This article will discuss the reflections of the Italo-Turkish War in Urdu poetry and examine how this war reflected onto the subcontinent.
Trablusgarp Savaşı’nın Urdu Şiirine YansımasıArzu Çiftsüren
İtalya ile yapılan Trablusgarp Savaşı Osmanlı Türk tarihinin önemli savaşlarından biridir. Bu savaş sonucu Osmanlı Devleti Kuzey Afrika’daki son toprak parçasını kaybetmiş, Kuzey Afrika’da İtalyan sömürgeciliğinin başlamasıyla Doğu Akdeniz’de güçler dengesi bozulmuş, İtalya artık etkisi olan bir devlet haline gelmiştir. Hilafet makamıyla bütün İslam âleminin hamisi olan Osmanlı Devleti’ne bu süreçte özellikle alt kıta Müslümanlarından maddi ve manevi destekte bulunulmuştur. Gerek topladıkları ianeleri Osmanlı’ya göndermek, gerek yaraları askerlerin yaralarını sarmak üzere tıp heyeti olarak Osmanlı topraklarına gelmek, gerekse savaşın nabzını tutarak yayınladıkları gazetelerde Türkler için kamuoyu oluşturmak suretiyle çeşitli yollardan destek olmuşlardır. Bu süreç Urdu literatürüne de yansımış ve Trablusgarp Savaşı ile ilgili gerek nazım gerekse nesir alanında pek çok eser ortaya çıkmıştır. Bu çalışmada Trablusgarp Savaşının Urdu şiirine nasıl yansıdığı ele alınarak savaşın alt kıtada nasıl değerlendirildiği incelenecektir.
Italy completed its union later than other European forces and soon after tried to achieve its long-desired goal of establishing a colony in North Africa, which at the time was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Italy was actually searching for an excuse for war and sent a diplomatic note to the Ottoman Empire on September 23, 1911 through the Italian ambassador in Istanbul, claiming that the Italians in Tripoli and Benghazi were not safe and that the Ottoman state had also been unresponsive to the events that took place against the Italians. With the understanding that war preparations had begun on the Italian side, the Ottoman Empire’s warship Derne, full of ammunition and food, reached Tripoli with great difficulty. The next day, four Italian warships blockaded Tripoli. After the Derne’s arrival in Tripoli, Italy had an excuse for war and sent an ultimatum to Istanbul on September 28, 1911. Without even waiting for a response from the Ottomans, Italy declared war on Turkey, landing in Tripoli on October 4 and capturing the port cities of Tobruck, Derna, Benghazi, and Khoms. Within this period, the Ottoman Empire, which was already experiencing difficult times with its political problems and minority uprising, was abandoned in the international arena, and the Balkan States got ready for war against the Ottoman Empire, which had to sign a peace treaty with Italy on October 18, 1912. With the Treaty of Ouchy, the Ottoman Empire lost Tripoli, its last piece of land in North Africa. Italy didn’t return the Twelve Islands to the Ottoman Empire, and the Italians settled in the Aegean Sea. After Italy started colonizing in North Africa, the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean changed, and Italy became a more powerful state. All Islamic geography became prey to the Westerners in their search for colonies, and the lands of the Ottoman State as the protector of the Muslims with the Caliphate began being shared with Western states.
While this was the case in the Ottoman Empire, the negative outcome of the Indian rebellion known as the 1857 Uprising in the subcontinent, the end of the Mughal Empire, and the domination of the subcontinent by the British had completely changed the balance and made the British superior to all Western states. After all these events, Muslims from the subcontinent started to support the Ottoman Empire in a variety of ways. The support activities that started with the Serbian Revolt occurred at this time. They set up fundraisers in many centers of the subcontinent and collected aid from them. The names of the people who helped were given in the pages of Urdu newspapers such as Zamindar, Kayser’ul Ahbar, Şems’ul Ahbar, Jarida-e Ruzgar, Avad Panch, Ahsan’ul Ahbar, al-Hilal, and Paisa Ahbar, in which these people were honored. All the Muslims from the subcontinent felt that the Ottomans were alone because it was a Muslim state.
During this whole period, considerable literature about Turkey and Turks was formed in the Urdu literature. As a matter of fact, many works were written, especially in the genre of poetry, due to factors such as being able to reach the target group more quickly and being the literary tradition of the subcontinent. These poets and other writers described Italy’s unacceptable behavior toward the Turks as a continuation of the Crusades and blamed the British administration for not doing anything against the Italians. In the poems they wrote in particular, they called on England to do something and establish peace and security in this unjust war of Italy. Zafar Ali Khan was one of the pioneers in the struggle to free the subcontinent. He took the pulse of the war through the war news he wrote in the newspaper Zamindar, of which he was the editor, and sent a message of unity to the Muslims with the poems he wrote. The Italo-Turkish War, what would take place later in the Balkan Wars, and the period of the National Struggle were reflected in Zafar Ali Khan’s poems of which he wrote over forty about the Turks. One of the greatest poets in Urdu literature and Pakistan’s national poet was the Turkish friend Iqbal. He did not remain indifferent to the Italo-Turkish War and stood by the Turks with his speeches at the conferences he gave and in the poems he wrote. “Huzoor-e Risalat Maab” and “Fatimah bint-e Abdullah” are the best examples of the Italo-Turkish War being reflected in the subcontinent. In his poem called “Huzoor-e Risalat Maab,” Iqbal met the Prophet in his dream, and when the Prophet asked him what he’d brought as a gift, Iqbal said, “I brought a gift that cannot even be found in Heaven,” and he presented the Prophet with a bottle containing the blood of Turkish martyrs as a present. In this poem, Iqbal shows the sacred honor he gave to the Turkish people.
Zaheda Khatun Shirwani was a member of a prominent family in the Aligarh region and is one of the ones who included the Italo-Turkish War in her poems. Shirwani died at a very young age because of tuberculosis. She lived in that painful period when Muslims were writhing against Western forces and discussed social as well as political situations in her poems. She wrote poems especially for women. She had a rubai [quatrain in classical Arabic/Urdu poetry] in which she wrote the history of the war with the abjad account related to the Italo-Turkish War. Akbar Allahabadi was also known for his satirical poems in particular. Mirza Hadi Aziz Laknovi was a successful poet of classical Urdu poetry who also included the Italo-Turkish War in their poems. All these poets masterfully handled the current situation in their poems, which they considered as the struggle of the Muslim East against the Christian West.