Mary Doria Russell: “Never buy anything from a man selling fear.”
Arabs, Azeris, Persians, Turks, Armenians Assyrians and Jewish People
I selected this history by Russell because one needs to understand the somewhat arbitrary architecture of the political and governments the geography of the nations/states of The Middle East.
I often hear discussions that seem to assume that these geographical entities, as now defined, have previously existed from time immemorial. Even though it is historically accurate to say that there have been tribes identified as Arabs, Azeris, Persians, Turks, Armenians, Assyrians and Jewish as well as several minorities for centuries, the vague and contested boundaries have moved and been redefined many times. Of course at least three of the World’s greatest and largest religions compete for this blood-soaked Holy Land. Many people are surprised to learn that the current nation/ states and governments were only defined less than one hundred years ago, after the First World War. I have to be continually reminded that these invented entities and re-definitions are only thirteen years older than I am! They are defended with the greatest of tribal passions and sacrifice. The concentration of one of the largest sources of essential oil remains an important driving issue. I find it ironic that this oil is both the prize and the fuel for the engines of war that are used in the constant carnage employed to control this triplicate site of the birth of Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad.
This narrative is told in the first person by a fictional character, Agnes Shanklin. Miss Shanklin’s story is the creation of the modern Middle East at the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference, where Winston Churchill, T. E. Lawrence, and Lady Gertrude Bell met to decide the fate of the Arab world – and of our own.
A 40-year-old schoolteacher from Ohio, still reeling from the tragedies of the First World War and the influenza epidemic of 1918, our narrator has come into a modest inheritance that allows her to take the trip of a lifetime to Egypt and the Holy Land. Arriving at the Semiramis Hotel just as the Peace Conference convenes, Agnes enters into the company of the historic luminaries who will, in the space of only a few days at a hotel in Cairo, invent the nations of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan.
While not a participant at the conference, Agnes is ostensibly insignificant, and that makes her a welcome sounding board for Churchill, Lawrence, and Bell. As she observes the tumultuous inner workings of nation-building, she is drawn more and more deeply into geopolitical intrigue. As an aside, she has a personal awakening with an intimacy with a German spy.
Another reviewer says: “With prose as graceful and effortless as a seductive float down the Nile, Mary Doria Russell illuminates the long, rich history of the Middle East with a story that brilliantly elucidate today’s headlines.” Dreamers of the Day is a memorable, passionate, gorgeously written novel.
As a final reasoning regarding life, Mary Doria Russell, through the voice of Agnes Shanklin councils: Read to children, vote and never buy anything from a man selling fear.“
Review by Charles Clanton Rogers 2015/11/23
Author: Mary Doria Russell, Dreamers of the Day,
ISBN-13:9780345485557Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupPublication date:12/16/2008; Audiobooks
Mary Doria Russell is an American writer of speculative fiction novels. Russell was born in Elmhurst, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Her parents were both in the military, her father a Marine Corps drill instructor and her mother a Navy nurse. She was raised as a Catholic but left the church at age fifteen, and her struggles to figure out how much of that culture to pass on to her children fueled the prominence of religion in her work. She graduated from Glenbard East High School and later she earned a Ph.D. in biological anthropology at the University of Michigan.
My Book Review Published on September 9, 2015, Extensive Revision November 23, 2015
References and Supplemental Information:
The color-coded partition map and text provided that Britain [“B”] would receive control over the Red area, known today as Jordan, southern Iraq and Haifa in Israel; France [“A”] would obtain the blue area, which covers modern-day Syria, Lebanon, northern Iraq, Mosul and southeastern Turkey, including Kurdistan; and the Brown area of Palestine, excluding Haifa and Acre, would become subject to international administration.
The Sykes-Picot Agreement:The Sykes–Picot Agreement, officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement was a secret agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and France, with the assent of Russia, defining their proposed spheres of influence and control in the Middle East should the Triple Entente succeed in defeating the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The negotiation of the treaty occurred between November 1915 and March 1916. The agreement was concluded on 16 May 1916.
“The agreement effectively divided the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire outside the Arabian peninsula into areas of future British and French control or influence. An “international administration” was proposed for Palestine. The terms were negotiated by the French diplomat François Georges-Picot and Briton Sir Mark Sykes. The Russian Tsarist government was a minor party to the Sykes–Picot agreement, and when, following the Russian Revolution of October 1917, the Bolsheviks exposed the agreement, “the British were embarrassed, the Arabs dismayed and the Turks delighted.” Wikipedia
“Even before the final outcome of the Great War has been determined, Great Britain, France, and Russia secretly discussed how they would carve up the Middle East into “spheres of influence” once World War I had ended. The Ottoman Empire had been in decline for centuries prior to the war, so the Allied Powers already had given some thought to how they would divide up the considerable spoils in the likely event they defeated the Turks. Britain and France already had some significant interests in the region between the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf, but a victory offered a great deal more. Russia as well hungered for a piece.” Wikipedia
The color-coded partition map and text provided that Britain (“B”) would receive control over the red area, known today as Jordan, southern Iraq and Haifa in Israel; France (“A”) would obtain the blue area, which covers modern-day Syria, Lebanon, northern Iraq, Mosul and southeastern Turkey, including Kurdistan; and the brown area of Palestine, excluding Haifa and Acre, would become subject to international administration, “the form of which is to be decided upon after consultation with Russia, and subsequently in consultation with the other allies, and the representatives of [Sayyid Hussein bin Ali, sharif of Mecca].” Besides carving the region into British and French “spheres of influence,” the arrangement specified various commercial relations and other understandings between them for the Arab lands.
Russia’s change of status, brought on by the revolution and the nation’s withdrawal from the war, removed it from inclusion. But when marauding Bolsheviks uncovered documents about the plans in government archives in 1917, the contents of the secret treaty were publicly revealed. The exposé embarrassed the British, since it contradicted their existing claims through T. E. Lawrence that Arabs would receive sovereignty over Arab lands in exchange for supporting the Allies in the war. Indeed, the treaty set aside the establishment of an independent Arab state or confederation of Arab states, contrary to what had previously been promised, giving France and Britain the rights to set boundaries within their spheres of influence, “as they may think fit.”
Sunnis branch compared to Shia branch of Muslims
What are the differences between Sunnis and Shia?
Muslims are split into two main branches, the Sunnis and Shia. The split originates in a dispute soon after the death of the prophet Muhammad over who should lead the Muslim community.
The great majority of Muslims are Sunnis – estimates suggest the figure is somewhere between 85% and 90%.
Members of the two sects have co-existed for centuries and share many fundamental beliefs and practices.
Though they may not interact much outside the public sphere, there are always exceptions. In urban Iraq, for instance, intermarriage between Sunnis and Shia was, until recently, quite common.
The difference lie in the fields of doctrine, ritual, law, theology, and religious organisation.
Their leaders also often seem to be in competition.
From Lebanon and Syria to Iraq and Pakistan, many recent conflicts have emphasised the sectarian divide, tearing communities apart.
Who are the Sunnis?
Sunni Muslims regard themselves as the orthodox and traditionalist branch of Islam.
The word Sunni comes from “Ahl al-Sunna”, the people of the tradition. The tradition in this case refers to practices based on precedent or reports of the actions of the Prophet Muhammad and those close to him.
Sunnis venerate all the prophets mentioned in the Koran, but particularly Muhammad as the final prophet. All subsequent Muslim leaders are seen as temporal figures.
Egypt is home to some of Sunni Islam’s oldest centres of learning
In contrast to Shia, Sunni religious teachers and leaders have historically come under state control.
The Sunni tradition also emphasises a codified system of Islamic law and adherence to four schools of law.
Who are the Shia?
In early Islamic history the Shia were a political faction – literally “Shiat Ali” or the party of Ali.
The Shia claimed the right of Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, and his descendants to lead the Islamic community.
Ali was killed as a result of intrigues, violence and civil wars which marred his caliphate. His sons, Hassan and Hussein, were denied what they thought was their legitimate right of accession to caliphate. Hassan is believed to have been poisoned by Muawiyah, the first caliph (leader of Muslims) of the Umayyad dynasty.
His brother, Hussein, was killed on the battlefield along with members of his family, after being invited by supporters to Kufa (the seat of caliphate of Ali) where they promised to swear allegiance to him. BBC News