The General Politics of the Ottoman War Law Towards Civilians (1853-1920)
Keywords: Ottoman, Law, War, Civilians, Human Rights, Islam.
The governance of the Ottoman Empire was founded upon the principles of Islam and its legal system. The Ottoman war law mirrored the legitimate approach to war in Islam, which was grounded in legal and moral principles, emphasizing the concept of a just war. Consequently, warfare had to possess legitimacy both in its execution and its justifications. Throughout all stages of conflict, specific principles needed to be upheld, ensuring humanitarian, legal, and moral considerations were respected.
The Ottoman Empire, deeply rooted in Islamic traditions, engaged in numerous conflicts throughout its existence. While the empire experienced victories and held decisive positions in wars during its early establishment, it faced a series of major defeats in the latter half of the 19th century, as explored in this article. Despite these losses, the Ottoman Empire demonstrated a steadfast commitment to upholding humanitarian, moral, and legal principles in warfare. It consistently implemented regulations to safeguard the rights of civilians and non-combatants, both during and after conflicts. In order to ensure compliance with these principles on the battlefield and beyond, the empire pursued a policy that occasionally issued warnings to its own officials and even imposed punishments for violations. Simultaneously, it endeavored to protect Ottoman citizens who maintained religious and ethnic ties with states against which it fought. Upon examining archival records, it becomes evident that the Ottoman Empire sought to strike a delicate balance between its pursuit of victory in war and the preservation of fundamental human values.