Politics of Wartime Relief in Ottoman Beirut (1914–1918)

TitlePolitics of Wartime Relief in Ottoman Beirut (1914–1918)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsTanielian, Melanie
JournalFirst World War Studies
Date Published04/2014

Taking Beirut as a case study, this paper shifts the gaze away from international organizations and analyses the politics of wartime relief from the perspective of state and local actors, which until now has received little attention. This study reveals that locally stationed Ottoman officials were not only concerned with civilian provisioning, but also engaged in a fierce political battle with local and international actors in an effort to monopolize the distribution of money and food. This paper argues that the ability to distribute aid in the city was mediated by nationality, political affiliation and not the least gender, and would have long-lasting effects. First, wartime Ottoman policies of marginalizing non-governmental urban philanthropy significantly altered the relationship of the state with its citizens, permanently shifting citizens' social welfare demands away from communal institutions towards the state. Second, the privileging of female volunteerism through the Syrian Women's Association (jam˓iyat al-sayyidat al-suriyat), while illustrating the state's attitude of women as apolitical subjects, whose work was seen as unthreatening and incapable of inspiring divergent allegiances, would prove to be the beginning of a politicization of women's charities and inspired a new political consciousness.

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