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Lecture. Yes, it is a Great Holy War and a Glorious Martyrdom: Sectarianism and the Ottoman Iranian Confrontation

Monday, March 17, 2014
4:00 AM
1636 International Institute/SSWB, 1080 S. University Ave

The Shia Safavid state spent almost one third of its lifespan fighting its two Sunni Muslim neighbors: the Ottomans and the Uzbeks. In this presentation, Dr. Sabri Ates sets out to answer the question of whether the wars between Sunni Ottomans and Shia Safavids ought to be considered as religious wars. While various geopolitical, economic, strategic and other imperial agendas prompted those wars, this lecture sheds light on a variety of fatwas from Sunni Ottomans, which considered the Shi’s to be heretics. One fatwa in particular not only preceded almost all of the armed conflict between these empires, but additionally declared Iran to be the abode of war and advocated the slaughter and enslavement of its peoples.

Legitimized by fatwas of jihad against the Shi’s, the Ottomans carried out various campaigns against their neighbor, whom they considered heretics. Despite this, the majority of scholars claim that sectarian rhetoric was little more than wartime propaganda. In contradistinction, this lecture argues that inter-Islamic sectarianism was a serious phenomenon that ought to be studied in a global context. Like the religious wars that helped create modern Europe, sectarianism played a significant role in shaping the world of Islam.

A workshop will be held the following day (March 18) with Dr. Ates at on borderlands and sectarian conflict in Ottoman society. To participate in the workshop and receive a copy of the first chapter from Dr. Ates’ book, titled “The Kurdish Frontier and Ottoman-Qajar Relations,” please RSVP to Dzovinar Derderian ( or Michael Pifer ( A copy of Dr. Ates's book will be made available only to workshop participants who RSVP.

Workshop: “The Kurdish Frontier and Ottoman-Qajar Relations”
Where: International Institute, 1644
When: Tuesday, March 18, 11am

Sponsors: ASP, Multidiscplinary Workshop for Armenian Studies

Sabri Ateş, Clements Department of History, Southern Methodist University