Istanbul (not Constantinople): Can we achieve harmonious minority-representing government in the Middle East?

  1. If the Millet system existed today, could the Middle East have peace between the majority and minority groups?
  2. I will answer this question using case studies — looking at the lives of Kurds, Armenians, and Jews in the times of the Ottoman Empire in Anatolia as well as modern day Turkey. I have already found many scholarly articles looking into the Millet system and minority groups.
  3. Working Thesis: Allowing for semi-autonomy, as was seen in the Millet system, is the only foreseeable way for religious and ethnic minorities to receive representation and security within a larger governing system.
  4. We see the Middle East as a volatile region with constant ethnic/religious clashes — but this was not always the case. Times of peace are not unprecedented, and the story of the evolution of the lives/treatment of these minority groups is paramount to understanding this.

In the times of the Ottoman Empire, the Millet system allowed for semi-autonomous existences for ethnic minorities within the empire. Although the system was grandfathered in from the former Constantinople, and not without its share of flaws, it allowed for relatively fair and balanced representations and treatment of both ethnic and religious minorities. This has historically been upheld as a great success in promoting both inter- and intra-ethnic cooperation and peace. The purpose of this work is to compare the lives and political representation of several minority groups in modern day Turkey to that of the Ottoman Millet system. The primary goal of this comparison is to understand what the current treatment of religious and ethnic minorities, namely the Kurds, Armenians, and Jews, is in the region. By understanding the evolution of the Millet system to the modern day, this paper hopes to understand what key elements compose a harmonious government system.

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