Lebanese president condemns Ottoman occupation, sparking Turkish anger

Turkey has criticised Lebanese President Michel Aoun after he made a speech lamenting what he called state terror practiced by the Ottoman Empire during its four-century rule of the region.

Turkey’s Islamist government often harks back to what it sees as the glory days of the Ottoman Empire that ruled much of the Middle East for more than 400 years.

“From 1516 through 1918, four centuries and two years during which Mount Lebanon lived under Ottoman occupation. Despite being distinguished by a kind of autonomy, its people suffered a lot,” Aoun said on Sunday during a ceremony to launch centennial celebrations of the proclamation of the state of Greater Lebanon.

“The state terror practiced by the Ottomans against the Lebanese, especially during World War One, caused hundreds of thousands of victims between famine, conscription and forced labour, without omitting the gallows through which they wanted to annihilate the spirit of emancipation and rebellion,” Aoun said.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry hit back on Sunday with a written statement calling Aoun’s words “baseless and biased” and denying that state terror had taken place under Ottoman rule.

“There is no such thing as state terror in the history of the Ottoman Empire. Contrary to allegations, the Ottoman era in the Middle East was marked by a long period of stability,” the statement said.