The Great War 1914/1915. Declaration of the Holy War

Die Verkündigung des Heiligen Krieges.jpg

Description

The picture shows a group of troopers and foot soldiers celebrating together; two men beat drums, while others wave their rifles. The flag of the Ottoman Empire is visible. A building is discernible in the background.

Context

On 11 November 1914, reacting to the declaration of war by Russia, Britain, and France, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed V. Reşâd proclaimed Jihad, thereby calling his subjects to arms. He accused the three nations of suppressing millions of Muslims and alienating them from the caliphate. A declaration of Jihad against enemies of the Empire was an Ottoman tradition but in 1914 it also resulted from an Ottoman alliance with Imperial Germany and Austria-Hungary. Ottoman officials were convinced that they could move the Muslim populations within the Russian, British, and French colonies to rise up against their colonial rulers. Some German officials also believed that uprisings in the Middle East could divert Britain's focus from the Western Front. The same belief existed with regards to the uprisings in the Caucasus and the Russian involvement in the war. At some point, the Germans even considered a rebellion in India, which would have hurt the British Empire the most.
Since the second half of the 19th century, the German Empire had operated a military mission in Constantinople; they instructed the Ottoman army, advised military staff, and arranged arms deals. This history did not necessarily mean that the war alliance was stable and the French and British tried to ally with the Ottomans but, in the end, the military ties proved beneficial for the Germans.
The German explorer and diplomat Max von Oppenheim, who had worked in the Middle East for decades and became director of the Nachrichtenstelle für den Orient (NFO), worked on a concept to revolutionise the Orient. He arranged for several expeditions to Afghanistan, Persia, North Africa, and other Islamicate countries and tried to connect the Muslim diaspora to her imagined Ottoman centre, hoping that the call to Jihad would be heard. In most cases, however, people beyond the Ottoman territories did not feel a strong connection to the Sultan and consequently did not think that the Jihad was binding for them.