By October 26, 2017 Read More →

1886 Arab Refugees

Palestinian RefugeesBosnias, Turks, Circassians

The new immigrants to Cæsarea are Slavs. Some of them speak a little Turkish. Arabic is an unknown tongue to them, which they are learning. Their own language is a Slav dialect. When the troubles in the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina first broke out, which led to the Russo Turkish war, a howl of indignation went up from the philanthropists on both sides of the Atlantic, but especially from the Radical party in England, against the Turkish government, for its persecution of the Slav population of the Danubian provinces. Nor do I think that the general public have yet realized the fact that of these Slavs more than it was persecuting any other of its subjects, but that the persecutors of the Slav peasantry, who were Moslem. It was, in fact, not a question of an oppressed nationality, but a strictly agrarian question between people of the same race. When it was settled by handing over the provinces to Austria, the Slav Moslem aristocracy, finding themselves in their turn persecuted by their former peasants and the Christian power which protected them, migrated to the more congenial rule of the sultan. So the curious spectacle is presented of a Slav population migrating from Austrian rule to Asia, in order to be under a Moslem government.

Close beside the new Bosnian colony there are planted in the plain of Sharon two or three colonies of Circassians. These are the people who committed the Bulgarian atrocities. The irony of fate has now placed them within three or four miles of colonists belonging to the very race they massacred. They, too, fleeing from government by Christians, have sought refuge under the sheltering wing of the sultan, where, I regret to say, as I described in a former letter, they still indulge in their predatory propensities. In immediate proximity to them are the black tents of a tribe of Turcomans. They belong to the old Seljuk stock, and the cradle of their tribe gave birth to the present rulers of the Turkish Empire. They have been here for about three hundred years, and have forgotten the Turkish language, but a few months ago a new migration arrived from the mountains of Mesopotamia. These nomads spoke nothing but Turkish, and hoped to find a warm welcome from their old tribesmen on the plain of Sharon. In this they were disappointed, and they have now, to my disgust, pitched their tents on some of the spurs of Carmell, where their great hairy camels and their own baggy breeches contrast curiously with the camels and costumes of the Bedouins with whom we are familiar.

Besides the Slavs, the Circassians, and the Turcomans, we have the Jewish colony of Zimmarin, distant about ten miles from Cæsarea; the German colony at Haifa, and the Druse villages on Carmel, making, with the Bedouins, the negroes, and the native fellahin, no fewer than nine different races engaged in the cultivation of the soil in this neighbourhood.

Source: Oliphant, Laurence. Haifa or Life in Modern Palestine. (p. 183–185)

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