Abdul Hamid II
Sultan Abdul Hamid II ascended the Ottoman throne in 1876.
At the time the Turkish Empire included Anatolia, the Balkans, Greece, Bulgaria, the Levant (Syria and Palestine), Iraq, the Arabian peninsula (jazirat ul Arab), and North Africa. However the Sultan was confronted by serious internal rivalries and external military threats, and the Empire weakened. It was referred to as 'the sick man of Europe'.
Despite his hostility to constitutional changes, many educational and administrative reforms received an impetus during his reign: he established the University of Istanbul in 1900, vastly improved the rail and telegraph services, and sponsored the railway to the Holy places in the Hejaz.
In 1896, the Zionist leader Theoder Herzl asked the Hapsburg diplomat with connections with the Ottoman Court, Philip Michael de Nevlinksy, to approach Sultan Abdul Hamid with an offer of 20 million dinars - two million for the Ottomans to let go of Palestine, and 18 million to rescue Turkey from its creditors.
Nevlinsky reported back to Herzl the following words from the Sultan:"If Herr Herzl is as much your friend as your are mine, then advise him not to take another step in this matter. I cannot sell even a foot of land, for it does not belong to me, but to my people. My people have won this empire by fighting for it with their blood and have fertilized it with their blood. We will again cover it with blood before we allow it to be wrested away from us. The men of two of my regiments from Syria and Palestine let themselved be killed one by one at Plevna [a town in Bulgaria where an Ottoman army was beseiged by Russians and Romanians in 1877]. Not one of them yielded; they all gave their lives on the battlefield. The Turkish Empire belongs not to me, but to the Turkish poeple. I cannot give away any part of it. Let them save their billions. When my Empire is partitioned, they may get Palestine for nothing. But only our corpse will be divided. I will not agree to vivisection". (Source - 'Theodore Herzl' by Desmond Stewart, Quartet Books, 1974)
In 1909, under pressure from the movement of the Young Turks, 240 members of the Ottoman senate called on the removal of Sultan Abdul Hamid. The new leadership under Enver Pasha led the Ottomans into the First World War on the side of the Central Powers, Germany and Austria, with disastrous consequences.
Compiled by:M. Nauman Khan / Ghulam Mohiuddin/M.A.Sherif