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Onward Christian soldiers
Forcing Balkan-born boys to fight for Allah parallels Sudan slavery
Editors note: WorldNetDaily.com international correspondent Anthony C. LoBaido traveled to Cyprus, Turkey, Iraq and Kurdistan last year, researching stories on the Crusaders, Knights Templar, Noahs Ark and the Kurds. In this report, LoBaido details the ancient account of the Janissaries, Christian boys living in the Balkans who were taken by the Ottoman sultans to be their elite guards. This account finds a modern-day parallel in the ongoing war in Sudan.
By Anthony C. LoBaido
© 2001 WorldNetDaily.com
The Sudan government's current practice of forcing Christian boys into slavery and conversion to Islam may appear to be a new phenomenon, but such religious persecution by ruling Muslims actually had its genesis many centuries ago with the creation of the mysterious Janissaries.
The story of the Janissaries is a sweeping epic that both inspires and defies imagination.
During the 15th century, Constantinople which had been named after the famous Christian convert (and Roman general) Constantine was a Western island in a Muslim sea. For many years, the city in northwest Turkey had repelled the attacks of Muslim invaders.
The 14th century of human history was marked by expansion of Islam, from Russia to Central Asia to Eastern Europe. While the year 2001 may be Pax Electronica and 1900 Pax Britannica, the 14th century was Pax Islamica while the Holy Roman Empire held on to for dear life. Gold was mined in Sudan, and a common Islamic currency was used from Pakistan to Spain. Gold, silk, spices, ivory and porcelain were valued items in the field of international trade. Yet, there was another commodity those of the Islamic faith were peddling: slaves.
"Yes, it is the Muslims not the white Europeans who were the first and greatest slave traders and it was the Janissaries, Christian boys sold into Islamic slavery, who forged the expansion of the Islamic Empire in the 14th century," said, Micah Azziz, a Turkish doctoral candidate from Istanbul. Azziz is working on his Ph.D. thesis on the Janissaries.
Bringing order to the Balkans
The story of the Janissaries begins in the Balkans. The Balkans were an unstable region filled with fierce, warlike peoples long before former President Clinton began bombing Serbia. The Romans first brought order to the region and the Macedonians, Illyrian and Thracians who lived there. The soldiers the Romans found in the Balkans became, in time, some of the finest in their foreign legions.
Slavic invasions also came hence Russias historical kinship with the Serbs. Yet, the most important invasions as far as Christian civilization was concerned came from the expanding Ottoman Empire.
The Christians in the Balkans were weak and disorganized at that time, in the middle of the 14th century. Race wars, religious schisms and petty feuds split the people of the region into warring tribes. Yet, the fall of the Balkans to the Muslims wasn't a foregone conclusion.
The finest and most powerful tsar of the region, Stefan Dushan, by the mid-14th century, had expanded the Serbian Empire into Albania, Bosnia and Macedonia. Ironically, Dushan could have kept the Muslims out of Turkey, but he was poisoned before he could add Byzantium to his empire and offer a checkmate to the Ottomans' desire to advance into Europe.
In 1380, the Sultan Murads army made its way into Macedonia. By 1389, the Serbs fell when their leader, Lazar, was betrayed by a relative on the battlefield, thus splitting the ranks. It was a huge blow to Christiandom, one that threatens world peace even to this very day.
It was in Kosovo that the Serbs made their last stand. But an Ottoman victory was inevitable. The sultan ordered a tax to be paid by every Christian family: a son. The sons that would go on to form the elite unit known as the Janissaries.
The idea to raise a corps of Christian soldiers from the same stock as those who had manned the elite units of the Roman Foreign Legion was the brainchild of Sultan Murad I. The name Janissaries comes from an expression used by a Muslim Holy Man of that era, who called the converted Christian boys "Yeni Ceri" or the "New Troops."
Azziz told WorldNetDaily that the sultan set careful guidelines in choosing recruits for the Janissaries. He explained that the Islamic Empire was expanding faster than the capability of the Muslim troops to hold the ground they had taken.
"Every five years, the sultan sent in his representatives to take a slave tax. Only one Christian boy could be taken from any one family in the Balkans. The boys would be between the ages of 8 and 18. An only son could not be taken. There is also some evidence that if the parents were ill, the sultan would not take a son from that particular family."
The Imperial scribe would record the names of the families and the boys taken. He then gave each boy five gold pieces, which would help them survive a march hundreds of miles long back to Turkey.
Into the Islamic world
And so, as is the case today in Sudan, the Islamic invaders took the Christian boys to a world totally foreign from their upbringing.
The new Christian boys were immediately turned over to the sultan. He was to be their king. They were his property destined to form the sultans elite infantry units.
"Islamic law forbids that other Muslims be sold into slavery," Azziz told WorldNetDaily. "But not infidels."
A Turkish mosque in North Cyprus
Once the Janissaries had recovered from their long trek from the Balkans, they were put under both mental and physical tests by the Turks.
They were trained for eight years in archery, swordsmanship, horsemanship, wrestling and weightlifting. Some would go on to work on the estates of Turkish nobles as farmhands. Others learned skills like blacksmithing, masonry and carpentry.
The very best Janissaries were sent on to the sultans palace, where they would form his elite bodyguards. Presiding over this entire training process was the chief eunuch, who served the sultan with unwavering loyalty. The sultan called the Janissaries "my children." In the back of his mind, the sultan also knew that he was depleting the strength of his subjects in the Balkans and their ability to resist Ottoman occupation.
In time, some of these European Christian converts to Islam became leaders in the government and the military of the Ottoman Empire. Yet how was this possible?
Azziz believes he has the answer: "Constantine the Great and Diocletian were from Illyria in the Balkans and became great leaders in Roman times. As such, it is not surprising that the Janissaries carried on that intellectual tradition."
Another peripheral point is that, historically, the Crusaders were considered enemies of the Eastern Church in the Balkans a rift the pope apologized for only this year. The ancestors of the families of the Balkan-born Janissaries hated the Romans from ancient times and directed that historical hatred at the pope, the Crusaders and even the Roman alphabet. It is also a phenomenon that has lasted into the present day.
In the year 1444, the pope called for a Holy War and a New Crusade. The pope was alarmed at the Muslim encroachment into Eastern Europe from Asia Minor.
The forces of Christendom were to soon have their first showdown with the Janissaries at the Battle of Varna. It was here that the sultans Janissaries faced off with the King of Hungary, French knights, a collection of European mercenaries and Vlad II father of Vlad Tepes, who stood as a model for Bram Stoker's fictional "Dracula."
Riding and shooting accurately with bows and arrows on their camels and horses, the Janissaries won the battle of Varna. The King of Hungary was killed. Yet the victory came at great cost in blood and treasure to the Turks.
"May Allah never again grant me such a victory!" exclaimed the sultan.
About nine years after their victory at Varna, Memet II set his sights on Constantinople the jewel of all Christian outposts in the Western world. He took up residence in a special castle six miles outside of Constantinople to prepare for the siege. The rulers of the city had set an iron chain across the "Golden Horn," which protected the harbor around Constantinople from invasion.
At the time, Constantinople was occupied by the remnant of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire. The last emperor, Michael Paleologus, died fighting the Turks on the great city walls which had been constructed a thousand years earlier by the Roman emperor Theodosius II. The Crusaders had taken the city by ruse in 1204 during what is sometimes referred to as the "businessman's crusade" and looted numerous items many of which grace the city of Venice to this day. They were finally expelled by the Byzantine Greeks about 80 years later.
On April 2, 1453, the Islamic troops began their attack on the city, assaulting the walls around Constantinople. On the maritime front, Christian galleys burned Turk ships and killed 12,000 Islamic men. The Islamic admiral who presided over this debacle was whipped in pubic and all his money divided up amongst the Janissaries.
The sultan then ordered the rest of the Islamic naval vessels to be carried over land past the aforementioned chain around the Golden Horn. Over 10,000 Turks attacked the city the next day. The Janissaries took the city and Memet II made Constantinople the new capitol of Islam. He then changed the name of the city to Istanbul.
The Janissaries continued to train for war. They were, as slaves, forbidden to drink any alcohol, gamble or even to get married.
"They lived like monks trapped albeit willingly in a monastery," said Azziz.
To ensure the loyalty of the Janissaries, the sultan paid them bonuses, gave them a salary paid every three months and new clothing once per year. The Janissaries also were able to purchase almost any military weapons they wished for. Also, these elite fighters maintained their own treasury and commissary.
As they marched into Belgrade and Budapest to the beat of cymbals and drums, all of Christiandom trembled before them. (Under the direction of Suleyman the Magnificent, the Janissaries made it all the way into Austria).
The end of the Janissaries
By the year 1600, the ruling sultan needed more soldiers and mercenaries and slaves than ever. Unable to keep up with this growing need with the quota from the Balkans, he allowed for the first time Turks and native-born Muslims to enter the ranks of the Janissaries.
"This immediately destroyed the esprit de corps that had forged the fighting ethos of this elite unit," said Azziz. "The Janissaries then became involved in sexual relations with the sultans harem and also planned and carried out assassinations of the sultans."
In the early 1800s, Sultan Selim III tried to bring European-style military reforms to the Janissaries. In fact, Selim wanted to bring Turkey into modern times by imitating all things European. The Janissaries rebelled and killed Selim. In 1826, the Janissaries attempted a coup. The ruling sultan, Mahmud II, was outraged.
Mahmud II turned his cannons on the Janissaries trapped in their barracks at the Hippodrome near the Topkapi Palace.
"Over 4,000 Janissaries perished, yet they were a far cry from the corps of the loyal Christian converts who had served the Ottoman Empire so well throughout the centuries," concluded Azziz.
"It was a sad ending to a romantic and mysterious group of men. Yes, the Janissaries were a tough breed. Acts of desertion, cowardice and disobedience in their corps were punishable by death. The closest thing to the Janissaries in modern times, in my opinion, is the French Foreign Legion or, perhaps, the Ghurkas. We may never see their kind again."
Anthony C. LoBaido is an international correspondent for WorldNetDaily.
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Yes, it is the Muslims not the white Europeans who were the first and greatest slave traders and it was the Janissaries, Christian boys sold into Islamic slavery, who forged the expansion of the Islamic Empire in the 14th century.
Micah Azziz, a Turk working on his Ph.D. thesis on the Janissaries
Every five years, the sultan sent in his representatives to take a slave tax. Only one Christian boy could be taken from any one family in the Balkans. The boys would be between the ages of 8 and 18.
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