Mamluk rule in Iraq
The Mamluks who ruled Iraq in the 18th century were freed Georgian
Georgian people
The Georgians are an ethnic group that have originated in Georgia, where they constitute a majority of the population. Large Georgian communities are also present throughout Russia, European Union, United States, and South America....

 slaves converted to Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, trained in a special school, and then assigned to military and administrative duties. They presided, with short intermissions, over more than a century in the history of Ottoman Iraq
Ottoman Iraq
Ottoman Iraq refers to the period of the history of Iraq between 1534 and 1920 when the region was ruled by the Ottoman Empire.Ottoman Iraq was divided into the three vilayets.* Mosul Vilayet* Baghdad Vilayet* Basra Vilayet...

, from 1704 to 1831. The Mamluk ruling elite, composed principally of officers from Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

 and Circassia
Circassia was an independent mountainous country located in the Caucasus region of Eurasia and was the largest and most important country in the Caucasus. Circassia was located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea...

, succeeded in asserting autonomy from their Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 overlords, and restored order and some degree of economic prosperity in the region. The Ottomans overthrew the Mamluk regime in 1831 and gradually imposed their direct rule over Iraq, which would last until World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...



Throughout most of the period of Ottoman rule (1533-1918) the territory of present-day Iraq was a battleground between the rival Ottoman Empire and Safavid Iranians. The region suffered from frequent inter-clan struggles.

The tribal problem was perhaps one of the main reasons why Sultan Ahmed III
Ahmed III
Ahmed III was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and a son of Sultan Mehmed IV . His mother was Mâh-Pâre Ummatullah Râbi'a Gül-Nûş Valide Sultan, originally named Evmania Voria, who was an ethnic Greek. He was born at Hajioglupazari, in Dobruja...

 (1703–30), whose reign was marked by relative political stability and extensive reforms
Tulip Era in the Ottoman Empire
The Tulip Period or Tulip Era is a period in Ottoman history from The Treaty of Passarowitz on 21 July 1718 to The Patrona Halil Rebellion on 28 September 1730...

, allowed Hasan Pasha
Hasan Pasha
Hasan Pasha was the first Mamluk ruler of Iraq.-References:...

, the pasha
Pasha or pascha, formerly bashaw, was a high rank in the Ottoman Empire political system, typically granted to governors, generals and dignitaries. As an honorary title, Pasha, in one of its various ranks, is equivalent to the British title of Lord, and was also one of the highest titles in...

 of Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

, of Georgian
The Georgians are an ethnic group that have originated in Georgia, where they constitute a majority of the population. Large Georgian communities are also present throughout Russia, European Union, United States, and South America....

 origin (1704-1723), to build up the first Iraqi Mamluk force. Hasan's son and successor, Ahmed, continued to recruit the Mamluks and promoted them to key administrative and military positions. Both Hasan and Ahmed rendered a valuable service to the Ottoman Porte by curbing the unruly tribes and securing a steady inflow of taxes to the treasury in Constantinople
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

 as well as by defending Iraq against yet another military threat from the Safavids
Safavid dynasty
The Safavid dynasty was one of the most significant ruling dynasties of Iran. They ruled one of the greatest Persian empires since the Muslim conquest of Persia and established the Twelver school of Shi'a Islam as the official religion of their empire, marking one of the most important turning...

 of Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. By the time when Ahmed Pasha died in 1747, his Mamluks had been organized into a powerful, self-perpetuating elite corps of some 2,000 men ("Georgian Guard"). On Ahmed's death, the sultan attempted to prevent these Mamluks from assuming power and sent an outsider as his wali
Walī , is an Arabic word meaning "custodian", "protector", "sponsor", or authority as denoted by its definition "crown". "Wali" is someone who has "Walayah" over somebody else. For example, in Fiqh the father is wali of his children. In Islam, the phrase ولي الله walīyu 'llāh...

 in Baghdad. However, Ahmed’s son-in-law Suleyman Abu Layla, already in charge of Basra
Basra is the capital of Basra Governorate, in southern Iraq near Kuwait and Iran. It had an estimated population of two million as of 2009...

, marched on Baghdad in the head of his Georgian guard and ousted the Ottoman administrator, thereby inaugurating 84 years of the Mamluk rule in Iraq.

Mamluk rulers

By 1750, Suleyman Abu Layla
Sulaiman Abu Layla Pasha
Sulaiman Abu Layla Pasha was the ruler of Mesopotamia from 1749 to 1762, during the early Mamluk era.-See also:* Dynasty of Hasan Pasha...

 had established himself as an undisputed master at Baghdad and had been recognized by the Porte as the first Mamluk pasha of Iraq. The newly established regime embarked on a campaign to gain more autonomy from the Ottoman government and to curb the resistance of the Arab and Kurdish tribes. They managed to counter the Al-Muntafiq
Al-Muntafiq is a large Arab tribal confederation of southern and central Iraq. The Muntefik were one of the most important tribes in Iraq and lived along the lower Euphrates. For a long time, they controlled the lower Euphrates and Tigris up to the Shatt el Arab. They were very warlike and famous...

 threats in the south and brought Basra under their control. They encouraged Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an trade and allowed the British East India Company
British East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 to establish an agency in Basra in 1763.

The successes of Mamluk regime, however, still depended on their ability to cooperate with their Ottoman suzerains and religious elite within Iraq. The Porte sometimes employed force to depose the recalcitrant pashas of Baghdad, but the Mamluks were able to retain their hold of the pashalik, and even enlarged their domains. They failed, however, to secure a regular system of succession and the gradual formation of rival Mamluk households resulted in factionalism and frequent power struggles. Another major menace to the Mamluk rule came from Iran whose resurgent ruler, Karim Khan
Karim Khan
Karim Khan Zand, , , was a ruler of Iran, and the founder of the Zand Dynasty.He was born to a family of the Zand tribe of Lur or Lak deportees...

, invaded Iraq and installed his brother Sadiq Khan in Basra in 1776 after a protracted and stubborn resistance offered by the Mamluk general Suleyman Aga. The Porte hastened to exploit the crisis and replaced Umar Pasha (1764-76) with a non-Mamluk, who proved incapable of keeping order.

After Karim’s death in 1779, Sadiq withdrew from Basra while Suleyman returned from his exile in Shiraz
Shiraz may refer to:* Shiraz, Iran, a city in Iran* Shiraz County, an administrative subdivision of Iran* Vosketap, Armenia, formerly called ShirazPeople:* Hovhannes Shiraz, Armenian poet* Ara Shiraz, Armenian sculptor...

 and acquired the governorship of Baghdad, Basra and Shahrizur in 1780. This Süleyman Pasha is known as Büyük, i.e., the Great, and his rule (1780-1802) was efficient at first, but weakened as he grew older. He imported large numbers of Georgians to strengthen his clan, asserted his supremacy over the factionalized Mamluk households and restricted the influence of Janissaries. He fostered economy and continued to encourage commerce and diplomacy with Europe, which received a major boost in 1798 when Süleyman Pasa gave permission for a permanent British agent to be appointed in Baghdad. However, his struggle against the Arab tribes was less successful and the troubles culminated in the sack of the Shiite shrine at Kerbala by the Wahhabi in 1801.

Süleyman Pasa was succeeded after a power struggle in 1802 by Ali Pasha, who repelled the Wahhabite raids against Najaf
Najaf is a city in Iraq about 160 km south of Baghdad. Its estimated population in 2008 is 560,000 people. It is the capital of Najaf Governorate...

 and Al Hillah in 1803 and 1806 but failed to challenge their domination of the desert. After Ali’s assassination in 1807, his nephew Süleyman Pasa the Little took over the government. Inclined to curtail provincial autonomies, Sultan Mahmud II
Mahmud II
Mahmud II was the 30th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1808 until his death in 1839. He was born in the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, the son of Sultan Abdulhamid I...

 (1808-39) made his first attempt to oust the Mamluks from Baghdad in 1810. Ottoman troops deposed and killed Süleyman, but again failed to maintain control of the country. After yet another bitter internecine feud in 1816, Süleyman’s energetic son-in-law Daud Pasha
Daud Pasha (mamluk)
Daud Pasha was the last Mamluk ruler of Iraq, from 1816 to 1831. Iraq at this period was nominally part of the Ottoman Empire but in practice largely autonomous...

 ousted his rival Sa’id Pasha (1813-16; son of Süleyman Pasha the Great) and took control of Baghdad. The Ottoman government reluctantly recognized his authority.

Daud Pasha, who would prove to be the last Mamluk ruler of Iraq, was a son of Ali. He was married with a' daughter of his Uncle Mameluk Süleyman the Great.

Daud Pasha initiated important modernization programs that included clearing canals, establishing industries, reforming the army with the help of European instructors, and founding a printing press. He maintained elaborate pomp and circumstance at his court. Besides the usual troubles with the Arab tribes and internal dissensions with sheikh
Not to be confused with sikhSheikh — also spelled Sheik or Shaikh, or transliterated as Shaykh — is an honorific in the Arabic language that literally means "elder" and carries the meaning "leader and/or governor"...

s, he was involved in more serious fighting with the Kurds and the conflict with Iran over the influence in the Kurdish principality of Baban
Baban were a Kurdish principality and ruling family originating from Darishmana in the region of Pijder. The founder of the dynasty and its first ruler was Fakih Ahmed a descendent of the ancient house of Soran. He also had a brother named Khidder Ahmed who lived with him...

. The conflict culminated in the Iranian invasion of Iraq and the occupation of Sulaymaniyah
Sulaymaniyah is a city in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq. It is the capital of Sulaymaniyah Governorate. Sulaymaniyah is surrounded by the Azmar Range, Goizja Range and the Qaiwan Range in the north east, Baranan Mountain in the south and the Tasluje Hills in the west. The city has a semi-arid climate with...

 in 1818. Later, Daud Pasha capitalized on the destruction of Janissaries at Istanbul in 1826, and eliminated the Janissaries as an independent local force.

Meanwhile, the existence of the autonomous regime in Iraq, a long-time source of anxiety at Istanbul, became even more threatening to the Porte when Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 began to claim Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

. In 1830, the Sultan decreed Daud Pasha’s dismissal, but the emissary carrying the order was arrested at Baghdad and executed. In 1831, the Ottoman army under Ali Ridha Pasha
Ali Ridha Pasha
Ali Ridha Pasha led the Ottoman army in 1831 against the mamluk governor in Baghdad after Da’ud Pasha refused to relinquish his office. Ali Riza Pasha captured the city and mamluk leader Da’ud Pasha ending the mamluk rule in Baghdad...

 marched from Aleppo
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and the capital of Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 2,301,570 , expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area, it is also one of the largest cities in the Levant...

 into Iraq. Devastated by floods and an epidemic of bubonic plague
Bubonic plague
Plague is a deadly infectious disease that is caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis, named after the French-Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin. Primarily carried by rodents and spread to humans via fleas, the disease is notorious throughout history, due to the unrivaled scale of death...

, Baghdad capitulated after a token resistance. Daud Pasha, facing opposition from local clergymen within Iraq, surrendered to the Ottomans and was treated with favor. His life ended in 1851, while he was custodian of the shrine at Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

; the remaining Mamluks were exterminated. The arrival of the Sultan’s new governor in Baghdad in 1831 signaled the beginning of a direct Ottoman rule in Iraq.

See also

  • Dynasty of Hasan Pasha
    Dynasty of Hasan Pasha
    The Dynasty of Hasan Pasha was a Georgian Muslim dynasty in Iraq.*Hasan Pasha *Ahmet Pasha *Sulaiman Abu Layla Pasha *Umar Pasha *Büyük Süleyman Pasha *Memlûk Ali Pasha...

  • Naji Shawkat
    Naji Shawkat
    Muhammad Naji Shawkat Bey was an Iraqi politician who served as Prime Minister of Iraq under King Faisal I.- Early Life:Muhammad Naji Shawkat was born to an Arabized family of Turkish and Caucasian origins in the Iraqi town of al-Kut where his father was stationed as provincial governor...

    , Prime Minister of Iraq
    Prime Minister of Iraq
    The Prime Minister of Iraq is Iraq's head of government. Prime Minister was originally an appointed office, subsidiary to the head of state, and the nominal leader of the Iraqi parliament. Under the newly adopted constitution the Prime Minister is to be the country's active executive authority...

    from 1932 to 1933, who was the scion of one of the Georgian Mamluk clans.

Further reading

  • Nieuwenhuis, Tom (1982), Politics and Society in Early Modern Iraq: Mamluk Pashas, Tribal Shayks and Local Rule between 1802 and 1831. Springer, ISBN 9024725763.
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