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The Myth of the Ottoman Millet System: Its Treatment of Kurds and a Discussion of Territorial and Non-Territorial Autonomy

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image of International Journal on Minority and Group Rights

This article re-opens the discussion about the Ottoman millet practice. The best known stereotypes claim that the so-called ‘millet system’ only offered rights to non-Muslim religious minorities. This article fundamentally challenges this approach. It focuses on how the millet practice was applied to the treatment of Kurds under the early and late Ottoman Empire, and discusses how millet practices were destroyed by the disease of nationalism. The article then considers how practices like those applied by the Ottomans might act as a useful example for modern nation states facing conflicts with national, religious, ethnic or migrant minorities. It suggests that practices like the millet might be beneficial both if minorities gain territorial recognition and also for those minorities who live in non-territorial communities.

Affiliations: 1: Researcher and Consultant, Oxford Diasporas Programme, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK,


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