'for Civilisation'

the Great War in the Middle East

  • royal hall
  • temporary exhibition


In 1914, war broke out not only in Europe, but also in the Middle East. This region was largely dominated by the Ottoman Empire. As a German ally, the regime of the Young Turks in 1918 found itself on the losing side. The Ottoman Empire disintegrated and the borders were redrawn according to the interests of the Western powers. A Turkish-national movement led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk opposed this and continued to fight for an independent Turkey until 1923. Elsewhere, new states such as Syria, Iraq and Trans-Jordan were demarcated and placed under French or British mandate. Dissatisfaction with this drove various local communities into conflicts that smouldered and flared up for years. The Israeli-Palestinian question, the problems between Turkey and Armenia, or the fate of the Kurds: anyone who wants to better understand the current sensitivities and power relations in the Middle East must return to their wartime origins.

for Civilisation
The First World War in the Middle East

aims to unravel this complex history and present it in a clear and nuanced way. The exhibition covers the outbreak of war, jihad and World War I, Gallipoli, the course of the war along the various fronts in the Middle East (Palestine, Mesopotamia, Arabia, etc.), the Armenian genocide, the Arab Revolt and the emblematic figure of Lawrence of Arabia, behind-the-scenes geopolitics and the formation of the modern Middle East. In addition, various links to the war in the Westhoek are revealed. The presentation of iconic objects is combined with atmospheric images, films, personal stories and compelling testimonies. In a Coda to the exhibition, the question of the contemporary impact of the First World War on the Middle East is also literally put to a group of experts and witnesses of today.


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