A DOWRY FOR THE SULTAN is an exquisitely detailed account of a massacre averted in September 1054 in the predominately Armenian town of Manzikert on the eastern rim of the Byzantine Empire. An invading army of Turkic warriors from the steppes of Central Eurasia, led by the great Seljuk chief Tughrul Bey, are beaten by the civilians of the town in an extraordinary demonstration of courage, imagination, and love. (Seventeen years later, the steppe warriors returned and defeated the armies of the Byzantine Emperor Diogenes, opening up Anatolia, in what is now the Republic of Turkey, to the mass-migration of Turkic herders and their flocks).
LANCE COLLINS was the Australian Defence Force’s top military strategist for years and is well versed in the military history of imperial conquests. He has an abiding concern for the fate of small nations whose existence challenges the strategic interests of great powers. He first heard about the Armenian defence of Manzikert against the Turkic invasions while he was attached to the Headquarters of the 3rd US Army in Kuwait in 1992 (during the withdrawal of UN weapons inspectors from Iraq). He describes the siege as ‘the genesis of a genocide’, drawing a direct link between the imperial invasions of the eleventh century and the ‘Armenian Genocide’ by Ottoman government forces early in the twentieth century.
In 2015, on the hundreth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, Collins considers parallels between the behaviour of the Ottoman Government and Indonesia’s genocidal policies in East Timor and West Papua, where he has himself witnessed the long-term consequences of war, persecution and trauma on people’s lives, and the ongoing impacts of what we now call Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. “We need to recognise the truth of what transpires and oppose these crimes, whether against Armenians, East Timorese, or West Papuans,” he says.
Lance Collins, Author of ‘A Dowry for the Sultan’, Interviewed by Dr Joe Toscano, RADICAL AUSTRALIA, 3CR Community Radio, Melbourne, 9 November 2015.
Image: Jill Collins, Preparatory sketch for the cover of ‘A Dowry for the Sultan’