The Week in History: 28th September – 4th October

Key events that shaped our social, political and cultural history

By Arfa Shahid 

October 2, 1187: Siege of Jerusalem
After ruling Jerusalem for 88 years, the Crusaders, led by Balian of Ibelin, surrendered the city to General Saladin Al Ayubi, following a siege that extended from September 20 to October 2. Prior to the siege, Saladin had taken Acre, Nablus, Jaffa, Toron, Sidon, Beirut and Ascalon. Negotiations were carried out between Saladin and Balian, through the mediation of Yusuf Batit, one of the Eastern Orthodox clergymen, who had been largely suppressed under Latin Christian rule and knew that they would have more freedoms if the city were returned to the Muslims. Saladin preferred to take the city without bloodshed and offered generous terms, but those who fortified themselves inside Jerusalem’s walls refused to leave their “holy city,” vowing to destroy it in a fight to the death rather than see it handed over peacefully. Thus the siege began, and ended with Balian surrendering. Most of the nobility were taken prisoners. Citizens wishing to leave had to pay a ransom. Thousands of Muslim slaves were freed and the victory signaled the end of the first Kingdom of Jerusalem. Europe responded by launching the Third Crusade in 1189.

iraqOctober 3, 1932: Iraq Wins Independence 
In 1920, Britain had seized Iraq from the Ottoman Empire during the Mesopotamian campaign in World War 1 and was granted a mandate by the League of Nations (the first international organization predating the United Nations) to govern it. Under the British protection, a Hashemite monarchy was established. On October 3, 1932, Iraq was granted independence following the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930. Iraq was admitted to the League of Nations and Britain terminated its mandate, resulting in Iraq’s independence after 17 years of British governance and centuries of Ottoman occupation. The independent Iraqi Kingdom under the Hashemite rulers underwent a period of turbulence through its entire existence. However, the Iraqi government maintained close economic and military ties with Britain, leading to several anti-British revolts.

October 2, 1986 : Failed Assassination Attempt on India’s PM Rajiv Gandhi’s Life
At 40, Rajiv Gandhi was the youngest person to ever become India’s prime minister on 31 December, 1984. On October 2, 1986, Karamjit Singh tried to assassinate the young premier by firing three shots at Gandhi, while he was on his way to Rajghat to attend a memorial of India’s founding father, Mahatma Gandhi. Singh’s hatred towards the Gandhis dated back to 1984, when he survived the violence unleashed against the Sikhs following Indira Gandhi’s (Rajiv’s mother) assassination on October 31, 1984. A mob was on a rampage, and Singh and his friend were among those under threat. Their landlord advised them to shave their beards and long hair—a distinguishing characteristic of Sikhs—in order to escape the violence. While that helped Singh survive, his friend was caught and burnt alive. The incident had a serious impact on Singh, who was an engineering student then. His rage was triggered further when Rajiv Gandhi reacted to the news of the violence against Sikhs by saying “the earth shakes when a big tree (Indira) falls.” After the failed attempt, Singh was arrested on the spot and jailed for 14 years. While in jail, he managed to finish his post-graduate studies in history. After his release in 2001, Singh enrolled for a bachelor’s degree in law. Singh currently practices law in the district courts of Sangrur and runs a school for children.

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