INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS ON BILAD AL-SHAM DURING THE OTTOMAN ERA, 2005IRCICA and the Syrian Ministry of Culture have jointly organised an International Congress on "Bilad Al-Sham during the Ottoman Era", in Damascus, on 26-30 September 2005. The Congress was placed under the patronage of H.E. Dr. Bashar Asad, President of the Syrian Arab Republic.

The address of President Bashar Asad to the opening ceremony of the congress was read by the Minister of Culture Mr. Mahmud Al-Seyyid. Prof. Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoğlu, Secretary General of the OIC, delivered an address emphasizing that cultural understanding between peoples of the world is essential for understanding and dialogue in all fields. The Secretary General underlined the importance of OIC-IRCICA’s contributing in this regard through this scholarly congress. IRCICA Director General Dr. Halit Eren said that the OIC was the first international organisation to incorporate studies in history in its fields of activities which it did by establishing IRCICA, and that the latter’s mandate serves directly the cultural dimensions of international relations which acquire growing significance in our world.

The congress had a multidisciplinary coverage of the history of the Sham region during the Ottoman era. It addressed political, administrative and economic sides of this history, as well as intellectual life, urbanism and architecture, arts and crafts, the influence of the Industrial revolution in Europe. Papers were presented on such topics as the relationship between the capital and the provinces; Sufism and zawiya (dervish convents) and the cultural and spiritual influence; the judiciary system and social relations; agriculture; handicrafts and industry; trade and the seaports work; renewal of transportation facilities; financial affairs and the budget; the Ottoman educational system and educational institutions in Bilad al-Sham; scientific and translation activities; printing and press; libraries; travels, etc.

The Academic Committee of the Congress is composed, together with IRCICA Director General Dr. Halit Eren, of the following members:

Prof. Dr. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu (Chairman)
Dr. Abdal-Razzaq Moaz (Member)
Prof. Dr. Abdul-Karim Rafeq (Member)
Prof. Dr. Abdul-Rahim Abu-Husayn (Member)
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Tufan Buzpınar (Member).

Around fifty scholars and specialists from around the world participated in the Congress. Tours were organized to major Ottoman architectural monuments and some museums in Damascus.

The Turkish Prime Ministry’s General Directorate of State Archives, Department of Ottoman Archives, contributed an Exhibition of historical archive documents relating to the region entitled "Bilad al-Sham in Ottoman Archives".

Recommendations were issued by the Congress towards promoting international cooperation in this field which can be done, among others, by organizing this congress periodically, and, projecting the spirit of peoples’ positive and constructive understanding of each other’s history to public opinion in the region and the Muslim world at large. The proceedings will be published in the form of a book.