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In 1492 the Jews and Muslims still in Spain were ordered to leave the country. (Some converted to Christianity, but they were regarded with suspicion and many were tortured.) Most exiles went to initially Portugal (which eventually had its own expulsion in 1497), areas in Italy and Naples (which would fall under Spanish authority shortly afterward), and North Africa. A large number of exiles came eventually to the Ottoman empire under Sultan Bayezid II, its leader.

Sultan Bayezid II wished to welcome the fleeing Jews, saying that Kings Ferdinand & Isabella acted unwisely on losing such valuable citizens and that it would be Turkey's gain. He issued a firman or direct order that Jews and Muslims fleeing Andalusia would be permitted settlement anywhere in his empire and those who refused to allow such settlement would be strongly reprimanded. Many of the Jews expelled from Spain settled in various parts of the Ottoman Empire, including Palestine (Israel) and North Africa such as parts of Tunisia.

The Ottoman Sultan also sent a naval fleet under the command of Admiral Kemal Reis (uncle to famed Admiral Piri Reis) to Andalusia several times between 1490 and 1492 in order to help evacuate Jews and Muslims from southern Spain. These voyages led to Jews in the Ottoman Empire being placed primarily in the cities of Salonika (now Thessaloniki, Greece), Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), and Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey). In fact, by the 17th century, Jews formed the majority of Salonika's population. However, most Jews who arrived in the Ottoman Empire traveled at their own expense.

The Jews and Muslims of Spain were provided safe haven and religious freedom in the Ottoman Empire. Over time, more and more Jews moved to Istanbul as it was the capital of the Ottoman Empire. They prospered and lived there until the formation of Israel at which time most moved to Israel. 14,500 Jews still live in Istanbul today.

Morocco under the Wattasids also accepted a large Jewish and Muslim emigrant population from Andalusia, with large Jewish communities being established in Fez and Meknes.

There was also a less significant percentage of the population which fled to the Latin American colonies, but did not organize into active communities because the Inquisition was active in Latin America as well.


My grandfather arrived in New York in 1911, from Smyrna (Izmir), Turkey, speaking Ladino, the Jewish dialect of Spanish. My ancestors were Spanish and I will try to trace the family back to Spain, a daunting task.

Discussion on Whether Sultan Bayezid II Actually Sent Ships to Spain

Whether ships were actually sent to take Spanish exiles requires clarification. As we clearly have sources showing how much suffering was endured by the exiles on their fleeing Spain to all kinds of destinations, it seems a misrepresentation & simplification to state that all the exiles were taken on ships by the Turks to Turkey. I have examined some of the sources for this too-rosy idealisation of Turkish activities, and they all seem to be Turkish materials; clearly a case of "propaganda" by people who which to exaggerate Turkish tolerance of the Jews.

I have made some inquiries with academics in the field, asking them to explain to what extent were there actually some Turkish ships that were specifically sent to aid the Jews' departure from Spain in 1492- how many ships, etc. & on whose directions. I suspect that there may have been some- but with probably private interests & that the passengers had to pay for their passage in full... and that there was no large-scale extracting of the exiles by Turkish fleets (hundreds of thousands) by the tolerant Turks (though instructions were given to treat arriving exiles properly), most of whom initially went to other places and only later came to the Ottoman empire.

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Q: Where did Spanish Jews go after the Inquisition?
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What two groups did the Spanish Inquisition expel?

Muslims and Jews were the primary targets of the Spanish Inquisition.

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The Spanish Inquisition.

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