Near the end of World War I
, the Egyptian Expeditionary forces of Edmund Allenby captured Damascus
on September 30, 1918, and shortly thereafter on October 3, 1918, Hashemite ruler Faisal entered Damascus as well, in the final stages of the Arab Revolt
against the Ottomans. On October 5, 1918, with the permission of General Allenby, Faisal announced the establishment of an Arab constitutional government in Damascus
Following the implementation of the initially secretive 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement
, which divided the occupied remnants of the Ottoman Empire between France and Britain, French military administration was established in the Levant. General Henri Gouraud
was appointed as representative of the French government in the Middle East and commander of the FrenchArmy of the Levant
, centered in Syria.
While events transpired in Europe that would eventually render the Arab Kingdom of Syria
into a French mandate, it would also catalyze Syrian nationalist societies like al-Fatat
(the Young Arab Society) to make preparations for a national congress. These Syrian nationalist societies advocated complete independence for an Arab Kingdom, uniting the Arab world under the Hashemite ruler Faisal. The first official session of the Syrian Congress was held on June 3, 1919 and al-Fatat member Hashim al-Atassi
was elected its president.
On June 25, the King-Crane Commission arrived in Damascus to a flurry of leaflets which said “Independence or Death”. On July 2, 1919, the Syrian Congress passed a number of resolutions pertaining to the formation of Syria as a completely independent constitutional monarchy with Faisal as king, asking for assistance from the United States, and the refusal of any rights claimed by the French.
The hopes of Faisal that either the British or Americans would come to his aid and intervene against the French quickly faded with what many consider the defining catalyst for the creation and destruction of the Arab Kingdom of Syria: the Anglo-French Agreement. The Anglo-French Agreement provided for the withdrawal of British troops from Syria and signaled the end of the British military involvement in Syria.
Eventually, Faisal would be forced into negotiations with Clemenceau in January 1920 which stipulated that the French would uphold the existence of the Syrian state and would not station troops in Syria as long as the French government remained the only government supplying advisers, counselors and technical experts.
News of this compromise did not bode well with Faisal’s vehemently anti-French and independence minded supporters who immediately pressured Faisal to reverse his commitment to France, which he did.
On March 25, 1920 a man by the name of Elkier Sabhi
who would lead a pack of around 300 rioters in Damascus
to attack a French
post of around 1,200 soldiers what followed was only 3 Frenchmen
died, while 150 of the 300 rioters would die in the pursuing battle, Sabhi himself managed to kill 2 of the 3 dead Frenchmen
while others just fled being shot at by the French
. Sabhi's men were armed with sticks, compared to the French
who were armed with rifles. Sahbi was sentenced to death after being captured in Damascus
by local cooperative authorities on March 29, 1920 when he had "the blood of the French
" he bragged about in his t-shirt. On April 1, 1920 he killed himself after awaiting trial by stabbing himself from a small kitchen knife he found off the floor. Right before Sahbi's suicide he bragged about how Syrians
were the cradle of civilization and protectors of Islam
while the French
were merely Frog-loving barbarians, this angered the French
high command who sought to persecute him from life imprisonment to death.
On April 1, 2006, the Syrian
government claimed to have Sabhi's shirt in a museum in Damascus
, although this is largely denied by many figures including Bashar al-Assad
Map of the Arab Kingdom of Syria, declared on March 8, 1920
In the aftermath of the Clemenceau negotiations in January 1920, violent attacks against French forces occurred sporadically across Syria and effectively the Syrian Congress assembled in March 1920 to declare Faisal the king of Syria, as well as to officially set up the Arab Kingdom of Syria with Hashim al-Atassi as Prime Minister. An independent Arab Kingdom of Syria
was proclaimed in Damascus on March 8, 1920, in an apparent dispute with the French over the nature of its rule.
This action was immediately repudiated by the British and French and the San Remo Conference
was called together by the League of Nations
in April 1920 to explicitly establish the mandate of the French
over Syria. Shortly, the war of Syrian Arab nationalists with the French became a devastating campaign for the new proclaimed Arab Kingdom of Syria
. Several violent incidents in the region initiated by Arab militias, like the Battle of Tel Hai
, led to further international support of the French.
The League of Nations having given the French Mandate of Syria as planned, the French General Gouraud issued an ultimatum to the Syrian government to disband its troops and submit to French control. Worried about the results of a long bloody fight with the French, King Faisal himself surrendered on July 14, 1920,
but his message would not reach the general and King Faisal’s defense minister Yusuf al-'Azma
, who ignoring the King, led an army to Maysalun to defend Syrian Arab Kingdom from French advance. The Hashemite government of Damascus submitted reluctantly to the French ultimatum and disbanded its troops.
Battle of Maysalun
In spite of King Faisal's acceptance of France's ultimatum, Yusuf al-'Azma
refused to give in. He raised a small body of disbanded troops and civilians, poorly armed relative to the modern, well-equipped professional French Army, and led them to Maysalun. Although he had no illusions about the outcome of the battle, al-'Azma wanted to make it clear that Syria would not surrender without fighting, in order to deny the French occupation any legitimacy. The Battle of Maysalun
resulted in a crushing Syrian defeat. The French forces under the command of General Mariano Goybet
easily defeated the Syrian forces. Yusuf al-'Azma was killed in the battle.
Award to French veterans - the Cilicia Levant medal law 18 July 1922
The final stage of the war took place on July 24, 1920,
when the French forces entered
Damascus without any resistance. The next day, the Arab Kingdom of Syria
was abolished, and French rule officially reinstalled.
- ^ a b Caroline Camille Attié: Struggle in the Levant: Lebanon in the 1950s, I.B.Tauris, 2004, ISBN 1860644678, page 15-16
- ^ Sarkees, Meredith Reid; Wayman, Frank Whelon (1 July 2010). Resort to war: a data guide to inter-state, extra-state, intra-state, and non-state wars, 1816-2007. CQ Press. ISBN 9780872894341 – via Google Books.
- ^ Peretz, Don (3 September 1994). The Middle East Today. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780275945756 – via Google Books.
- ^ Benny Morris. Victims. the date of the first attack of Arabs against French interest on March, 1st.
- ^ Tom Segev in One Palestine. Complete. the date of the first attack of Arabs against French interest on March, 1st.
- ^ a b Tauber E. The Formation of Modern Syria and Iraq. p.22
- ^ Eliezer Tauber The Formation of Modern Syria and Iraq. p.37
- ^ a b c Eliezer Tauber. The Formation of Modern Syria and Iraq. Frank Cass and Co. Ltd. Portland, Oregon. 1995.
- ^ Elie Kedourie. England and the Middle East: The Destruction of the Ottoman Empire 1914-1921. Mansell Publishing Limited. London, England. 1987.
Last edited on 15 April 2021, at 18:07
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