Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 8: 1926 to 1927 Period

According to Michael Provence’s The Great Syrian Revolt and The Rise of Arab Nationalism, by the end of 1925 the anti-imperialist Syrian “rebels had the committed support of vast numbers of the Syrian population, both in the countryside and in the capital” and “people that the French identified as bandits and criminals were identified by their compatriots as national heroes…” So in early 1926 “declarations, manifestos and signed petitions began to appear all over” the Syrian city of “Aleppo,” according to Philip Khoury’s Syria and The French Mandate. But then, according to the same book, the following happened in Aleppo on Jan. 10, 1926:

“…A crowd of 1,500 persons gathered at the Great Mosque in Aleppo and shops throughout the Muslim quarters closed to protest the arrests [of 43 leaders of opponents of continued French rule in Syria]. A procession…made its way to Serail [where the arrested leaders had been imprisoned]…When the crowd tried to help a number of prisoners to make an escape, a company of mounted troops with bared sabers charged the unarmed mob, which turned to flight only to face a burst of machine-gun fire from the nearby Citadel…French machine gunners killed 15 people and seriously wounded another 60…”

And in the Spring and Summer of 1926, a counter-offensive by the French troops succeeded in crushing the anti-imperialist Syrian nationalist revolt. According to The Great Syrian Revolt and The Rise of Arab Nationalism, this mass-based Roaring Twenties revolt against French imperialist government rule in Syria ended in the following way:

“…It ended with the…reassertion of government control over the devastated countryside, district by district and village by village. Most of the hundreds of insurgents named and sentenced in abstentia by government courts fled into exile. The truly anonymous rebel masses melted back into their ruined village and urban quarters.”

As Syria and The French Mandate noted:

“… [French] General Andrea launched an assault on Sawnda’…]and] on Apr. 25, 1926, French forces recaptured the Druze capital…Six thousand armed Druzes led the resistance in Suwayda’. The assault took the French 6 hours to complete; approximately 1,000 Druzes were killed, while the French lost 89 men and another 310 were wounded.”

Then, in May 1926, according to the same book, the French army killed a lot of civilians while crushing the anti-imperialist Syrian nationalist revolt in Damascus by using the following methods:

“…The third prong of the French Army’s spring offensive [in 1926] pointed at the Maydan quarter [of Damascus]…The attack finally came on May 7 [1926]…The number of houses and shops destroyed during the aerial bombardment…were estimated at well over 1,000. The death toll was equally staggering, between 600 and 1,000. The vast majority of casualties were unarmed civilians, including a large number of women and children; only 50 rebels were reported killed in the attack. Afterwards, the [French imperialist] troops indulged in pillaging and looting…The French assault made a formerly busy quarter of 30,000 people [in Damascus] a virtually deserted ruin…By May 17, 1926, calm had at long last been restored to Damascus.”

The June 2, 1926 issue of The London Times also estimated that the French army’s bombardment of Damascus in May 1926 destroyed 1,200 houses and 400 shops and killed 1,000 people.

A few months later, on July 18, 1926, according to Syria and The French Mandate, “the French launched their…offensive on the Ghuta” area of Syria “with 5,000 troops,” “encountered some resistance” by anti-imperialist Syrian nationalist rebels, and “inflicted heavy casualties.” The same book also noted that “an estimate of the number killed in the 3 days of heaviest fighting” between July 18 and July 21, 1926 in Ghuta “was 1,500, of which 400 were reportedly rebels,” while “reliable estimates put the figure at 200 French troops killed.”

Syria and The French Mandate summarized the results of the French government’s decision to use its military in Syria to crush the 1925-1927 “Great Syrian Revolt,” in the following way:

“The Great Revolt was a popular and wide-spread anti-imperialist uprising with a pronounced nationalist orientation…The number of Syrians killed, wounded, and uprooted was staggering. At least 6,000 rebels were killed, over 100,000 persons were left homeless, and one-fifth of the homeless flooded into Damascus from devastated rural areas around the Syrian capital. Sections of Damascus were burnt-out shells, the result of French air bombardments and artillery shelling. Hama had been similarly devastated…

“…The French government…had increased the number of French troops in Syria and Lebanon from 14,000 in the Summer of 1925 to 50,000 by early 1926…The Great Revolt took 2 years to crush…Some 2,000 French troops and auxiliaries were either killed or reported missing. The figure can be added to the 6,700 French troops who had been killed trying to pacify Syria between the {French military] occupation of 1920 and the revolt…”

(end of part 8)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 7--section 3: 1925 to 1926 Period

Although “the French bombardment of Damascus” in October 1925 “ended any organized mobilization” of anti-imperialist Syrian insurgents in Damascus, in response, the “insurgency expanded every day in the regions surrounding Damascus” and “thousands of Syrian men and women took part in the revolt” although, according to Michael Provence’s The Great Syrian Revolt and The Rise of Arab Nationalism, French “mandatory forces continued to bomb and shell numerous villages, neighborhoods, and suburbs in the region of Damascus.” As the same book also observed:

“Resistance shifted back to the…surrounding countryside. The destruction of their city failed to pacify the population with fear and led to an outraged expansion of rebel activity…Guerrilla bands soon gained control of the countryside on all sides of the city…The southern region was completely under the control of the insurgents. It took more than a year and massive reinforcements of troops and equipment for the mandatory power to regain effective control of the countryside of Damascus…The aims of the insurgents were clear: the expulsion of France and the independence of Syria.”

In Damascus on Dec.15, 1925, Syrian nationalist politicians who were not involved directly in armed revolt against French troops in the countryside surrounding Damascus then also demanded the following from French imperialist government representatives in Syria: 1. a general amnesty; 2. reunification of the country so that it would again include all of Beirut, all of Lebanon and all of Greater Syria; 3. a native Syrian government in Syria with real authority, instead of just a figurehead Syrian government that mainly served French imperialist interests; 4. the election of a Constituent Assembly to frame a constitution for a new, independent Syrian state; and 5. the establishment of a limitation for how long French government rule in Syria would last.

The mandate authorities in Syria of the French government, however, rejected all of these demands and, according to The Great Syrian Revolt and The Rise of Arab Nationalism, outside of Damascus the following happened:  

“…Towns and villages from Mount Lebanon east to the Anti-Lebanon range and south to the border with British-ruled Palestine experienced destruction from the air. The 1925 revolt was the first time in history that civilian populations were subjected to daily systematic aerial bombardment…By late December [1925] scores of villages in the area around Damascus had been bombed. Aerial bombardment was punishment for…suspicion of harboring rebels…”

(end of section 3 of part 7)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lawrence, Massachusetts `Not Seasonally Adjusted' Jobless Rate: 12.3 Percent In September 2014

Nine major Massachusetts cities had “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rates in September 2014 that exceeded the national “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for that month of 5.7 percent, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data:

1. The official “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate in Lawrence, Massachusetts was 12.3 percent in September 2014;

2. The official “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate in New Bedford, Massachusetts was 10.6 percent in September 2014;

3. The official “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate in Fall River, Massachusetts was 10.5 percent in September 2014;

4. The official “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate in Springfield, Massachusetts was 10.2 percent in September 2014;

5. The official “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate in Brockton, Massachusetts was 8.7 percent in September 2014;

6. The official “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate in Worcester, Massachusetts was 7.9 percent in September 2014;

7. The official “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate in Lowell, Massachusetts was 7.8 percent in September 2014;

8. The official “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate in Lynn, Massachusetts was 7.4 percent in September 2014; and

9. The official “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate in Boston, Massachusetts was 6.4 percent in September 2014.

According to the Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development’s November 20, 2014 press release:

“The October total unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.0 percent…Trade, Transportation and Utilities lost 1,800 (-0.3%) jobs over the month….Leisure and Hospitality lost 1,500 (-0.4%) jobs over the month…Financial Activities lost 500 (-0.2%) jobs over the month…Manufacturing lost 400 (-0.2%) jobs over the month. Over the year, Manufacturing lost 700 (-0.3%) jobs…”

Friday, November 21, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 7--section 2: 1925 to 1926 Period

In response to the spread of the anti-imperialist revolt in Syria, the French imperialist government’s “Foreign Legion troops and [French General] Andrea’s Eighteenth Tirailleurs occupied al-Musayfra” on Sept. 15, 1925 and “expelled and killed the remaining inhabitants of the village,” according to Michael Provence’s The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism. Then, on Sept. 17, 1925, “French airplanes bombed” the Syrian “rebels 27 times in 3 hours” as the Syrian rebels “retreated;” and “300 to 400” anti-imperialist Syrian rebels were killed, according to the same book. In addition, after French General Andrea ordered the captured insurgents “to stack” the “bodies of their dead comrades and the dead of al-Musayfra,” he ordered the captured insurgent prisoners to be “executed.”

But on Oct. 4, 1925, a Syrian “insurgent force of hundreds occupied the central Syrian town of Hama,” which in 1925 “was mandate Syria’s third-largest town with 80,000 inhabitants;” and “by 11:30 that night the battle was over, and Hama was in” Syrian “rebel hands,” according to The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism. On the morning of Oct. 5, 1925, however, “the French struck back” and subjected “the town to continuous aerial bombing” which “laid waste to most of the town bazaars,” according to the same book. And as a result of the Oct. 5, 1925 bombing of Hama by the French military, 344 mostly civilian Syrians were killed, including many Syrian women and children; and the French imperialist’s bombs and mandate troops destroyed 115 shops in Hama.

The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism also described how the French troops next attempted to end the revolt in the Ghuta area of Syria:

“The French…executed nearly 100 villagers in the Ghuta, many of them in their fields and orchards…Soldiers brought their corpses to Damascus as trophies, and they brought a number of prisoners as well. Some of the young male prisoners were publicly shot in Marja Square, the central square of Damascus. Mandate authorities left 16 mutilated corpses on display in a row for most of the day.”

On Sunday, Oct. 18, 1925, however, the French colonial authorities’ Syrian “police and gendarmes laid down their weapons and abandoned their posts in all the neighborhoods of Damascus,” enabling the anti-imperialist Syrian insurgents to occupy Damascus “without serious opposition,” according to The Great Syrian Revolt and The Rise of Arab Nationalism. But the same book also described how the French military responded later on that same day to the liberation of Damascus by anti-imperialist Syrian rebels:

“The mandate authority…decided on its response…The bombardment of the city began at around 5 o’clock on Sunday afternoon. The authority gave no warning to anyone…The bombardment lasted 2 full days. Entire quarters of Damascus were flattened. Nearly 1,500 were killed…”

According to Philip Khoury’s Syria and The French Mandate:

“Before dawn, on Oct. 18 [1925], a band of 40 [rebel] men…penetrated the Shaghar quarter [of Damascus] from the east…A little later in the day a second band of 200 Druze insurgents…invaded the Maydan [section of Damascus]…At midday, the French sent tanks through the city and its bazaar. Mobs erected barricades to slow their pace, making them easier targets for snipers…

“French reinforcements joined the Army stationed in the northern suburbs…By sunset, the bulk of the French Army was stationed along position north of the old city, covering the government buildings, the Hejaz Railway Station, and the Citadel. Then, at 6 p.m….the French used artillery and airplanes to shell the southern area of Damascus. The bombardment continued intermittently throughout the night…

“The next morning…all troops were withdrawn from the old city…to the northern line. From 10 o’clock until noon the following day, the bombing continued mercilessly…with huge explosive shells striking in all quarters from the central bazaars down to the middle of the Maydan [section of Damascus].

“The death toll after 2 days of shelling was high. The French…newspaper, L’Humanite’, circulated figures provided by the Damascus Municipality of 1,416 killed, including 336 women and children…French bombs and artillery ruined much of the area between the two great commercial arteries, Suq al-Hamidiyya and Suq Midhat Pasho…”

(end of section 2 of part 7)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 7--section 1: 1925 to 1926 Period

According to Michael Provence’s The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism, the 1925 revolt in Syria “began in the southern grain-producing region of Jabal Hawran and quickly spread to the Maydan quarter of Damascus;” and this “Great Syrian Revolt” of 1925 to 1927 “was a mass movement” using “tactics of armed revolt” that “were far more radical than much of the elite” nationalist “leadership of Damascus was prepared to embrace.” The Great Syrian Revolt against French control of Syria started on July 19, 1925 when—following the arrest of three Druze [Syrian religious minority group] chiefs by French authorities on July 11, 1925—“Druze farmers” in Syria “shot down a French surveillance airplane” and “Druze rebels attacked French troops in the Jabal” region of Syria, according to the same book.

In late August of 1925, “the most radical among the nationalists and the Druze leaders” in Syria then “resolved to bring the revolt to Damascus,” according to The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism; and on Aug. 23, 1925 the Commander of the Syrian Revolutionary Armies, Sultan al-Atrash, signed and distributed in Damascus a revolutionary manifesto which indicated the reasons and the goals of the 1925 uprising in Syria:

“…Let us arouse ourselves from our torpor and disperse the dark clouds of foreign oppression which weigh heavily on our land. For 10 years we have struggled for the cause of liberty and independence…

“The imperialists have stolen what is yours. They have laid hands on the very sources of your wealth and raised barriers and divided your invisible homeland. They have separated the nation into religious sects and states. They have strangled freedom of religion, thought, conscience, speech, and action. We are no longer even allowed to move about freely in our own country…

“To arms! Let us free our country from bondage…

“…These are our demands:

“1. The complete independence of Arab Syria, one and indivisible, sea-coast and interior;

“2. The institution of a Popular Government and the free election of a Constituent Assembly for the framing of an Organic Law;

“3. “The evacuation of the foreign army of occupation and the creation of a national army for the maintenance of security;

“4. The application of the principles of the French Revolution and the Rights of Man…

“Long live independent Syria!...”

Then on the following day—Aug. 24, 1925—the anti-imperialist Syrian nationalist rebels attempted to attack French troops in Damascus; and “armed bands” of Syrian rebels began “to form in the neighborhoods of Damascus and in surrounding villages,” according to The Great Syrian Revolt and The Rise of Arab Nationalism. But, according to Philip Khoury’s Syria and the French Mandate, French imperialist authorities in Damascus responded to the Aug. 24, 1925 attack of the anti-imperialist Syrian rebels in the following way:

“Sultan al-Atrash’s rebel army was stopped southeast of Damascus by three squadrons of Moroccan Spahis supported by the French air force. Afterwards, the French…initiated a house-to-house search for all suspected nationalist leaders. Many were apprehended and jailed without trial on Arwad Island, some for the second time since the French occupation. French troops also began to inhibit movement in the town with barbed wire…”

Although “the most important nationalist leaders, including Dr. Shahbandar…managed to escape the French dragnet,…French security dismantled what was left of the People’s Party” in Damascus, according to the same book.

Agitation and protests against French imperialist rule, however, continued in Syria in September 1925 and during that month “gradually spread to all the cities of mandate Syria,” in which 20 percent of Syria’s population then lived, according to The Great Syrian Revolt and The Rise of Arab Nationalism. As Syria and The French Mandate observed, “…barred from Damascus, the People’s Party and the Druze leadership set up a nationalist provisional government in the Jabal Druze on Sept. 9 [1925];” and “uprisings first in Hama and then in Damascus in the following month ignited rebellion throughout Syrian territory” so that “by the end of October [1925] large areas of Syria were in revolt.”

(end of part 7/section 2)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 6: 1922 to 1925 Period

After being imprisoned in 1922 by French imperialist authorities in Syria for 17 months on Arwad Island, the now-defunct Iron Hand Society’s former leader, Dr. Abdal-Rahman Shahbandar, was then sent into exile by French General Weygand, who was in charge of the French occupation troops in Syria. But by the early Summer of 1924, French authorities apparently felt that Shahbandar no longer represented an anti-imperialist Syrian nationalist political threat to continued French rule in Syria, and so they allowed Shahbandar to return to Syria from exile at that time. As Michael Provence’s The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism observed, “by 1925 the occupation and pacification of Syria was presumed complete,” and “few imagined that nationalist resistance would emerge in the countryside and spread to the cities—yet this is precisely what happened.”

According to Philip Khoury’s Syria and The French Mandate, after the French government reformed Syria’s judicial system so that “any foreign national involved in a commercial or civil dispute” in Syria could “have his case tried in a court presided over by a French judge” and not by a Syrian judge (and in which “the majority of judges were to be French”), Syrian nationalist lawyers of the Union of Lawyers in Damascus organized protests in 1925. In addition, by 1925, “the stark reality of life in a garrison state in which the French arrested and jailed or exiled scores of their political opponents, using specially constituted military tribunals headed by Frenchmen” also sparked protests in 1925, according to the same book.  The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism also noted that under French imperialist control of Syria during the first half of the Roaring Twenties, “inflation squeezed people’s income and savings” in Syria, “drought had gripped southern Syria for 3 or 4 years,” the “tax burden on cultivators had risen,” and “heavy-handed direct military rule nurtured nationalist and anti-imperialist feeling among the mandate population.” 

Syria and the French Mandate also observed that discontent with French colonial rule in Syria increased among Muslims in Syria after French authorities transferred “the Syrian section of the Muslim-owned Hejaz Railway to a French railroad company in 1924” because the Hejaz Railway had been “the only railway in Syria not built and owned by Europeans.” In addition, because “the French treated Syria as an imperialist possession to be exploited in the `old’ colonial manner” and “their economic policies” just “promoted French economic interests,” in 1924 “in Aleppo…a French group received the electricity and tramways concession” and were “guaranteed revenues of 8 percent of the invested capital” by French authorities, according to the same book.

So when the nationalist Syrian People’s Party--that the formerly jailed and exiled Iron-Hand Society leader Shahbandar now led--called for a protest in Damascus against the visit of Lord Balfour (the UK imperialist politician whose declaration during World War I had expressed UK government support for the Zionist movement’s establishment of settlements in UK imperialist-controlled Palestine during the 1920s) on Apr. 8, 1925, according to Syria and The French Mandate, the following happened:

“Huge demonstrations in the town were organized against him. Some 10,000 protesters, including hundreds of high school students, gathered at the Umayyad Mosque. While police and gendarmes tried to break up the crowd, Balfour made a hurried exodus to Beirut, escorted by French troops and airplanes. Twenty-six casualties were reported.”

By June 1925, “some 1,000 persons in Damascus” had joined the secular nationalist People’s Party that Dr. Shahbandar led; although, “in spite of its popular support” the urban-based People’s Party was still “essentially an elitist organization” controlled by absentee Syrian landowners, Syrian merchants and Syrian intellectuals, according to the same book. But even without the Damascus-based elitist People’s Party having any organized link to the mass of Syrians who lived in rural areas, French imperialist rule was so unpopular in Syria that in the Summer of 1925 another revolt of people in Syria against the military occupation of their country by French imperialist troops erupted.

(end of part 6) 

Monday, November 17, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 5: 1921 to 1922 Period

Ironically, most of the 70,000 troops that the French imperialist government utilized in the early 1920s to block Syrian national liberation and independence after World War I, were from other nations that the French imperialist government had previously formally colonized. As Philip Khoury’s Syria and the French Mandate noted:

“…French colonies supplied the bulk of men in French uniform [in occupying Syria]: North African, Madagascan, and Senegalese, commanded by French officers…While Frenchmen in uniform maintained a low profile in the town, Black Africans and Moroccan Arabs were called upon to maintain order.

“The size of the Armee du Levent was at first enormous. At the end of 1921 it stood at 70,000 men…” 

In addition, “the French established a Syrian Legion (Troupes Speciales) recruited almost exclusively from the local population, which became the embryo of a national army,” according to Syria and the French Mandate; and “by 1924, the Legion included some 6,500 men commanded by 137 French and 48 native officers.”

Since Syrian “minorities and rural Sunni Arabs were thought to be less susceptible to Arab nationalist influences,” the French imperialist military “promoted them in the military hierarchy” in Syria; and, eventually, “Alawites found the military an eminently suitable vehicle for reaching political power,” when formal French imperialist control over Syria finally ended after World War II, according to the same book.

After French imperialist troops occupied Damascus in late July 1920, “martial law was declared and resisters were quickly rounded up and jailed without trial,” according to Syria and the French Mandate, but “much of the Syrian nationalist leadership in Damascus had already fled across the borders to Transjordan and Palestine” and “from there, many moved on to Cairo and a life of political exile.” So “for the first 20 months of occupation, the general pattern of protest in Damascus included submitting petitions and occasionally closing the city’s great bazaars, but little else,” since “after the nationalist defeat in 1920 it took some time for the dispersed and exiled nationalist leadership to return to the political scene and to display its strength and popular support in Damascus and Aleppo;” and by the fall of 1921, the commander of the French occupation troops in Damascus, General Gouraud “felt confident enough to grant an amnesty to many nationalist exiles.”

But after returning to Damascus, however, Syrian nationalist activists, led by Dr. ‘Abd al-Rahman Shahbandar, formed an underground political group, the Iron-Hand Society, to organize political opposition to continued French military occupation of Syria. And after French imperialist authorities arrested Shahbandar and four other Syrian Iron-Hand Society leaders in early April 1922, 8,000 people gathered at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus for Friday prayers on Apr. 8, 1922 and, according to Syria and the French Mandate, the following happened:

“The decision to demonstrate was unanimous. On leaving the Mosque the crowd, which had swelled to over 10,000 marched…to the Citadel [in Damascus]…where the arrested were being held…The rank and file included students—demonstrating for the first time since the occupation…French security…deployed around the Citadel…some French troops, and several armored cars and tanks…On the first day of confrontation, 46 Damascenes were arrested and many were injured…

“…On Apr. 11 [1922] leaders…at the front of the long procession…placed 40 women, including the wives of Shahbandar and other imprisoned nationalists. Holding petitions and tearing their faces into their nails, the women ululated at an unbearably high pitch, bringing the thousands of men behind them to an explosive roar…As the demonstrators moved closer and the familiar chant of `we will buy our independence with our blood’ grew louder, the French decided to take the offensive…Three Syrians were left dead and many others including several women were injured. Another 35 persons were arrested and imprisoned alongside their comrades in the Citadel…”

In protest against the French troops’ Apr. 11, 1922 killing of Syrian nationalist demonstrators in Damascus, the shops and factories in Damascus were all closed down by their Syrian owners for the next 15 days. But a French military tribunal still sentenced Iron-Hand Society leader Shahbandar to 20 years and his arrested Iron-Hand Society nationalist colleagues to 5 to 15 years in prison; and they were then all imprisoned on Arwad Island by French colonial authorities.

So, not surprisingly, branches of the Iron-Hand Society in Homs, Hama and Aleppo organized more protests by nationalist Syrians against French rule during the rest of April and early May 1922; and “at the League of Nations, the unofficial but permanent delegation of the Syrian-Palestinian Congress registered a strong protest on behalf of the Syrian people,” according to Syria and the French Mandate.

But, according to the same book, “on May 9 [1922], French detectives, relying on information provided by local informants, raided the Iron-Hand’s secret headquarters in Damascus, arresting 17 members on the premises;” and after “five of the Iron-Hand `conspirators’ were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 1 to 15 years, while 15 other partisans were expelled” from Syria, the Iron-Hand Society, “as an organization” was “destroyed.”

(end of part 5)