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)

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