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)

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