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)

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