The following history post will probably be my last before going to Lebanon, where I’ll attempt to blog about my visit. My ability to do this depends on being able to access wordpress and time, as I’m learning Arabic and want to return able to hold, at least, a few conversations.
It seems such a long time since I made a historical entry and intended to use the history of the Hashemite family, notably King Faisal, who ruled both Syria and Iraq, as part of the series, ‘the beginnings of Zionism’. In relation to Palestine, here it’s sufficient to say, King Faisal and his family were part of the settlement by, which the Zionists took control of that region but the events, that surrounded his compliance were complex.
An example of these complexities involves the question of Arab independence. At the outset of the 1914-1918 war Lord Kitchener sought to gain the allegiance of Sharif Hussain, father of Prince Faisal as it was feared that, the Turks would enter the war on the side of the Germans. Sharif Hussain’s second son amir Abdullah, who was to become the King of Jordan in 1946, sided with Britain but waged war on Turkey prematurely, as negotiations, embodied in the ‘McMahon letters”, were conducted.
The letters, eight in all, discussed independence for the Arabs, as they broke away from the Ottoman empire but according to the Sir Reader Bullard, their content was ambiguous, leaving the future of Palestine in dispute. The letters referred to the whole of Greater Syria and one specifically to, Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Damascus, as possible independent territories, though it also included concessions to the French, particularly in Lebanon. Of course it is common knowledge, that the the whole territory was mandated to Britain and France and any semblance of real independence was delayed for decades.
It is easy for Arabic people to blame Faisal and convenient for Britain, that he did agree to the colonisation of Palestine but there was much intrigue afoot in the region during the period. In the last section about the history of Zionism, I cited some parliamentary debates, which showed the Conservative party favoured the Hashemite family as the future rulers of Palestine rather, than the Zionists. The latter found favour, with the Liberal part and much of the world as the League of Nations was formed in 1922.
King Faisal did rule Greater Syria for a few months in the 1920s, remember Greater Syria included Lebanon and Palestine. As people, who have seen the film Lawrence of Arabia will know he ended up as ruler of Iraq, from 1921 to 1933. The family rule Jordan to this very day. The events of this period are marked by the Arab revolt, as many sought independence, from the Turkish.
This blog set out as an account of the history of Arab nationalism and the Ba’ath Party and their impact on modern day Syria. Unfortunately I’ve been waylaid by events such as, those in the Ukraine and of course the activities of the mercenaries, which are entering Syria to cause carnage.
King Faisal’s story and the Arab revolt opens the door for exploring ties between Syria and Iraq, the difference between their respective Ba’ath parties, as well as their cultural heritage. I hope a friend will contribute some of his research on Iraq’s and Syria’s common ancestry, when I return to Britain in November. Iraq is important to me as I’ve been involved in the anti-war campaign for decades, but I cannot cover all aspects of its and Syria’s history alone.
Before I sign out I’ll give a brief account of the Hashemite family, prior to the Arab revolt.
The Hashemite family were direct descendants of the Prophet Mohammed and the Quraysh tribe, which he belonged to. Sharif Hussain, referred to previously, was said to be 37th in the line of descent. When he arrived in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul), in 1837, with his wife and young family he came under the close scrutiny of the Turkish Sultan, who was said to be hot on surveillance. The Sultan had good reason to be suspicious of a man, who was later to challenge his authority, side with the british and who was a main proponent of the Arab revolt and subsequent independence from the Ottomans.
One of the Sultan’s main feats was the building of the Hejaz railway, which spanned the territory between Damascus and Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. During the construction of the railway the Sultan attempted to take control of the Sinai peninsula but was defeated by the British. Peter Armstrong describes this as an indicator of things to come as many Egyptians sided with Britain, in protecting the canal from the Ottomans. The canal was to be an important factor in the later struggle for Arab independence and the subsequent struggle for Arab nationalism.
Though Sharif Hussain was instrumental in achieving independence, he was not an Arab nationalist but this discussion is for a later posting. Hussain did become King of the Hejaz region from 1916-1924 and was succeeded by his son Ali. He had become the Sharif of Mecca in 1908 and was also the amir, though I’m not sure how these titles coincide.
The history of the Hejaz region is a long one and includes a battle between the followers of Abu Bakr and his daughter Ayesha, the late Prophet Mohammed’s wife and the Prophet’s nephew, Ali. The only evidence of the railway in Syria, in 2005 was an engine outside the station, which was then a cafe and museum. I’ll post a photo, when I have more time.
The Hashemites are no longer a prominent group in Saudi Arabia, as they were defeated by the followers of al Wahabi backed by Ibn Saud in the 1920s. The House of Saud is the ruling dynasty at present.
Some words from the author
I spent ages answering comments made about the young people travelling to Iraq and Syria to murder and abuse the citizens of those countries. My particular concern is Raqqa, which is in terms of its civil society a secular province, but a very faithful one too. People comment about war but there was no war in Syria prior to the media’s over-blown and exaggerated coverage of the 2011 demonstration, which was no doubt related the Syrian economy, which was inflated as a result of the influx of so many Iraqi refugees.
It is worth repeating one of my replies to a man, who likened the mercenaries in Syria to the forces deployed in Europe in the 1914-1918 war, where young men believed it would be an adventure and glorious. Here is my comment:
Raqqa was never at war with anyone, it was secular, peaceful and a place, where people were brought up properly. I loved it there and Syria as a whole. Events there have little to do with Islam, they are simply about the spurious ”freedoms” propagated by Western society, particularly England, where all young people have a superiority complex. Muslim women in Raqqa are being lashed, genitally mutilated and forced into marriage. This is an opportunity to plug my petition,
Just open the link, sign and of course spread the word.
To be fair to the commentator believes the young mercenaries set out, with the best of intentions but the situation will back fire on them. I don’t believe this; admittedly there was an extensive propaganda campaign conducted by Muezzim Begg, after his release from Guantanamo Bay to his imprisonment earlier this year. This received the back-handed support, from the British government, which ended, when the oil revenues in Iraq was under threat but that’s not the full story.
No; these people believe feel they are superior beings with carte blanche to do, what they want; Wahabiizm is far from the only factor involved.