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  1. French Syria ()
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  3. 11. French Syria (1919-1946)
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As Faysal told a British officer in Beirut after his return, "The attitude of the British authorities gave him no choice He had been handed over tied by feet and hands to the French. On July 14, , Gouraud sent Faysal an ultimatum that included five demands to be accepted or rejected as a whole within four days:. Although Faysal accepted the ultimatum in principle, Gouraud was ordered not to negotiate. He disregarded Faysal's last-minute unconditional acceptance of the ultimatum. The French had already decided to seize Syria, and on July 26, , they occupied Damascus, overthrowing Faysal and his nationalist government.

On July 27, Faysal was deposed and sent into exile. He left on July 28, though a year later; he was put on the throne of the British mandate of Iraq.

French Syria ()

British officials felt a nagging sense of responsibility toward Faysal for his wartime activities. On the other hand, they felt he had learned a valuable lesson in Syria that would make him an ideal ruler in Iraq: "He had learned the limits of Arab nationalism and of Europe's superior strength. Popular resistance to European control was strongest within Faysal's short-lived Damascus regime. This resistance came from both the Arab political societies, dominated by Iraqi and Syrian officers of the Arab army, and the wider populations of Damascus and Aleppo, enraged by Faysal's capitulation to the French.

Syria and the French Mandate: The Politics of Arab Nationalism, 1920-1945

First, Syria should be divided into segments to block nationalist sentiment and action. The remaining issues were how many states there would be and on which basis they should be divided. This area corresponded roughly to the area of direct rule promised to France in the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

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Lebanon, as it is known today, had never been a state or even a defined geographical region. It was always part of an empire — and since the sixteenth century, the Ottoman Empire. For them, an enlarged Mount Lebanon under French protection now seemed the only basis for their security. By , Patriarch Hawayik was ready to lead his community in their demand to be ruled by France. The Maronite dream of Greater Lebanon was finally realized: in addition to the largely Christian mountainous region, it comprised the predominantly Muslim coastal cities of Tripoli, Sidon and Tyre and their administrative hinterlands, and the capital of Beirut, with a population nearly evenly mixed between Christians and Muslims.

France also removed the largely Muslim-inhabited Beqaa Valley from Syrian jurisdiction and placed it within the frontiers of the expanded Lebanese state. Since the French were partial to the Maronites and members of the other Eastern Christian churches, other social and religious groups formed an anti-French, anti-Maronite alliance. Most of Lebanon's newly acquired "citizens" did not want to be part of a Maronite-dominated Lebanon and campaigned for union with the rest of Syria.

According to the investigation of the King-Crane Commission in , the inhabitants of Greater Lebanon were deeply divided over its future. On the Muslim side, almost all Sunnis wanted incorporation into an independent Syria; the Druze, led by two powerful families in Lebanon, the Jamblatts and the Arslans, were strongly against a French-dominated Lebanon; and the Shiis of Jabal Amil in the south were afraid of both the Sunnis and the Christians and wanted a loose connection with Syria.

The main beneficiaries of this territorial partition were France's clients, the Maronite Christians. French policy increased the possibility of sectarian conflict. With the exception of Beirut, the areas added to Lebanon contained a predominantly Muslim population, whose members objected to being placed within a Christian-dominated polity. The evolution of Lebanese political life was affected by the competition between conflicting sectarian interests, as Muslim groups attacked the leadership position of the Maronite minority.

Greater Lebanon was brought into existence to provide the Maronites with a distinct political entity in which they were the single largest community. However, they did not make up the majority of the population.

By adding several Muslim areas to the new state, the French reduced the Maronites to about 30 percent of the population. They had recognized that the separate existence of Lebanon depended on Muslim acceptance. The Maronites saw Lebanon as their own Christian homeland; Sunni Muslims, however, demanded unity with Syria and looked towards the wider Arab world for their source of identity. Therefore, there was no common identity in Greater Lebanon at its birth and no instinct to become a nation; it was just a Christian-dominated French power based in the Middle East.


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France continued to follow a policy of divide and rule, splitting the territory along regional and ethnic lines in the remaining parts of Syria. Arab nationalism was developed mainly by the Sunni Muslim community and perceived by the French as a threat to their authority, as well as to the Christian and heterodox Muslim communities Druze and global Alawites. In stressing communal differences and aspirations, they claimed to be bowing to political reality and popular feeling.

The only cordial welcome extended to the French from the Muslim community was from those urban notables who had been pushed aside by nationalist forces during the Faysal period. Well before July , Robert de Caix, the chief architect of French policy in Syria prior to and during World War I, had opposed the creation of a unified Syrian state in the territory that remained after the creation of a separate Lebanese state, arguing that it would have an Arab and Muslim orientation, would be hostile to France and would project a dangerous influence on French North Africa.

He advocated the creation of small states, reflecting the country's regional and ethnic diversity. General Gouraud, the first high commissioner, and his influential aide de Caix sought to take advantage of the local and communal particularisms in order to break Syria up and reshape it gradually to their liking.

11. French Syria (1919-1946)

In , France carved out a series of separate political units, the existence of which was designed to obstruct the progress of the Syrian national identity. They created the two separate states of Aleppo and Damascus, which included the districts of Homs and Hama, the two next-largest urban centers in the mandate. Both of these states were ruled by a local governor supported by a French adviser. The Sanjak of Alexandretta, with its significant Turkish population, enjoyed a largely autonomous administration in the Aleppo state. In a further effort at political fragmentation, France stressed the distinctiveness of Syria's two regionally compact minority groups, the Alawites and the Druze.

The mountain district behind Latakia, with its large Alawite population, became a special administrative regime under heavy French protection and was proclaimed a separate state. Later, in , all but the Jabal al-Druze were united in a Syrian Federation, which was dissolved at the end of and replaced by a Syrian state comprising Aleppo and Damascus and a separate Sanjak of Alexandretta later the Autonomous Republic of Hatay.

However, the Alawite state was excluded from this new arrangement. In , after two long years of haggling, France conceded the Sanjak of Alexandretta to Turkey in a bid for Turkish neutrality in the event of war; 24 the decision was bitterly resented by the Arab nationalists. Except for a brief period from to , the Alawite and Druze states were administratively separate from Syria until Despite the variety of administration in Syria's outlying areas, ever since , Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo were consistently under one administration.

Nationalist pressure and expenses forced France to unite Damascus and Aleppo. The Alawite and Jabal al-Druze territories were kept in shifting degrees of administrative isolation and political insulation from these centers for the better part of France's tenure in Syria. During much of the mandate era, this strategy helped to define the extent of the nationalist movement. The French managed to hinder the nationalist movement from infecting the minority-inhabited areas and to cut its ties to the urban nationalist opposition in the peripheral regions. Due to this strategy, the Syrian nationalist movement encountered great difficulties in expanding the base of its activities beyond Damascus, Aleppo, Hama and Homs.

Some of Syria's religious and ethnic minorities, such as Kurds, Armenians, Jews and various Christian sects, were widely dispersed and did not have a geographical base to give rise to political unity, whereas the Alawites and Druze were compact regional minorities with considerable political unity. However, in the end, even with French support, the Alawite and Druze communities were not viable as national entities. Their autonomy mainly had been fostered by the French in an attempt to break Syrian unity. By the end of the mandate, Alawite and Druze areas were incorporated into the larger Syrian state by the French.

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New Password. Password Changed Successfully Your password has been changed. Returning user. Request Username Can't sign in? Forgot your username? French government troops re-captured Al-Suwayda Soueida on April 25, Ahmad Nami was elected as president of the State of Syria on April 28, French troops clashed with Druze rebels in the Maydan Midan quarter of Damascus on May 6, , resulting in the deaths of several French soldiers. French military forces bombarded the Maydan Midan quarter of Damascus on May , , resulting in the deaths of some civilians and Druze rebels.

French troops launched a military offensive against Druze rebels in the Ghuta region on July , , resulting in the deaths of some 1, individuals.


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French troops suppressed the Druze rebellion on June 1, Several thousand individuals, including some 2, French soldiers and 6, Syrian rebels, were killed during the conflict. Some , individuals were displaced during the conflict.


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Elections for a member constituent assembly were held on April 10 and April 24, The Constituent Assembly convened on June 9, , and presented a draft constitution to the Syrian assembly on August 7, Several parts of the draft constitution were unacceptable to the French government. The French high commissioner promulgated a constitution for the Syrian State on May 22, , which provided for an elected parliament and president. Legislative elections were held on December 20, and January 4, , and the National Bloc won 17 out of 69 seats in the Syrian Chamber of Deputies.

The governments of France and Syria signed the Franco-Syrian Treaty on November 16, , promising French support for an independent Syria within four years. On November 3, , the French high commissioner suspended the Chamber of Deputies in which there was strong opposition to the Franco-Syrian Treaty. Government police killed two demonstrators in Allepo on January 21, Government troops killed four protesters in Damascus on January 21, Government troops killed three demonstrators in Homs on January 22, Some 40 demonstrators were killed by government troops in Hama on February 6,