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France, Syrie et Liban 1918-1946

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Nadine Méouchy

Deuxième partie. Jeux de pouvoir et interactions sociales

Will the real nationalists stand up? the political activities of the notables of Aleppo, 1918-1946

Peter Sluglett

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  • 1 . In Zachary Lockman, ed., Workers and Working Classes in the Middle East, Albany, State Universit (...)

1The title is borrowed, without permission, but with due acknowledgement, from Joel Beinin’s paper “Will the real Egyptian working class stand up?”, a valuable exposition of the many confusions of definition and meaning in his field.1 There is probably not quite so much confusion about the definition of the notables of Aleppo, but in all studies of contentious periods, especially contentious periods in the relatively recent past, there is a good deal of room for argument on such matters as who has been represented as doing what, at which time; in this case, who were the nationalists, who cooperated with the French, and so on. And the situation in Aleppo during the mandate was not particularly clear cut, as I hope to show.

2The collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 brought about immense changes in the status of the Empire’s Arab provinces. By the time of the signature of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, five new states, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Transjordan had been created, all mandated territories under a new system under the aegis of the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations. Article 22 of the League’s Charter reads :

“Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognised subject to the rendering of advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone.”

3In spite of the confident (and unambiguous) tone of this paragraph, it is clear from the way in which the mandates were actually administered by Britain and France for all of part of the period between 1918 and 1948 that those involved, both in London and Paris and “on the spot” in the Middle East had no particularly clear, or perhaps more accurately, no generally agreed, view of their duties and responsibilities. By the same token, the more politically conscious objects of British and French solicitude were almost equally confused as to the precise role of their new mentors, although, apart from a small but recognisable group who profited directly from colonial rule, those involved in political activity were broadly opposed to foreign or European rule, and made more or less strenuous efforts to bring it to an end.

  • 2 Philip S. Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate : The Politics of Arab Nationalism 1920-1945, Londo (...)

4Of course, in spite of the general truth of this proposition, the full picture is rather more nuanced. Philip Khoury and Nadine Méouchy, and most recently (and perhaps most specifically) Jim Gelvin,2 have shown us the folly of making blanket assumptions about the Syrian national movement, both during and after the brief Arab kingdom of Damascus. As in many other comparable situations, the national movement in Syria was by no means a monolithic entity. Rather, it consisted of a number of groups with aims that were often quite broadly divergent, sometimes contradictory. Perhaps most obviously, but to make a point that has not always been readily accepted, certainly not in the “official” historiography, there was no reason on earth why members of the “old families” of Damascus - still less those of Aleppo whose loyalties were rather more obviously divided - should rally to the banner of Faysal ibn Husayn, unknown quantity, outsider, Hijazi, British protégé, commander of an army officered by Iraqis and manned by tribal riffraff. And after Faysal was ousted in July 1920, what were the realistic options facing the elites of Damascus, Horns, Hama and Aleppo? Should they cooperate/collaborate with the French; should they set themselves up in defiance of the mandate - or should they, as most did, try to steer some sort of middle course?

  • 3 See Peter Sluglett, Britain in Iraq 1914-1932, London, Ithaca Press, 1976.

5In taking whatever stand they decided to adopt, the various interest groups among the Syrian notables were indirectly assisted by the generally confrontational and uncompromising nature of French policy. One important difference between Syrian and Iraqi politics during this period, which undoubtedly helped to add gravitas to the “mainstream” (i.e. non-leftist) Syrian national movement, was that the day to day realities of the workings of the mandate, and the constant shifts in policy of the authorities both in Paris and Beirut, meant that relatively few Syrian politicians were able to enter into the kinds of collaboration practised by their contemporary counterparts vis-à-vis the British in Iraq. In Iraq, after the northern frontier had been secured, and after an oil concession satisfactory to British interests had been negotiated, it became clear that the British would, within reason, be prepared to play a more discreet, though perhaps equally insidious, but less hands-on and more behind-the-scenes role. Partly because many important objectives had been secured, and partly in order to reduce the number of British officials, soldiers and airmen serving in Iraq, Britain announced, on 11 September 1929, albeit somewhat reluctantly, its intention to give up the mandate by 1932. The notion of “preparing for self-government” immediately moved to centre stage, and large numbers of the Iraqi political elite (including the court and the courtiers) began, and continued, to take office in or show support for governments whose pro-British orientation was a necessary qualification for their survival.3

6In Syria, in contrast, such opportunities were much slower to appear and in many important ways never quite materialised. Cooperation with the French would have been tantamount to political suicide during or in the aftermath of the Great Revolt and also during the central years of the mandate (October 1926 - July 1933) under an especially intransigent High Commissioner, Henri Ponsot. Those who did serve the French most publicly - the Damad Ahmad Namiq, Subhi Barakat, Taj al-Din al-Hasani - cut such ridiculous figures that their collaboration was at least as much of a liability as an asset to their French masters. Hence most Syrian nationalists and political activists rarely had the opportunity to become the objects of the same kind of opprobrium as experienced by some of their Iraqi contemporaries.

  • 4 Two studies of Tripoli are useful here on the relationship between a (non-capital) Middle Eastern (...)

7Most writing on the Syrian national movement has concentrated on the “view from the centre”. Working on Aleppo has led me to the not especially original conclusion that the "view from the provinces" is rather different, and this was probably equally so for Basra and Mosul vis-à-vis Baghdad, and for Tripoli vis-à-vis Beirut.4 The same could not be said for more obviously homogeneous and historically established political entities - the Moroccan national movement seems to have followed similar patterns in Fez, Rabat, Meknès, Marrakesh and Casablanca, and the Egyptian national movement appears to have followed the same broad lines in Alexandria as in Cairo.

  • 5 See CNRS/URBAMA (Université de Tours) (eds.), Petites villes et villes moyennes dans le Monde Arab (...)
  • 6 Some important exceptions are : May Seikalys study of Haifa, very much a “special case”; Haifa: T (...)

8In this connection it is curious to note more generally that apart from some most interesting work, carried out by Françoise and Jean Métrai and Christian Velud on the “petites villes” of northern Syria,5 relatively little research has been undertaken on the political economy or social history of the cities of the Mashriq in the first half of the twentieth century. Thanks to the pioneering work of ‘Abd al-Karim Rafeq and André Raymond (and that of Abraham Marcus about a decade later), we know a great deal about 17th and 18th century Aleppo, Cairo and Damascus, but there is no comparable body of scholarly work on these cities, or indeed any other Middle Eastern city, for the period between the First World War and the revolutions of the 1950’s.6 In addition, as I have suggested, histories of the national movement, or of the mandate, have generally been written in a somewhat "over-centralised" manner, without taking the complexities and unevenness of processes of “national integration” sufficiently into account. In what follows, I will explain this in a little more detail, and then try to trace the political fortunes of a section of the notables of Aleppo under the mandate.

“ARABISM” IN DAMASCUS AND ALEPPO IN THE LAST DECADES OF OTTOMAN RULE

9To simplify a complicated situation, it is becoming increasingly clear that only the most tentative generalisations can be made about the strength of nationalist feeling in greater Syria in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Here as elsewhere, arriving at “the truth” has been complicated partly by the absence of unambiguous evidence, and partly by the desire of later generations of educators and political leaders (and, almost inevitably, some of the historians in their service), to represent the “national project” both as uniform (monolithic, monocausal) and as being rooted in a past whose origins seem to recede ever further back in time.

  • 7 See Rashid Khalidi, British Policy Towards Syria and Palestine 1906-1914, London, Ithaca Press, 19 (...)

10An important part of the problem is the difficulty of defining “Arabism”. Was it a vague though growing sense of Arab (or “Greater Syrian”) identity, the desire to trade on the cultural capital of the Arab past, the increasingly unbearable nature of the “Ottoman yoke”, the desire for autonomy, the desire for independence? Clearly, at times it meant all these things to different individuals and groups, but it can now be said with some degree of certainty that there is little evidence of the widespread existence of a desire for anything more than autonomy for the provinces of Greater Syria before the seizure of power by the Committee of Union and Progress in 1908. After that, and especially in the face of the rather insensitive Turkification policies of the CUP and the great reduction in the prestige and status of the caliphate in the years before 1914, a more distinctly "separatist" trend seems to have emerged, at least in Damascus.7

  • 8 In “The population of Ottoman Syria and Iraq 1878-1914”, Asian and African Studies, 1981, p. 3-44, (...)
  • 9 For instance the sense of suspicion/superiority felt (and often expressed) by the people of Berlin (...)

11It is difficult to be even equally confident about the date of the emergence of such trends in Aleppo. For several reasons, partly because of its geographical location and its economic linkages to its north west, east and north east, which were, at least in terms of volume of exchanges, more important than those with the areas to the south (i.e. Damascus), and partly because of the heterogeneous (Arab/Turkish) population of the province of which it was the capital,8 the gut political loyalties of the city and the province were more complex. The strength of Aleppo’s “Turkish” connections is still evident in the survival of numerous surnames or family names originating north of the present frontier. In addition, many members of families who would regard themselves as among the city’s “leading citizens” readily (and proudly) acknowledge their families’ Turkish origin; older family members will often be able to speak Turkish. To this anecdotal mix must be added the mistrust, often recorded in proverbs, that the citizens of some cities feel for their counterparts in other, perhaps “rival”, cities.9 Hence the whole question of “primordial” (though this is perhaps too strong a word) political ties in Aleppo during this period is much more nuanced than in Damascus, where there is much clearer evidence of the circulation of notions of Arab identity, aspirations towards de-centralised government, and so on.

  • 10 In 1923 and 1926 respectively; neither could reasonably fear a “Turkish backlash”, so it is reason (...)

12As far as I am aware, there has been no systematic study of the beginnings of the Arab national movement in Aleppo. Neither of the two principal chroniclers of the city in the late Ottoman period, al-Tabbakh and al-Ghazzi, seem to have had a particularly developed sense of local identity or identification. Since they published their books well into the French mandate10 — that is, when the Ottoman Empire had long collapsed — they were no longer obliged to maintain (if they had ever felt obliged to maintain) a respectful or deferential attitude towards the Ottoman state. They certainly give no obvious sense of themselves as “we Aleppines” versus the “Ottoman other”. Both write of the Turkish state and its servants in the last years of its existence as if this was the natural order of things; al-Tabbakh ends his account with the Young Turk revolution, and al-Ghazzi continues his until 1920.

  • 11 See al-Tabbakh, I’lam al-Nubala’ Vol. VII, p. 474-75. The list of al-Kawakibi’s official posts, bo (...)

13In the context of the discussion of Ottomanism vs. Arabism, Tabbakh’s description of the career of‘Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi (1849-1903) throws interesting light on the socio-political realities of his day. The most distinguished Aleppine man of letters of his time, al-Kawakibi was a leading member of the first generation of Arab nationalist writers, but also worked as a journalist on Ottoman government newspapers (he was editor of the official newspapers al-Furat and al-Shahba’) as well as occupying a number of other official positions in the city and the province for most of his life.11 He left Aleppo in 1898, but this was in consequence of what was evidently a personal quarrel between himself and the wali ‘Arif Pasha (in the course of which he complained to Istanbul about the wali’s misdeeds) rather than because of any sustained political campaign against Ottoman rule.

  • 12 Albert Hourani, Arabic nought in the Liberal Age 1798-1939, Cambridge, 1993, p. 271.
  • 13 Copies are enclosed in various dispatches from the British consulate in Aleppo to the Legation in (...)

14Nor does it seem that al-Kawakibi acted as the focus of any kind of radical national or nationalist movement; Hourani points out12 that much of al-Kawakibi’s animus against ‘Abd al-Hamid II was due to the sultan’s promotion of his favourite Abu’l-Huda al-Sayyadi to the position of naqib al-ashraf of Aleppo, a post which al-Kawakibi thought should be more properly entrusted to one of his own relatives. Al-Kawakibi was imprisoned briefly in 1886 after an unsuccessful attempt on the life of the wali, Jamil Pasha; he had previously sent telegrams to Istanbul complaining about Jamil’s hostility to and ill-treatment of members of his own family and the Jabiri, Katkhuda and Bakur families. Given al-Kawakibi’s later history, it is interesting that at this time, the complaints he makes13 are couched in terms of “if only the king knew what his servants are doing in his name”.

15From this kind of indirect evidence, and from other local and consular sources it seems that the formation of an “Arab party”, however defined, did not antedate the Young Turk revolution, in contrast to the rather more politicised milieux of Beirut and Damascus, and that enthusiasm for “Arabism”, however defined, was quite limited until after the First World War. No doubt voicing some of his own apprehensions, the Aleppo-born Andrea Marcopoli, the descendant of a Greek family from Chios, Italian national, banker, commission agent, importer of European goods, wool and leather merchant and consul of Portugal in Aleppo since 1866, wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Lisbon some two weeks after the Young Turks had seized power in Istanbul that the “establishment of the constitutional regime has been welcomed enthusiastically by the local population”, but there was some unease as to the effect this might have on the civil and military administration. He wrote a few months later :

  • 14 Andrea Marcopoli to Lisbon, 10 August 1908,22 February 1909; Fonds Marcopoli, Aleppo (my translati (...)

“...encouraged by the example of the Committee of Union and Progress, founded by the Young Turks, the Arab party (le parti arabe) for its part has just formed an Arab association, which already has more than a thousand members. Since the Ottoman officials have generally been chosen from among the Turkish element until now, the Arab population, it is said, wishes to abolish any partiality between the different races and to introduce Arabs into the administration in proportion to their number in the population as a whole.”14

  • 15 C. Ernest Dawn, From Ottomanism to Arabism : essays on the origins of Arab nationalism, Urbana, IL (...)
  • 16 See al-Ghazzi, Nahr al-Dhahab Vol. III, p. 352-354.

16There is no further information about the activities of the “thousand members”, and it is impossible to judge how seriously they needed to be taken as an entity. Only three of those on Ernest Dawn’s list of 51 prewar supporters of the Arab cause before 1914 were from Aleppo - Albayr Himsi, Rushdi al-Shama’, and ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Muyassir.15 In addition, as was the case in many Arab cities, the news of the Italian annexation of Tripolitania (September-November 1911) and of major Ottoman defeats in the two Balkan Wars (1912-1913; 1913) occasioned large pro-Ottoman demonstrations in Aleppo.16 There seems to have been no question of any large number of townspeople in Greater Syria viewing the state’s military reverses - even those incurred by a Committee of Union and Progress government - as a golden opportunity to advance a “separatist” political agenda of their own.

17Before leaving this brief survey of the situation in Aleppo in the years before the First World War, the following quotation from a British consular report is of interest. In March 1911 Consul Fontana wrote to his superiors in Constantinople :

  • 17 Consul Fontana (Aleppo) to Sir Gerard Lowther (Constantinople), despatch No 2 of 20 March 1911,FO (...)

“The vali Husain Kiamil Pasha, some time after taking up his post in Aleppo, opened a campaign against the local Muslim landowners, whom he arraigned in a newspaper as oppressors of the poor ... Since then he has vigorously upheld the cause of the poor peasants and the poorer classes generally ... the oppressors and the oppressed seem to have changed places.... It is regrettable that the town of Aleppo has been divided into two camps, on the one side the Muslim landowners, notables and ashraf, and on the other the Muslim people of the poorer classes, the leading officials and the Christians.”17

ALEPPO IN 1918; THE AFTERMATH OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR

  • 18 In April 1917 the Arab Bureau in Cairo reported: “[formerly] a certain amount of colonial goods, r (...)

18The economic, as well as the political, situation of Aleppo changed very radically after the First World War. In general, the impact of the War and its aftermath on the economy of Aleppo (and of Syria as a whole) had been devastating. When the Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of the Central Powers in November 1914, the British blockaded the Syrian/Palestinian coast with squadrons from Egypt and Malta. This blockade was kept up throughout the war, the French navy taking over from the British in the summer of 1916. The situation had been further aggravated by poor harvests in 1915 and 1916, Ottoman conscription and requisitioning of all camels, mules horses, and also by the Arab Revolt.18

19A year later, a few months after the Allied capture of Jerusalem, D. G. Hogarth reported:

“The economic situation in enemy territory appears to be getting worse. Large quantities of grain have been requisitioned, especially in the ‘Ajlun area, and the large purchases of wheat by Germans from Aleppo, Damascus, Rayaq and Tall Karm have sent up prices. The Germans are reported to be buying for gold without questioning the price and sending most of the wheat to Germany.”

20He wrote two weeks later...

  • 19 Arab Bureau reports, 29 March and 10 April 1918, FO 882/17. The situation in Lebanon was even wors (...)

“Large German purchases during the winter have aggravated the situation and starvation leading to rioting is reported from the northern cities. In Aleppo, there are said to have been, during the winter, from 40 to 50 deaths every day from shortage of food, while the mortality among all kinds of domestic animals has reached 80 % of the livestock of the district.”19

  • 20 Philip Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate ..., p. 61. Cf : “Autour de Hama les familles Kaylani, (...)

21Trade had virtually ceased and moneylenders were unable to call in their loans. Some landowning merchant-moneylenders took advantage of the peasants’ desperate straits (especially acute because of the requisitioning of grain and animals mentioned above) to acquire substantial quantities of peas-ant land.20

  • 21 See note 8 above.
  • 22 Provoking a lively contraband trade which lasted throughout the mandate and beyond; see Frank Pete (...)

22For many of the inhabitants of northern Syria, the ending of the war, and the subsequent imposition of the mandate had the immediate effect of bringing a state of acute devastation and insecurity to an end, but, of course, major political and economic questions long remained unanswered. For example, quite apart from the ambiguous status of the sanjak of Alexandretta, it was not clear for several years after 1918 where the boundary between Syria and Turkey would be drawn. When the Franco-Turkish armistice was signed in October 1921, the new boundary effectively cut the former Ottoman province of Halab in half, with the northern Turkish-speaking qadhas (Urfa, Maras, Aintab) assigned to Turkey.21 Tariff barriers were erected between Turkey and Syria,22 with the result that Aleppo was abruptly, and permanently, cut off from its traditional commercial hinterland in southern and central Anatolia. At the same time the city’s population was dramatically swollen by an influx of Armenian and other Christian refugees from Anatolia. A British official had reported in May 1921:

  • 23 H. M. Consul, Damascus, to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Despatch 156 of 19 May 1921; E5 (...)

“Commerce is stagnant. Aleppo, which before the war traded with the greater part of Asia Minor lying to the north and north east, is now limited to the district lying within a radius of some 20 miles from the town.”23

  • 24 The population of Damascus only overtook that of Aleppo in the 1950’s. J-C David, “Alep”, in Andre (...)

23Furthermore, in contrast to the other major cities of Greater Syria — Jerusalem, Beirut and Damascus - whose status was enhanced by their becoming “national capitals”, Aleppo remained a “mere” provincial centre. For the first time in its recent history it became subordinate to Damascus, within the new state of Syria.24 As far as the political situation was concerned, the sea change which the city experienced in the course of its transition from the status of a major Ottoman provincial capital to that of second city in the state of Syria obliged its notables to refashion their political habits and political outlook, and to develop an entirely new series of networks and contacts.

  • 25 In the sense that Dawn saw “Arabism” as very much more monolithic than Gelvin’s work has shown tha (...)

24On an ideological level, while Gelvin’s work has considerably modified Ernest Dawn’s original thesis,25 “Ottomanism” as a political option self-evidently came to an end with the defeat of the empire in 1918, when, as we have seen, a variety of forms of “Arabism” came to replace it. More practically, the notables of Aleppo, whose political antennae had always been directed towards Istanbul, were now faced with the fact of incorporation into a new state in which their role had yet to be defined. As time passed, and it gradually became evident that the mandate would indeed be the political vehicle through which the country would be governed for the foreseeable future, the notables began to take the necessary steps to ensure that their voices were heard in four important arenas: the corridors of the mandate administration in Aleppo itself, in Damascus and Beirut, and in the general context of the burgeoning national movement, increasingly centralised in the capital city.

25It took some time for this to be fully internalised, partly, no doubt, because of the novelty of the mandate as a form of colonial rule and because of its avowedly temporary and uncertain nature (was it possible, for instance, that the French might leave Syria, as they had left Cilicia?). Many Aleppines, as became clear later, would have favoured a political conjuncture very different from the one which actually materialised — a state combining northern Syria and northern Iraq, for example, or closer association with Kemalist Turkey, rather than the one they found themselves having to live with by the mid-1920’s.

  • 26 The events of July 1920 are described in some detail in Fonds Beyrouth (Nantes) cartons 2 372 and (...)

26As is well known, there was considerable opposition to the French - and indeed the prospect of the French - in northern Syria in the immediate aftermath of the First World War. Some of this was almost certainly pro-Kemalist; the motives of Ibrahim Hananu and Shaykh Salih al-’Ali, for instance were extremely mixed, and it is difficult to disentangle the various strands of anti-French, pro-Kemalist and of course anti-Sharifian activity. Hananu, for example, seems to have understood relatively early on that Faysal would, at some level, eventually have to throw in his lot with the French, and felt in consequence that he, Hananu, would prefer Aleppo to be part of the newly emerging Turkey than to be part of a French-run protectorate. In the early summer of 1920, when Faysal’s days as King of Syria were obviously numbered, Hananu and Dr ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Kayyali were making heartfelt appeals to their fellow citizens to stand shoulder to shoulder against the French. After Maysalun on July 24, however, future resistance seemed useless, and French forces occupied the city without incident on the morning of July 23.26

  • 27 This was always something of a two way process. French intelligence reports for January-March 1926 (...)
  • 28 For the formation of the Bloc and its membership in Aleppo, see Khoury, Syria and the French Manda (...)
  • 29 Aleppines constantly complained, and still complain, of being proportionally under-represented in (...)

27However, it was only by the end of the 1920’s that many Aleppines — including a number of prominent notables — came to what was often a somewhat grudging acceptance of the fact that their destiny was irrevocably bound up with a Syrian state with its capital at Damascus and finally abandoned a number of attempts to reattach Aleppo to Kemalist Turkey, an aspiration, if somewhat quixotic, that attracted quite a lot of support27. This more forthright if somewhat tardy commitment to the ideal of a united Syria was in some sense symbolised by the foundation of the principal nationalist-independence party, al-Kutla al-Wataniyya, the National Bloc, formally in 1930 but more loosely since 1928.28 The Aleppo branch attracted members of the leading Muslim and Christian families of the city; Antaki, Baqi-Zadeh, Hananu, Ilyan, Ibrahim Pasha, Jabiri, Kayyali, Kikhya, Mudarris, Qudsi, Rabbath, Rifa’i and Sarmini. Nevertheless, the rivalry/antagonism between the two cities continued to smoulder, and remains a fact of political life in Syria to this day.29

THE NOTABLES OF ALEPPO DURING THE MANDATE

  • 30 “Ottoman Reform and the Politics of Notables” in William Polk and Richard Chambers (eds.), Beginni (...)
  • 31 Hourani, op. cit., p. 64.
  • 32 See my “Urban dissidence in mandatory Syria: Aleppo 1918-1936”, in Kenneth Brown, Bernard Hourcade(...)

28This study evidently makes it necessary for something of a reappraisal of the category of “notables” described in Hourani’s article,30 generally in the direction of not making them seem too monolithic; I am not sure that it is entirely correct to say that “the nationalist movement [in Syria and Iraq] was led by the urban aristocracy and moulded in their image”,31 largely because it is not always easy to define the “urban aristocracy” - especially in Iraq. As has been mentioned, the Syrian notables were not generally exposed to the same temptations as their Iraqi (or Egyptian) counterparts, but even here the reality is more nuanced. Some Aleppine notables - and many members of families of “notables of service” (e.g. Mudarris, Jabiri, Kayyali, Qudsi) had served as administrators in various capacities under the Ottomans. To some extent such individuals and families continued to serve as a filter (écran) between the people and the state; some led the people against the state, and others contrived a combination of both functions. In addition, as Geoffrey Schad’s article and part of my study of the events of the year 1936 in Aleppo suggests,32 at some crucial conjunctures the “traditional” notables were obliged to cede the power to mobilise and lead to new social forces, who based their authority on ideological or personal appeal rather than on hierarchical or patron-client relations.

  • 33 In Haifa in the late Ottoman period, 1864-1914: a Muslim town in transition, Leiden, Brill, 1998 M (...)

29This ambiguous attitude of the notables (both in Aleppo and elsewhere, of course) vis-à-vis the state was largely carried over from the late Ottoman period. Although the success of state policies in the last few decades of the 19th century clearly represented an incremental increase of the centre’s control over the provinces and thus in some sense the submission of the notables to the state (aided by new means of communication and so on), it also brought significant benefits which were particularly attractive to these same individuals. These were, first, a greater degree of public security, perhaps more so than at any time over the previous four centuries, which encouraged the development and extension of agriculture, and second, a great expansion in the civil service, which provided increased opportunities for employment for the notables and their sons.33 Once in place, the institutions of the Tanzimat (ministries, governorates, sub-governorates, directorates, municipalities) were not going to disappear, and the tradition in third world countries of the state as a, often the, major employer of labour, a trajectory which expanded exponentially after independence, had well established roots in the former Ottoman Empire.

  • 34 . E.g. see Charles Pavie, Etat d’Alep : Renseignements Agricoles, Aleppo, 1924, p 100-101. See als (...)
  • 35 At the beginning of the twentieth century, half the arable land of France was owned by 3.3 million (...)
  • 36 As documented by ‘Abdullah Hanna: see Tarikh al-Fallahin fi’l-Watan al- ‘Arabi, Vol III, Damascus, (...)

30In both arenas, then - the increase in the numbers of those employed in the administration as well as continuing improvements in public security - the French mandatory state continued the tradition of its predecessor. In addition, in spite of a number of French reports in the 1920’s advocating redistributive land reform as a swift and effective solution to some of the major agricultural and social problems facing the country and the slow but valuable land tenure mapping and registration on the part of the Régie du Cadastre,34 no major redistribution of land ever took place. It seems that the initial predilection of many French administrators to reproduce the small peasant proprietorship of their own country35 gradually became tempered by more immediate considerations of political expediency. Landowners tied by strong personal interest to the French administrative structures would most likely be the most effective guarantors of rural peace, and the French continued to permit, or at least to turn a blind eye towards, the formation of large landed estates on the part of city-dwelling notables. That some members of these families were important figures in the national movement and were outspokenly anti-French does not detract from the fact that the material base of their prosperity derived from their being at the pinnacle of a class structure which necessarily involved a great deal of misery and poverty, as well as a good deal of repression, at the lowest levels.36

  • 37 See Jocelyne Cornand, “L’Artisanat du textile à Alep : survie ou dynamisme?”, Bulletin d’Études Or (...)
  • 38 . Much of the information which follows is taken from Georgeais, “Le textile alépin ...” op. cit., (...)
  • 39 Small workshops, often employing three or four family members, still form a major element of texti (...)

31A similar phenomenon can also be observed in the highly volatile Aleppine textile industry, the largest single industrial employer in the city under the mandate and in modern times.37 Before the war, most of the textiles made in Aleppo were exported to what is now Turkey, and the new boundary and tariff barriers caused immense hardships. In 1929 there were 10,000 textile workers; in 1913 there had been 40,000; the difficulties caused by the tariff barriers were inevitably exacerbated by an abundance of cheap labour (Armenian and then Syrian Orthodox refugees, and further waves of Christian refugees from the sanjak in the late 1930s), Japanese competition, the devaluation of the franc and of sterling, changing tastes in fashion, and the world economic crisis of the late 1920s and early 1930s.38 In the interwar period, with the exception of a single large enterprise, La Société Syrienne de filature et tissage, which started production in 1936, textile production generally took place in small workshops, under what were generally pre-capitalist relations of production and organisation.39

32There were a series of strikes by textile workers in Aleppo, reaching a crescendo in August 1932, when employers lowered wages to 4 francs from a high of about 15 francs, and 50,000 demonstrators took to the streets. This was blamed entirely on the tariff regime and the maladministration of the French authorities (no Syrian government before 1936 could claim any sort of independence). On 11 August various protectionist measures were swiftly enacted against Japanese imports, but this had little lasting effect, and wages continued to drop, and the cost of living continued to rise, for the rest of the 1930s.

  • 40 Georgeais, op. cit, p. 29.

33When the National Bloc did come to power in 1936, its links with the textile patronat led it to try to forbid the organisation of labour unions in Aleppo, notably one founded by Communists in April 1937. However, given the acute distress in the city, the Bloc could not be seen to be holding out against an extremely deprived working class and still retain its credibility. In February 1938 a general workers’ federation was constituted in Aleppo, along the lines of a similar one at Damascus, with a Communist president, with the blessing of the local Bloc chef, Hasan Fu’ad Ibrahim Pasha.40 In the long run, of course, since French textiles were only competing very marginally with Syrian textiles, and since the nationalist politicians were inextricably allied with, and some actually members of, the national bourgeoisie of Aleppo, clashes of a class nature (workers vs. employers) inevitably broke out. Such events were potent indicators for the future that some part of the nationalist agenda would not be satisfied simply by the departure of the representatives of the colonial power. In general, however, much more research is needed to form a clear picture of the bourgeoisie-in­formation, the structure of power relations and the relations between the provincial city and the capital.

CITY AND STATE; A BRIEF AFTERWORD

34A few years after the Second World War, a group of Aleppine politicians who considered that their city’s political and economic interests were still not best served by the current shape of Syria, tried to push for closer relations with Iraq. This was not out of any particular affection for the Hashimites (although the rise of Nasser and the threat of “socialism” became more powerful factors later on) but much more a manifestation of the kind of “natural hinterland” sentiments that have been mentioned before.

  • 41 For a critical account of this process, see Roupen Boghossian, La Haute Djézireh, Aleppo, 1952.

35The Second World War and the period following it had been prosperous years for Aleppo’s entrepreneurs, especially those involved in agriculture. The growth in the cultivated area took place almost entirely in north and north east Syria, notably the development of the Jazira41 and the expansion of cotton cultivation on the Euphrates. Wealthy Aleppo families, both Christian and Muslim, invested heavily in these areas. Although these years formed a period of vigorous economic growth, political life was much less stable. After nearly a decade of negotiations, interrupted first by the cession of the sanjak of Alexandretta to Turkey and then by the Second World War, Syria finally attained a very shaky independence in 1946.

  • 42 Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria: a Study of Post-War Arab Politics 1945-1958, 2nd edition, L (...)
  • 43 “the bravest and straightest of the Bloc leaders”; ibid., p. 28.

36The National Bloc, the official independence movement, had been divided and lacking in credibility for some time, initially as a result of France’s failure to ratify the treaty which had been negotiated in 1936, and subsequently because of its acceptance, admittedly faute de mieux, of the loss of the sanjak.42 In 1947-48 it split first loosely and then more formally into two factions. One of these consisted largely of Damascenes, notably Jamil Mardam Bey, Faris al-Khuri, Lufti al-Haffar and Shukri al-Quwwatli, but also included the Aleppines Sa’dullah al-Jabiri,43 Mikha’il Ilyan and Dr Abd al-Rahman al-Kayyali. This (majority) grouping formed itself into the National Party (al-Hizb al-Watani) for the elections of July 1947, which took place a few weeks after al-Jabiri’s death on June 20. The opposition, which later called itself the People’s Party (Hizb al-Sha’b), consisted primarily of Aleppo politicians opposed to the dominance of Shukri Quwwatli, including Rushdi al-Kikhia, Nazim al-Qudsi, Mustafa Barmada, Wahbi al-Hariri, Ma’ruf al-Dawalibi and Ahmad al-Rifa’i, together with the Atasis of Homs.

  • 44 The fact that this was also a pet project of the loudly pro-British Nuri al-Sa‘id did little to ad (...)

37The idea of uniting (or at least forming closer ties) with Hashimite Iraq, which the Hizb al-Sha’b began to advocate in November 1948, originally for reasons which were pragmatic rather than ideological and which accorded perfectly with Aleppo’s commercial and agricultural interests, also coincided with the debacle in Palestine. Shukri Quwwatli, building on his long standing connections with Sa’udi Arabia, had close relations with that country and with Egypt, which were both adamantly opposed to the revival, in any form, of Hashimite schemes of fertile crescent unity.44The leader of the first Syrian military coup, Colonel Husni Za’im, showed some initial interest in the scheme as a means of gaining support against Quwwatli and his Egyptian and Sa’udi allies, but soon dropped it when he understood its wider ramifications.

38In any case, the idea of Syrian-Iraqi unity, which, as mentioned above, had its immediate origins as a means of furthering the interests of Aleppine entrepreneurs, gradually developed into a policy, vigorously defended, and equally vigorously opposed, by various political factions and entities within Syria, and by Syria’s own neighbours. In addition, France, the former colonial power, was deeply suspicious of what it saw as the resuscitation of an old set of mechanisms which would manipulate the politics of the area for Britain’s benefit; in addition Britain had intervened on the side of the Syrian nationalists in May 1945. Of course, by the mid-1950s, plans for Syrian-Iraqi unity could be and were represented by the pan-Arabists as an attempt on the part of the “old social classes” to align Syria with the anti-Nasserist and pro-Western forces of the Arab world. These were the years of the Baghdad Pact, of Soviet arms deliveries to both Egypt and Syria, and the beginnings of Nasser’s defiance of the West. The idea of uniting Iraq and Syria was finally buried with the discovery, in November 1954, of an “Iraqi plot” against Syria, tacitly encouraged by Britain and the United States, which aimed to restore the former dictator Adib al-Shishakli to power.

  • 45 CM. Andrew and A.S. Kanya-Forstner, The Climax of French Imperial Expansion 1914-1924, Stanford CA (...)

39It is a curious irony of history that, under the Sykes-Picot and other secret agreements of 1915-17, Mosul had originally been awarded to France (as part of area A), but was handed over to Britain (together with French claims to Palestine) by Clemenceau in the course of his visit to Lloyd George in London in December 1918, “based [inter alia] upon ... [Clemenceau’s] acceptance of the fact that Mosul was geographically and economically part of Mesopotamia.”45 It is useless, but tempting, to speculate on what might have happened if things had been left as Britain and France had originally planned.

Anmerkungen

1 . In Zachary Lockman, ed., Workers and Working Classes in the Middle East, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1994, p. 247-70.

2 Philip S. Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate : The Politics of Arab Nationalism 1920-1945, London, 1988; Nadine Méouchy, “Les nationalistes arabes de la première génération en Syrie (1918-1928) : Une génération méconnue”, Bulletin d’Études Orientales, XLVII, 1995, p. 109-128, and her doctoral thesis, Les formes de conscience politique et communautaire au Liban et en Syrie à l’époque du mandat français, Université de Paris-IV, 1989; James L. Gelvin, Divided Loyaltie: Nationalism and Mass Politics in Syria at the end of Empire, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1998. All three writers deal with both Arab and Syrian nationalism more or less exclusively through the prism of Damascus, and do not give much consideration to the practical, political and ideological difficulties raised by the creation of a state whose constituent parts had not previously considered themselves part of that wider whole. Hasan Kayali, Arabs and Young Turks : Ottomanism, Arabism and Islamism in the Ottoman Empire 1908-1918, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1997, and Youssef M. Choueiri, Arab Nationalism, a History: Nation and State in the Arab World, Oxford, Blackwell, 2000, address wider questions, relevant respectively to the end of the Ottoman period and the mandate and post-mandate periods.

3 See Peter Sluglett, Britain in Iraq 1914-1932, London, Ithaca Press, 1976.

4 Two studies of Tripoli are useful here on the relationship between a (non-capital) Middle Eastern city and the state : Bassam Sourati, “La ville contre l’État. Evolution politique d’une métropole arabe : Tripoli - Liban (1900-1950)”, Bulletin de la Société Languedocienne de Géographie, 20,1986, p. 223-239, and Michel Seurat, “Le quartier de Bab Tebbané à Tripoli (Liban); étude d’une ‘asabiyya urbaine”, in CERMOC, Mouvements communautaires et Espaces urbains au Machreq, Beirut, 1985, p. 45-86.

5 See CNRS/URBAMA (Université de Tours) (eds.), Petites villes et villes moyennes dans le Monde Arabe, 2 vols., Tours, 1986; Albert de Boucheman, Une petite cité caravanière : Suhné, Damascus, Institut Français de Damas, 1937.

6 Some important exceptions are : May Seikalys study of Haifa, very much a “special case”; Haifa: Transformation of a Palestinian Arab Society 1918-1939, London, I. B. Tauris, 1995; Michael Johnson’s Class and Client in Beirut : The Sunni Muslim Community and the Lebanese State 1840-1985, London, Ithaca Press, 1986, especially p. 11-45; the second volume of Robert ILBERT’S masterly study of Alexandria (Alexandrie 1830-1930, Cairo, Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale, 1996) covering the period c. 1890-1930. In Raymond’s study of Cairo (Cairo, trs. Willard Wood, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA and London, 2000), only some 50 out of 370 pages are devoted to the twentieth century.

7 See Rashid Khalidi, British Policy Towards Syria and Palestine 1906-1914, London, Ithaca Press, 1980, and Hasan Kayali, op. cit.

8 In “The population of Ottoman Syria and Iraq 1878-1914”, Asian and African Studies, 1981, p. 3-44, Justin Mc Carthy gives the population for 1330 (1912) as follows :
Haleb sanjak (‘approximately the area of Haleb province that was
to remain in mandatory Syria’) [p. 33]) 517,451 (*)
Ayntab sanjak (now in Turkey) 265,332
Maras Independent sanjak (now entirely in Turkey) 225,713
Urfa Independent sanjak (now mostly in Turkey) 200,432 (+)
Total 1,208,928
(*) This figure includes the population of the qadhas of Iskenderun (22,125) and Antakya (107,300); let us assume that half of the population of these two qadhas (64,712) were Turks.
(+) Let us assume that half the population of the qadha of Birecik (33,666 = 16,833) and the whole of the population of the qadha of Raqqa (17,175) were Arabs.
On this basis, slightly over half the population of the wilayet (64,712 + 265,332 + 225,713 + 166,424 = 722,181 = 59.7 %) in the years immediately before the First World War were ethnic Turks.
In 1330/1912 the population of the city of Aleppo was 126,676; of these 93,976 (73.9 %) were Muslim, 22,727 (18.3 %) Christian and 9,973 (8.8 %) Jews. Given the classification methods used, it is of course not possible to estimate the proportion of ethnic Turks in the city’s Muslim population.

9 For instance the sense of suspicion/superiority felt (and often expressed) by the people of Berlin vis-a-vis the citizens of Leipzig or Munich. Abraham MARCUS quotes half of the traditional Aleppo proverb “Halabi chalabi” (the Aleppine is a gentleman) but omits the less complimentary half “Shami harami” (the Damascene is a thief). The Middle East on the Eve of Modernity: Aleppo in the Eighteenth Century, New York, Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 33.

10 In 1923 and 1926 respectively; neither could reasonably fear a “Turkish backlash”, so it is reasonable to suppose that their opinions were as they stated them. Muhammad Raghib al-Tabbakh, I’lam al-Nubala’ bi Tarikh Halab al-Shahba’, Aleppo, 1923; Kamil al-Ghazzi, Nahr al-Dhahab fi Tarikh Halab, Aleppo, 1926.

11 See al-Tabbakh, I’lam al-Nubala’ Vol. VII, p. 474-75. The list of al-Kawakibi’s official posts, both paid and unpaid, reflecting his gradual rise through the local administrative hierarchy, is impressive.

12 Albert Hourani, Arabic nought in the Liberal Age 1798-1939, Cambridge, 1993, p. 271.

13 Copies are enclosed in various dispatches from the British consulate in Aleppo to the Legation in Istanbul in July and August 1886. (FO 195/1545).

14 Andrea Marcopoli to Lisbon, 10 August 1908,22 February 1909; Fonds Marcopoli, Aleppo (my translation from the French original).

15 C. Ernest Dawn, From Ottomanism to Arabism : essays on the origins of Arab nationalism, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1973, p. 174-176.

16 See al-Ghazzi, Nahr al-Dhahab Vol. III, p. 352-354.

17 Consul Fontana (Aleppo) to Sir Gerard Lowther (Constantinople), despatch No 2 of 20 March 1911,FO 424/227.

18 In April 1917 the Arab Bureau in Cairo reported: “[formerly] a certain amount of colonial goods, rice, sugar, coffee, etc., used to reach Damascus and Palestine from the Hijaz by caravan ... the whole economic life of the region would have been shaken to its foundations by the blockade ... Commerce is dying slowly; there is no trade left”. Arab Bureau Report no 8, 21 April 1917, FO 882/17.

19 Arab Bureau reports, 29 March and 10 April 1918, FO 882/17. The situation in Lebanon was even worse; see L’Asie Française, passim, 1920-1922, Dominique Chevallier, “Lyon et la Syrie en 1919; les bases d’une intervention”, Revue Historique, CCIV, 1960, p. 275-320, and Michel Seurat, “Le rôle de Lyon dans l’installation du mandat français en Syrie; intérêts économiques et culturels, luttes d’opinion”, Bulletin d’Etudes Orientales, XXI, 1979, p. 129-166.

20 Philip Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate ..., p. 61. Cf : “Autour de Hama les familles Kaylani, Barazi, Barudi se sont emparées de grandes propriétés dans l’est et le sud du sandjak en 1917-1918, spéculant sur la misère du fellah. Les anciens propriétaires sont souvent restés comme métayers. Delélée Desloges, Aperçu sur la vie rurale dans la Syrie du Nord, Mémoire du CHEAM, n° 876, June 1946.

21 See note 8 above.

22 Provoking a lively contraband trade which lasted throughout the mandate and beyond; see Frank Peter, “Découpage de l’empire et reconstitution de l’espace régional: les frontières économiques de la Syrie sous mandat français, 1920-1939”, paper presented at “The British and French Mandates in Comparative Perspective”, Semaine internationale des études mandataires : MMSH, Aix-en-Provence 8-15 June 2001 (to be published with the Proceedings of the conference), N. Méouchy & P. Sluglett eds.

23 H. M. Consul, Damascus, to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Despatch 156 of 19 May 1921; E5774/117/89, FO 371/6455. Cf. Consul Satow Beirut, to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Despatch 152 of 18 October 1922 : “As a matter of practical politics it is clear that if Aleppo and Alexandretta are not on the same side of the frontier as their customers, they are condemned to a lingering decline.” E 11883/274/89; FO 371/7848.

24 The population of Damascus only overtook that of Aleppo in the 1950’s. J-C David, “Alep”, in Andre Raymond (ed.), La Syrie d’Aujourd’hui, CNRS, Paris, 1980, p. 385-105.

25 In the sense that Dawn saw “Arabism” as very much more monolithic than Gelvin’s work has shown that it actually was.

26 The events of July 1920 are described in some detail in Fonds Beyrouth (Nantes) cartons 2 372 and 2 373 (Situation politique à Alep 1918-1920; Occupation d’Alep 1918-1920); see also the diaries of Commandant Trenga for June-July 1920 : Ministère de la Défense (Vincennes), Service Historique de l’Armée de Terre, Fonds Privés, Fonds Trenga, 1 K 207.

27 This was always something of a two way process. French intelligence reports for January-March 1926 (that is, at the time of the Great Revolt) make frequent reference to bands of Turkish regulars and irregulars crossing the Turkish/Syrian border.

28 For the formation of the Bloc and its membership in Aleppo, see Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate..., p. 245-284, especially p. 266,270-73. The extent to which the Aleppine notable /‘ulama/landowning families were represented (Baqi-Zadeh, Ibrahim Pasha, Jabiri, Kayyali, Kikhya, Mudarris, Qudsi, Rifa’i, Sarmini) is impressive. The biographical table of ‘moderate and pro-French politicians and bureaucrats’ (p. 258-261) also contains names of prominent families, including at least two with members associated with the Bloc (Ibrahim Pasha, Mardini, Qataraghassi, Qudsi).

29 Aleppines constantly complained, and still complain, of being proportionally under-represented in cabinets in the 1930s, 1950s and 1960s, and at central government level generally. In 1931, for example, following the (admittedly very heavily gerrymandered) elections of 1931, only one Aleppine, Salim Janbart, was appointed to the cabinet.

30 “Ottoman Reform and the Politics of Notables” in William Polk and Richard Chambers (eds.), Beginnings of Modernization in the Middle East; the Nineteenth Century, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1968, p. 41 -68; Philip S. Khoury, “The Urban Notables Paradigm Revisited”, Revue du Monde Musulman et de la Méditerranée, 55-56, 1990/1-2, p. 215-228, traces the influence of this article on subsequent generations of scholars.

31 Hourani, op. cit., p. 64.

32 See my “Urban dissidence in mandatory Syria: Aleppo 1918-1936”, in Kenneth Brown, Bernard Hourcade, Michèle Jolé, Claude Liauzu, Peter Sluglett, Sami Zubaida (eds.), État, Ville et Mouvements Sociaux au Maghreb et au Moyen-Orient: Urban Crises and Social Movements in the Middle East, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1989, p. 301 -316, and Geoffrey Schad’s article in this volume, “Toward an analysis of class formation in Syria: Aleppo’s textile industrialists and workers during the mandate.”

33 In Haifa in the late Ottoman period, 1864-1914: a Muslim town in transition, Leiden, Brill, 1998 Mahmud Yazbak gives a number of examples both of fathers succeeding sons in various administrative positions in and around Haifa and of various members of the same family holding positions simultaneously.

34 . E.g. see Charles Pavie, Etat d’Alep : Renseignements Agricoles, Aleppo, 1924, p 100-101. See also James L. Whitaker, The union of Demeter with Zeus: agriculture and politics in modern Syria, unpublished Ph.D thesis, Durham University, 1996.

35 At the beginning of the twentieth century, half the arable land of France was owned by 3.3 million peasants with plots of between one and forty hectares. “Les Gambetta, Méline, Poincaré, tous du centre droit gouvernemental, radicaux ou opportunistes, défendent la petite propriété et lui attribuent une valeur civique essentielle ... L’élégant et très parisien Paul Deschanel, président de la Chambre, fonde une Ligue républicaine de la petite propriété”. Pierre Miquel, La France et ses paysans : une histoire de monde rural au xxe siècle, Paris, L’Archipel, 2001, p. 26-27.

36 As documented by ‘Abdullah Hanna: see Tarikh al-Fallahin fi’l-Watan al- ‘Arabi, Vol III, Damascus, 1987.

37 See Jocelyne Cornand, “L’Artisanat du textile à Alep : survie ou dynamisme?”, Bulletin d’Études Orientales, XXXVI, 1984, p. 79-126; “Toutefois, le textile reste encore le principal secteur de production de la ville”. (p. 81); Philippe Georgeais, “Le textile alépin durant les années trente”, in Jacques Thobie and Salgur Kançal (eds.), Industrialisation, communication et rapports sociaux en Turquie et en Méditerranée Orientale, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1994, p. 15-33.

38 . Much of the information which follows is taken from Georgeais, “Le textile alépin ...” op. cit., (evidently not available to Longuenesse, see note 39).

39 Small workshops, often employing three or four family members, still form a major element of textile and shoe production in both Aleppo and Damascus. For the organisation of production, see Elisabeth Longuenesse, “Labor in Syria; The Emergence of New Identities” in Ellis Jay Goldberg (ed.), The Social History of Labor in the Middle East, Boulder, Westview, 1996, p. 99-129. For more details see the same author’s La Classe Ouvrière en Syrie. Une Classe en Formation, thèse pour le doctorat du 3e cycle, Paris, EHESS, 1977.

40 Georgeais, op. cit, p. 29.

41 For a critical account of this process, see Roupen Boghossian, La Haute Djézireh, Aleppo, 1952.

42 Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria: a Study of Post-War Arab Politics 1945-1958, 2nd edition, London, 1986, p. 27-32.

43 “the bravest and straightest of the Bloc leaders”; ibid., p. 28.

44 The fact that this was also a pet project of the loudly pro-British Nuri al-Sa‘id did little to advance its credibility.

45 CM. Andrew and A.S. Kanya-Forstner, The Climax of French Imperial Expansion 1914-1924, Stanford CA, Stanford University Press, 1981, p. 174.

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