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A Brief History of the Great Syrian Revolt (1925-1927)


Foreword: This is just a brief outline of the Great Syrian Revolt (sometimes termed as The Great Druze Revolt) so there are bound to be stuff missing, since this is a summary!
Military band marking the proclamation of Faisal as the King of Syria

As you might already know, after the First World War, the Ottoman Empire was divided between France and the United Kingdom. UK got Iraq, Jordan and the Palestine region while France got the Levantine region, consisting of Lebanon and Syria.

So why the revolt?

Now, the problem was that the Arabs fought on the British side during The Great War and wanted to establish their own state in the region of Syria (and beyond). So, in March 1920 (under King Faisal of the Hashemites), the Kingdom of Syria was proclaimed. The French were not amused and 4 months later, the Kingdom of Syria fell when the French invaded and occupied Damascus.

The years that followed 1920 were hardly peaceful, bastions of resistance towards the French sprung up across the country but they lacked centrality or unity. It was usually a single ethnic group with limited coordination with other factions. Alawites, Druze, Bedouins, Sunnis all individually attempted to revolt against the French in the following five years after 1920. Though the French had control of the urban areas (with the aid of the social elite) of Damascus, Aleppo and others, very little evidence of a French presence existed in the villages.
Damascus in flames, circa 1925.

In 1925, another open revolt emerged in Syria. What makes this one different from previous attempts was the presence of multiple factions (Alawites, Druze, Sunnis etc.) in a de-facto alliance. I use "de-facto" because, like previous revolts, no centrally-coordination was present.

The revolt was initiated by the Druze leader and Syrian nationalist Sultan al-Atrash issuing a call to arms and resistance against the French. The revolt was successful in its initial stages and lead to the capture of Druze-majority cities in the south of Syria (see here), owing to the minimal presence of French soldiers (there were 14,397 soldiers in Syria in 1925, compared to 70,000 in 1920). The French countered this by deploying thousands of soldiers from its colonies, with weapons superior to those of the Syrian rebels.
Sultan al-Atrash and soldiers at Hauran

The revolt was not put down until the spring of 1927, after the French had retaken all the major cities of Syria. The uprising led to the French government to conclude that direct rule over Syria was too costly, owing to the transport and supply of soldiers. A year after the uprising, France declared an amnesty to the Syrian rebels but proclaimed that Sultan al-Atrash and other leaders of the rebellion would be exiled.

This was not a problem.The French sentenced Sultan al-Atrash and other national leaders to death, but al-Atrash escaped with the rebels to Transjordan and was eventually pardoned. In 1937, after the signing of the Franco-Syrian Treaty, he returned to Syria where he was met with a huge public reception.

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