Tuesday 30 October 2012

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.

Saturday 20 October 2012

Women in History: A Gallery

Continuing with the theme of women's history, often a-times, I believed that the best way of portraying a situation was through photos and pictures. Better yet through videos too. Below are photos taken from all aspects of history, showcasing women's role in history.

A women's march in Kabul, Afghanistan, in the early 1980s.

 Elin Wägner (Swedish writer, journalist, feminist, teacher, ecologist and pacifist)  standing next to 351,454 signatures demanding women get the right to vote in Sweden. Photo taken in 1914.

Women Suffragists picketing the White House in 1917 
Christian woman of Zahleh (middle) and two Christian women of Zgharta, Lebanon - 1873.
Native American women with their children visit the USS Bear, Bering Sea. Circa 1900.
Group of Bedouin women and children in Palestine region, ca.1890s.
A Palestinian women begs for her husband's life as Phalangist militiamen attack La Quarantaine refugee camp. Lebanon circa. 1976.
Canadian Women's Army Corps in 1944 (That smile!).
Women in marksmanship training in America, 1942.
Women's archery 1908 Olympics in London (though I wonder why they're aiming 180 degrees away from the target).
With all the men at the Front, Moscovian women dig anti-tank trenches around Moscow in 1941.
A photo from AP in German-occupied France: A women of the resistance movement, who is a member of a patrol to rout out the Germans snipers still left in areas in Paris, France, on August 29, 1944. The girl had killed two Germans in the Paris Fighting two days previously. 
 Egyptian Jewish girls celebrate their Bat Mitzvah in Alexandria, Egypt. Photo definitely taken prior to 1967.
Female Irish Republican Army (IRA) members frisk a British man, in Belfast, 1972.
Korean girls playing Nol-Ttwigi (Korean See-saw) in old Chosŏn, Korea, 1890s.
  An Iranian student at a vocational training school for seamstresses studies the theoretical aspects of her work. This is one of the first schools for girls founded by the government in Tehran, 1952.
 In the jungles of El Salvador, a young girl with the left wing FMLN guerrilla movement, starts another day of brutal civil war. Circa 1983

Friday 12 October 2012

Women in History - The Story of Jeanne Geneviève Labrosse

The parachute patent, made by Jeanne's husband, Andre Gamerin
Jeanne Geneviève Labrosse was a French woman who lived from 1775 to 1847. Why is she important, you might ask? She was the first woman to jump from a balloon with a parachute, from an altitude of 900 meters.

Why on earth would she jump? Well, she did marry André-Jacques Garnerin, a hydrogen balloonist and inventor of the frameless parachute!

Though she started flying on a balloon on her own in 1798, she is most famous for being, on October 12, 1799, the first woman to make a parachute descent (in the gondola), from an altitude of 900 meters.

She was one of the earliest women to fly in a balloon but keep in mind, she wasn't the first; Élisabeth Thible had made a free flight in 1784, and Citoyenne Henri had flown with Garnerin on July 8, 1798, four months earlier to Jeanne's attempt in 1798.

On October 11, 1802, she filed a patent application on behalf of her husband for:
"a device called a parachute, intended to slow the fall of the basket after the balloon bursts. Its vital organs are a cap of cloth supporting the basket and a circle of wood beneath and outside of the parachute and used to hold it open while climbing: it must perform its task at the moment of separation from the balloon, by maintaining a column of air."

Thursday 4 October 2012

Women in History: Marie Curie

Marie Curie was a Polish-born physicist and chemist and one of the most famous scientists of her time. Together with her husband Pierre, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1903, and she went on to win another in 1911.

Early Life:

Marie Curie was born in Warsaw in modern-day Poland on Nov. 7, 1867. Her parents were borth teachers, and she was the youngest of five children. As a child Curie took after her father, Ladislas, a math and physics instructor. She had a bright and curious mind and excelled at school. But tragedy struck early, and when she was only 11, Curie lost her mother, Bronsitwa, to tuberculosis.

A top student in her secondary school, Curie could not attend the men-only University of Warsaw. She instead continued her education in Warsaw's "floating university," a set of underground, informal classes held in secret. Both Curie and her sister Bronya dreamed of going abroad to earn an official degree, but they lacked the financial resources to pay for more schooling. Undeterred, Curie worked out a deal with her sister. She would work to support Bronya while she was in school and Bronya would return the favor after she completed her studies.

For roughly five years, Curie worked as a tutor and a governess. She used her spare time to study, reading about physics, chemistry and math. In 1891, Curie finally made her way to Paris where she enrolled at the Sorbonne in Paris. She threw herself into her studies, but this dedication had a personal cost. With little money, Curie survived on buttered bread and tea, and her health sometimes suffered because of her poor diet.

Curie completed her master's degree in physics in 1893 and earned another degree in mathematics the following year. Around this time, she received a commission to do a study on different types of steel and their magnetic properties. Curie needed a lab to work in, and a colleague introduced her to French physicist Pierre Curie. A romance developed between the brilliant pair, and they became a scientific dynamic duo.

Scientific research:

The Curies worked together investigating radioactivity, building on the work of the German physicist Roentgen and the French physicist Becquerel. In July 1898, the Curies announced the discovery of a new chemical element, polonium. At the end of the year, they announced the discovery of another, radium. The Curies, along with Becquerel, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903.

Pierre, Irene and Marie Curie
Pierre's life was cut short in 1906 when he was knocked down and killed by a carriage. Marie took over his teaching post, becoming the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne, and devoted herself to continuing the work that they had begun together. She received a second Nobel Prize, for Chemistry, in 1911.

The Curie's research was crucial in the development of x-rays in surgery. During World War One Curie helped to equip ambulances with x-ray equipment, which she herself drove to the front lines. The International Red Cross made her head of its radiological service and she held training courses for medical orderlies and doctors in the new techniques.

Despite her success, Marie continued to face great opposition from male scientists in France, and she never received significant financial benefits from her work. By the late 1920s her health was beginning to deteriorate. She died on 4 July 1934 from leukaemia, caused by exposure to high-energy radiation from her research. The Curies' eldest daughter Irene was herself a scientist and winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Women in History: My Thoughts

A caring mother, a smart sister, a gorgeous wife, a loving daughter – Ask a man a hundred years ago what they thought a woman is and that’s likely the answer you’d get. What about history? Let’s put aside all these Lords and Misters for a minute and examine the real unsung heroes of history. In my humble opinion, women do not get the credit they deserve and (to put it quite eloquently) that is completely unacceptable, whether by today’s standards or then. Because of this rather Draconian practice of snubbing women from the pages of history, I thought that it would’ve been a good (ish) idea to launch a ‘Women’s History Month’ (yes, I know that’s in March) to coincide with InternationalBreast Cancer Awareness Month.  

Why? Because, if a woman was capable ofsaving France from an English conquest, if a woman could lay the foundation of a golden age in her country (the likes of which have never been seen again), then surely, I know women are more than tough enough to stand up and beat cancer to a pulp.

So what have women done in history, then?

Where do I start? It would be near suicide if I had to list it all purely because it would be near-infinite.  History has shown us time and time again that women are just as good as men and sometimes are (unsurprisingly) better than us! We need only to look at the Golden Ages under the reign of Catherine the Great of Russia in the late 18th century and of Queen Elizabeth I of England. From Cleopatra, the iconic pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt to Margaret Thatcher (try not to cringe), first and only British Prime Minister; history once again proves that women can rule just as well as men do (isn’t that called marriage?)

Alright, what about brains?

You’re joking! Female inventors have contributed so much to modern day life –Think back to Marie Curie at the turn of the 20th century. The “Mother of Modern Physics", she was a pioneer in research about radioactivity (a word she coined) and was the first woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in research science in Europe as well as the first female professor at the Sorbonne. She is famous for discovering and isolating polonium and radium, and established the nature of radiation and beta rays (so say thank you, physics students!) .

Bear in mind that was just one woman, women have also invented the vacuum ice cream freezer, computer’s compilers (and the “Mark” Computer series) and COBOL. Well actually, only two women made the stuff I just listed. There are literally thousands upon thousands of inventors, and this could all fit in a good 27-part volume series.

To conclude, I’d like to once again state that the fact that women are snubbed from the pages of history books (and restricted to concubines) is simply crap. These are the unsung heroes of history, every great man in history, from Alexander the Great to Ivan the Terrible, would be (literally) nothing without women. This post is dedicated to the brave women of the world, the true heroes.

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