Adonis Diaries

French mandated troops burned and destroyed Damascus in October 1925…

Posted on: June 12, 2013

French mandated troops burned and destroyed Damascus in October 1925…

For three days and nights, between Oct. 18-21 of 1925, the French mandated troops over Syria bombarded by heavy canons and airstrikes the center of Damascus. The French burned and destroyed entire blocks and streets in the ancient souks.  Such as Souk Hamideyeeh, Souk el Saninieh, Sanjakdar Street, Bzourieh

Within a couple of days, 15,000 people were displaced and 1,500 civilians were killed.

What happened?

In the winter of 1924, the Druzes in the Houran province (see note 3) were preparing for a French onslaught as the Spring approached: They had launched an uprising and many French troops were killed and train loads were dispatching the injured to Beirut.

The Syrian Druzes dug tunnels and underground habitats to sustain the winter and waited.

In early October of 1925, the Druze insurgents were infiltrating the towns and villages surrounding Damascus.  They were hiding in the caves of Zefteh and were roaming around the large village of Medina. The inhabitants knew about the presence of the insurgents.

At 10 am, a Sunday of October 18, one Druze harangued the people to take on arms and demanded that the Christians vacate the city. This person was beaten by the inhabitants and his rifle confiscated.

At 5 pm, the insurgent leader Hassan Kharrat entered Midan at the head of 50 fighters and settled in Merjeh. No French soldiers were at the entrance of the city.

Armed Moslems secured and guarded the Christian quarters from any spontaneous over zealot insurgents. The French troops on purpose refrained from posting guards on Christian quarters: They badly needed a reason to justify their destruction of Damascus and brutal behaviors.  The Syrians denied France any of sectarian causes throughout the uprising.

Monday morning. A military French plane overflew the gardens in Bab Es Salam, the largest quarter of the Druze.

Someone took a shot at the plane and the aviator dropped a few bombs and demolished two houses.

The air raids resumed at noon and all afternoon, targeting any gathering of people who were actually fleeing.

The canon bombing began at 10 pm. The Shrine of Fatima on Bab es Saghir was targeted.  

General Gamelin, on the order of the governor Gen. Sarrail, went overboard.

In Kadem, the Druze gathered an army and the brothers Akkache were considered heroes by the kids

Emir Zeid Atrache was sending proclamations as if the general in command of the revolutionary army.

The French Foreign Legion was composed of foreign citizens who fled their home countries and were promised citizenship after serving 5 years in the legion. This Legion was constituted of Cherkessk, Armenians, Senegal, Madagascar, Russians, Germans… 

The villages of Chaghour  and Ghouta…in the south-east of Damascus, and stretching from the Big Minoterie to the Beramkeh train station, were burned and ransacked by the French troops and the refugees walked to Al Mouhajiroon quarter in Damascus.

The inhabitants who lost homes and everything were summoned to collect 100,000 gold pound in retribution. Otherwise, the shelling will resume within two weeks.

The insurgents managed to infiltrate Damascus and attacked the grand Palace Azem at 6 pm. The governor Serrail was living in that Palace, but failed to be there during the attack. The Palace was entirely burned and ransacked.

The Moslems guarded the Christian quarter of Bab Touma since no French soldiers were there to fake protection of the Christians… 

For two months, in January and February, the French troops bombed Damascus and its surrounding villages, Bab Cheghri, Assa, Zebadani… The bombing was programmed on the clock, starting at 4 am and throughout the day and night. These programmed shelling were meant to deny the citizens any peace and tranquility.

Funny: The mandated troops ordered the Syrians to gather 3,000 rifles in addition to 100,000 gold pounds. Those who could afford it, had to buy a rifle to come up with the number, most probably from the French armies.

The insurgents kept the pressure and expanded their operations north and into Lebanon and severed the train lines going to Aleppo and toward Beirut…

The Insurgents Head Quarter was in Menine. Governor Jouvenel replaced the ill-fated Serrail…

Note 1: Extracts from the diaries of Alice Poulleau who lived in Damascus between 1924 and 1926. Eye witness accounts and field observation of the brutality of the French mandated power.

Note 2: Nazi Germany will apply the French and British tactics in their colonies when they invaded Russia in 1942, as well as in Poland… 

Note 3: The French troops had to deal with tribes in Jabal Druze or Houran. The tribes were and still are:

1. Halabi in the main towns of  sakhana Kebireh, Sakhana Seghireh

2. Amer located in the towns of Hokof, Mteuneh, Chahba

3. Chalguine in Smeid

4. Kontar in Dama

5. Azzam in Ahireh

6. Abou Faker in Rime Fokoun

7. Huneidi in Medjel

8. Attrach in Soueida (capital), Aereh, Salkhad, Dibine, Melah, Imtan, Anat…

9. Kiwan in Mayamas

10. Derwich in Harisseh, Houaya

11. Kassar in Saana, Saleh

12. Sallam in Tarba

13. Kalahni in Nemreh

14. Sahnawi in Douma

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June 2013

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