Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Abdel Kader

Massacres of 1860 in Syria and Damascus: Memoirs of a French diplomat of the genocide. Part 3

French expedition of 1860 to Lebanon and Damascus...

During the decade long occupation of the Egyptian leader Ibrahim Pasha, the Christians in Syria and Lebanon enjoyed the same rights as the Moslems. The Christian Maronites in Lebanon learned to exhibit their short-lived power and kept reclaiming their acquired privileges after the Egyptian troops vacated Syria and Lebanon at the pressure of the western nations, a behavior that antagonized the Ottoman governors and the Druze.

However, the Christians in Damascus kept their traditional low profile, shunned external forms of ostentatious behavior,  and the custom of respecting even the low ranked Moslem officials and refrained from mounting horses. The exterior of the houses looked decrepit, but the inside was fabulous and richly furnished.

Actually, the Christians in Damascus, mostly Orthodox who split into the Oriental faction (Shark) and the sect that pledged allegiance to Papal Rome (Gharb), were busy in their their internal political rivalry.

Most of the public accountants in the government were Christians and they delivered “clean” balance sheets while accumulating wealth.

After the genocide committed by the Druze on the Christian Maronites living in the Druze canton or Kaemmakam in 1860, the mass assassination spread in all of Syria, from Aleppo, to Hama, Homs and the Capital Damascus.

An insidious letter, having the format and bearing the look of an official document, was disseminated throughout Syria. The letter briefly said:

“With the beginning of the reign of Sultan Abdel Majid, the Christians in the Ottoman Empire got used to openly despise the sacred laws of Shariaa.

The Christians have transgressed the limits and obligations which were imposed on them since caliph Omar el Khattab.

Currently, the Christians have gone as far as downgrading the principles and belief system of the Moslems.  They pretend that a Moslem must stand up to receive a Christian guest and give him priority in reunions and public gathering…

These exigencies are meant to establish equality among the minority sects… They ignore that the vizirs, ulemmas and fakihs  have been meeting secretly to fine tune a plan for their total extermination, a plan based on the tenants of the Shariaa:

1. It is licit to shed the blood of the Christians, not to respect their properties and honor, to burn their churches, destroy their houses…since they started not to pay their due tax for being Christians under the protection of Islam…

2. Most of the fatwas issued in India and Boukhara absolutely forbid to allow the Christians from gaining power. The fatwas are demanding to annihilate their descendants and derange their businesses…

3. No regards should be given to the infidel Christians…

4. The testimonies of a Christians are null and void , and illegal. Even the testimony of an Alawit Ansari is preferred…

Let us remind you of the words in the Koran: Make no difference among the infidel nations

Islam nations, wake up and destroy the race of these serving the Cross, in this sacred land that they spoiled…

The European nations are weak and enfeebled after the Crimea war. This is the time to take the opportunity to defeat them once and for all, before they recover their strength and come back to dispossess us from our wealth…

We are secretly meeting with the purposes of:

1. Assassinate sultan Abdel Magid who deviated from Islamic laws…

2. Since the Christians in our Empire are in complete accord with the western nations, and particularly the Christians in Mount Lebanon (numbering 200,000) who are known for their intrigues and conniving with the infidel nations to enter our Empire, the Christians will be exterminated in Mount Lebanon, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Damascus and everywhere they exist in our midst…” End of letter

How the content of this letter matches the current Moslem extremist movements and organization and goal.

This letter smacks of a Wahhabi agenda, and totally inspired by England that backed the Druze in order to weaken the growing power of the Maronites who relied on France and papal Rome since the crusading periods in the 11th century.

Governor of Damascus, Ahmed Pasha ordered the garrisons of Rashaya and Hasbaya in Lebanon, which participated in the slaughter-hood in both towns, to converge to Damascus. The Christians there felt very apprehensive of the arrival of these recruited soldiers, more intent on looting than protecting properties.

Sheikh Abdallah Haleby of Damascus was the most vocal against the Christians.

The plague of the Druze chieftain of Huran, Ismail Atrash,  who had massacred the Christians in Rashaya, Hasbaya and Zahleh, progressed toward the nun convent of Saidnaya, bordering with the desert. Women from all religions (Christians, Moslems and Druzes) made frequent pilgrimage to the Virgin Mary. It is reported that the head nun must have paid a substantial tribute to the Ismail before his hoard retreated.

On July 9, 1860, young Moslems insulted the cross, and the governor detained them and made them sweep the street in chains.

The amassing storm of hatred broke up. And by night fall, and within hours, the Christian quarters were ravaged, burned and looted.

No less than 4,000 victims were massacred, and this time around male, female and children. The looting lasted 4 days. The homes of the French, Russian, Dutch and USA consuls were burned down. The English and Prussia consuls were saved from invasion. (England had a policy of weakening the power of the Christians who supported France or Russia)

Both, the patriarchates of the Oriental and Occidental Orthodox Christian were looted from their century old treasures.

Abdel Kader, the famous Algerian resistance leader against the new colonial power of France, was the main protector of the fleeing Christians. The Citadel hosted about 10,000 refugees, living in open air and dying out of famine and thirst.

Five months later, skeletal and cranes were still dug out of the rubble. Many of the victims are of females and children who had fled from Hasbaya and Rashaya a few months ago to the safety of Damascus.

When the new governor arrived over 150 women were incarcerated in harems.

Ironically, the most fanatic of Moslems in the Meidan quarter protected the poorer Christians living in the quarter. It appears that the houses were so close and packed around that any burning house would spread to all the other houses.

The Jewish quarter was left untouched for two reasons:

1. The Jews were despised and not just hated

2. The looters knew that the Jews will buy back the stolen goods and relieve them from the spoil

The next post will describe “how justice was served” in Lebanon and Damascus

Note 1: Read part 2

Note 2: Damascus is a city that always managed to rebuild after countless invasions and ransacking. The main reason is that this geographic strategic city is floating on fresh water sources and enjoy fertile lands.

Note 3: The British commissioner Lord Dufferin  suggested that Syria (including current Lebanon) and Palestine be governed by a vassal to the Ottoman Empire, as was done in Egypt, and Fuad Pasha was the consensus name to be the new ruler. This idea failed. Finally, a few weeks before the date of the retreat of the French expedition on June 5, 1861, the European commission met in Istanbul and decided to have Mount Lebanon governed by a outsider Christian, appointed by the Sultan.

This was to be known as the Mutasarefiya consensus. The first Moutasaref was the Armenian Christian Daoud Pasha and who was promoted to Mushir or Marechal, the first highest rank bestowed on a Christian in the Ottoman army.

Are “Arab Moderates” on the Brink of Extinction?

Around 1840, the Christian Maronite peasants working for the Druze landlords in the Mount Lebanon, in the Chouf and the southern part of the Mountain, experienced a huge increase in these provinces.   Maronites peasants became sort of majority in many villages.

The Maronite clergy wanted to extend its power base and incited the Maronite peasants to confront the dominant leadership. A quick massacre of the peasants who were not equipped to face the warlike Druze convinced the Maronite clergy that the timing was deadly wrong: The Egyptian Ibrahim Pasha (son of Muhammad Ali) had retreated from Lebanon and Syria and Emir Bashir II, who supported the Marnite and the Egyptian forces, was dispatched by the British into exile to the island of Malta.

In 1858, the Maronite peasants surged against the Maronite feudal landlords in the Maronite province of Kesrouan. The clergy supported the upheaval because the landlords went overboard by treating the peasants as chattle and displaying disrespect to the power of the clergy. The movement was successful and the landlords cowed down.

Actually the peasant movement was so successful that a convention was held in the town of Antelias by the leader Tanios Chahine in 1858 to demand further rights and due election process for the muhktars and community leaders…  This time around, the clergy sided with the landlords and crushed the peasant movement.

In order to divert the passions in the Maronite districts, the clergy incited the Maronite peasants in the Druze dominated regions.

It is chronicled, as most history stories go, that in 1860, a dispute erupts between two children in a village of Mount Lebanon.  One child is a Moslem Druze and the other Christian Maronite. The dispute leads to the massacre of 25,000 people across Lebanon and Syria, particularly in Damascus.  Many Maronite fled and took refuge in Shiaa villages for protection. That’s how you find Christians in south Lebanon.

Abdel Kader, the Algerian who led the resistance against the French occupation of Algeria in around 1850, was in exile in Damascus and played a key role in diffusing the sectarian passions, and prevented more massacres across the other major cities in Syria.

Years later, a lapse of century and a half, the situation in the Middle East has not changed.

Tensions between the diverse religious, social, and ethnic groups are at a peek and may explode with the slightest trigger. The Arab spring is turning grey, and fear of extinction is spreading among minority groups, moderation is no longer an option.

Cedric Choukeir,  Regional Director, WYA Middle East, posted this April 25, 2013:

“Tunisia, the first country that experienced the Arab uprising, is finding it difficult to agree on a common vision for the future of the Tunisian society. The toppling of the government provided an opportunity for change, a change that may include the political, economic, and social elimination of national counterparts.

This fear has led the Muslims in Tunisia to become more extreme and the secular population to go more secular. With the disappearance of moderate views, channels of communication between opposing views are decreasing:  leaving violence as the only way of mediating conflict.

This violent trend is clearer in post-revolution Egypt.

The government after the Tahrir Square mobilization is paralyzed and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood are continuously clashing with the supporters of a secular rule. The clash of ideas is no longer a academic debate, it has become a real danger resulting in the death of Egyptians on a daily basis.

The minorities, including the Coptic Christians, have been targeted several times. Burning churches and mosques is not a thing of the past, it is happening today.

The above scenarios are similar in most of the countries across the Arab region with violence erupting between Muslim Sunnis, Muslim Shiites, Alawites, Christians, Kurds and Berbers.

We need to advance moderate views and open more channels of communication, built on a common understanding of who the human person is. We need to see each other as equals with different views in one global family.

Hopefully, we will be able to reverse the trend before the next regional war is triggered by a dispute between two children…” End of Cedric’s post

Arab moderates? Arab moderate leaders?

It is about time to establish a set of operational indicators that determine who is this faceless” moderate”.

So far, “Arab” leaders and leaders in developing States have been middlemen between the developed State and their local financial institutions that are the real owners of means of production.

A moderate leader, if moderation is a good connotation in community setting, should:

1. Focus on increasing the development of UN human indicators, such as infantile mortality…

2. Promoting universal rights to all citizens in healthcare and quality education

3. Encouraging syndicates and associations to lead local communities to negotiate with authority figures…

4. Disseminate and enhance freedom of opinion and gathering…

5. Instituting equitable and fair election laws…

Foreign governments will learn that they are dealing with a people-citizen who regained dignity and are not about to play the role of  vassal, waiting for the ultimate order from outside forces to dictate the political and social reforms…

Note: There are no Abdel Kader hero figures in current Syria to help stop the bloodshed.




March 2023

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