Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘In Damascus under the bombs

Why Syrian people revolted against the French mandated power (1924-26)?

Particularly the Druze in the Houran and Golan Heights?

Captain Carbillet was the appointed commander in the main city of Soueida in the Jebel Druze. The captain was intent on transforming this “backward” province into a semi-republican and “democratic” region. He acted as the appointed dictator, and he constructed aqueducts to bring in water to Soueida, built schools, roads, and started archeological digs…

The other side of the coin enraged the people.

The captain wanted to treat every one as equal under the law, particularly the punishment for “breaking the mandated Laws“. The tribal leaders and notables were meted with the same treatment as common people.  They cut stones, they were incarcerated in coal caves…

The captain’s cat was found hanging from a window, and the entire city was penalized to pay retribution for his beloved cat.

Captain Carbillet neglected to consider that reforms need plenty of time. And not only in societies where religious and civic aristocracies were traditionally respected for centuries and were well implanted in the society political and social structure…

Captain Carbillet believed that he could transform a quick radical evolution when the French Revolution of 1789 took centuries to apply its reforms

People who apparently accept quickly new suggestions are not about to desist from centuries of habits and customs

Banal events provoke violent reactions and the administrators have to deal with illogical manifestations

Emissaries from the Jebel Druze were sent to meet the French officials in Damascus and were turned away because they had no idea how to satisfy their requests.

The emissaries then decided to travel to Beirut to meet with the governor General Herod Serrail, a newly appointed governor whom the majority of Sunnis thought was favorable to their cause. The former governor Weygand favored the minorities such as the Christians, Armenians, Alawits ( the sect that is currently in power in Syria for 4 decades now)…

Herod Serrail didn’t even meet with the emissaries and they returned feeling totally humiliated and their dignity trampled to the ground.

They assembled the people to explain the results of their endeavors and how they were badly treated.

Serrail got apprehensive and convoked 5 of the emissaries to see him in Damascus.  Two of them were suspicious and didn’t go. The other three emissaries were detained and imprisoned in Palmira.

It is to be noted that all the appointed ministers in the Syrian government were Turkish by origin, as if Syrian Arabs were not qualified to take on viable responsibilities… At the first upheaval in 1924, all these ministers rushed to Beirut to wait for better conditions to return to Damascus.

As if all these struggles against the Ottoman Empire and the fighting along side the allied forces in WWI were of no consequences…

The French War Council was in permanent audience, and shot prisoners without trials

The French authorities bombarded towns surrounding Damascus (Reef Dimashk) with heavy artillery guns and airplanes. and burned entire villages on the outskirt of Damascus (Midan, ChaghourGhouta) and in the Houran. Fleeing villagers were shot point blank and everything stolen and sold in the souks.

And the mandated power imposed a fine of 100,000 gold pound on the inhabitants of the demolished towns and villages. Otherwise, the troops will resume bombarding what still remained…

Within 2 days, 15,000 people fled their hometown on foot.

From October 18 to 21, 1925, the French troops bombarded the capital Damascus and destroyed and burned entire blocks and the center, including the famous and ancient Souks.

Over 1,500 were killed and four folds that number were injured.

Note 1: Extracts from the diaries in the French book “In Damascus under the bombs” by Alice Poulleau. (First Published in 1926, and republished in 2012)

Note 2: France has lost most of its young educated citizens (civilian and officers) during WWI, over one million.  The new generation didn’t go to schools during the war and were practically illiterate, and spoke only the dialect of their provinces. These new recruits from the distant provinces had no backing to save them from being sent overseas. The officers dispatched to the colonies were mostly handicapped (mentally and physically) and were seeking “Revenge” against almost every one.  France relied on its Foreign Legion that gathered soldiers fleeing from ravaged countries sand  who wanted a French citizenship

Lord Balfour chased out of Damascus

Have you heard of this British foreign minister Lord Balfour? He is the one who promised, in 1917, the Zionist movement to arrange for a parcel of land in Palestine in order for the Jews to emigrate and settle there.

April 9, 1925

Lord Balfour is visiting with the Zionists in Palestinians and is planning to visit Damascus by boarding a well-secure train from Haifa to Damascus, the capital of Syria, that was under French colonial mandated power.

As the train reached Deraa in the Houran province, close to current State of Jordan, the inhabitants converged to have a hostile curious look at this infamous character.

In Damascus, the British consul Smart waited for the train at the town of Kadem and whisked Balfour in a ready closed car so that Balfour is saved from the cursing of the people on his arrival and along the route.

A mass of students were waiting at the hotel Victoria and shouting: “Down with Balfour” and other similar “Enemy of the Arab people”, “lackey to the Zionist capitalists”… The crowd was dispersed.

The masses converged again with increasing violence and the owner of the hotel closed all the windows in order to save the glasses of being broken by the showers of stones.

Orators harangued the demonstrators and were applauded. The Moroccan Spahis (soldiers on horses at the pay of France) dispersed the crowed with their swords  and wounded about twenty.

The people closed the Omayyad Mosque to this intruder. The shops in the souks were closed. A large demonstration was being planned for the next morning.

The gracious Lord was begged by a delegation of wise people for not honoring his presence any longer.

Lord Balfour was packed in a hurry and taken to Beirut, and immediately bordered the waiting ship.  On in the ship did balfour felt in security.

All conquerors of Syria remember Damascus, and balfour was not to forget the sentiment of this welcoming Syrians.

Alice Poulleau recalls in her diary that she was lost in the hills surrounding Damascus on the day Balfour arrived. Her adventure had a very happy ending.

Fellahs (peasants) of Doummar redirected her trip and even hired a donkey cart driver (Arbaji) to take her to Damascus. The Syrian are very hospitable and confident with “good foreigners”

Note: This is one of the diaries of Alice Poulleau in her published book “A Damas sous les bombs” (In Damascus under the bombs) that she finished writing in 1925 and published it in 1926.

The book was banned from all the countries under the French occupation troops, and was only republished in 2012.




June 2022

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