The Muslims’ search for their own Arab identity fluctuated between pan-Islamism and an independent national approach within the borders of the Ottoman Empire.
The response to the national awakening was immediate. The Tanzima reforms also included the first constitution, which, however, was repealed two years later, in 1878, by Sultan Abdalhamid II. Support for the Arabic culture and language was suppressed, so that many Syrian intellectuals had to flee to Egypt (Abdarrahman al-Kawakibi, Muhammad Kurd Ali, Tahir al-Jazairi, Rashid Rida, etc.).
The arrival of modern technology began at the turn of the century: expansion of the road and rail network, improvement of the transport of goods and mail, electricity arrived in 1903, telephone in 1908, telegraphy in 1914. From 1911 onwards, mail was transported between Aleppo and Baghdad on a daily basis.
The tradition of clubs and secret societies
At the end of the 19th century, the intellectuals organized themselves in various circles, which at the beginning of the 20th century were replaced by political organizations and secret societies, which were often grouped around newspapers, in the course of the national awakening. Unsettled by the seizure of power by the “Committee for Unity and Progress” of the Young Turks (1908-1918), some of whom carried out a ruthless Turkification policy, the Arabs in these new organizations were concerned with strengthening the Arab positions in the administration and the autonomy of the Arabs Provinces or administrative decentralization. The first Arab nationalists began to form.
There were over a hundred newspapers in Bilad al-Sham. Some editors were also organized in the reform societies. Members of the Beirut Reform Society were Orthodox, Armenian and Syrian Catholic Christians as well as Muslims and Jews.
The British-Arab Alliance
The Ottoman Empire entered the world war on the side of Germany in 1914. The Entente Powers Russia, Great Britain and France declared war on the “Sublime Porte”. This raised the hope of independence from the Ottoman Empire among the Arabs of the Fertile Crescent. The British were now forced to direct their military strategy with a diplomatic initiative towards a military alliance with the Arabs against Germany and the Ottoman Empire. Both colonial powers, France and Great Britain, began to define their imperial interests; the Ottoman Empire should be divided. But you had to make concessions to the Arabs. The British were reluctant to make concessions to the Arabs, there were hardly any written specifications. Instead, they secretly shared the Ottoman provinces of the Fertile Crescent with France in the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, although this only became public at the end of the First World War.
The British-Arab alliance – with its most famous representative Lawrence of Arabia (1888-1935) – conquered Jerusalem and invaded Damascus on October 1, 1918. Turkish and German soldiers had already evacuated the city.
When Faisal, the son of the Sherif of Mecca and leader of the Arab-British alliance, arrived in Damascus, he legitimized the assumption of power by referring to the position of his father.
Damascus became a magnet for the nationalists of the entire Fertile Crescent. The British had helped install Faisal’s Arab government and supported it financially. The Faisal cabinet had government sovereignty in the areas of education, home affairs, justice and finance. According to programingplease, the British commander, as the highest authority, was able to override the Arab decisions. The Arab military and police were also under British control.
The term of office
In 1921 General Gouraud issued an amnesty for all Syrian nationalists, which did not prevent them from becoming active again immediately and demanding the withdrawal of the French and complete independence.
In July 1925, the Druze rose against the colonial power when the French discriminated against a Druze delegation who wanted to present their complaints. The military leader of the uprising was the Druze leader Sultan Pasha al-Atrasch (1891-1982), the political head of the movement Abdarrahman Shahbandar. French troops beat the uprising in 1927. 100,000 people became homeless and 6,000 insurgents lost their lives. The French had shelled and bombed the old town. Homs and Hama were also bombed and shot at with artillery. One phenomenon of the uprising was that different social groups fought together that otherwise had little contact: Damascene and Hamawis with Druze and Bedouins, rural and urban forces, poor and rich, Christians and Muslims, simple fighters and members of the new educational class. National unity was emphasized with the slogan “Religion is for God and the fatherland for everyone”. An appeal said “… we are a Syrian Arab nation. Colonialism… (has divided the people), the principles of human rights, the symbols of freedom, they were united by equality and fraternity. Yes, there are no Druze, Sunnis, Shiites, Alawis and Christians here, there are only sons of one nation, one language, one tradition and one interest. ”