How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs

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When Europe’s Great War engulfed the Ottoman Empire, Arab nationalists rose in revolt against the Turks. The British supported the Arabs’ fight for an independent state and sent an intelligence officer, T.E. Lawrence, to join Prince Faisal, leader of the Arab army and a descendant of the Prophet. In October 1918, Faisal, Lawrence and the Arabs victoriously entered Damascus, where they declared a constitutional government in an independent Greater Syria. At the Paris Peace Conference, Faisal won the support of President Woodrow Wilson, who sent an American commission to Syria to survey the political aspirations of its people. However, other Entente leaders at Paris – and later San Remo – schemed against the Arab democracy, which they saw as a threat to their colonial rule.

ISBN: 9781611854640 Author: Elizabeth, Thompson Publisher: Grove Press UK Publication Date: 6th May 2021 Imprint: Grove Press UK Cover: Paperback Dewey: 956.91041 (edition:23) Pages: 496 Language: English Readership: General - Trade / Code: K Category: Subjects: , , ,

When Europe’s Great War engulfed the Ottoman Empire, Arab nationalists rose in revolt against their Turkish rulers and allied with the British on the promise of an independent Arab state. In October 1918, the Arabs’ military leader, Prince Faisal, victoriously entered Damascus and proclaimed a constitutional government in an independent Greater Syria.Faisal won American support for self-determination at the Paris Peace Conference, but other Entente powers plotted to protect their colonial interests. Under threat of European occupation, the Syrian-Arab Congress declared independence on March 8, 1920 and crowned Faisal king of a ‘civil representative monarchy.’ Sheikh Rashid Rida, the most prominent Islamic thinker of the day, became Congress president and supervised the drafting of a constitution that established the world’s first Arab democracy and guaranteed equal rights for all citizens, including non-Muslims.But France and Britain refused to recognize the Damascus government and instead imposed a system of mandates on the pretext that Arabs were not yet ready for self-government. In July 1920, the French invaded and crushed the Syrian state. The fragile coalition of secular modernizers and Islamic reformers that had established democracy was destroyed, with profound consequences that reverberate still.Using previously untapped primary sources, including contemporary newspaper accounts, reports of the Syrian-Arab Congress, and letters and diaries from participants, How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs is a groundbreaking account of an extraordinary, brief moment of unity and hope – and of its destruction.

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