Twitter | Search | |
This is the legacy version of twitter.com. We will be shutting it down on 15 December 2020. Please switch to a supported browser or device. You can see a list of supported browsers in our Help Center.
Tweeting Historians
MANDATING THE MAHJAR: today, I discuss the Syrian Mahjar in the post-World War I era. How did Syrians abroad grapple with the Ottoman Empire's fall? What was their place in the Mandate system that partitioned the Middle East? How did they endure statelessness? au:
Reply Retweet Like More
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
For Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians at home, the Ottoman evacuation in October 1918 was a major turning point. Under Allied occupation or under the control of the Hashimite forces of Emir Faysal, new questions loomed: What will an independent, post-Ottoman Middle East look like?
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
The European powers of the Entente had already mutually agreed on a couple of principles, unbeknownst to their Arab collaborators at the time: partition spheres of influence colonialism in the name of "tutelage" Here, the Sykes-Picot map of 1916:
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
Shortly after the armistice, the allies announced they would hold a peace conference in Paris, offering to Middle Eastern nationalists a chance to petition on behalf of their political projects. Syrian mahjar societies swiftly reconstituted themselves as formal political parties.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
Often, the same men who recruited for the army during the war were the ones forming pro-independence parties. The New Syria National League of New York, for instance, had the ear of the US State Dept and Senate. They organized across continents, sending circulars like this:
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
However, the only way to win the cause of Syrian independence was to gain entry into the Paris Peace Conference and successfully argue in favor of independence. In Jan 1919, Rev. Abraham Rihbany boarded a steamship for France, w/petitions bearing thousands of signatures.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
The New Syria National League chose Rihbany as their delegate because he advocated for independence from the Ottomans. He also wrote in favor of a U.S. Mandate for Syria, a buttress against French colonialism. Read: "America Save the Near East" here:
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
Also boarding a steamship in 1919 was Na'um Mukarzil of the Lebanon League of Progress. His party sought to win European support for a "greater Lebanese" state separate from the Ottomans and from the rest of Syria. He also carried petitions in support of Lebanon.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
Thousands of petitions from the mahjar arrived in Paris in 1919, in support of dozens of versions of what the post-Ottoman map of the homeland should look like. Some arrived in the hands of delegates like Rihbany or Mukarzil. Others were brought by one of the great powers.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
What is popularly recalled about the mahjar in 1919 is the stereotype that emigrants "supported the Mandates" in principle, even against pro-independence sentiments within Syria, Mount Lebanon, Palestine. Read about the King-Crane Commission:
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
The real story is more complex. The great powers (especially France) constructed a narrative that the overseas Syrians supported French rule in the Middle East. They did so by 1. papering the mahjar with pro-French propaganda, & 2. paying petitioners for pro-French signatures.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
We discussed a piece of this already: the pro-French Arabic newspaper in Havana, Cuba. It touted the benefits to the mahjar of a French Mandate in their homeland. Its publishers were a group of Syrian emigres together with consular officials in the city.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
Then there were activists who supported French tutelage on the path to independence. Some (like Shukri Ghanim, the Comite Central Syrien) believed France would preserve "territorial integrity" for Syria. Others (like the Alliance Libanaise of Cairo) proposed Lebanese separation.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
Ultimately, France was given Mandate over Syria, and separated Syria and Lebanon in 1920. Britain was given Palestine. In the mahjar, emigrants struggled to make sense of this forced geography which cut across their own neighborhoods. All of them still had Ottoman passports.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
It was in this moment--the homeland's partition--that national origins categories became salient in a new way that mattered immensely. In 1899, they were all "Syrians" or "Turks" (in ethnic terms). After 1920, these signifiers determined who had rights.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
Between 1918-1925, Arabs in the mahjar retained their status as former Ottoman nationals, but the European Mandates that emerged in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine each regulated emigrant travel rights, citizenship claims, and political enfranchisement differently.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
In theory, all emigrants in the mahjar were legally entitled to return to the Middle East and claim a nationality in their places of origin under 1923's Treaty of Lausanne. In practice, both French & British Mandates made this difficult, and emigres were marooned abroad.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @laurenbanko
On British Palestine, see 's work on the difficulties Palestinian Arabs from the mahjar faced in returning home. A 1925 law placed deadlines around claiming a nationality, a vast change from the laws governing diasporic mobility before WW1.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
The French Mandate in Syria wasn't eager to let Syrians abroad to claim a nationality or travel to the Middle East. In the mahjar, Arab nationalists organized against French imperialism, linking the fight against the Ottomans to their French successors.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
Here, a 1920 cover of São Paulo's al-Ittihad al-Arabi. Its editor, Jurj Atlas, had initially founded the publication under the name al-Zahrawi in 1916. A founder of the city's Club Homs, Atlas continued to publish Arab nationalist serials until his death in 1923.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
In Argentina, former Ottoman consul general Amin Arslan published a new serial called al-Istiqlal. It broadly endorsed Arab nationalism, revolution against the French Mandate, and he condemned the League of Nations as a sponsor of "disguised colonialism" (colonización disfrazada]
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
Here's a flavor of the writing Arslan was doing in the mid-1920s. This is from his book on the Great Syrian Revolt. The French established consular offices for its Mandates in cities with Syrian and Lebanese migrants. In Buenos Aires, they put Arslan under surveillance.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
In Lebanon, the picture was different. The French Mandate created the Grand Liban in September 1920, enlarging the territories of historic Mt Lebanon and, in doing so, eroding the Christian demographic majority that French officials presumed necessary for the Mandate's survival.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
In 1921, the French high commissioner announced Lebanon's first census, a count that would set the Mandate up for drafting the country's first Nationality Law (1925). The Mandate resolved to include 130K emigrants in the census, in theory setting them up for nationality rights.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
The 1921 census categorized Lebanese along two core planes: religious confession, and resident/emigrant. Its findings bolstered a 6:5 ratio for Lebanon, underpinning a system of sectarian representation that defined the Mandate's government in Lebanon, and into independence.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
Without the inclusion of 130K Lebanese in the mahjar, this 6:5 ratio shrinks down to 51 v. 49 percent. The French knew that counting the diaspora was necessary to maintain a Lebanese political system that gave primacy to the country's Christian population (their presumed allies).
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
The census continues to be a political issue. The French conducted censuses in 1921 and 1932. The 1932 census replicated the 6:5 ratio, also by counting emigrants. Rania Maktabi: The 1932 census remains Lebanon's most recent official census to date.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
Back to the mahjar: Lebanese emigrants understood their inclusion in the census to be the harbinger of political rights: nationality, citizenship, suffrage in Lebanese elections. Emigrants were divided over France's right to rule, but united by claims to Lebanese nationality.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
Lebanese in the mahjar could, in theory, apply for passports with staff in the French consulates of the Americas. Emigres with Ottoman documents, census registration receipts, etc were also eligible to claim Lebanese nationality. They would meet guys like Shukri Abi Saab.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
In Argentina, Abi Saab was the Mandate's Lebanese dragoman. He was responsible for validating the passports & nationality claims of Lebanese migrants, transforming them from Ottoman subjects into Lebanese nationals. He was also in charge of keeping nationalists out of Lebanon.
Reply Retweet Like
Tweeting Historians Jul 9
Replying to @Tweetistorian
The Lebanese Nationality Law placed a deadline on emigrants to claim a Lebanese nationality from abroad. When that window closed, less than 10% of eligible ppl had successfully become Lebanese nationals. Complaint letters accused officials like Abi Saab of using political tests.
Reply Retweet Like