Syrian nationalism

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Syrian nationalism, also known as "Pan-Syrian nationalism", refers to the nationalism of the region of Syria, or the Fertile Crescent as a cultural or political entity known as "Greater Syria". It should not be confused with the Arab nationalism that is the official state doctrine of the Syrian Arab Republic's ruling Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, nor should it be assumed that Syrian nationalism necessarily propagates the interests of modern-day Syria or its government. Rather, it predates the existence of the modern Syrian state (independent from French colonial rule in 1946), and refers to the loosely defined Levantine region of Syria, known in Arabic as Ash-Shām (Arabic : ٱلـشَّـام). [1]

Nationalism is an ideology and movement that promotes the interests of a particular nation especially with the aim of gaining and maintaining the nation's sovereignty (self-governance) over its homeland. Nationalism holds that each nation should govern itself, free from outside interference (self-determination), that a nation is a natural and ideal basis for a polity, and that the nation is the only rightful source of political power. It further aims to build and maintain a single national identity—based on shared social characteristics such as culture, language, religion, politics, and belief in a shared singular history—and to promote national unity or solidarity. Nationalism, therefore, seeks to preserve and foster a nation's traditional culture, and cultural revivals have been associated with nationalist movements. It also encourages pride in national achievements, and is closely linked to patriotism. Nationalism is often combined with other ideologies, such as conservatism or socialism for example.

Fertile Crescent crescent-shaped region containing the moist and fertile land of Western Asia, and the Nile Valley and Nile Delta of northeast Africa

The Fertile Crescent is a crescent-shaped region in the Middle East, spanning modern-day Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan as well as the southeastern fringe of Turkey and the western fringes of Iran. Some authors also include Cyprus.

Arab nationalism Political ideology

Arab nationalism is a nationalist ideology that asserts the Arabs are a nation and promotes the unity of Arab people, celebrating the glories of Arab civilization, the language and literature of the Arabs, calling for rejuvenation and political union in the Arab world. Its central premise is that the peoples of the Arab world, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean, constitute one nation bound together by common ethnicity, language, culture, history, identity, geography and politics. One of the primary goals of Arab nationalism is the end of Western influence in the Arab world, seen as a "nemesis" of Arab strength, and the removal of those Arab governments considered to be dependent upon Western power. It rose to prominence with the weakening and defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century and declined after the defeat of the Arab armies in the Six-Day War.



Butrus al-Bustani Butrus bustani.jpg
Butrus al-Bustani

Syrian nationalism arose as a modern school of thought in the late 19th century, in conjunction with the Nahda movement, then sweeping the Ottoman-ruled Arab world.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa

The Ottoman Empire, Devlet-i ʿAlīye-i ʿOsmānīye, literally "The Exalted Ottoman State"; Modern Turkish: Osmanlı İmparatorluğu or Osmanlı Devleti; French: Empire ottoman), known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state and caliphate that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. Although initially the dynasty was of Turkic origin, it was Persianised in terms of language, culture, literature and habits. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

Arab world Geographic and cultural region in Africa and the Middle East

The Arab world, also known as the Arab nation, the Arabsphere or the Arab states, currently consists of the 22 Arabic-speaking countries that make up the members of the Arab League. These countries occupy the Middle East, North Africa and parts of East Africa; areas stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the east, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean in the southeast. The contemporary Arab world has a combined population of around 422 million inhabitants, over half of whom are under 25 years of age.

The first Syrian nationalist is considered to be Butrus al-Bustani, a Mount Lebanon-born convert from the Maronite Church to Protestantism, who started one of the region's first newspapers, Nafir Suria in Beirut in the aftermath of the Mount Lebanon civil war of 1860 and the massacre of Christians in Damascus in the same year. [2] Bustani, who was deeply opposed to all forms of sectarianism, said Ḥubb al-Waṭan min al-Īmān (Arabic : حُـبّ الْـوَطَـن مِـن الْإِیْـمَـان, "Love of the Homeland is a matter of Faith").

Butrus al-Bustani Ottoman writer and scholar

Butrus al-Bustani was a writer and scholar from present day Lebanon. He was a major figure in the Nahda, which began in Egypt in the late 19th century and spread to the Middle East.

Mount Lebanon mountain range in Lebanon

Mount Lebanon is a mountain range in Lebanon. It averages above 2,500 m (8,200 ft) in elevation.

Maronite Church Eastern Catholic sui iuris particular church of the Catholic Church

The Maronite Church is an Eastern Catholic sui iuris particular church in full communion with the Pope and the worldwide Catholic Church, with self-governance under the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. It is headed by Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi since 2011, seated in Bkerke north of Beirut, Lebanon. Officially known as the Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch, it is part of Syriac Christianity by liturgy and heritage.

As early as 1870, when discerning the notion of fatherland from that of nation and applying the latter to Greater Syria, Francis Marrash would point to the role played by language, among other factors, in counterbalancing religious and sectarian differences, and thus, in defining national identity. [3] This distinction between fatherland and nation was also made by Hasan al-Marsafi in 1881.

Greater Syria irredentism

Greater Syria, also "Natural Syria" or "Northern Country", is a Levantine region which extends roughly over the medieval Arab Caliphate province of Bilad al-Sham. The Hellenistic name of the region, "Syria", was used by the Ottomans in the Syria Vilayet until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. The wave of Arab nationalism in the region evolved towards the creation of a new "Great Syria" over French-governed Occupied Enemy Territory Administration, declared as Hashemite Kingdom on March 1920, claiming extent over the entire Levant. Following the Franco-Syrian War, in July 1920, French armies defeated the newly proclaimed Arab Kingdom of Syria and captured Damascus, aborting the Arab state. The area was consequently partitioned under French and British Mandates into Greater Lebanon, various Syrian states, Mandatory Palestine and Transjordan. Syrian states were gradually unified as the State of Syria and became the independent Republic of Syria in 1946.

Francis Marrash Syrian writer and poet

Francis bin Fathallah bin Nasrallah Marrash, also known as Francis al-Marrash or Francis Marrash al-Halabi, was a Syrian scholar, publicist, writer and poet of the Nahda or the Arab Renaissance, and a physician. Most of his works revolve around science, history and religion, analysed under an epistemological light. He traveled throughout Western Asia and France in his youth, and after some medical training and a year of practice in his native Aleppo, during which he wrote several works, he enrolled in a medical school in Paris; yet, declining health and growing blindness forced him to return to Aleppo, where he produced more literary works until his early death.

After 1941, the prime minister of Iraq Nuri Pasha al-Said expressed his support for a Greater Syria country that includes Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan. [4] Although this never happened.

Nuri al-Said Iraqi politician

Nuri Pasha al-Said was an Iraqi politician during the British mandate in Iraq and the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq. He held various key cabinet positions and served fourteen terms as Prime Minister of Iraq.


Antun Saadeh Antun Saadeh.jpg
Antun Saadeh

Syrian nationalism posited a common Syrian history and nationality, grouping all the different religious sects and variations in the area, as well as the region's mixture of different peoples. Thus, while not per se anti-Arab it opposed the Arab nationalist ideology and its pan-Arab underpinnings, that somewhat later was to grow all over the Arab world, not least in Syria itself.

History The study of the past as it is described in written documents.

History is the past as it is described in written documents, and the study thereof. Events occurring before written records are considered prehistory. "History" is an umbrella term that relates to past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of information about these events. Scholars who write about history are called historians.

Nationality is a legal relationship between an individual person and a state. Nationality affords the state jurisdiction over the person and affords the person the protection of the state. What these rights and duties are varies from state to state.

Religion is a social-cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.

It opposes any particular Arab claims to these areas, preferring an all-encompassing Syrian nationality; also, it is a generally secular movement, believing that a Syrian can have any religion indigenous to the area: Sunni or Shia Muslim, Christian or Jewish. This has attracted many Christians to it (as well as to the equally non-religious Arab nationalism), since the Christian churches form a religious minority in the Middle East, and often fear being dwarfed by Muslim majority populations.

Seated from left to right: Shukri al-Quwatli (future president), Saadallah al-Jabiri (future prime minister), Rida al-Shurbaji (co-founder of the National Bloc), Sheikh Saleh al-Ali, commander of the Syrian Coastal Revolt of 1919. Standing are Hajj Adib Kheir (left) and Ibrahim Hananu, commander of the Aleppo Revolt Syrian nationalists.jpg
Seated from left to right: Shukri al-Quwatli (future president), Saadallah al-Jabiri (future prime minister), Rida al-Shurbaji (co-founder of the National Bloc), Sheikh Saleh al-Ali, commander of the Syrian Coastal Revolt of 1919. Standing are Hajj Adib Kheir (left) and Ibrahim Hananu, commander of the Aleppo Revolt

Syrian nationalism often advocates a "Greater Syria", based on ancient concepts of the boundaries of the region then known as Syria (stretching from southern Turkey through Lebanon, Palestine into Jordan), but also including Cyprus, Iraq, Kuwait, the Ahvaz region of Iran, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Kilikian region of Turkey. [5] [6] A modern-day political movement that advocates these borders, is the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), founded in 1932 by Antun Saadeh. The present-day borders of the area are seen as artificial and illegitimate imperial divisions, imposed on the region by the Anglo-French Sykes–Picot Agreement and as well as the creation of Israel as an independent state. However, the SSNP accepted from an early stage that specific political and communal conditions in Lebanon meant that for the time being Lebanon would have to remain in existence as a separate state. In later years, and particularly since 1970, the main body of the party has also come to adopt a more nuanced position regarding Arab nationalism. It no longer openly proclaims that the Syrian people are non-Arabs, but rather regards Greater Syria as playing a vanguard role among the Arab peoples. Smaller factions which split from the party maintain a position inimical to Arab nationalism, however.

Rule of Language

As the pan-Syrian ideology is based on a shared geographical culture, it is open to different opinions about the state of languages. While al-Bustani considered Standard Arabic an essential part of this identity, Saadeh considered Arabic to be one of the many languages of the Syrian people and instead believed that if a national language has to be used for shared communication and written culture, without losing everyone's other language, it has to be Syrianised Arabic. [7]

The Syrian-Israeli conflict

SSNP considers the reason of losing territory to the 'foreign' Israelis is that many Syrians embraced pan-Arab views which lead to the dominance of Egypt and Saudi Arabia over the conflict, where they did not care about sacrificing what Syrians had for their agenda and personal benefits instead of limiting other non-Syrian Arabs to supporting Syrians' decisions. According to Antoun, this happened when the Syrians had a weak ideology that did not unite them. [8] [9]

See also

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  1. Kamal S. Salibi (2003). A House of Many Mansions: The History of Lebanon Reconsidered. I.B.Tauris. pp. 61–62. ISBN   978-1-86064-912-7. To the Arabs, this same territory, which the Romans considered Arabian, formed part of what they called Bilad al-Sham, which was their own name for Syria. From the classical perspective however Syria, including Palestine, formed no more than the western fringes of what was reckoned to be Arabia between the first line of cities and the coast. Since there is no clear dividing line between what are called today the Syrian and Arabian deserts, which actually form one stretch of arid tableland, the classical concept of what actually constituted Syria had more to its credit geographically than the vaguer Arab concept of Syria as Bilad al-Sham. Under the Romans, there was actually a province of Syria, with its capital at Antioch, which carried the name of the territory. Otherwise, down the centuries, Syria like Arabia and Mesopotamia, was no more than a geographic expression. In Islamic times, the Arab geographers used the name arabicized as Suriyah, to denote one special region of Bilad al-Sham, which was the middle section of the valley of the Orontes river, in the vicinity of the towns of Homs and Hama. They also noted that it was an old name for the whole of Bilad al-Sham which had gone out of use. As a geographic expression, however, the name Syria survived in its original classical sense in Byzantine and Western European usage, and also in the Syriac literature of some of the Eastern Christian churches, from which it occasionally found its way into Christian Arabic usage. It was only in the nineteenth century that the use of the name was revived in its modern Arabic form, frequently as Suriyya rather than the older Suriyah, to denote the whole of Bilad al-Sham: first of all in the Christian Arabic literature of the period, and under the influence of Western Europe. By the end of that century it had already replaced the name of Bilad al-Sham even in Muslim Arabic usage.
  2. Tauber, Eliezer (1 February 2013). The Emergence of the Arab Movements. Routledge. ISBN   978-1-136-29301-6.
  3. Suleiman, p. 114.
  4. Encyclopedia of Arabic language and linguistics. Brill. p. 348, vol. 3. ISBN   9004144730.
  5. Sa'adeh, Antoun (2004). The Genesis of Nations. Beirut. Translated and Reprinted
  6. Ya'ari, Ehud. "Behind the Terror". The Atlantic .
  7. Encyclopedia of Arabic language and linguistics. Brill. p. 348, vol. 3. ISBN   9004144730.
  8. Hussein, Hashim. "Oh you deceived people by the fake pan-Arabism! We Syrians are one complete nation". Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  9. Saadeh, Antoun. "Arabism has failed". Retrieved 9 January 2019.