French Mandate of Syria and Lebanon
Also called just French Mandate of Syria
French: Mandat franšais en Syrie
Arabic: intidāb faransiyy ¢alā sūriyā
Period in which Syria and Lebanon was under French control, beginning 1920, ending 1943 to 1946.
Jabel Druze State
Sanjak of Alexandretta
Flag used 1920-1922.
Flag used 1922-1932.
The flag of the Republic of Syria, used from 1932. It remained in use for independent Syria until 1963.
Until independence 1943
|Tadsch ad-Din al-Hasani
|Al-Kuwatli would take Syria into full formal independence 1946, thereby becoming the first president of independent Syria.
The French presence largely came to form the two modern states of Lebanon and Syria, and set down the border between northwestern Syria and Turkey.
Following the end of World War 1, and the fall of the Ottoman Empire, European states were left in control over former Ottoman territory in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. The British came to control Iraq and Palestine, while France controlled Syria and Lebanon. French rights were granted by a 1922 mandate of the League of Nations, as defined in the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement.
The legal role of France
The French Mandate which was formalized from 1922 made France responsible for creating and controlling an administration for Syria and Lebanon, developing the resources and preparing self-government.
The actual politics of France
The French began many projects in the period, securing the building of many important roads, modernizing the infrastructure of cities and towns, starting many reforms in agriculture. Also the first university in modern times, the University of Damascus, was opened.
The French divided Syria up into separate states. While this often is said to have been a policy to divide and weaken the country, the states were profoundly logical, reflecting the religious and historical divisioans of Syria: dividing between two potent cities, and squaring out two vital minorities, the non-Muslim groups of Alawites and Druze. Also, it must be noted, the French had already profound experience in keeping together regions far larger than Syria, then in particular in North Africa.
1920 July 23: Battle between the French and an Arab army of Faisal at Maysaloun. The outcome was a thorough defeat of the Arabs, and secured French control over Syria and Lebanon. Prior to this, King Faisal had given up his project of creating a large Arab kingdom of the Levant.
September: French general, Henri Gouraud divides the most of French mandate into 4 states: Greater Lebanon, Damascus, Aleppo and Alawite.
As Syria now is divided, while Lebanon is one unity, the following only deals with Syria. Full historical treatment is in the article on Greater Lebanon.
1921 May 1: The Jabal Druze State is formed.
October 20: The Sanjak of Alexandretta is defined as an autonomous region under French control, according to an agreement between France and Turkey.
1922 June 3: A federation is made between the Aleppo State and Damascus. The Alawite State would join few days later.
July: The League of Nations approve the text for the French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon.
1924 December 1: The Syrian Federation becomes the state of Syria.
1925: Rebellion starting in Jabal Druze spreads across Syria. Together with nationalists of Damascus, they form the People's Party. Soon the rebels have control over much of the countryside.
October The rebels attempt to take over Damascus, leading to a two-day bombardment by the French. The revolt would continue in many areas until 1927.
1926 May 26: Greater Lebanon changes name to the Lebanese Republic, and has a constitution promulgated.
1928: Elections for a Constituent Assembly. The Syrian nationalists win and form a government. A constitution is drafted, in which the role of the French is omitted.
1930: State of Syria is made into the Republic of Syria, having a new constitution formed.
1932: The State of Syria adopts a new flag, where there is no indications of France.
1936 September: Agreement between France and Syrian nationalists, now organized in the National Bloc, defines the path to Syrian independence. France is granted a central role in foreign politics and secured two military bases. The Jabal Druze State and the Sanjak of Latakia (formerly Alawite State) were now included in Syria.
November: Hashim al-Atasi is elected president. The agreement from September is ratified by Syria, but never by France.
1937 November: Alexandretta is separated from Syria and given autonomy, formally shared between France and Turkey. At this point, Turks count about 47% of the population.
1939 June 23: Alexandretta is annexed by Turkey.
July: In protest to the French reluctance to secure a formal process towards independence, the president and the government resign.
1940: With the World War 2 making France occupied by Germany, the French in Syria recognize the pro-German Vichy government.
1941 May-July: Free French, together with British and Commonwealth forces take Syria.
1943: Elections makes the nationalist, Shukri al-Kuwatli, new president. He begins a process towards gradual independence for Syria.
1944 January 1: Syria declares itself an independent republic.
1945 May 29: Disagreement between nationalist Syrian leaders and France results in French bombardment of Damascus. The British come to intervention.
1946 April 17: Last French troops withdraw from Syria, but Syria has already become a member of the United Nations and the Arab League.