Arab Revolt (1916)
ARAB REVOLT (1916)
Uprising of Arab nationalists against the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
Although many Arabs had reached the highest positions in the Ottoman government by the end of the nineteenth century, opposition to Turkish authority was spreading through the empire's Arabic-speaking provinces of the Ottoman Empire. A separatist nationalist movement had followers in many Arab towns and cities, including Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad, and Jerusalem by the early 1900s. Members formed secret cultural and political organizations, including groups of Arab officers in the Ottoman military. Prominent secret societies were al-Qahtaniya and al-Fatat; the former sought to establish a dual Arab–Turkish monarchy similar to the Austro–Hungarian Empire. Al-Fatat wanted to establish Arabic as the official language in the Arab provinces, where it would be taught in all schools.
Efforts by the Young Turk regime that seized power in 1908 to repress Arab nationalism intensified opposition to the government and increased demands for separation from the empire. The arrest for treason in 1914 of Major Aziz Ali al-Masri, an Ottoman staff officer of Arab origin, brought opposition to the regime among Arab officers to a head.
Among the ardent nationalists was the sharif of Mecca, Husayn ibn Ali, a Hashimite descendant of the prophet Muhammad, and his four sons, Ali, Abdullah, Faisal, and Zayd. Because the authorities suspected their loyalty, they were forced to live in Constantinople (now Istanbul) from 1893 until 1908. After they returned to Mecca, Husayn began to rally surrounding tribes against attempts to conscript Arabs into the Ottoman armed forces. Although the Turkish governor-general of Mecca backed down from the conscription order, Husayn sought an alliance with an outside power against further Ottoman attempts to undermine his authority.
In February 1914, Husayn sent one of his sons to negotiate with the British agent and consul general in Cairo, Lord Kitchener, but Great Britain was not yet ready to support an Arab uprising against the Ottomans. With Turkey's entry into World War I on the side of Germany (October 1914), the British authorities reconsidered the sharif's offer to revolt in return for guarantees of Arab independence after defeating the Turks.
Ottoman efforts to rally support among Muslims throughout Asia for a jihad against the Allies failed to win over many Arab subjects. Rather, most Arab notables were sympathetic to the growing demands for independence, and many looked to Husayn for leadership. As relations between the Arab provinces and Constantinople continued to deteriorate due to poor economic conditions, mass arrests of suspected Arab nationalists, and resentment of conscription, Husayn attempted to reestablish contact with the British.
In 1915 he reopened negotiations through Lord Kitchener's successor in Cairo, Sir Henry McMahon. In an exchange of ten letters known as the Husayn–McMahon Correspondence, the sharif offered assistance to Great Britain against the Turks in return for a British promise to recognize the independence of what was to become Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and most of the Arabian Peninsula, and to endorse proclamation of an Islamic Arab caliphate. The British, however, refused to accept so precise a definition of the area for Arab independence because of conflicting promises and obligations regarding the territory. McMahon eventually replied that Britain would recognize the territory demanded by the sharif except for certain areas "not purely Arab." The imprecision of British promises was the cause of postwar quarrels between Great Britain and Arab nationalists, particularly with regard to Palestine.
Following the exchange of correspondence with McMahon, Ottoman authorities initiated a massive crackdown on Arab nationalists. In May 1916, twenty-one leading Arab citizens of Damascus and Beirut were arrested and executed by public hanging. These events undermined what little loyalty remained among Arab subjects of the sultan, and sparked widespread support for open revolt against the Ottomans. Opposition to the government was further intensified by famine resulting from destruction of crops by a locust plague in 1916. In retaliation for Arab opposition, the Turkish authorities refused to permit outside relief supplies into the region; as a result, some 300,000 people died of starvation.
Sharif Husayn gave the order to tribes in the Hijaz to strike at Ottoman garrisons and proclaimed Arab independence in May 1916. After three weeks the Ottoman garrison in Mecca fell, followed shortly thereafter by most others in the main towns of the peninsula. Arab forces were supplied by Britain, and British officers served as military advisers. The most prominent was Colonel T. E. Lawrence, an adviser to Faisal.
The Arab revolt against the Turks ended in October 1919 when Faisal's armies captured Damascus, and an Arab regime was established with Faisal as king. At the end of the war, Husayn alienated many of his Arab neighbors when he proclaimed himself "king of the Arab countries." Although the British government refused to recognize him as more than "king of Hijaz," he persisted in the grander title, leading to confrontation with Ibn Saʿud and eventual defeat by the latter, followed by the annexation of the Hijaz into the Saudi kingdom.
The Arab revolt played an important and controversial role in postwar negotiations, and in the decisions taken by Great Britain and France about the territorial divisions of the former Arab provinces in the Ottoman Empire.
see also abd al-aziz ibn saʿud al saʿud; abdullah i ibn hussein; faisal i ibn hussein; fatat, al-; husayn ibn ali; husayn–mcmahon correspondence (1915–1916); kitchener, horatio herbert; lawrence, t. e.; mcmahon, henry; young turks.
Antonius, George. The Arab Awakening: The Story of the Arab National Movement. London: H. Hamilton, 1938.
Gershoni, Israel. "The Muslim Brothers and the Arab Revolt in Palestine, 1936–39." Middle Eastern Studies 22, 3 (July 1986): 367–397.
Haim, Y. "Zionist Policies and Attitudes towards the Arabs on the Eve of the Arab Revolt of 1936–39." Middle Eastern Studies 14 (1978): 211–231.
Hurewitz, J. C. The Struggle for Palestine. New York: Norton, 1950.
Kedourie, Elie. In the Anglo–Arab Labyrinth: The McMahon–Husayn Correspondence and Its Interpretations, 1914–1939. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 2000.
Lawrence, T. E. Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph. London: J. Cape, 1935.
Marlowe, John. The Seat of Pilate. London: Cresset, 1961.
Sheffer, G. "British Colonial Policy Making towards
Palestine 1929–1939." Middle Eastern Studies 14 (1978).
Silberstein, Laurence J., ed. New Perspectives on Israeli History: The Early Years of the State. New York: New York University Press, 1991.
Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab–Israeli Conflict, 3d edition. London: Macmillan, 1996.
Swedenburg, Ted. Memories of Revolt: The 1936–1939 Rebellion and the Palestinian National Past. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.
Swedenburg, Ted. "The Role of the Palestinian Peasantry in the Great Revolt 1936–1939." In Islam, Politics, and Social Movements, edited by Edmund Burke III and Ira Lapidus. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.
Sykes, Christopher. Crossroads to Israel. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973.
Wasserstein, Bernard. The British in Palestine: The Mandatory Government and Arab–Jewish Conflict, 1917–1929. Oxford, U.K., and Cambridge, MA: B. Blackwell, 1991.
Zeine, Zeine N. The Emergence of Arab Nationalism, with a Background Study of Arab–Turkish Relations in the Middle East, 3d edition. Delmar, NY: Caravan Books, 1973.
"Arab Revolt (1916)." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/arab-revolt-1916
"Arab Revolt (1916)." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/arab-revolt-1916
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.