A clandestine Arab organization that made a significant impact on the development of Arab nationalism.
Al-Fatat was founded in 1911 by a small group of Arabs from Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine in the course of their higher studies in Paris. Initially called Jamʿiyyat al-Natiqin bi al-Dhad (literally, the "society of those who speak the letter Dad," i.e., Arabic), its name was later changed to al-Jamiʿa alArabiyya al-Fatat (The Young Arab Society). The original aim of al-Fatat was the administrative independence of the Arab lands from Ottoman rule. This meant that the Arab and Turkish nationalities should remain united within the Ottoman framework, but that each should have equal rights and obligations and administer its own educational institutions. Al-Fatat moved its offices from Paris to Beirut late in 1913 and set up a branch in Damascus.
The new environment created by World War I, particularly the Turkish government's execution of prominent Arab nationalists in 1915 and 1916, made al-Fatat amend its political program and opt for the complete independence and unity of Arab lands. By enlisting Amir Faisal (Faisal I ibn Hussein) in 1915, al-Fatat put itself in direct contact with the family of Sharif Husayn ibn Ali and, through them, with the British. In 1915, al-Fatat and the Iraqi-dominated al-Ahd drew up the Damascus protocol, which expressed the Arab nationalists' readiness to join the British war effort against the Ottoman state if Britain pledged to support complete Arab independence and unity. After the war, al-Fatat shifted its attention to the principle of pan-Syrian unity. It reached the height of its political influence during Faisal's short-lived Arab government in Damascus (1918–1920). Although al-Fatat was the backbone of Faisal's government, its founding members preferred to operate clandestinely. They used Hizb alIstiqlal al-Arabi (Arab Independence party) as a public front for their organization. Differences over Faisal's controversial dealings with the Zionists and the French, as well as the different political priorities of the Iraqi, Palestinian, and Syrian elements that constituted al-Fatat, created serious schisms within the organization. The collapse of Faisal's government in Damascus in the summer of 1920 sealed al-Fatat's fate as a structured political organization. Many of its members, however, continued to be active in the politics of Arab nationalism in the generation after World War I.
See also Ahd, al-; Arab Nationalism; Faisal I ibn Hussein; Husayn ibn Ali.
Antonius, George. The Arab Awakening: The Story of the Arab National Movement. London: H. Hamilton, 1938.
Khoury, Philip S. Urban Notables and Arab Nationalism: The Politics of Damascus 1860–1920. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
Muslih, Muhammad Y. The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.